Top 5 Tasks for January

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We hope you enjoyed happy and safe holidays.

To help you get the year off to a good start, here are the top five home care tasks that we recommend you do during January that will help you avoid unscheduled repairs, save energy, and keep your family safe.
 

Treat Your Drains


Over time, the drains in your sinks begin to build up with gunk. If you wait for them to plug up, then you have to clear them using aggressive chemicals. Instead, we recommend that during January you treat your drains with baking soda. Just run the water in the tap until it’s very hot, then sprinkle baking soda down the drain and continue to flush with very hot water. This will remove the gunk that builds up in your drainpipes, and will keep them clear and smelling nice.
 

Inspect And Clean Your Refrigerator


Your refrigerator works hard and consumes a lot of energy, so it is important to conduct routine maintenance on it. At least once a year you should clean and inspect the door gasket on your refrigerator to make sure that it seals tightly. If your door gasket leaks, your refrigerator has to work harder to keep the contents cold, which will cost you more in energy. You also want to check the inside temperature of your refrigerator to make sure that it is operating properly. You can purchase a special refrigerator thermometer, or you can place a glass of water inside and put a regular thermometer in it. If the temperature is too high, then you will not be keeping your food cold enough for it to be safe, and if the temperature is too low, then you could be using too much energy.

Other routine maintenance items for your refrigerator include vacuuming around coils, clearing the drain hole and drip pans, cleaning and defrosting, changing the water filter, and checking and adjusting the levelness of your refrigerator by adjusting its feet. For more information on refrigerator maintenance, you can see the refrigerator section of our online How-To Guide: Refrigerator-Freezer
 

Inspect And Clean Your Microwave


It is easy to take your microwave for granted, since it is an appliance that most of us use every day, and it typically does not require much maintenance. However, during the month of January, we suggest that you take a moment to inspect and clean your microwave. In particular, we suggest that you thoroughly inspect and clean the door seal. If your microwave’s door does not seal properly, then it could be allowing dangerous levels of microwave radiation to be escaping during operation. If your door seal is damaged or the door is not closing properly, then this should be immediately repaired or replaced.
 

Throw Out Expired Medicines


As you may have noticed, both prescription and non-over-the-counter medications all have expiration dates written on them. During the month of January, we suggest that you look in your medicine cabinet and properly dispose of all medications that have expired. Expired medicines can become dangerous because they become chemically unstable and less potent (helpful accessory: medicine disposal system). In addition, they are risky to leave around your home if you have small children or visitors with small children. You can contact your pharmacist to find the proper method for disposing of your medications. For additional information: Why & How To Get Rid of Old Medicines
 

Replace Furnace Air Filters


If you have a forced-air heating system in your home and haven't changed its air filter yet this season, then you will want to replace its air filter during January. A dirty air filter makes your furnace blower work harder, and routinely replacing your filters with new ones can help you save up to $50 per year in energy. Also, a clogged air filter prevents the filter from removing particulates from your air, which can be particularly troublesome if you have people in your family with allergies or asthma. To learn more about replacing your furnace's air filter: Guide to Choosing & Changing Your HVAC Air Filters
 

SUMMARY


We wish you the very best for the New Year, and hope that we have helped you get your home off to a good start with these suggestions for the top 5 routine maintenance tasks for January.

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Your refrigerator is the fourth largest consumer of energy in most homes. This article and video gives you tips for reducing your refrigerator's energy use, and will also help you ensure food safety. more 
Microwave Safety Tips
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"Modest" Growth in Real Estate Prices for 2012: CMHC

Anticipated hike of two per cent in line with inflation, experts say

 

After surprising growth in 2011, Greater Vancouver real estate prices will rise just two per cent in 2012, Canada

Mortgage and Housing is forecasting.

 

In 2011, CHMC predicted price growth of just three per cent, tempered by an expectation of higher interest rates,

but interest rates stayed low and prices ultimately jumped 16 to 17 per cent.

 

In 2012, the market will stabilize and show modest growth in line with inflation, said Robyn Adamache, senior

market analyst with CMHC in Vancouver.

 

"I'd say it's a pretty stable market out there. We're not expecting to see a lot of change going forward," Adamache

said Thursday in an interview. "We have seen the market moving to more balanced conditions over the past five

or six months, and that's expected to continue."

 

She said job growth and migration, including people from within Canada and immigrants, are the factors

driving the housing market, and they should continue.

 

"So far, for the first 11 months of 2011, we've seen about 30,000 additional jobs created in the Metro Vancouver

area," Adamache said. "We're forecasting that we'll see 35,000 to 40,000 people moving here each year, going

forward."

 

Not all municipalities saw this kind of growth in housing prices in 2011; the west side of Vancouver and

Richmond led the way with 20-per-cent or higher increases for single family homes, while other municipalities

and multi-family homes saw lower growth.

 

For the five years leading up to 2010, the compound annual growth rate in Greater Vancouver for all types of

homes was 10 per cent, while the 20-year average was six per cent, Adamache said.

 

In some areas, such as Maple Ridge, prices of condominiums have not recovered to prerecession prices,

Adamache said.

 

The average price of a home in Greater Vancouver, including single-family and multi-family homes, for 2011

up to Nov. 30 was $796,000. CMHC is calling for that average to rise to just over $800,000 by the end of 2012.

 

For November only, the monthly average was down slightly to $736,000, and Adamache said that trend might

continue into the first half of 2012.

 

"I think we will see prices staying fairly flat until later in 2012," Adamache said.

 

Across the country, prices were 5.8 per cent higher in 2010, to an average $339,042.

 

Forty-eight per cent of households in Vancouver own their own homes, while nationally the average is

68 per cent.

 

In Greater Vancouver, housing starts will see growth of about five per cent in 2012, compared to 12 to 15

percent in 2011, and the number of houses sold will also increase about nine per cent over 2011,

Adamache said.

 

Meanwhile, CMHC released its 2011 Canadian Housing Observer on Thursday, showing that Canadians owed

more than a trillion dollars on their mortgages as of March, which when added to other household debt is a

"serious issue."

 

The CMHC reported that housing-related spending of about $330 billion a year in 2010 has risen by

67 per cent since 2001 and now comprises 20.3 per cent of Canada's gross domestic product in 2010 -

which underlines the importance of that debt load, and what might happen to the economy if for any reason

Canadians crack under its burden.

 

CMHC figures show that mortgages made up about 68 per cent of total household debt in 2010 - up from

63 per cent in 1971 but down from the peak of 75 per cent in 1993. Consumer credit, which makes up the

other 32 percent, has been growing faster than mortgage debt over the past two decades, it says.

 

A breakdown of these numbers for B.C. was not available; however, the report shows that B.C. has a high

percentage of mortgage-free homeowners at 47 per cent, a number second only to Cape Breton.

 

"The major risk in the mortgage market is impairment in a household's ability to pay, often due to job loss.

Recession or other adverse economic scenarios, such as rising interest rates, could certainly pose a challenge

for some Canadian households," the report states.

 

Canadians' debt levels have been growing fairly steadily since the 1960s, the report notes, but adds that

a number of more recent factors have allowed debt to grow to its current record level, including low interest rates,

rising household incomes and financial product innovations, which have allowed Canadians to make lower

payments on higher debt loads.

 

While about 6.5 per cent of Canadian households are financially vulnerable according to Bank of Canada

guidelines, the CMHC says continued employment growth, increasing net worth of households and a growing

population are all positive factors for housing demand.

 

tsherlock@vancouversun.com

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