Heating & Cooling Systems – Routine Maintenance

Heating and cooling systems are typically an easy maintenance task and virtually trouble free.

As a rule of thumb, it is most common to perform heating and cooling maintenance in the spring and fall to ensure adequate performance in the months you need it most.

Maintaining routine equipment inspections will prevent premature failure of parts and can save you money on your home energy costs. Efficient operation of your heating and cooling system is a direct output of good, regular maintenance. No matter what type of system you have, there are several things you can do to make sure your system stays in tip top shape! For a system that heats and cools, perform a bi-annual maintenance in the spring and fall.



For cooling maintenance only, perform a maintenance check at least once a year – typically in the early spring, before the cooling season startsFor furnace maintenance only, perform a maintenance check at least once a year – typically in the early fall, before the heating season

Many dealers provide a priority service for their customers who have an annual maintenance /service agreement. Your local dealer should provide the following services:


  • Check the evaporator and condenser air coils. Dirty, dusty coils can cause the system to run longer, reducing the system’s ability to properly cool your home as well as decreasing the life expectancy of the equipment and its parts.
  • Clean the outdoor fan motor, blades and indoor blower assembly.
  • Check the refrigerant level of your central air conditioner and adjust if necessary. Too little can make the compressor work too hard which will ultimately reduce the efficiency and longevity of the system.
  • Inspect drain pans and condensate drains to ensure excess moisture is not trapped in the unit.
  • Check compressor and refrigerant tubing.
  • Inspect all electrical wiring, controls and connections. All components should be checked for damage or wear. Poorly maintained wire connections are a potential fire hazard and can cause unsafe operation of your system.
  • Lubricate moving parts. Inspect ports on the motor and fan blades for wear and tear or damage and lubricate as needed. Newer AC models typically have these parts sealed off so this step can be skipped.
  • Replace air filters.
  • Run a systematic test. Turn your AC unit completely off and back on. Listen for unusual noises or odors on the start up.
  • Check duct work for leaks or other problems. Duct work is not typically included in the yearly inspection however it is a good idea to have inspected with your next checkup. Air leakage in duct work is a primary cause of inefficiency in forced air systems.


  • Check heat exchanger for cracks and deterioration. With age, heat exchangers can develop cracks and once there is any sort of deterioration, toxic fumes can be released into your home causing a potential health threat to you and your family.
  • Remove and clean burners to extend the life of your furnace. Dirty, dusty burners can cause poor combustion, condensation and soot that shortens the life of your furnace.
  • Check and adjust the fan switch. If this switch is not proper aligned it can waste energy and cause a fan cycling noise.
  • Clean and adjust the pilot and pilot assembly. Dirty, weak or deteriorated pilots can be easily lead to furnace malfunction.
  • Check all gas (or oil) connections and gas pressure. Improperly operating gas (or oil) connections are a fire hazard and can contribute to health problems. Either can cause the equipment to operate unsafely and inefficiently.
  • Inspect Flue Pipe for corrosion or leaks.
  • Secure all panels. Loose panels can increase your energy costs and can also lead to a system malfunction.
  • Properly inspect and lubricate all motors and bearings of rotating equipment.
  • Inspect and adjust belts for any cracks. Belts can break or crack with age, decreasing airflow which can increase operating costs and shorten the compressors life.
  • Replace your air filter. Dirty air filters waste energy and causes restricted airflow to your system increasing your energy bill. Secondly, a dirty air filter will not be capturing contaminants for your home’s air as it should.
  • Inspect and test controls and safeties. Defective controls can increase costs and cause other components to not operate as needed.
  • Calibrate thermostat. Improperly calibrated thermostats cause the unit to run longer than needed, making your energy bill increase.

The original article can be viewed here.


Aluminum Wiring – Take Needed Precautions.

With the spring real estate market heating up, questions and concerns about aluminum wiring are common with those looking to buy or sell a residential property.


Aluminum branch wiring was used during the 1960s and 1970s in many homes for the wiring of receptacles, switches and other devices. Aluminum does not conduct electricity as efficiently as copper and creates more resistance and heat.

Single strand branch aluminum wiring has been implicated in a number of house fires. The cause of these fires is not normally the aluminum wire itself rather they are the result of improper connections.

Aluminum wiring also expands and contracts more than copper, thus there is a tendency for the connections to become loose at the devices (switches, outlets and breakers) and junction boxes. Oxidation will build up between the loose connections, causing an increase in the amount of heat generated, which can then pose a potential fire hazard.

Do not replace devices with “copper only rated” devices because they also could be a fire hazard. There are copper/aluminum rated devices available but they’re much more expensive than the standard copper only rated devices.

In the interest of safety, when it comes to aluminum wire, you need to contact a licensed electrician if:

  • Outlets and switch cover plates are unusually warm or warped
  • Smoke or sparks are coming from receptacles and switches
  • There are strange odours in the area of receptacles and switches
  • You have untraceable problems with plug-in lights and appliances

Lights periodically flicker.

Many individuals and insurance companies believe aluminum wiring should be removed and replaced with copper. It should be mentioned that this is not always necessary because there are approved or recognized methods for making these systems safe.

If single strand aluminum wire is present, (No. 12 or No. 10 general purpose branch wiring) it is important to install or verify proper connections of all devices and terminals throughout the house. Copper wire ends, known as “pigtails,” can be installed at all terminals. Standard wire nuts are not approved for pig tailing and should be replaced if present as they pose a fire hazard. Special wire nuts approved for aluminum and copper connections must be used.

Care to be taken with aluminum wiring:

  • Do not over-fuse aluminum wiring. The AWG (American Wire Gauge) rating of No. 12 aluminum wiring is equivalent to No. 14 copper wiring. Both are rated for 15 amps, so use only the t5 amp rated glass fuse, cartridge fuse or breaker for aluminum wiring stamped either 12/2 or 12/3.
  • Copper and aluminum should never be connected together except using special anti-oxidant paste and crimped with approved clamp connectors. If you use twist-on connectors (wire-nuts or marrets), make sure they are approved for use with aluminum wiring.
  • When purchasing replacement receptacles, switches or fixtures, ensure that they are compatible for aluminum wiring. Typically, receptacles that are approved for aluminum wiring will be stamped CO/ALR, CU-AL or AL-CU indicating they can be used for both copper and aluminum. Newer Decor switches and outlets (the new designer look flat outlets and switches) are not aluminum rated.
  • Do not use receptacles stamped with AL and a line through it. These receptacles are incompatible with aluminum wiring.

As part of your preventive maintenance plan for the home, check switches and receptacles by removing the cover plates and visually inspecting the wires for any signs of scorching, looseness, heat and odour.

Aluminum wiring is not DIY-friendly. If you suspect anything unusual, have a licensed electrician work on circuits with aluminum wiring.

If you own a home with aluminum wire you should have a licensed electrician check all connections every few years to ensure they are tight and not oxidized.

If you’re considering purchasing a home that has aluminum wiring, some insurance companies will ask for an ESA (Electrical Safety Authority) inspection of the home, some will charge a premium to insure the home, or some may even require that all connections be aluminum to copper pigtailed, the cost of which may be very expensive, before they will insure the home.

The original article can be viewed here. The Author, Rob Parker is a registered home inspector (RHI) with the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors, and an ASHI certified inspector (ACI) with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Rob can be reached at Thamespec Home Inspection Service (519) 857-7101, by email at thamespec@rogers.com or visit www.thamespec-inspections.com

March Home Maintenance Tasks

If the sight of the mercury creeping upward fills you with spring fever, we’re with you. We, too, are restless for the toastier and longer days that are just around the corner. But before you can kick back on a balmy evening with a crisp glass of rosé or a cool IPA, you’ve got to get your home in shape.


The month of March—when temps are beginning to rise but before those April showers—is the ideal time to get down and dirty with those maintenance projects, says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a commercial and residential repair, maintenance, and improvement franchise.

March “home maintenance projects can extend the longevity and improve the quality of your home, inside and out,” he says.

1. Clean the gutter

Task: Remove leaves, pine needles, and other debris that have accumulated over the winter so your gutter system is ready to handle spring showers. Overflowing gutters and blocked downspouts can damage siding and foundations.

Shortcuts: Install gutter guards—screens, foam inserts, surface tension covers—which help to keep debris out of gutters. In general, screen types work best, according to the folks at Consumer Reports.

Call in the pros: A gutter cleaner charges $100 to $250 to clean 200 linear feet of gutter on a two-story, 2,500-square-foot house. Professional installation of gutter guards runs $7.50 to $10 per linear foot.

2. Clean the AC condenser

Task: Remove dust and debris that have accumulated on the AC condenser (the big metal box outside your house) so that the AC works efficiently.

Shortcuts: Hook up a garden hose and spray the outside of the condenser. The water will melt away the gunk. Don’t use a brush, and be careful if pressure washing—you could damage or bend the fins.

Call in the pros: Having a pro service your AC system costs $100 to $250 and includes cleaning the condenser and lubricating the fan motor.

3. Prep the yard

Task: Start bringing your yard back to life now, before temperatures warm up for real.

Shortcuts: Remove branches and stones, and use your lawn mower with a catch bag to make short work of dead leaves and twigs. Got roses? For full, beautiful blooms, most landscaping experts will tell you to prune your rose bushes just before the plant breaks dormancy and after the final frost—around mid-March for much of the country. If any buds are diseased, bag and toss them in the trash to avoid spreading fungus and infestations.

Call in the pros: A lawn service charges $65 to $90 for mowing and leaf removal on an average-size lot.

4. Clean the siding

Task: Get rid of dirt and grime that can cause mildew and shorten the life of your siding. As a bonus, the exterior of your home will look fresh and clean for spring.

Shortcuts: There’s no need for fancy cleaning solutions or power washers; a bucket of warm, soapy water and a long-handled brush are all you need. Rinse with water from a garden hose.

Call in the pros: Cleaning the siding on a two-story, 2,500-square-foot house runs $900 to $1,150.

5. Clean and repair outdoor decks

Task: Cleaning your deck of leaves and debris—especially between deck boards—prevents staining and reduces the chance of rot. Check for loose boards, and reset protruding nails to keep your deck safe.

Shortcuts: Use a flat-bladed screwdriver to pry gunk out from between boards. Use a deck cleaning product to revive faded and stained boards.

Call in the pros: A deck-cleaning company charges $80 to $480 to clean a 16-by-20-foot deck.

6. Caulk around windows and doors

Task: Inspect the caulking and repair any that was battered during the winter. Check around your windows, doors, and corner trim to prevent water infiltration and avoid costly repairs.

Shortcuts: Feel like you’re always caulking? You can cut down on the frequency of this task if you buy high-quality siliconized acrylic latex caulk rated for exterior use. It has good adhesion and flexibility, cleans up easily with water, and is paintable, too.

Call in the pros: A professional caulking job on an average-size house costs $178 to $410.

7. Inspect walkways and driveways

Task: Winter is tough on concrete and asphalt—freeze and thaw cycles can break apart stone and concrete. You’ll want to seal cracks with sealant made for the specific material of your driveway or walkway to prevent further damage.

Shortcuts: Stuff foam backer rods in large cracks to reduce the amount of sealant you’ll need.

Call in the pros: You can hire a handyman to repair cracks and holes for anywhere from $100 to $250.

8. Inspect the roofing

Task: Take a close look at your roofing to check for loose and missing shingles, worn and rusted flashing, and cracked boots around vent pipes.

Shortcuts: Make it easy on yourself by checking your roof with a pair of binoculars while standing firmly—and safely—on the ground.

Call in the pros: A professional roofing contractor will inspect your roof for free, but will charge for repairs: $95 to $127 to replace broken or missing asphalt shingles; $200 to $500 to replace boots and flashing.

You can find the original article on Realtor.com

Peterborough Open Houses – 25th & 26th February 2017

There are 24 Open Houses listed for this weekend – you can view the full list here .


Below are a few homes whose Open Houses are on Sunday 26th.

You can click on the property address for full details, or click on the Realtors name to head to their website!

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688 George Street, Peterborough is listed at $209,900 by Susan Bowie of Royal LePage Frank.  This Open House is on Sunday 26th February between 1pm and 3pm.


876 Sydenham Road, Peterborough is listed at $309,900 by Josh Collins of Century 21 United.  This Open House is on Sunday 26th February between 1pm and 3pm.


224 Cowling Heights, Peterborough is listed at $349,900 by Adam Simmonds of Flat Rate Realty.  This Open House is on Sunday 26th February between 1pm and 3pm.

Don’t forget – once you have found your dream home, contact us to book your dream home inspection!

Well Water Testing – What You Should Know.

It is recommended that you test your well water regularly for the indicator bacteria total coliforms and E. coli.

If present, it is an indication that the water may contain harmful micro-organisms that can make you sick.

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Testing at least three times a year for bacteria is recommended by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Early spring is a good time to test your well water for bacteria. Another good time is the day after a heavy rainfall. Melting snow and running water can carry surface contaminants into your well water. If your well water is safe under these conditions, it is most likely to be safe the rest of the year.

Test your water even if your water seems fine, because you can not always taste, smell or see bacteria or other contaminants. Do not rely on your neighbour’s test results – wells that are only a few steps apart may have different water quality.

Besides routine testing, you should also test:

  • after major plumbing work or well repairs
  • if you detect changes in water quality, including taste, odour, and appearance
  • if regular well users experience unexplained health problems that may be water related (e.g. stomach cramps, diarrhoea or vomiting)
  • after flooding (if flooding is common in your area you may want to retrofit your well. Contact an MOE licensed well contractor)


Thank you to Well Aware for this article – the full, original version can be viewed here.

Space & Basement Heaters – how to use them effectively this Winter.

Being smart with your heat will save energy and save money

It’s no secret that most of us use more energy in the winter. And if your home is heated electrically, you’ll likely see big changes in your electricity bill for the winter months compared to summer.

That might be true even if your home has a gas furnace. Many of us supplement heat with electric space heaters, especially in basements or other cold areas of the house.

But before you plug in those heaters or turn up the thermostat, check out our tips to make sure you’re making smart heating choices. Remember; the goal is to keep you warm, not your entire home.

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Start by only heating the space you’re using

One of the biggest advantages of baseboard heating (compared to central heat) is that you only heat the rooms that you’re using. But even if the heat is only on in the living room, turning it up higher than needed will bring your costs up.

To save energy, always turn your thermostats down at night when you’re sleeping, and consider lowering the heat all the time in rooms you don’t use or when you are away.

Heating costs rise about five per cent for every degree above 20°C (68°F) that you set your thermostats.

Most people are comfortable:

  • Reading, or watching TV at 21ºC (70°F)
  • Working around the house at 20ºC (68°F)
  • Sleeping at 16ºC (61°F)

And don’t forget to ensure that your heaters are ready to deliver all that heat they’re creating. Keeping baseboard heaters free of dust and dirt (try giving them a good vacuuming before turning them on for the first time in the fall), and away from furniture, heavy carpets and drapes ensure the most heat is delivered from the baseboard to the room. Keeping your heaters free from obstructions is also important to minimize fire risk.

Portable space heaters not a good choice for large rooms or multiple spaces

My family had an old plug-in space heater that we kept in the basement for the winter months. It kept my sister and I warm when we were watching television, but my mom definitely noticed every time we used it. That’s because whenever it was first plugged in, the lights throughout the basement would flicker momentarily, a sure sign that the heater was guzzling power at a rapid rate.

The fact is that most portable space heaters use a lot of energy, so if the room you’re trying to heat is large, or you have multiple heaters in multiple rooms, you could see big changes on your bill.

To make the most of your portable heater, use it in a small or enclosed space, and try placing it in the corner of the room. Keep doors shut to keep the heat in the room that you’re using.

No matter what kind of space heater you’re using, it’s important to keep safety top of mind. Ensure it won’t tip over, use it on a level floor, keep blankets and fabric away, and never go to sleep with the heater on.

Keep yourself warm, and you’ll need less heat

Whether you’re using central heat, baseboard heaters, portable space heaters, or a combination of all three, the best defense against a big heating bill is to keep yourself warmer to start with. Small changes to your behaviour can help keep you comfortable enough to set that thermostat a little lower.

And those savings can add up: turning the heat down by just two degrees can reduce your home heating costs by 5 per cent. If you program your thermostat to set back the temperature by five degrees for eight hours of every night, you will save about 10 per cent on your heating bill.

One of the best things you can do to keep costs down is to bundle up. Use blankets, wear warm clothing and slippers, and ensure bare floors like tile or hardwood have rugs. If your feet are warm, you’ll feel much warmer in a room, even if the thermostat is turned a degree or two cooler.

You can even use ceiling fans, if you have them, to direct warm air in the room back down towards you.

Thanks to BC Hydro for this article – the original of which can be viewed here.

Four Things Smart First-Time Buyers Do.

Thanks to Lifehack for this great article – the original of which can be viewed here.

Thinking about buying your first home? That’s exciting!

The thing that surprises most first-time buyers is the sheer number of things that need to happen in order to find, fund, and finally move into a new home. There’s a lot that goes into the process. Sure, you’ll be working with a mortgage loan officer and real estate agent, and it’s their job to be an all-around Sherpa, guiding you along the way. They’ll help you navigate all the steps.

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However, there are four key items first-time home buyers should know in advance. The following four tips deserve the most attention and will help make sure you have a great home-buying experience.

1. Get pre-approved.

Without financing, real estate transactions simply don’t happen. Loans make the housing world go ‘round. Getting a loan pre-approval squared away before home shopping is important, as you will see below.

First, pre-approvals involve formal documentation of your credit score, credit history, income, employment, etc. Pre-approvals carry much more weight than pre-qualifications. Pre-qualifications don’t involve any formal documentation, which is why they are essentially meaningless to everyone from real estate agents to sellers.

Pre-qualifications will give you confidence.

Pre-qualifications save you time because you will know the mortgage amount for which you qualify. You will shop faster and smarter by searching for homes you can afford. You’ll get better service from real estate agents. In fact, many agents insist that their clients are pre-approved. Everyone involved in this transaction deserves to know that their efforts are leading toward a tangible outcome.

Continuing with that thought, sellers may not let home shoppers view their home without a pre-approval. Furthermore, when you make an offer on a home, sellers will take a pre-approved buyer seriously.


2. Search with focus.

There’s never been a better time — in terms of efficiency — to shop for a home. Online searches, using tools like Zillow or Redfin, are fast and easy. And you can stay focused on properties you are likelier to acquire when you know your pre-approved loan amount.

After searching for a while, you’ll want to narrow your choices and pick homes to view in person. This the time to leverage you real estate agent’s understanding of the surrounding area. Their input on schools and neighborhoods is invaluable. Modern technology, combined with your agent’s knowledge of the area, will help you determine the short list of homes to visit.

3. Keep your emotions in check.

Stuff happens. Real estate deals can go sideways for a number of reasons, including:

  • Offers rejected by sellers
  • Negotiations wind up going nowhere
  • Appraisals come in too low
  • Lenders need additional documentation
  • Home inspections reveal major issues with the property

A lot of these things are outside of a buyer’s control. This is why keeping emotions in check is important. Going back to the search phase above, having several homes on your short list can prevent buyers from fixating on just one property. Having choices helps reduce the potential for an emotional roller coaster.

4. Don’t skip the home inspection.

Getting a home inspection before finalizing a deal is important. Surely you’d prefer not to have buyer’s remorse. Don’t skip this step, even if you’re planning on buying and rehabbing a fixer-upper home.

While all purchase transactions will require a property appraisal, some mortgage programs do not require an inspection. An appraisal will tell you and your lender what the home is worth, but an inspection will tell you if it needs any repairs.

There’s pretty good chance an inspector will find some imperfections in the home you want to buy. The good news here is that inspections:

  • Identify issues with the property
  • Come from a neutral third-party
  • Help create space for you and your Realtor to negotiate with the seller

Asking a seller to fix something before you buy it or come down on the price is pretty typical after an inspection. More importantly, you’ll know what you are buying so the chance of any surprises is very small. The idea here is to prevent you from encountering unforeseen expenses after moving in.

Tony Mariotti is the author of this article and you can find out more information on him here.