|New Year, new living space
(NC) – The start of a new year is the ideal time for many homeowners to start planning projects to tackle around the home. Making 2011 the year you make your home more energy efficient is definitely one New Year's resolution that is easy to stick to and a great place to start is your often neglected, unfinished basement.
Since heating costs typically account for the majority of homeowner's energy bills during the cold Canadian winters, ensuring your basement walls are properly insulated will help create a more comfortable, cozy home and keep out the cold air, lowering your heating costs.
“Finishing your basement is one easy way to make your home energy efficient and help save* money from high-energy costs in the winter,” says David Flood, insulation expert at Owens Corning. “Making sure your basement has adequate insulation will keep your home warm and comfortable, and means the basement can become a more appealing living space for the whole family once it's finished.”
Use PINK™ FIBERGLAS® thermal batts with the INSULPINK® rigid foam insulation for your basement walls for a great way to renovate and create additional space for your whole family. Making sure your basement walls have a high R value will help lock in heat and keep out cold air and moisture, to help you save* on energy costs and reduce overall consumption. Owens Corning's line of PINK™ insulation is made from 70*** per cent recycled content, so you'll check off the next item on your resolution list.
Renovating your basement is an affordable and easy way to make your home energy efficient. Start planning your New Year's resolution this year and make your basement an inviting and cozy space for the whole family.
Federal and provincial governments, as well as some energy utilities, offer funding for homeowners who complete energy-efficient renovations.
More information on grants and incentives can be found online at www.showmethegreen.ca.
More information on how to renovate your basement is available at www.owenscorning.ca
*Savings vary depending on the original amount of insulation in your home, climate, house size, air leaks and personal energy use and living habits.
** Over 70%* recycled content, based on the average recycled glass content in all Owens Corning Fiberglas s batts, rolls and unbonded loosefill insulation manufactured in Canada. The colour PINK is a registered trademark of Owens Corning ©2010 Owens Corning. All Rights Reserved.
Security systems protect against burglary, fire and…floods?
(NC)—Over the years most homeowners can expect to experience at least one form of water damage to their home. It could be their washing machine hose that splits, their pipes that freeze and burst, the dishwasher that leaks, toilet that overflows, or water heater that fails.
Any one of these conditions can lead to expensive property damage, and destruction of personal belongings such as photographs, furniture or computer data – items that are often irreplaceable.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, more than seven times as many insurance claims are caused by water damage and freezing (17 per cent) than by theft (2 per cent). Of those water related claims, 60 per cent were caused by faulty indoor appliances or plumbing leaks, 25 per cent were caused by heavy rain or flooding and 11 per cent caused by sewers or sump-pumps that overflowed.
Preventing a water leak from causing extensive damage is even more crucial now with the trend towards homeowners investing thousands of dollars in their basements creating home theatres, play rooms, guest rooms and laundry rooms.
These flooding events can lead to several inconveniences and unexpected costs such as having to relocate while the problem is cleaned up (in severe cases), having to replace damaged items and most importantly dealing with the health problems from the mold and mildew caused by the water damage.
“Flooding events often go undetected for hours causing extensive damage to your home and personal belongings,” said Patrice De Luca, vice president of marketing and business development for Reliance Protectron Security Services, a leader in home security services who offer, among their suite of products and services, affordable solutions to help thwart the threat of water damage.
According to De Luca today's security systems are capable of monitoring much more than just intrusion detection devices like motion detectors, door/window contacts and glassbreaks. Flood sensors, water flow switches, temperature sensors and many other devices can be installed and linked to a remote monitoring centre that protects homes 24 hours a day to help minimize and, if detected early enough (like for a sump pump with a high water level sensor), prevent losses due to environmental factors with specially trained professional operators standing by and dispatching appropriate emergency services if required.
De Luca says “the latest technology in security systems (when monitored by a professional monitoring centre) can even allow for the monitoring and detection of water damage in your home from a distance by wireless transmission (TeleGARD) on your cell phone or PC at work for example.” More information on protecting your home while you're away is available online at www.protectron.com .
What you need to know when claiming charitable donations
(NC)—If you are like millions of Canadians who give to registered charities each year, here are some useful steps to follow when claiming your charitable donations on your income tax and benefit return:
• Confirm that the organization you give to is registered with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
Every registered charity has a valid registration number (for example, 123456789RR0001) that you can find by using the CRA's Charities Listings at www.cra.gc.ca/donors.
• Keep your official donation receipts for all amounts claimed.
Each receipt should indicate that it is an "official receipt for income tax purposes." In addition, keep your proof of payment such as cancelled cheques or bank statements.
• Make sure that your official donation receipt contains all the mandatory information.
Each official donation receipt should show the registered charity's address and a registration number. For a list of other receipting requirements, go to www.cra.gc.ca/donors.
• Only claim donation amounts that are supported by official donation receipts.
• Submit claims only for donations made on or before December 31 of the tax year of your return or for donations made in the previous four tax years that have not already been claimed.
Learn more about donating wisely by:
• going to www.cra.gc.ca/donors ;
• calling 1-800-267-2384; or
• watching the Giving to Registered Charities 101 videocasts on the CRA's YouTube channel.
|Make your credit card work for you while shopping
(NC)—Credit cards can be a convenient and safe way to pay for purchases and services. But, they can encourage buy now, pay later spending habits that may lead to financial trouble. Carrying a balance on a credit card increases the cost of everything you purchase with the card, due to the amount of interest you pay. You could also build up debt that might take you years to pay off, or damage your credit rating. However, if you pay off your balance every month, you can save those interest charges.
Here are a few tips from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) that can help you make the most of your credit card this season:
• Pay off your balance every month so you won't pay any interest charges on your credit card purchases.
• If you do carry a balance, pay back as much as you can as quickly as possible. You don't have to wait until the payment due date. The FCAC Credit Card Payment Calculator tool shows you how much you save when you pay more than the minimum monthly payment.
• Avoid using your credit card to withdraw cash or transfer money. Interest is charged on these transactions immediately.
• If you are considering a card with an annual fee, be sure that whatever reward or benefit you're getting is worth the cost. The recently updated FCAC Credit Card Selector Tool has details on approximately 250 credit cards available in Canada, including more than 70 that charge no annual fee, as well as premium and specialized cards.
• Stay within your budget when you use your card so you don't buy things you can't afford.
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada's tip sheet, Be Smart with Your Credit Card, lists more ways to use your card wisely. More information on financial products and services is available online at www.fcac.gc.ca.
Protect your home with these expert tips
The Snowbird home safety checklist
(NC)—When Canadian Snowbirds make their way down south for their annual vacation away from the cold, snow and sleet the last thing they want to worry about is the safety of their home. They want peace of mind that their home is as safe as it can be from burglary or other damage.
According to Patrice De Luca, vice president of marketing and business development for Reliance Protectron Security Services, there are several key steps Snowbirds should take to ensure peace of mind when away from home. The following Protectron home safety checklist can help you plan important safety measures before your departure:
• Did you suspend your newspaper and mail delivery; or have a neighbour collect them for you?
• Does the house look lived in?
That means having someone shovel the walk, clear your car off if it snows, or park their car in your driveway if you're taking yours. You can even ask a neighbour to put a bag of garbage at your curb on garbage day.
• Did you set your lights on timers, in various rooms?
With some timers, the lights go on and off at different times each day, which means a burglar can't pick up on a pattern. Motion sensor lights outside can also deter a burglar. Consider installing them in front and back.
• Did you ensure that all your doors and windows are locked and secure?
Don't forget about the garage. To be extra safe, place a bar or stick of wood in the lower track of sliding doors or windows.
• Did you turn off the water-main and unplug the major appliances as an added precaution?
• Did you inform a neighbor when you're leaving and returning, and ask them to keep an eye out for anything suspicious?
Leave them a phone number where you can be reached, and a spare set of your keys in case of an emergency.
• Did you consider a home security system?
A home security system is a very effective deterrent. When looking for their targets, thieves usually select an unoccupied home with the easiest access. Why not make it difficult for them. A home protected by a monitored security system is less susceptible to a break in than one without a system. Security system decals and signs are also an effective deterrent. Make sure your security system includes a loud inside alarm, detectors at all exterior doors, and motion sensors in the master bedroom and main living areas.
De Luca says the latest technology in security systems can now allow the monitoring of your home from a distance by wireless transmission (SkyGARD) if you have a cell phone as your primary line for example. The alarm system is linked to a remote monitoring centre that protects your home 24 hours a day against burglars, fire, carbon monoxide poisoning and floods by supervising the temperature, electrical system and point of entries of your home.
“ We can even configure the system to alert you by e-mail of the duration of comings and goings in your home, (cleaning staff, neighbours, family) with the TeleGARD service,” De Luca added. More information on protecting your home while you're away is available online at www.protectron.com
The retirement bucket list
By Jason Self
(NC)—Everyone has a “bucket list” of the things they want to do when they retire: Golf everyday, travel to exotic places, visit family members more often. But how about making a list of buckets that can help you pay for all your retirement adventures and expenses?
Try listing your main areas of expenses in the following three buckets which are listed in order of importance:
• Essentials – this is the most basic bucket and should include your essential needs to live such as food, clothing, taxes, rent or mortgage, utilities, etc.
• Lifestyle – this is the 'fun' bucket that would include coffee, entertainment, presents, travel, memberships, etc.
• Estate – this is the bucket for the extras if you have money you wish to leave for an inheritance, a charity or to set up a foundation.
This process assists you and your financial advisor, depending on your age and goals, to plan what mix of investments you need to achieve the results you want. For other ideas on financial planning, visit www.myfinanciallyhealthyretirement.com
|Spring clean with the power of steam
(NC) With spring in the air many people start to plan a spring-cleaning weekend. What may come as a surprise to many Canadians is that high temperature steam can make all of those spring-cleaning efforts much easier and more effective. Today's stainless steel steam cleaners offer a solution for the big spring-cleaning chores like windows and walls as well as a myriad of everyday household cleaning tasks.
It's easy to invest in a good quality steam cleaner. When researching models be sure to look for those that produce steam at a minimum of 49 C (120°F). This ensures that the surfaces it cleans will not only look clean but also be sanitized and germ-free. There are many types of steam cleaners on the market. Look for a stainless steel canister-type model like those from Reliable Corporation (www.reliablecorporation.com). This company produces several models to choose from. All reach more than the minimum temperature for effective cleaning.
Once you have your steam cleaner here are some spring-cleaning basics:
1. Remove clutter from the house giving dust mites pet dander and other allergens less places to accumulate. Those that remain will be removed using a variety of attachments that come with a good steam cleaner. The steam cleaners from Reliable Corporation (www.reliablecorporation.com) come with numerous attachments suited for every conceivable task.
2. Take the cold weather clothes from the closets and drawers and ensure they are clean and dry before storing for the summer giving moths and insects less reason to nest. A fabric steamer will freshen fabrics without chemical detergents, fabric softeners or wrinkle removers. One such steamer is Reliable's EnviroMate PRONTO. It creates large volumes of high temperature dry vapour steam to make quick work of wrinkle removal and sanitizing garments.
3. Flip the mattress. This something to do with the change of each season that will help maintain the shape of the mattress. Using steam to sanitize all surfaces of the mattress in the process will help reduce allergies caused from dust mites. High temperature steam also kills bed bugs should they ever come for a visit.
4. Clean the windows inside and out. Now that the sun is shining through them more often, simply remove the tell tale signs of built up winter dirt and grime with the power of steam. Steam makes quick work of freshening blinds and draperies too.
5. Move and clean behind and beneath appliances where grease, grime and dust have been accumulating. High temperature steam will remove grease from the surface of appliances as well as the surfaces they sit on.
10 questions to ask your builder before you buy an energy-efficient home
(NC)—Home buyers may assume their new home is energy-efficient, but the best way to be sure is to talk to your builder. Here is a list of questions you may ask your builder.
• Any builder can claim to build energy-efficient homes. How do I know your homes are truly energy efficient?
• Since all builders must meet the requirements of the building code, what makes your homes different from other builders' homes?
• How do your building techniques reflect the latest developments in housing technology?
• What steps do you take to improve the energy efficiency of the homes you build?
• Can you predict what my energy costs will be?
• What makes your homes more environmentally friendly than others?
• Do you participate in Government of Canada's energy efficiency initiatives for new homes?
• Do you affix a government-backed energy label to the home?
• Do independent, licensed professionals inspect the quality of your homes?
• Do you build homes that receive an EnerGuide rating of 80 or higher or its equivalent?
You may find more information on this topic by visiting Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) website at www.newhomes.nrcan.gc.ca or ordering brochures at 1-800-387-2000.
*EnerGuide is an official mark of Natural Resources Canada
Guaranteed investments are a sure bet for RRSPs
(NC)—If the recent financial crisis and subsequent recession have left you dazed and confused, you're not alone. Canadians are now looking for ways in which they can grow their retirement savings safely and securely. We asked Michael Aziz, regional vice president of investment product sales at Desjardins Financial Security, for his opinion about alternative investment options during this RRSP season.
"One good way to protect your nest egg against market fluctuations is to consider conservative products like the Guaranteed Interest Account (GIA) or the Guaranteed Interest Certificate (GIC)," said Aziz. "Unlike mutual funds or stocks, guaranteed interest products like these pay a steady and predictable income."
What's the difference between a GIA and a GIC?
Both investment options are debt instruments that are designed to pay a steady income, making them good options for those who don't have a pension. But the key differences between the two are how they are sold and how they are managed. A GIA is a contract that is sold by life insurance companies. The insurance company is then legally obliged to ensure that it can pay interest to the GIA contract. GIAs are insured by Comcorp. By contrast, GICs are sold in banks, credit unions and other kinds of financial institutions. All GICs are insured by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC).
How long are the investment periods?
These investments can be purchased for terms that suit you, like 30 days or 10 years for example.
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
The main advantage of GIAs and GICs is that they both offer a predictable return. But their disadvantages are different. Because the GIA is a contract, you do lose some control and flexibility. One key disadvantage of the GIC is that its low-risk design could mean that your money earns similarly low returns. However, it's possible to purchase redeemable GICs that allow early deposit redemption without penalty.
What about death and taxes?
When it comes to estate planning, a GIA may be more beneficial because it includes a guaranteed death benefit. Provided a beneficiary is named in your will, the GIA proceeds will bypass probate and go directly to them. However, the proceeds from a GIC are not paid directly to the beneficiary until death taxes and other fees are paid.
Where can I find more information?
It's always best to have a discussion with your financial advisor because they will be able to offer you solutions that best suit your particular situation. However, more immediate tips on creating a solid retirement savings strategy can be found at www.desjardinslifeinsurance.com