Experience Strathcona Provincial Park

Blessed as it is with a wealth of scenic and recreational opportunities Vancouver Island offers a wide range of potential destinations for travellers from across the globe. Now that spring has really kicked into gear one of the most sought after locales for wilderness lovers is Strathcona Provincial Park.

The oldest provincial park in the province and the largest on Vancouver Island, Strathcona Provincial Park encompasses more than 250,000 hectares of wilderness, dominating much of the central portion of the Island. Initially created in 1911, the park is roughly triangular in shape and essentially spans the entire width of the Island – from Herbert Inlet off of Clayoquot Sound on the west coast, to within 13 kilometers of the Georgia Strait on the east coast near Comox.

Dominated by dense forest and some of the Island’s tallest mountains, the park is home to such spectacular natural wonders as Della Falls, the highest waterfall in Canada with a drop of more than 440 metres in three interlinked cascades. Towering eight times higher than Niagara Falls (and among the 10 highest falls in the world), viewing the Della Falls can only be achieved via a strenuous hike, but for those who have made the trek the sight of such a unique splendor is considered well worth the effort.

The eternal icefield of Forbidden Plateau is another of the Park’s most memorable natural treasures. Dotted with small lakes (tempting summer anglers with their stock of rainbow trout) the Plateau is a pristine example of subalpine terrain, ideal for hikers, nature photographers or anyone who loves the beauty of the outdoors.

Near the center of the Park is the mountain known as The Golden Hinde, the highest peak on Vancouver Island, standing more than 2,200 metres high. Located just west of Buttle Lake, The Golden Hinde is the source of the Wolf River, a meandering water course that snakes its way through the Park’s dense forestland.

The Park is home to a wide variety of forest and plant life, including Douglas-fir, western red cedar, grand fir, amabilis fir and western hemlock. During the summer the park is known for its spectacular floral displays, including such flowering plant species as heather, lupine, Indian paintbrush, phlox, moss campion, monkey flowers and even violets. A diverse range of wildlife also call the park home such as wolves, cougars, Roosevelt elk, black-tail deer and the iconic Vancouver Island marmot.

While a certain amount of visitor themed development has occurred within the Park’s boundaries (such as an extensive network of trails), on the whole the region is undeveloped so much of it is ideally suitable for experienced hikers or those with a real love for untouched wilderness.

Strathcona Provincial Park is open all year round, providing camping facilities at Buttle Lake and Ralph River, as well as five marine backcountry camping areas, on Buttle Lake and Upper Campbell Lake. An extensive system of hiking trails, two boat launching ramps on Buttle Lake, picnic grounds and an adventure playground are also provided for family-focussed adventures.

The park can be reached in a number of different ways, but its main headquarters and campgrounds are reached via Highway 28, about 28 miles west of Campbell River. Why not plan an outdoor adventure of your own this year and pay Strathcona Provincial Park a visit – you‘re certain to come away with some spectacular memories.

Home Prices Rise – As Housing Sales Slip

Single family home sales dipped, while housing prices in every area of Vancouver Island rose last month, according to information recently released by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB). This is the continuation of a trend that has dominated the regional real estate market since the beginning of the year.

According to the VIREB stats 309 single family homes were sold on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) System last month, a drop of 23 percent from the same time last year when 399 properties traded hands. Despite that decline the March sales were still 36 percent higher than the number of homes sold during February. The reported drop in sales was not restricted solely to single family homes. Apartment sales last month were down 10 percent from a year ago while townhome sales plunged 30 percent from those reported in March 2018.

As part of an ongoing trend, while home sales dipped last month, the number of properties available for sale rose by 20 percent. In March 2018 there were 976 homes listed for sale within VIREB’s coverage area, which extends from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the start of the Malahat in the south. Last month a total of 1,172 properties were listed for sale on the MLS® System.

Active home buyers currently have a larger pool of properties of all types to choose from. The VIREB stats show that the number of apartments available for sale last month reached 284, an increase of 20 percent from a year ago when 237 apartments were listed for sale. The number of townhomes on the market in March climbed 24 percent from last year with 183 listed for sale. In March 2018 there were only 148 townhomes on the market.

Despite an expanding inventory of properties and declining sales figures home prices continued to climb last month. VIREB uses benchmark pricing to track the value of typical homes in each of its individual zones. The board-wide benchmark price of a single-family home hit $510,800 in March – an increase of six percent from a year ago.

The price increases were not restricted to single family homes alone. The board-wide benchmark price of apartments climbed eight percent from last year to reach $319,800, while the townhome benchmark price climbed an identical eight percent to reach $414,700 in March.

Home price increases were reported all across Vancouver Island last month. In Nanaimo the benchmark price rose four percent year over year to reach $554,300 in March. In the Parksville / Qualicum Beach area the benchmark price hit $577,300, an increase of four percent from March 2018. In the Duncan area the benchmark price climbed five percent to end the month at $471,500.

Further north in the Comox Valley the benchmark price climbed eight percent to reach $507,100, with Campbell River’s benchmark price climbing an identical eight percent to $417,200. In the Alberni Valley the benchmark price of a single-family home reached $299,400 last month, an increase of eight from a year ago.

In a real estate market as dynamic as Vancouver Island’s it’s more important than ever to rely on the skills and experience of a real estate sales professional. Give Peter and Kathy a call today to begin your search for your dream property.

March a Busy Month for the Avid Gardener

Now that the unwelcome snows of February are a fading memory, the damp and green of March offer the Greenthumb among us the first real opportunity to get out there and begin the task of springtime gardening. As the weather warms and the hours of daylight lengthen, for the residential gardener March is very much the month for clearing the debris of winter, of prepping, planting and sowing in the garden. Here are a few tips to help get the annual process underway.

Perennials and bulbs: The first step for looking after perennials in the garden is to clear away the dead stems and any other debris, to allow the fresh growth to emerge. It’s hard to plan for the growing season unless you know what has successfully over-wintered, so bulbs and perennial plants will need all of the help they can get.

Robust plants such as echinacea and rudbeckias can grow riot unless cut back to the ground level first – which will encourage the development of controlled and managed sprouts. Any perennial plant that grows with many stems, such as geraniums and daylily will need to be divided to prevent them from choking themselves out, while allowing the gardener to effectively double their stock of plants.

Fruit and vegetables: Many gardens are created with the table in mind, so March is the ideal month to sow such tasty staples as tomatoes, cauliflower, lettuce and other salad greens. A cover of mulch will help protect the young plants from any late season frosts.

A variety of other vegetable favorites such as peas, carrots, beetroot, cabbage, spinach, turnips, spring onions, leeks, broad beans, Brussels sprouts, parsnips and assorted herbs can also be planted this month. March is also the month to plant early potatoes, garlic and shallots, as well as such long term crops as asparagus and even strawberries.

Roses and flowering plants: Not everything in the garden has to wind up in the kitchen, as flowers add beauty and fragrance that can dramatically enhance the enjoyment of a property. If you’re into roses many gardening experts believe that March is the latest you should plant bare-root roses. Plants of this type are often purchased by mail order and arrive not in a container but with their roots exposed. Once they arrive it’s important to get them into the ground as soon as possible to provide the roses with their best chance of survival.

Early season lawn care: March is the month to start getting the lawn in shape. After months of neglect over the winter a good old fashioned ‘spring cleaning’ will help jumpstart any lawns growth. With rake and pruning tools, clear debris and prune dead materials from trees and bushes. March is considered too early in the year to aerate a lawn as exposing roots to any potential frosts could do serious harm. The use of a pre-emergent herbicide can help to defeat weeds before they have an opportunity emerge. A possible chemical free alternative to using herbicides to smother weeds is an application of cornmeal gluten.

Carry out a little personal research, contact the many quality gardening shops in the region to develop the plan and the methods that will work best for you, your budget and your yard. Whatever the need or approach, March is the perfect time to locate your gardening gloves, oil up your tools and to get back out there digging in the dirt – something you’ve been waiting to do for months now. Happy gardening!

St. Patrick’s Day: A Celebration with Ancient Roots

For many around the world St. Patrick’s Day has become a welcome time of comradeship, green beer and a commemoration of everything Irish. But this annual event, held each year on March 17th, has roots that stretch back to the earliest centuries of the Christian era – during the Roman occupation of the British Isles.

With such ancient origins much of St. Patrick’s personal history can at best be described as vague. What is known is that the boy who would grow up to become Ireland’s patron saint was born Maewyn Succat, sometime between 373 and 390 AD. As much of the region’s history has been lost to the mists of time the exact place of his birth is also uncertain.

It is said that he was born in the village of Banna Vemta Burniae, but no scholar has ever officially located his place of birth. Some believe this lost village was located in Scotland, others claim his birthplace was in Wales, both areas being under Roman occupation at the time, but no definitive geographic location has ever been confirmed.

What is known for certain is that the young Maewyn Succat was the son of a Roman-British officer named Calpornius, who also served as the deacon of an early British Christian church, which probably played a role in his eventual rise as a major church icon.

While originally not overly religious, the young man who would eventually become known as St. Patrick, found his life irrevocably changed when at the age of 16, as he was tending to a flock of sheep, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and spirited away to the Emerald Isle where he was sold into slavery. According to one ancient chronicler the youth spent the next six years imprisoned near Mount Slemish in County Antrim in modern Northern Ireland where he was put to work as a herdsman.

His interrupted life and forced servitude saw him become increasingly religious as time wore on. He had come to view his kidnapping and imprisonment as a form of punishment for his earlier lack of faith. As a captive herdsman he spent long hours in prayer, hoping for a chance to escape – an opportunity that arose when, following a waking vision, he was able to stow away on a vessel bound for Britain and an eventual reuniting with his family.

Following a dream, he realized he had been given a mission from God to return to Ireland, to introduce the Irish to this new and growing faith. Feeling he wasn’t personally prepared enough to become a missionary he travelled to France to study theology at a monastery, where he worked for the next 12 years before (with the blessing of the Pope), he returned to Ireland to begin his ministry.

While not the first Christian to become a missionary in Ireland (that honor is given to an earlier preacher named Palladius), the now re-named Patrick is credited for having officially brought Christianity to Ireland, starting right where he landed, at Strangford Loch in County Down, Northern Ireland.

After winning the support of the region’s pagan kings Patrick spent the next two decades preaching and converting the locals before dying on March 17, 461. He is buried near modern Downpatrick in County Down. Credited with various miracles, and as the founder of numerous monasteries, churches and schools, Patrick has left a lasting impression on the Irish, and on those who celebrate the contribution the Irish have made to the world at large.

Housing Inventory Grows While Sales Dip Lower

It’s a fact – the Vancouver Island real estate scene has definitely transformed into a much more balanced marketplace. According to the statistics released by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) home sales across the island dropped sharply last month when compared to a year ago, despite a swelling inventory of available properties and a steady increase in the selling price of homes.

During February 228 single family homes changed hands on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) System, down 28 percent from February 2018 when 315 were reported sold. Last month’s sales totals were still up 10 percent from the number of properties sold during January.

The number of properties available for sale within VIREB’s coverage area, which extends from the Malahat to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, rose by 23 percent from a year ago – with 999 homes currently on the market. In February 2018 only 812 properties were listed for sale on Vancouver Island.

The increase in available properties encompasses all sectors of the housing market. The number of apartments on the market climbed 17 percent to 261 (from last year’s 224), while the total of townhomes on the MLS® System jumped 28 percent from a year ago to hit 163 from the 127 available for sale in February 2018.

VIREB uses benchmark pricing to track the value of typical homes in each of its individual zones – with price increases reported across the board from a year ago. For example the single family home board-wide benchmark price reached $507,800 last month, an increase of six percent from last February, and a slight increase over the number reported in January 2019.

The board-wide benchmark price of apartments sold last month climbed 11 percent year-over-year to reach $324,500. This is two percent higher than the benchmark price reported in January. In the townhouse category the February benchmark price hit $413,600, which is also 11 percent higher than the price recorded a year ago, and marginally higher than January’s price.

Similar price increases were reported last month in each of VIREB’s individual zones. In Nanaimo the benchmark price of homes sold in February rose three percent above where they were a year ago to close the month at $545,700. In the Oceanside area the benchmark price climbed nine percent year-over-year to reach $586,400 in February, while in the Cowichan Valley the benchmark price climbed seven percent from a year ago to hit $463,100 – which is actually a slight decrease from the price reported in January.

Moving further north, the benchmark price reported in the Comox Valley climbed seven percent to reach $504,500 last month, while Campbell River’s benchmark price was listed as $418,100, an eight percent increase over the price reported in February 2018. In the Alberni Valley last month the benchmark price was up a full 14 percent from a year ago, hitting $307,100.

The Vancouver Island real estate market has gradually shifted from a seller’s market, where properties were few and in high demand, to a more balanced marketplace that offers the buyers more choice and greater opportunity to negotiate price. Now more than ever consumers need the services of a professional REALTOR® to effectively navigate the process of buying or selling a home. Contact Peter and Kathy today to begin the journey for you and your property.

City is a Key Part of the Regional District of Nanaimo

While the City of Nanaimo is a self-governing municipal entity, it also serves as the hub and principal service centre to a much broader market area – the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN). Analogous to the county systems in place in other portions of Canada, the regional district concept was first introduced in British Columbia in 1965 as a means of providing an improved range of services to the various less developed and underpopulated rural areas in the province.

At that time the province was in a phase of rapid expansion, resulting in most rural areas not having a general purpose local government. In the mid-1960s land use planning and regulation was administered directly by the provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs and provincially-funded staff using the authority of the Local Services Act. Local services such as fire protection, street lighting and water supply were provided either by independently incorporated improvement districts or through local municipalities under contract to the ministry.

Without the existence of a general purpose rural government citizens in the rural areas often lacked or were underserved in the delivery of such critical services as water, sewer and fire protection. Unincorporated areas were also perceived as lacking significant political accountability. As a means of leveling the playing field, and to ensure that all BC residents had access to the same level of service and representation, the Regional District system was introduced.

Located on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, bordered to the south by the Cowichan Valley Regional District, to the west by the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and to the northwest by the Comox Valley Regional District, the RDN’s main administration offices are located on Hammond Bay Road in North Nanaimo.

Formally incorporated on August 24, 1967, the Regional District of Nanaimo had a population of about 150,000 during the 2011 census and includes the City of Nanaimo (population 90,504), the City of Parksville (population 12,514), the Town of Qualicum Beach (population 8,687) and the municipal district of Lantzville, with a population of 3,601.

In addition to its primary population centers the RDN also includes seven individual electoral areas that contain unincorporated communities. The Regional District provides a wide range of services and duties for the residents, including being the owner and operator of the Nanaimo Regional Transit System, an entity that provides conventional local bus routes as well as special needs paratransit services for the region’s residents.

The RDN is one of 29 regional districts in British Columbia, and covers an area of 2,038 square kilometers, making it one of the province’s smaller regional districts in terms of land mass. In comparison the Peace River Regional District covers more than 117,000 square kilometers, but has a total population of less than 70,000 residents.

A key element in the delivery of services and as a means of providing a unified voice for residents of the more rural areas, the Regional District of Nanaimo is a vital part of the area’s governance and is a significant player in regional infrastructure development – an increasingly important role it will continue to play as the area’s population continues to grow.

Nanaimo Hospital is a True Regional Resource

Not only blessed with a benign climate and a near idyllic physical location, the City of Nanaimo is made even more attractive by the range of services and community resources it can offer its residents. One of the most diverse and evolved of those offerings is the impressive range of specialties and facilities operated by the region’s chief health care provider, Island Health (formerly known as the Vancouver Island Health Authority).

Delivering a staggering range of specialized services, Island Health’s coverage area encompasses all of Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands as well as the mainland communities located north of Powell River and south of Rivers Inlet. With a catchment area that serves more than 794,000 people Island Health is also one of the region’s top employers, with a staff count of more than 22,000. Operating from more than 150 different facilities the health care provider has an annual budget of more than $2.5 billion.

One of the central jewels in Island Health’s infrastructure crown is the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH), the city’s primary medical facility. Today’s NRGH (which originally opened its doors in 1963) is the latest, largest and most advanced hospital within the Regional District of Nanaimo, and is the evolution of a process that began more than 140 years ago.

Nanaimo’s very first hospital was opened in 1877, an improvised operation located between a row of miners’ cabins on today’s Chapel Street. As primitive and as rustic as the fledgling community it serviced at the time, this original facility (consisting of a pair of cabins measuring 15’ by 40’ each) was created to tend the emergency needs of the community’s miners and their families – a role it served until 1881 when it was replaced by a purpose built hospital located on the same site.

Nanaimo’s population continued to grow dramatically during the later parts of the 19th Century, a population with medical needs that far outstripped the capability of this evolved operation. As a result between 1877 and 1881 a second building was constructed at the corner of Prideaux and Fitzwilliam Streets to help relieve some of the pressure put on this original hospital building.

But even this stop gap measure failed to provide the level of service required by the local population so a third medical facility, this time located on Franklyn Street was opened later in 1881 to try and keep up with the demand. In 1883 a fourth hospital had to be opened, this time on Kennedy Street which helped to satisfy the needs of the community for a time, with this hospital building serving Nanaimo’s residents until 1928. At that time a fifth and much more expansive facility was opened on the same site, a hospital that served the growing community for more than 35 years until the opening of the current and sixth Nanaimo hospital – located where it is today on Dufferin Crescent.

The Kennedy Street hospital was later repurposed for a number of different uses, first as the site of Malaspina College (from the 1960’s until the late 1970’s) and later as a long term senior’s care facility that was rebranded Malaspina Gardens. The old hospital was eventually demolished in October 2017.

Today’s NRGH (which only added the designation ‘Regional’ to its name in 1991) has been extensively expanded and updated over the decades as the needs of the community changed, and as newer technologies required the operation to be expanded. The Nanaimo Regional General Hospital continues to be the area’s premier medical facility, having recently completed a significant upgrade of its emergency services – the latest chapter in a medical evolution that has continued for nearly a century and a half.

Island Housing Sales Slide While Inventory Grows

January proved to be a month of contrasts, according to information released by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB), as housing sales declined sharply – while at the same time the available inventory of properties continued to grow. VIREB’s stats show that the sale of single family homes in January was down a full 28 percent from the same time last year, despite recording a 23 percent increase in sales from those reported in December.

During January a total of 209 single family homes were sold on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) System, down markedly from the 290 properties that traded hands during January 2018. That’s still a significant increase over the sales activity recorded in December when only 170 homes were sold.

The year-over-year sales slump wasn’t restricted solely to detached single family homes as the sale of apartments was down 20 percent when compared to January 2018. Interestingly there was a slight increase in the number of townhomes sold last month as 34 were sold, up incrementally from the 33 sold during the same month last year.

Despite a reduction in transactions the number of properties currently available for purchase across VIREB’s coverage area, which extends from the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island to the Malahat in the south, was up an impressive 32 percent last month from a year ago.

Currently there are 987 homes available for sale, up sharply from the 748 listed for sale at the same time last year. There has been an increase in the Vancouver Island housing inventory across the full spectrum of property types, not only with single family homes. Presently there are 303 apartments listed for sale, an increase of 38 percent from a year ago when 219 were on the market. Townhome listings have jumped a full 60 percent year-over-year with 165 currently on the MLS® system, up from the 103 that were available in January 2018.

VIREB uses an approach called ‘benchmark pricing’ to track the value of typical homes in each of its individual zones. Its latest statistics show that regardless of the drop in actual sales numbers the board-wide benchmark pricing of those properties continued to rise. Last month the board-wide benchmark price hit $504,500, up nine percent from a year ago, with prices varying sharply from one region to another.

For example in Nanaimo during January the benchmark price climbed five percent while in Port Alberni the price spiked 17 percent. Year-over-year the benchmark price of apartments sold across Vancouver Island recorded an increase of 11 percent to reach $318,800 last month, while townhouse prices increased 10 percent board-wide to $407,600 – down slightly from the prices reported during December 2018.

In January Nanaimo’s benchmark price rose five percent to $541,700, while in the Parksville – Qualicum Beach area the price rose 12 percent to close the month at $579,800. Elsewhere on Vancouver Island, in the Comox Valley, the benchmark price was up nine percent to reach $498,000 while in Campbell River prices were up 12 percent, with a benchmark price of $412,300. In the Cowichan Valley the benchmark price of properties sold in January recorded a 10 percent increase, reaching $469,400, with Port Alberni’s benchmark price hitting $302,700 – an increase of 17 percent.

In a volatile and rapidly changing marketplace, such as we’re experiencing on Vancouver Island, it’s more important than ever to have the experience and local knowledge of a professional REALTOR® on your side. If you’re thinking about buying or selling a property give Peter and Kathy a call to determine the right price or to find the right property for you.

Nanaimo Mine Disaster: The City‘s Darkest Day

During Nanaimo’s earliest days coal really was king. But the black richness that opened up the community and helped to power the Victorian era didn’t come without cost – in some cases that currency was the lives of the miners themselves. On May 3, 1887 a massive explosion, believed caused by improperly placed charges, tore through the Number One Coal Mine (Esplanade) taking with it approximately 150 miners – making it the city’s (and the province’s) largest and costliest industrial accident in terms of lives lost.

The Number One Coal Mine, located at the foot of present day Milton Street (where a marker describing the tragedy currently exists) was a vast labyrinth of tunnels spreading out in a jagged network that even extended beneath the growing community’s harbor. In fact it is said that miners working in those more remote branches of the claim could actually hear vessels as they sailed over their heads.

Operated by the Vancouver Coal Company (VCC) the project was originally started in 1884 and was one of the largest operations of its type in the town at the time. No one will ever know with real certainty what happened to trigger the blast, but when the underground darkness of the mine’s galleries lit up in that fiery detonation dozens of men perished instantly, while many others lingered trapped and dying in the choking fumes of that unimaginable Hell for an extended period.

When rescuers finally reached those trapped souls they found that in some cases farewell messages had been scrawled on their shovels, a tragic testament to the loneliness and desperation they must have felt as their lives slowly ebbed away. Only seven of the dozens of men working that day managed to make it to the surface alive – leaving the community with more than 150 fatherless children and nearly 50 widows facing an uncertain future alone.

The rescue effort, while heroic, was slowed as a fire that blazed beneath the ground for more than a day prevented crews from reaching the more remote corners of the operation. Had the blaze not erupted it was believed that many more workers would have survived.

Industry in 19th Century Nanaimo was much less safety-conscious that it is today, so a full tally of the destruction or even an accurate layout of the mine itself is very much open to debate. What is known is that documents of the day put the death toll at 148 workers, but subsequent research has pegged the carnage at 150 or even more, including approximately 53 workers of Chinese origin. During the Provincial Government inquest that took place after the tragedy the Minister of Mines of the day, in his annual report, listed the names of the perished, and the insensitive notation: “Chinamen, names unknown”, followed by an employee tag number – a continuing sore spot for many of the current descendants of those lost workers.

Seven of the lost miners never made it to the surface and have remained entombed to this day, a somber reminder of the dangers and the uncertainties that went into opening up the community.

Despite the cost in terms of lives and money, the VCC went on to reopen at least part of the mine, keeping it in operation until 1938 when it was shuttered and sealed for the last time. During more than 50 years of operation Nanaimo’s Number One Mine is said to have produced more than 18 million tons of coal, the black fuel that was ultimately shipped to customers around the world.

A tragedy on a scale unprecedented in the community, the great Nanaimo mine disaster is a poignant reminder of the dangers present during the city’s earliest days, and an important part of the region’s history – a lesson that needs to be remembered and shared.

Winter Energy Saving Tips for Homeowners

The dusting of snow the East Coast of Vancouver Island recently experienced is a reminder that despite the region’s benign climate this is still the winter, and a cold snap could still see the Mercury plunge on short notice. For homeowners energy bills during the dark days of winter can climb dramatically, so it’s important at this time of year to take steps to ensure that energy isn’t being wasted, and that costs can be maintained. To help with that goal we offer a few simple tips to help keep residents warm, even when it’s cold outside.

Bundle Up: While it may seem like an obvious idea, energy and money can be saved by keeping a household thermostat below 20º Celsius and simply putting on a sweater to ward off the morning chill. Many believers in the ‘bundle up approach’ say putting on extra clothing is even healthier that cranking up the furnace or baseboard heaters, so why not give it a try?

Ceiling Fans: Did you realize that the direction a ceiling fan turns should reflect the time of year it’s in operation? During the hot days of summer the spinning blades should be used to draw the heat away from the living spaces, while during the winter a reverse rotation will push the warmer air (as heat rises) down into the room to aid with heating. Conduct a few experiments with your fans to find the best approach for your individual home.

Ongoing Maintenance: Like any mechanical system – from lawn mowers to automobiles – a furnace needs to be properly maintained to work at peak efficiency. A furnace filter choked with dust will not work as well as a clear one. For many the addition of a furnace filter alarm, a device that advises when a filter needs replacing, is a worthwhile investment. Do a little research, or ask questions the next time you’re in a local building supply store, to find the right product for your needs.

Keep it Clean: Maintenance of furnace vents and other ductwork is another way to ensure that the air you’re paying to heat will effectively circulates through the home. The same is true for laundry room dryer vents and other appliances so equipped. As the winter months will see you more housebound than usual it’s vital to keep all of your systems working as obstruction-free as possible to improve comfort and to reduce costs.

Planning Wisely: Try to avoid heating areas of the home that are typically not as well insulated including the garage, subfloor crawlspace, attic or storage sheds. If parts of your home are typically unused during the winter, then try closing doors, or shutting heating registers to save money.

The Fireplace: A needlessly open chimney can literally suck money out of your home. Working just like an open window an unused chimney with an open damper is a 24/7 drain on your household heat. Always close the damper when not in use, but remember to reopen it if a warming blaze is called for. In addition, consider installing tempered glass doors to a wood-burning fireplace and even a heat-air exchange system that will help to blow warm air into the room.

Open the Curtains: Make a full use of the sunshine if possible. By simply opening the drapes or blinds on sunny those days natural and free heat will automatically stream in. Likewise remember to close the drapes or blinds once the sun sets.

These are just a few ideas, each home is unique and each situation is specific. So why not look around, ask questions of experts and do a little online research to find the best approach for your property? Winter can be fun, but it doesn’t have to be needlessly expensive.