Home facts by Ray and Kearney


Ten Things You Don’t Know About Your Home

By Randy Ray and Mark Kearney

Randy Ray of Ottawa and Mark Kearney of London, Ont. are the authors of eight fascinating books of about Canada. For more trivia, visit their Web site at: www.triviaguys.com

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Canadians spend long hours at home but most take for granted many of the housing essentials that keep them comfortable and happy, including the roofing that keeps out the rain, the bulbs that light their rooms and the birds that make their gardens a haven to appreciate.

But like dust bunnies found under a bed or a set of "lost’’ photographs discovered in the attic, there are plenty of surprises between the rafters and foundation that most homeowners aren’t familiar with.

Here are 10 things you may not know that just might make you appreciate your home even more.

.1. Up on the roof: The asphalt shingles on an average size home with 2,000 square feet of roof area weigh 2,106 kilograms, or about the same as two Honda Civic sedans. The tiny granules that coat the shingles weigh about 792 kg. and the asphalt base contributes the remaining 1,314 kg. The granules, which number up to 1.3 billion on the average roof, are made from gravel that is ground into tiny pieces, then pigmented into hundreds of colors and cooked to achieve a ceramic finish.  The granules protect asphalt shingles from ultra-violet rays, says shingle manufacturer Emco Building Products.

.2. You know the drill.  Ever wondered how the Black & Decker name found its way onto the power tools in your home workshop?  The company began in the U.S. in 1910 when S. Duncan Black and his friend Alonzo Decker powered up a business that produced industrial machines and tools.  They diversified the company toolbox with power drills, sanders and saws after learning during World War II that a significant number of workers were stealing power tools from U.S. defence plants.  Seeing a market ripe for the picking, they launched their own line of household power tools in 1946.  The rest is home do-it-your-selfers history.

.3. Down, down, down. The Canada thistle commonly found in many lawns and gardens can in a single growing season produce 500 metres of root, which is equivalent to the length of three-and-a-half Canadian Football League playing fields. Most of the roots grow laterally but some have been known to drill 4.5 metres into the soil.  You’ll need a backhoe to pull out one of those!

.4. Ghosts use electricity, too! Some appliances consume power even when they’re turned off, a phenomena known as 'ghost’ or 'phantom’ loads.  A remote controlled 27-inch color TV can use 115-kilowatt hours (kWh) of power per year when not in use and a remote controlled VCR 123 kWh per year.  That’s because the standby mode in some devices means some lights and displays stay on, infrared detectors stay alert for signals from your remote control, and some internal components keep running to stay ready for action. In addition, 120-volt AC transformers, the heavy black plugs that go into a wall outlet, consume power even if the device they're powering is off.  Combined, the standby modes of all such devices can consume 5% of the average home's electricity, or $54 per year for the average Ottawa homeowner.

.5. Lives Lived: If your refrigerator’s still running after more than 20 years, consider yourself lucky, even though it’s eating up more power than today’s energy efficient models. Data from the U.S. Department of Energy says home appliances have life expectancies just like humans.  The average life of a refrigerator is 14 to 19 years; dishwashers should last 11 to 13 years; ditto for clothes washers and dryers and microwaves for an average of nine years while most stoves head to the great kitchen in the sky after 11 to 18 years of service.

.6. It’s cold down there.  They may be mostly below ground, but basements can account for up to 35% of a home’s total heat loss, according to Natural Resources Canada.  Here’s the dirt:  earth turns out to be a poor insulator and when you add to that all the air that can leak through basement windows and cracks you can be in for some serious chilling. Experts recommend insulating the walls of your basement to R-12 to keep it warm and cozy. Your wallet will appreciate it too.

.7. It wasn’t Tom’s bright idea. Thomas Edison is often credited with the invention of the light bulb but Torontonians Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans beat him to the switch when they patented a bulb in 1875. When the two couldn’t raise enough cash to make their product commercially viable, Edison, who like many others at the time had been working on a similar idea, bought the rights to their patent. Using different techniques and improvements, Edison’s bulb was ready for patenting in 1879 and has remained in the spotlight ever since.

.8. Birdbrains they’re not:  It’s no fluke that birds keep returning to your backyard feeder; having a strong memory is a feather in these creatures’ caps.  Studies have shown relocating food, even to unfamiliar places, is a piece of cake (or suet) for many birds that may be using landscape features, memory, stars, and even the Earth’s magnetism to find things to eat.  The memory whiz king of the bird world could be the Clark’s nutcracker, which can bury 22,000 to 33,000 seeds in up to 2,500 locations.  Studies have shown the nutcracker finds two-thirds of its tasty treasures more than a year later.

.9. Down the drain: Canadian homes occupied by four people send an average of 1,300 litres of sewage per day to municipal wastewater treatment facilities, which over the course of a year would fill more than seven 16 x 32-foot in-ground swimming pools.  The sewage is 90 per cent water; the remainder consists of fecal matter, urine and tissue flushed down toilets, as well as grime and soap that exits the home via sinks, dishwashers and clothes washers, says the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association.

.10. Put a lock on it: On average, thieves break into a home or apartment every three minutes in Canada.  The most sought-after goods are audio/video equipment, followed by jewelry, cash and cheques or bonds.  Nine out of every 10 break-in artists are male and perpetrators that are nailed and jailed are usually back on the streets in six months.  The good news is that Statistics Canada’s most recent stats, compiled for 2003, showed residential break and enters have decreased by 31 % in the past decade.