Cabin upgrade? 4 tips for safer summer renovations

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If you are retreating to a cabin, cottage or summer home this summer, it’s wonderful to enjoy a slower pace and laid back lifestyle. But don’t get complacent about safety when doing work on your home or cabin this summer. 

Safety officers from Technical Safety BC frequently witness electrical and gas work that has been done in an unsafe fashion by homeowners and unqualified individuals in remote locations such as the Gulf Islands and Sunshine Coast. “Saving a bit of money or time is not worth your life,” explains Craig Helm, gas safety officer based out of Technical Safety BC’s Nanaimo office. “It’s very important for people who live in these locations to be aware of the safety risks associated with work done by unlicensed contractors.”

Certain types of regulated work pose a high risk of hazards, so they are legally required to be done under permit by licensed contractors. These regulations are put in place for the safety of you and your family.

Here are some of our top tips for keeping your home or cabin safe:

Be Propane Wise

Many cabins are located in areas that don’t have natural gas so use alternative fuel sources such as propane to run fridges, ranges, and hot water tanks. While propane is generally safe, large propane storage tanks used to store fuel do pose certain hazards and require an annual operating permit from Technical Safety BC. The permit is held by the tank owner, which, in most cases, is the company that refills your propane tank. BBQ-style propane tanks up to 420 liters do not require operating permits. Operating permits are reviewed by Technical Safety BC and may require an inspection from a safety officer to ensure that the installation is operating safely and that it meets the current regulatory requirements.

Care must be taken to keep propane storage tanks on a firm, level surface at an appropriate distance from dwellings and property lines. The tank’s surrounding area must also be kept clear of grass, trees, wood piles, and other sources of flammable material. Propane appliances will emit carbon monoxide (CO), so a CO detector should be located in any dwelling where they are used. It’s recommended that propane tanks also be equipped with leak detection devices.


Use Qualified Tradespeople

In smaller communities or on islands, it can be a challenge to find qualified tradespeople and waiting lists to have work done can be long. But did you know that using unlicensed contractors for regulated work is not only unsafe, but also illegal? As well, work done without the appropriate permits is more likely to pose a high risk hazard. If using Craig’s List, neighbor referrals, or community boards to find contractors, double check that they are licensed by visiting Technical Safety BC’s website and checking the Find A Contractor section. The peace of mind is worth it 
 

Leave Photovoltaic Work to the Professionals

Solar and wind power installations which provide recreational land owners an energy source are becoming more popular due to their ability to drastically cut down on power costs. However, Technical Safety BC is seeing a number of unqualified tradespeople offering these services to the public. Photovoltaic and wind power installations/modifications, whether they are tied into the grid or not, have the risk of fire and shock. For this reason, larger systems must be done by a licensed electrician that has been trained in complex wiring installations. The electrician will know how to troubleshoot and diagnose operational issues, and even how to work at heights and steep inclines.  
 

Be Carbon Monoxide Aware

If you live off-grid or don’t have a carbon monoxide detector hardwired into your home, it’s important to take precautions, particularly if you have wood stoves or propane – both which are lesser known sources of carbon monoxide. A portable, battery-operated carbon monoxide detector is a great solution. To minimize the risk, remember: never use barbecues or propane stoves intended for outdoor use inside. Many use propane stoves to heat homes when the power goes out, but this poses the very serious risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Being in remote locations or even off-grid is a wonderful way to live. Just be sure you are taking all the necessarily precautions to stay safe. 

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