Fire safety in the home: four key ingredients

So you’ve read our previous blog and decided to buy some smoke detectors for your home. Good stuff. But is there more you can do? Other than ‘buy another smoke detector’? The answer is most definitely ‘yes’.

The NZ Fire Service website has a list of stuff you can get to protect your home from all sorts of fires. Other than the good ol’ smoke detector they also recommend sprinklers, fire extinguishers and fire blankets.

I must be honest and admit I hadn’t heard of the last one. What is it exactly? A blanket made entirely from fire? A visit to the New Zealand Fire Service website quickly set me straight. While I was there, I thought I’d take a look at their other recommended weapons in the ongoing fight against fire.


Smoke detectors

Cavius smoke alarm

Every home should have them. In fact, by law, every residential property owner has to have them installed – so if you’re renting, your landlord ought to have taken care of that for you. If you’ve moved in and found the previous tenants have nicked off with them, tell your landlord immediately.

So what are the best detectors to have? We’re not giving away Cavius’ photoelectric ones for nothing. Well in one sense we are (enter now!) but anyway, these kind of alarms (as we said in the last episode) detect smoldering fires better than their ionisation counterparts. Smoke can kill long before the fire itself – so having smoke detectors that, you know, detect smoke, is pretty vital.

That is not to say the other alarms are no good – any alarm is better than none. If money is the issue, consider this: while photoelectric detectors are more expensive up front, you ultimately pay around the same overall as you need to replace the battery far less often than with an ionisation detector. If you have them ‘hardwired’ – that is, connected to the mains – there’s no need for batteries at all.

Once you have your alarms it’s good to know where to install them. The Fire Service suggests on the ceilings of “every bedroom, living area and hallway”, and discourage putting them in the kitchen or bathroom, unless they’re specifically designed for those rooms.


Fire extinguishers

John Cena fire extinguisher

Don’t try this at home.

Want to stop a small fire from becoming a biggy? Fire extinguishers are handy in such cases.

They are not miracle workers though, which is why the Fire Service suggests not using one until everyone is evacuated. Better to stay alive and lose your house than die trying to be a hero.

They can also backfire badly if you use the wrong kind for the wrong fire. Check out the chart on this page for which extinguisher is best for you.

In short, the most likely scenario you’ll encounter – the ones that account for around 25 percent of all house fires – is a cooking oil or fat fire in the kitchen. In these cases you’ll want to use a wet chemical extinguisher. If you want to guard against all kinds of fires, buy yourself a dry powder extinguisher too. Keep them in or near the kitchen.



Sprinklers are, as the Fire Service says, “like having a firefighter in every room” of your house. Even better, they’re far lower maintenance – and somewhat less creepy – than having an actual firefighter standing in every room of your house.

How effective are sprinklers? According to research I waded my way through (hint: skip to page eight), the survival rate increases between 80 and 96 percent in dwellings where both sprinklers and smoke detectors are installed. They can also reduce fire damage from $42,000, in an average house fire sans sprinklers, to around $2,000.

It’s easiest to install sprinklers in houses while they’re being built, but they can be fitted into existing homes too. The Fire Service video below shows just how effective alarms and sprinklers can be in containing house fires. Check out their specialist sprinkler website for more info.


Fire blankets


These are blankets specifically designed for covering – and thus putting out – small cooking fires. Should the worst happen and someone catches fire, you can also throw it over them. They’re usually made from glass fibre as well, so that settles that question.

These blankets act exactly as you’d expect – they cut off oxygen to the flames and smother them. They can also be used as a cover to escape through flames if need be.

Fire blankets can be bought from several outlets including Firewatch, Womald and Chubb.


Over to you

Buying and installing smoke detectors is a no-brainer. Getting at least one out of the other three can go a long, long way to saving you money and – most importantly, lives.

What would be first on your shopping list: sprinklers, fire blankets or an extinguisher? Let us know in the comments or over on our Facebook page!

So what’s the deal with our smoke alarm giveaway?

burning house

Hello there. Just thought we’d tell you a little bit about our fire safety promotion; specifically why we’re doing it and why we’ve chosen Cavius smoke detectors as prizes.

Didn’t know we were running a giveaway and you’d like to enter? If you’re reading this before 12 April and live in New Zealand, just head to the Open2view Facebook page, click on the ‘Win with Cavius’ app and follow the instructions. If you’re reading this afterwards, sorry – but check out our page anyway because it’s plenty interesting.

We enjoy giving away stuff to those who like us. But why, in this instance, have we chosen this particular prize?

Cavius smoke alarm in hand

Our primary business is real estate photography. This means we get to photograph and film thousands of homes up for sale every year. Home safety, therefore, is at the forefront of our collective mind.

Here’s some scary facts for you: every year the New Zealand Fire Service attends more than 3500 residential fires. Of these, over 80 percent of homes either had no smoke alarms fitted, or they weren’t working.

That? Is just staggering.

So over the next few weeks we’re going to do something about it – by sharing some fire safety tips, and by giving away some of these cool little smoke detectors.

Now, what’s so great about these particular ones?

First of all they just so happen to be the smallest in the world. They measure a tiny 41mm high and 49mm in diameter. They’re smaller than a field mouse and they only squeak when it’s really serious.

cavius dimensions

You design or arrange your room to be as attractive as possible, only to have to put up a large eyesore of a smoke alarm on the ceiling. Frustrating, right? Cavius smoke detectors are much more aesthetically pleasing than their standard larger counterparts so you can put one up and forget you even have an alarm for the next five years.

Oh yeah, that’s the other thing: these detectors’ batteries last five whole years before they need replacing. That’s far, far longer than your average alarm. When the batteries do start getting weak, they’ll alert you 30 days before dying.

Smoke alarms are the opposite of children: they should be heard but not seen. Like newborn babies, however, these alarms are tiny but very loud. At 85 decibels from a distance of three metres there’s no chance of sleeping through anything when one of these go off. Again, just like a newborn.

Finally, Cavius’ photoelectric detectors are much less likely to give off false alarms. If cooking dinner or having a shower causes your regular, ionisation smoke alarms to start beeping, you’re more likely to want to remove the batteries and leave them out. Not so great if the pan catches alight or the shower starts spraying fire.

Photoelectric alarms, like the ones we’re giving away, are activated by smoke entering the alarm’s sensing chamber and changing the electrical balance.  They are consistently better at detecting smoldering fires than their ionisation counterparts. These types of fires can kill before the flames even start flaming. In layman’s terms, they trigger fewer false alarms and are more responsive to real fires.

The New Zealand Fire Service recommends people install photoelectric fire alarms in every bedroom, living area and hallway in your house. Through our giveaway, we’re getting 40 of you started.

We already received some interesting messages via Facebook about the importance of fire safety. This one from Bex Dixon particularly stood out:

The last four rental properties we have lived in didn’t have smoke alarms so we have purchased some for each property and left them when moving out. A shame that landlords don’t seem to care enough to fit them!

A dreadful shame – and a great gesture from Bex that could potentially save lives.

We also received this comment from Trish Monk:

Our hall heater caught fire nearly 2 years ago mid winter. Turns out our then 18 month old posted a pen through the wide slots. Plastic melted… fire started slowly. Smoke alarm went off. Thankful as heater was in hallway on wall outside our son’s room.

We replaced it that day with a newer style panel heater. Old one was binned. Smoke alarms DO save lives.

They sure do – and we encourage you to not only enter our competition, but to install some Cavius smoke detectors in your homes – and check out our next few blogs for some fire safety tips.

Do you have a similar anecdote? Feel free to share with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page. Or drop us a line if you’d wish to share but would rather remain anonymous.

February Property Report: the heat is on, real estate is busy too

Open2view Mark Harris

There’s still some green land in Mark Harris’ part of the world, but it’s rapidly drying out. 

Checked the date lately?

Two more weeks and we’ll be one quarter of the way through 2013. A year that, so far, has been dryer than a cinnamon-eating contest during a James Bond movie marathon.

Activity in the real estate market, however, hasn’t even come close to drying up. If anything, it’s getting hotter. Perhaps it’s thus appropriate that I’m writing this in what is, at 27.1 degrees, currently the hottest city in the country. If anyone sees autumn around, tell him New Zealand misses him very much and we would like him to come home.

Right then, onto real estate:


(Temperature update: 27.2)

As we previously noted, January was a busier January than usual. Would this trend continue into February and beyond? Seems the answer thus far is mostly yes.

REINZ this week released their monthly update on Tuesday. Among their findings:

  • 6632 houses were sold last month, up 7.5 percent on February 2012.
  • Fewer listings, however, means the rate of growth is slowing; this 7.5% growth in sales volumes pails in comparison to the 34.4% jump between February 2011-12.
  • The median house price is $382.000 – up 7.6% on the same time last year, and getting closer to the record set last December.
  • Auckland’s median shot up to $535,000, while Canterbury/Westland reached a record $355,000.
  • We also asked last month whether the popularity of auctions was waning. We have our answer: 37.1% of Auckland sales were done under the hammer compared to 21.2% 12 months prior. Nationwide, the percentage jumped 80% between February 2012 and 2013.

There’s plenty more to read in the latest REINZ Residential Report – print it out from here, stick it in a plastic pocket and read it in the pool.


(Temperature update: 27.6)

The NZ Property Report from also suggests a hot market:

  • The truncated mean asking price rose by 1% to $443,734. This differs from the REINZ figure in that it removes the outliers (that is the top and bottom 10%) and calculates from there how much people are asking for their homes. And with it being a sellers market, people are getting what they ask for and then some.
  • This large high over Auckland is caused by the continued lack of new listings. While we saw a decent number last month, with 13,145 houses coming on the market, this is still 2% lower than February 2012.
  • And with this news, we hit an all time inventory low. If Rob Muldoon rose from the dead and installed a house-listing freeze tomorrow, we’d sell out of properties in 26.2 weeks.

To see conditions in your region check out the full report.

 Open2view South Taranaki truck

Exhausted, a truck passes out in the Taranaki heat. Photo by Michelle Hoffmans.

From Auckland Council

(Temperature update: still 27.6 (plus warm air from fan = 28))

Auckland house buyers have been doing it tougher than most (though still managing to do it). Not to worry, said Mayor Len Brown last month – there’s enough land available inside the city to build 15,000 houses “right now”.

Seems “right now “ means something quite different in bureaucratic-speak. The reality is, as the Mayor admitted this week, we have just 2000 sections ready to build on, plus capacity for 15,000 more on undeveloped greenfield sites.

This requires much more work than building on brownfield sites – previously used land that can be redeveloped for residential dwellings. It’s enough to make you want to slip slop slap somebody.

What this means, in short, is we still don’t have nearly enough developed land to build all the houses we need.  New Housing Minister Nick Smith says Auckland needs to double the amount of land available to build on.

Meanwhile most of the Council is invested in their plan to intensify building in already existing suburbs. But even they’re subdivided on this; Dick Quax is firmly against high density housing, while deputy mayor Penny Hulse thinks it can be done well.

If you enjoy a good scrap, you may want to keep an eye on these greenfield versus brownfield battles. Although, with this drought, it may soon be impossible to tell which are which.

From you?

We just hit 27.7 so that’s enough from us. Is the property market too hot for you? Should Auckland be building outwards or upwards? Drop us a comment below or over on our Facebook page. No sweat.

Home is where the art is: Jane Evans’ cottage of colour

Jane Evans' house Open2view

Open2view photographs thousands of great homes for sale every year. Recently our Nelson team got to photograph a particularly special cottage. 41 Russell Street, Stepneyville was home for 27 years to one of New Zealand’s most colourful, successful artists.

Jane Evans (1946-2012) spent almost her entire lifetime painting. She won her first art competition at 15 and held her first of more than 60 solo exhibitions all the way back in 1965.

Jane Evans

Jane Evans

It was not an easy life. From her teenage years Evans suffered chronic cases of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and was under strict orders to avoid direct sunlight as much as possible. Through her art, however, she could instead bring nature’s vibrancy to her. If looking to describe Jane Evans’ style in one word, this non-arty guy would just say ‘colour’.

This more authoritative description comes from Wild Tomato magazine:

Often home for long periods due to ill health, she began to paint the flowers and colours of her garden. This bold, bright artwork quickly became her signature, although it was often considered precocious as colour was just beginning to emerge, replacing the earthy tones of landscape painting at the time. She still draws on those earlier roots in her more contemporary work.

Jane Evans house Open2view 2

Inside, and out, Jane Evans’ house provided ample shade and natural light while avoiding the harmful effects of direct sunlight.

Friends spoke of her as someone who never complained about her ailments and always looked for the bright side in everything – a bright side that shone through her work, and the cottage where she lived for 27 years.

The story of her house dates all the way back to 1878. It was built originally for Captain Vickerman, a notable seaman in Nelson’s early history. When he wasn’t at sea he would spend his time looking at the sea through a telescope on his property. It would be fair to say that Captain Vickerman liked the sea.

Vickerman was a mate on the Charles Edward before being promoted to captain of the Murray. Vickerman was a popular captain: the West Coast Times declared that this promotion “will give general satisfaction to traders here, as he has always been found courteous and obliging in the discharge of his duties.”

Vickerman captained the Murray for many years. One of his most important missions was transporting budding young scientist Ernest Rutherford, his family and all their belongings to the North Island – including horses, flax milling machinery, timber and trillions of atoms for Ernest to play with.

Captain Vickerman’s land base had served him well, but when Jane Evans purchased it in 1985 wholesale changes were inevitable. Not least because the weatherboard was rotting, but an artist of Evans’ style was always going to put her own mark on anything she owns.

With the help of prominent Wellington architect Ian Athfield they set about transforming it into a Mediterranean style home and studio – reminiscent of what she saw when travelling as a young woman. And, of course, she filled it to the very top with colour.

Jane Evans house Open2view 4

The interior is as colourful as the outside, thanks to Jane Evans’ eye for fashion and plenty of examples of her work.

The house is unique for another reason: according to an NZ House & Garden interview, Evans and her design team invented “a method of cladding an old weatherboard house in clay that, to my knowledge, had never been done before.”

Whatever they did, it worked. 27 years later this still-sturdy cottage is brimming with Evans’ personality. No matter where you are in or outside her house it would be near-impossible for even the most amateur artist to not come away inspired.

Friend and publisher Craig Potton paid what is perhaps the best tribute to Jane Evans: “she was not a turgid, self-involved sad-sack like some of us.” Words I would love to see on my headstone when the time comes.

41 Russell Street is, just like its late owner, one of a kind. Admire this work of art for yourself, and read more about Jane Evans’ life and times here and here.

Jane Evans house Open2view 4

Real estate photography and Open2view: the key to unlocking your home’s potential

Twas a typical Sunday morning at home. The fireplace was roaring, my Saint Bernard was fetching my slippers and paper, and Al Bowlly’s golden voice was filling the air with a joyous, yet soothing, ambiance.

I always enjoy reading the Herald on Sunday while supping my beverage of choice, but the property section in the latest edition contained something extra special.

‘Unlock your home’s potential’ examined ten ways “to get the best price for your property”.

Skimming quickly through the list, I found precisely what I was looking for at number eight: “Get snap happy”.

“Photos captivate the buyer and drive people to the property,” this section began. Splendid. I put on my reading glasses and had a proper look through; and I was so impressed at all the valid points that I decided to compare them to the services we provide at Open2view. Do we match up?

For this assignment, I was going to have to put down my scotch.

Real estate photo advice Open2view 1

Check. Although how many photos you need depends largely on the property. A lot of our listings contain around 17-25 and you’ll also find properties with many more than that.

How many photos one gets depends on the package. Our stunning twilight photo shoots gives you both extra and extraordinary photos.

Real estate photo advice Open2view 2

Check. We photograph homes from many angles to help buyers see your home as you do. Also, with our elevated pole photography, we can display your home, land and views in one hit – letting people see your property at its full potential.

And yes, all our photos are top-notch quality.

Real estate photo advice Open2view 3

Check! We only use the best cameras and accessories – no phones, no ‘point-and-shoots’. Any colour imperfections, wonky lines etc. that aren’t meant to be there are fixed in post-production to ensure your house looks just as you remember it.

Real estate photo advice Open2view 4

Check. We take high quality, high-resolution photos only, and on our website people have the option to view them all in full screen.

Real estate photo advice Open2view 5

Check. Our photos cover all the bases so prospective buyers know what to expect when they come visit.

Real estate photo advice Open2view 6

Check check and check. And our HD videos, walkthroughs, interactive floor plans and virtual tours add even greater life and depth to your home’s presentation.

Our services provide potential buyers with all the facts – and magic – needed to bring them over for a closer look.

Home sellers and buyers alike should read the entire article as it contains some excellent advice – though nothing better, in our totally unbiased opinion, than point eight.

The power of professional photography, and marketing, can add thousands to the price of your home – so be sure to let your agent know to get in touch.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to smoke me a kipper.