Home Security Tip

A good home security tip that you may have never thought about…. Most contractors install the door hardware plates with the supplied screws (which are only a half inch long and come out with one kick by a burglar). By installing 4 inch screws in their place that go through the door frame and into the framing of the house, an intruder would have to kick for a long time before they get tired and make a lot of noise. Shorter screws are supplied with the door hardware. The extra noise and energy spent trying to gain entry will not only give you time to arm yourself but the intruder will hopefully move on to an easier target.

Garage Door Safety

Your garage vehicle door may be the largest moving object in your home and could weigh up to 400 pounds. For your safety make sure it’s in good condition.
Overhead garage doors have gravity to deal with. In the absence of some type of balancing mechanism, the door would slam shut as soon as you let go of it. Older garage doors may employ a weight and pulley system to balance the weight of the door however virtually all modern systems use springs. Regardless of the method used, the door should balance. If you open the garage door about half way and let go, it should balance there.
Spring failure
The springs used to balance the weight of the door are under enormous stress. If a spring were to break, flying pieces of metal could cause serious injury. Modern spring systems incorporate safety features to prevent flying metal in the event of a spring failure. For example, extension springs should have a cable running down the middle of the spring to contain the spring upon failure.
Automatic opener
Automatic door openers are not a replacement for a properly balanced door. The opener is not powerful enough to lift the entire weight of the door. The opener works with the help of the springs or counter balance system. An automatic garage door opener should stop and reverse on meeting an obstruction. Many systems manufactured prior to 1982 may stop but not reverse. These older systems should be upgraded. This is not only about protecting your car, it’s about protecting people. Today, some form of external entrapment protection is required. An electric eye is the most common system used. The electric eye is mounted 5 to 6 inches off the floor and senses objects in its path. If your garage door opener does not have an electric eye system, you may be able to upgrade it without replacing the entire system.
Emergency release
During a power failure the garage door may be impossible to open. Since 1982, automatic garage door openers have an emergency release to disengage the garage door from the opener. Once disengaged, you can open the door by hand. Make sure you know where this is and how to operate it. It is usually a short rope hanging from the unit. Pulling the rope disengages the door from the automatic door opening mechanism.
A Few More Pointers on Garage Doors
• Keep it in good shape: Your garage door may require periodic lubrication and adjustment. An overhead garage door that is poorly maintained may pose a threat to your safety. Hiring a garage door expert to inspect and adjust the system is a good idea.
• Pinch hazard: Sectional overhead garage doors pose a pinch hazard to fingers. Never put your fingers in the space between door sections to close the door, use the provided handles. Some modern sectional garage doors have a ‘pinch proof’ design.
• Security: The remote control for your automatic opener is like a key to your garage. When you move into a home, you should change the remote control settings just as you would change the locks on your doors. If the codes for your automatic opener cannot be changed, it probably also lacks other key safety features of a more modern system. You should consider upgrading.
• Educate children: Kids need to know that garage doors are dangerous. Bikes and toys should never be left in the path of the garage door while the door is open. Make sure they know that they should not play with the remote control. Mount the door activation button five feet from the ground, out of reach.

Annual Smoke Detector Check-up

Do you know how old your smoke detector is? Remembering when you last tested yours is hard enough, so it’s easy to lose track of its age. Unfortunately, smoke and CO detectors don’t last forever – after about ten years they start to wear out and become less effective. In fact, about 30 percent of detectors that are ten years old don’t work at all!

When it is time to do a smoke detector annual check-up (choose an annual date that is easy to remember), check on the age as well.

To check the date, just unscrew the front plate and take a look at the back of it. There should be a manufactured date printed or stamped in this area (sometimes it’s near the battery compartment, instead). If your detector was made more than ten years ago, it’s time to buy a new one.

If it is fairly new (within the last 5 years), then test the battery back-up. There are number of batteries specifically designed for smoke and CO detectors. If you need to replace your detector, grab one of these long-lasting lithium batteries at the same time.

Drafts In The Home

With the recent blast of Arctic air pushing its sub-zero temperatures here into the South,  did you find unwanted drafts in your home?  Have your heating or cooling bills been excessively high this year? Has your home felt drafty in the winter or can’t seem to stay cool in the summer? You could be losing air in unexpected locations of your home, and losing air means losing money.

The US Department of Energy estimates that Americans’ energy bill sare 5-30% higher than they need to be thanks to air leaks that could easily be remedied with proper insulation techniques.  Here are some common problem areas:

  • Windows are the most common places for drafts. Move your hand over the window frames of your house — can you feel a soft breeze? Heavy curtains will often contain the draft. Older houses may require caulking or weather stripping. In extreme cases, consider purchasing energy-efficient windows
  • The front and back doors of your home may be drafty, too. Heat can escape from the opening at the bottom of your doors or through the door frames. Installing a door sweep to the bottom of the door can keep drafts out. You can also replace your screen door with a storm door, which will better prevent drafts from entering your home
  • Chimneys are drafty by definition. Pay close attention to the air flow near your fireplace. Cover the opening securely when the fireplace is not in use
  • Attics, basements and eaves are where the most heat is lost. Examine the insulation there and determine whether it was installed properly
  • Electrical outlets and lighting fixtures can also be problematic. Visit your local hardware store to purchase draft-proofing gaskets
  • You can also find drafts by walking around the inside of your home with a lit candle. If the flame flickers or goes out, you’ll know there’s a draft nearby

3 Things An Inspector Cannot Tell You

Great recent article from Angies List:

When you pay a professional like a home inspector for their services, you expect to have all your questions answered, right? After all, you, the customer, are paying good money for their expertise. While it may seem contrary to the nature of a business relationship, there are some questions that a home inspector typically won’t answer.

Below you’ll find three common questions that we as home inspectors routinely decline to answer – and why.

1. Am I paying too much for this property?

A home inspector reports the condition of the property you are purchasing, but unless they have specialized education in their background, they do not have the training necessary to estimate the value of the property.

Advice on market value customarily comes from two sources: Realtors and appraisers. Realtors will work up a market analysis of virtually every property they list, which tells you the value of similar properties in the area. This in turn gives you an idea of what listing price is appropriate. Appraisers have years of focused training and many sources of information that help them to assess the value of a property. While your home inspector will likely be eager to help, this information is best acquired from the appropriate professionals.

2. Does this house have foundation issues?

Foundation issues manifest themselves in a variety of ways, from cracks in the slab and walls to doors that don’t shut properly. Most home inspectors have the skills to identify the symptoms, but diagnosing foundation failure is a serious matter that should be done by a structural engineer.

Keep in mind that cracks in the slab or brick can be present even in homes with no foundation problems. The tools and testing necessary to establish foundation failure are generally beyond the scope of the average home inspection company. If we home inspectors had to acquire the tools and lab services needed to provide this information ourselves, home inspections would be much more costly.

3. Would you buy this house?

The job of a home inspector is not to influence, but to inform. We try to give our clients the most accurate picture of the condition of the property on the day it was inspected, but the decision whether or not to go through with the purchase is the client’s alone. The question itself is highly subjective.

For example, people who have unknowingly purchased a home with a bad sewer line will be more apt to run screaming in the other direction if a house is found to have plumbing issues. If a plumber looks at the same house, he or she will likely see this as a minor concern, since they possess the skills and tools to fix the problem themselves. Your experience, talents and expectations will influence your decision differently than anyone else, making you the expert on whether the purchase makes sense.

Preparing for an Inspection

The biggest deterrent to completion of a full inspection is lack of utilities or access to all components.  It is the responsibility of the owner of the property to make certain that all utilities, valves and breakers are turned on and pilot lights lit. Full access should also be made readily available to breaker boxes/sub-panels, water heater closets and attics. Any garage attics and closets/panels need to have parked cars, boats, RV’s, storage, gyms, etc. moved. The water heater needs to have time to heat up to the working temperature in order to be properly inspected.  Failure to follow up on any one of these steps may lead to an incomplete inspection and/or cost incurred for a re-inspect to be paid by the seller or listing agent.  This fee is to be paid at the time of the returning visit, not billed to closing.  CBS codes should be provided in a timely manner to all parties performing inspections to gain access to the property.



Thomas Lighting Flush Mount Light Fixture


U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Ceiling Mounted Light Fixtures Recalled by Thomas Lighting Due to Fire and Shock Hazards.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed. It is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.

Name of product: Thomas Lighting ceiling flush mount light fixtures.

Units: About 83,750

Manufacturer: Thomas Lighting, of Elgin, Ill; part of Philips Consumer Luminaires Corporation, of Elgin, Ill.

Hazard: The fixture’s socket wire insulation can degrade, leading to charged wires becoming exposed, causing electricity to pass to the metal canopy of the fixture.

This poses a fire and electric shock hazard to consumers.

Attic Inspections

Having attic access in an inspection is important, but not always feasible when a house is occupied:… http://fb.me/1CWjkkgbE

The following is an excerpt from Working RE magazine:

Editor’s Note: Inspecting an attic can be tricky business. Here is what a few inspectors have learned over the years about when and how to inspect an attic.

 Inspecting the Attic
By David Brauner, Editor

F. Kelly, inspecting for 12 years in Arizona, has a problem common to inspectors: “I declined to go into an attic the other day. The access was in the master bedroom closet, full of clothes, etc. When I attempted to open the scuttle cover, it was obvious there were about 15 inches of blown in insulation covering it. I was able to access another portion of the attic so I knew approximately how much insulation was up there,” said Kelly. “I wrote up that I didn’t access that portion of the attic due to excessive insulation on the hatch cover. I suppose I could spend half an hour or so covering their clothing and cleaning up but what do you do when the cover is heavily caulked in place and you will damage drywall removing it? I usually report that the seller needs to provide access but with these short sales, the inspection period is usually very short.”

If at all possible in preparation for the inspection, have all attic accesses prepared with clothing, storage, etc. removed.  This prevents any damage or distress to contents and insures that the inspector will be able to perform a complete and thorough inspection for the client and buyer of the property.


Reduce Energy Usage in your Home with a Programmable Thermostat

Reduce Energy Usage in your Home with a Programmable Thermostat

One of the easiest ways to reduce energy usage is to install a programmable thermostat. Since most homeowners spend approximately 50% of their annual energy bill on A/C and heating, a simple way to reduce this cost while maintaining a comfortable temperature is what you want to achieve.

A programmable thermostat will automatically adjust the indoor temperature to preset times, which according to Energy Star can save you an estimated $180/year or more. You can program it to adjust the temperature before you wake in the morning or return at the end of the day, so your home is comfortable when needed but not wasting energy when you’re not at home.

If you’re comfortable with wiring and electrical equipment you can install the thermostat yourself following these steps:

  1. The thermostat should be installed on an interior wall away from sources of heat and drafts such as doorways, windows, skylights, and bright lights. Make sure to install in a location this is not near heating and cooling vents.
  2. Carefully read the instructions and electrical safety guidelines before attempting the installation.
  3. Turn off the power supply.
  4. Remove the old thermostat and wall plate, but use caution because older models can contain mercury which is a toxic substance that should be appropriately recycled.
  5. Label all wires and secure by tying in a loop.
  6. Install the wall plate first, then connect the wires following the instructions in the manual.
  7. Mount the programmable thermostat on the wall plate and turn back on the power.
  8. Most models include pre-programmed settings to maximize energy efficiency, but you can make adjustments to suit your needs by following the guidelines in the manual.

If you’re inexperienced with the installation of electrical equipment, then it is best to contact an HVAC specialist who can install it properly so that all warranties remain valid.