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Happy New Year!
2012 was an amazing year for us in home inspections. Thanks to all of you who made that happen and we look forward to a great 2013! So far it is off to a great start!
Here are some tips to make your house a quick sell:
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
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
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:
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.
Time For Thanks!
Instead of our ususal inspection blog, we wanted to say a few things we are thankful for this Holiday Season!
Thanks to those men and women who bravely and selflessly stood and fought for our freedom. To those who that gave it their all, fully knowing the consequences and many suffering the sacrifices. We proudly stand, applaud and support
We thank our families for all the support and encouragement they so frequently give - and the wonderful spirits in which they give it.
We are extremely thankful for our agents, clients and referrals, which without you our business would not be.
Here's wishing each and everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!
Is Your Home A "Water-Guzzler"?
New homes over the past decade have actually gotten thirstier, using even more water than the new homes of the prior generation. Considering the advancement in water-efficient household items like washing machines and showerheads, how can this be possible?
Surprisingly enough, the main culprit is the external irrigation systems used for landscaping.
"Builders can impact 30 percent of water usage, all inside the home", said Robert Broad, director of purchasing for Pulte Homes. "Sixty percent to 70 percent of all home water usage is external. All these great plumbing features put in were being completely dwarfed by the demand for sprinkler systems."
In the past, very few new homes came with sprinkler systems. Now, sprinkler systems are becoming commonplace in a new home package, just like appliances. The trouble is most people don't use sprinklers properly and have a tendency to overwater, especially in times of prolonged dry periods.
WaterSmart homes like ones that Pulte Homes built in the desert communities combat this problem with landscape irrigation control units. These units can be programmed for different types of shrubbery, soil and model of sprinkler. Text or email alerts can be programmed to notify users of plumbing malfunctions via a water usage monitor.
Internally, the plumbing network can be re-aligned in and around the homes using cross-linked polyethylene so that hot water is delivered quicker or also use of "tank-less" on-demand systems. A myriad of other water-efficient appliances, such as high-efficiency toilets, faucets, and showerheads can also be installed.
A water-smart home can use half as much water as a new home of the preceding years, including those that were built just the year before.
So what's in our future for more water-conservation in the building industry?
National code developers are starting to move in the direction of greener measures for commercial and residential buildings; WaterSense programs have mandated standards for showerheads and faucets; more efficient appliances such as toilets have become mainstream; and the International Code Council is moving in a green direction.
Whether consumers are choosing traditional turf or desert landscaping actually has a greater impact than what builders are doing inside the house. Some states advise moving in a "brown" direction. Turf front yards are banned in many desert locales, with recommendations for landscaping with native plants/xeriscaping.
Have an older home? Try monitoring your irrigation system usage and replacing water-guzzling appliances when possible. Rain water collection systems are a great backup and can be very cost-effective. There are many articles and blogs on installing water conservation ideas for the DIY person.
If anything this drought in Texas has taught us this season, never take rainfall for granted!
Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters
We write about ARC-Fault protection (or the lack of) in about 98% of our inspection reports. Here is a an excerpt from the latest NACHI newsletter to help you better understand its purpose and function.
Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters
by Nick Gromicko, Rob London and Kenton Shepard
Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are special types of electrical receptacles or outlets and circuit breakers designed to detect and respond to potentially dangerous electrical arcs in home branch wiring.
AFCIs function by monitoring the electrical waveform and promptly opening (interrupting) the circuit they serve if they detect changes in the wave pattern that are characteristic of a dangerous arc. They also must be capable of distinguishing safe, normal arcs, such as those created when a switch is turned on or a plug is pulled from a receptacle, from arcs that can cause fires. An AFCI can detect, recognize, and respond to very small changes in wave pattern.
When an electric current crosses an air gap from an energized component to a grounded component, it produces a glowing plasma discharge known as an arc. For example, a bolt of lightening is a very large, powerful arc that crosses an atmospheric gap from an electrically charged cloud to the ground or another cloud. Just as lightning can cause fires, arcs produced by domestic wiring are capable of producing high levels of heat that can ignite their surroundings and lead to structure fires.
Arcs can form where wires are improperly installed or when insulation becomes damaged. In older homes, wire insulation tends to crystallize as it ages, becoming brittle and prone to cracking and chipping. Damaged insulation exposes the current-carrying wire to its surroundings, increasing the chances that an arc may occur.
Where are AFCIs required?
Locations in which AFCIs are required depend on the building codes adopted by their jurisdiction. Inspectors are responsible for knowing what building codes are used in the areas in which they inspect.
E3802.12 Arc-Fault Protection of Bedroom Outlets. All branch circuits that supply120-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-amp outlets installed in bedrooms shall be protected by a combination-type or branch/feeder-type arc-fault circuit interrupter installed to provide protection of the entire branch circuit.
Exception: The location of the arc-fault circuit interrupter shall be permitted to be at other than the origination of the branch circuit, provided that:
The National Electrical Code (NEC) offers the following guidelines concerning AFCI placement within bedrooms:
Dwelling Units. All 120-volt, single phase, 15- and 20-ampere branch circuits supplying outlets installed in dwelling unit in family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, sun rooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, or similar rooms or areas shall be protected by a listed arc-fault circuit interrupter, combination-type installed to provide protection of the branch circuit.
Home inspectors should refrain from quoting exact code in their reports. A plaintiff's attorney might suggest that code quotation means that the inspector was performing a code inspection and is therefore responsible for identifying all code violations in the home. Some jurisdictions do not yet require their implementation in locations where they can be helpful.
What types of AFCIs are available?
The four most common types of AFCIs are as follows:
An AFCI might activate in situations that are not dangerous and create needless power shortages. This can be particularly annoying when an AFCI stalls power to a freezer or refrigerator, allowing its contents to spoil. There are a few procedures an electrical contractor can perform in order to reduce potential “nuisance tripping," such as:
Arc Faults vs. Ground Faults
It is important to distinguish AFCI devices from Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) devices. GFCIs detect ground faults, which occur when current leaks from a hot (ungrounded) conductor to a grounded object as a result of a short-circuit. This situation can be hazardous when a person unintentionally becomes the current’s path to the ground. GFCIs function by constantly monitoring the current flow between hot and neutral (grounding) conductors, and activate when they sense a difference of 5 milliamps or more. Thus, GFCIs are intended to prevent personal injury due to electric shock, while AFCIs prevent personal injury and property damage due to structure fires.
Watering A Foundation.
Watering around your foundation has been on our list of maintenance tips for homeowners for 27 years.
But this heat and extra dry conditions we are currently experiencing can play havoc on your foundation, especially here in Central Texas. Here is a good how-to video to help keep your foundation movement to a minimum provided by TAREI.
Electrical Safety Precautions
Electrical safety precautions should be a routine part of home maintenance.
TIP: As a safety measure it is prudent to ensure that all installed light bulbs are the correct type and wattage as per the fixture manufacturers' instructions. Inspectors do not remove bulbs to verify wattage and type during home inspections.
Dryer Vent Safety
Too many consumers are unaware that a dryer vent cleaning and inspection for possible crimped vents is required to prevent dryer fires. It is also important in order to promote dryer performance and efficiency.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are an estimated annual 15,500 fires, 10 deaths and 10 injuries on average associated with the dryer vent. In addition, several hundred people a year are also subjected to carbon monoxide poisoning from improper dryer vent setups. The financial costs come to nearly $100,000,000 per year. In some cases faulty appliances are to blame, but many fires can be prevented with proper dryer clean out and inspection. A poorly vented clothes dryer can cost an additional $300 per year to operate if not properly maintained.
If you notice that the dryer takes more than one cycle to dry clothes or if it keeps stopping during a cycle, the cause may be lint accumulation in the vent system or a possible crimped dryer vent. Annual dryer vent cleaning and inspection can reduce energy bills and increase the life expectancy of the dryer. In addition, clothes will not wear out as quickly when they are not put through multiple drying cycles.
The reason for this problem is that lint accumulation and reduced airflow feed on each other to provide conditions favorable for a fire. Lint is a highly combustible material and is one of the ingredients in home-made fire starters. As a rule, a fire starts from a spark in the machine and ignites the excessive lint buildup. But improper clothes dryer venting outside the dryer can play a key role in this process.
Many newer homes have dryers located away from an outside wall in bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and hall closets. These locations mean that vents are routed longer distances and can be installed with sharp turns and bends to accommodate the structure of the home. This situation can create more places for lint to gather. In addition to creating a fire hazard, if the vent is too long or has too many bends, it will cause your dryer to take much longer than necessary to dry loads. Of course, the ideal solution is to have a short or straighter dryer duct vent system but that may not always be possible. A dryer vent booster can improve the dryer venting in cases where the vent is longer and/or has more bends.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has some tips to help prevent fires:
For some years now, trash compactors have been a convenient way to compress and dispose of household trash. Homeowners who frequently throw away large items (diaper boxes, for example) may find trash compactors useful in reducing their trash volume.
This appliance was present much more often in older homes. Inspection of this appliance is pretty basic and a function test at best. Inspectors cannot measure the Rams or force of a trash compactor. All we can do is a noise and vibration test.
A trash compactor consists of a housing which encloses a drawer used for the collection of compacted trash. The modern trash compactor has been designed for more problem-free operation than the older models. This does not mean that they will never break down but that the models have been improved. One of the problems often encountered is that the drawer sometimes sticks when it is withdrawn from the housing. This problem is usually connected to an obstruction in the rollers that the drawer slides on. Clearing the obstruction will often fix the problem.
Many homeowners are taking out the old equipment and replacing it with more useable and friendly space-saving ideas. If you are already going green and seperating/recycling, why not turn it into a usuable space for a slide-out trash can or mini-fridge? Searching the web will lead to many DIY websites with deatiled instructions on how to tacklet this project. Many home improvement stores sell wine fridges that are made with the dimensions to replace a trash compactor.
Weep Skreed Drains
Weep screed or weep skreed drains are metal devices installed at the foundation line of exterior plaster or stucco walls. The screeds are intended as an exit for moisture/water that can seep into a structure near the roof, vent pipes, chimney structure, windows/doors and other locations. Weep screeds allow for the continual downward passage of moisture/water to exit at the base of the wall and drain away.
Sometimes plaster/stucco is applied all the way down to the grade to create an aesthetically pleasing look. However because it's porous, this also provides a path for water intrusion. Stucco that terminates at grade prevents water from draining out from behind the stucco coating and can trap water at the base of the foundation. In addition, water in the soil can wick back up into the stucco.
Minor cracking is not likely to contribute to water intrusion. However, large cracks may allow water to reach
The installation of any type of stone, tile and brick pavers against the base of a wall at an elevation higher than the weep screed can prevent the screed from draining properly. It is important to make sure the skreed holes are not obstructed by plaster, stucco or caulk in order to drain. Care should also be taken to ensure that weep screeds are not covered by landscaping or concrete walkways.
The proper installation and care ensures that your stucco/plaster walls do not develop problems and will perform properly.