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Top Home Inspection Tips
As a Charlotte home inspectors we see a lot of problems and defects in Charlotte's homes. The majority of these defects are a result of lack of or deferred maintenance. Properly maintaining and regulary inspecting your home will help you save money, extend the life of your home and bring you the maximum enjoyment it can provide. Just click on any of the topics or our free on line guide for additional maintenance information from you Charlotte Home Inspectors:
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Check this page periodically or book mark it as new topics will be added on a routine basis.
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With proper maintenance, your home's heating and cooling systems should give you many years of service. Preventive maintenance will lower your energy costs, prevent costly repairs, and prolong the life of your systems. Regular maintenance will ensure that your system is ready to heat and cool your home when needed. Most heating and cooling systems should be serviced once a year by a professional heating or cooling contractor. The professional contractor has the tools, instruments and training necessary to maintain your system for dependable, trouble-free operation. The contractor should inspect your systems, including the thermostat, the blower motor, fans, and the ductwork, as well as the AC condenser and evaporator units, and the furnace's gas connections and heat exchanger. He should also complete necessary maintenance tasks and adjust the entire system for optimal performance.
Here are some things that you can do:
Filters: Inspect air filters and clean or replace as necessary.
Registers: Reduce dust in your home by vacuuming heat registers and the cold-air return as part of your regular cleaning.
Ducts: Examine exposed supply ducts for gaps or leaks allowing heated air to escape. Look for gaps and run your hand along exposed supply ducts with the blower running to feel for escaping air. Seal any leaks with duct tape.
Listen: Listen to your condenser, evaporator and furnace when they are running. If you hear unusual noises, follow the appliance manual's directions, or consult with your professional heating contractor.
Obstructions: Remove any objects or debris that may have fallen through the registers. Remove any drapes, furniture and other objects blocking registers, interrupting air flow, and lowering your system's efficiency.
What is carbon monoxide and who is at risk?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless deadly gas. Because you can't see, taste, or smell it, carbon monoxide can kill you before you know it's there.
Everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Experts believe, however, that individuals with greater oxygen requirements such as unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens, and people with coronary or respiratory problems are at greater risk.
Why is carbon monoxide so dangerous?
The great danger of carbon monoxide is its attraction to hemoglobin in the bloodstream. When breathed in, carbon monoxide replaces the oxygen which cells need to function. When CO is present in the air, it rapidly accumulates in the blood, causing symptoms similar to the flu, such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, confusion, and irritability. As levels increase, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and eventually brain damage or death can result.
Where does carbon monoxide come from?
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of combustion, present whenever fuel is burned. It is produced by common home appliances, such as gas or oil furnaces, gas refrigerators, gas clothes dryers, gas ranges, gas water heaters or space heaters, fireplaces, charcoal grills, and wood burning stoves. Fumes from automobiles and gas-powered lawn mowers also contain carbon monoxide and can enter a home through walls or doorways if an engine is left running in an attached garage.
All of these sources can contribute to a CO problem in the home. If a home is vented properly and is free from appliance malfunctions, air pressure fluctuations or airway blockages, carbon monoxide will most likely be safely vented to the outside. But in today's "energy efficient" homes this is frequently not the case. Tightly constructed/sealed homes can trap CO-polluted air in a home year-round. Furnace heat exchangers can crack, vents can become blocked, inadequate air supply for combustion appliances can cause conditions known as backdrafting or reverse stacking, which force contaminated air back into the home. Exhaust fans on range hoods, clothes dryers and bathroom fans can also pull combustion products into the home.
How can I protect myself and my family from carbon monoxide poisoning?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends installing at least one carbon monoxide detector per household, near the sleeping area. Additional detectors on every level of a home and in every bedroom provide extra protection. Choose an Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) listed detector that sounds an audible alarm. You can choose a model that is wired to your home's electrical system, a model which plugs into a standard electrical outlet, or a battery-operated model. Battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors continue to protect even in the event of a power outage. Hardwired AC models, although more costly and difficult to install, reduce the expense of battery replacement but do not offer protection during power outages. Hardwired AC models with battery back-up offer double protection.
Gas appliances should be serviced yearly by a qualified service technician. Stove burners should be cleaned and adjusted to minimize the amount of carbon monoxide produced. Before making changes to a house that might affect the ventilation of fuel-burning appliances, contact your heating contractor. When replacing heating appliances, purchase appliances designed to reduce dangers from carbon monoxide, such as sealed combustion gas furnaces, direct vent gas fireplaces, or induced draft gas water heaters. Electric-powered heating appliances do not produce carbon monoxide.
If your carbon monoxide detector sounds, first make sure it is your CO detector and not your smoke detector. If your detector is in warning alarm, carbon monoxide is beginning to accumulate. If your detector is in full alarm and any member of the household is experiencing symptoms of poisoning, call your local fire department immediately! Remember that infants and children may be affected more quickly by carbon monoxide.
In addition to installing carbon monoxide detectors, consumers should regularly inspect and service potential problem sources of carbon monoxide.
One of the best ways to ensure that your home continues to look and perform well is to make sure that you have gutters in the right places, and that they are properly installed. Gutters are recommended at all appropriate roof slopes around the entire perimeter of the home to channel and direct rainwater away from the structure, to promote foundation health, and to reduce moisture-related deterioration of under-eave wood structures, such as soffits and fascia boards, as well as splash-back moisture damage to doors and frames. Lack of proper gutters is also a major factor in the development of the green algae that develops in humid climates. In order to do their job properly, gutter downspouts should have splash blocks or flexible downspout extensions to prevent ponding, puddling and splash-back near the foundation. You should arrange to clean your gutters twice a year. If the gutters are full of leaf debris, pine needles or shingle grit, rainwater will overflow and cascade over the under-eave structures, possibly causing moisture related-damage and algae formation, even on composite materials, such as Hardie planks (which are usually nailed to wood structural members).
Many plumbing problems are entirely preventable by easy inspections you can perform. Check that the fixtures are securely mounted by gently grasping the faucet pipe and attempting to move the fixture. It should be securely fastened at the base with no movement and no separation of the sealing gasket from the counter or sink top. If it moves, and you are handy and flexible, there is usually securing hardware on the underside of the sink; however, it is often difficult to access and may best be left to a plumber.
Turn both faucets on high. Seepage at the base or from either one of the controls may indicate washer or O-ring problems which, if you are handy, you may be able to repair. Let the water run for a minute or so. Does the sink drain fully and easily? If not, you may have a line blockage which might be cured by the careful and safe application of a commercial drain cleaner.
Look under the sinks. Most homes these days have white PVC drain piping and traps (the funny, crooked-looking thing between the drain on bottom of the sink bowl and the pipe that goes out through the wall). Gently grasp the trap and move it a little to determine if any of the trap connections are loose. Most often, drain traps have large PVC securing rings or PVC nuts. If the nuts are loose, gently finger-tighten the connections about ¼-inch past tight. Do not use a wrench or other tool, and do not over-tighten the connections because the PVC is soft and easy to damage.
Put a knee to the edges of the commode bowl and gently try to shake it a little to see if it moves. If there is only a little movement (less that a ½-inch or so), and the commode doesn't rock up and down or sway side-to-side, you may be able to secure it by tightening the mounting nuts at the base of the commode. These are usually covered by a removable porcelain cap. Use caution not to over-tighten them. If the commode lifts up or rocks more than ½-inch or so, you may need to replace the wax ring seal at its base. Unless you really know what you are doing, you should call a plumber at this point.
With so many ways to save water, here are the highlights for 5 key actions to help you capture the water savings around your home. Click on the "Learn more" to find out additional information for each action. Remember, every drop counts!
1. Stop Those Leaks!
Check your indoor water using appliances and devices for leaks. Check out Leak Detection and Repair.
Many silent leaks allow water and your money to go down the drain. To help detect unseen leaks go to Read Your Meter. Studies have shown homes can waste more than 10% due leaking, which costs both you and the environment.
Another large water waster can be leaks in your irrigation system. Fix irrigation system leaks quickly and check for water in the gutters or mud puddles. Inspect your sprinklers and drip sprayers regularly for leaks during the daytime since the optimal time to water is in the nighttime hours when you cannot observe leaks. If you have an older irrigation system, over 50% and even more than 75% of the water can be lost to leaks. Learn more about irrigation systems...
2. Replace your old Toilet, the largest water user inside your home.
If your home was built before 1992 and the toilet has never been replaced, then it is very likely that you do not have a water efficient 1.6 gallon per flush toilet. You can check the date stamp inside the toilet by lifting the lid and looking at the back of the toilet at the manufacturer's imprint of the make, model and date of manufacture. Learn more about toilets...
3. Replace your Clothes Washer, the second largest water user in your home.
Energy Star™ rated washers that also have a Water Factor at or lower than 9.5, use 35-50% less water and 50% less energy per load. This saves you money on both your water and energy bills. There is a current qualifying products listing of water efficient clothes washer models maintained by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency. Learn more about clothes washers...
4. Plant the Right Plants with Proper Landscape Design & Irrigation
Whether you are putting in a new landscape or slowly changing the current landscaping at your home, select plants that are appropriate for your local climate conditions. Having yard with 100% lawn turf area in a dry desert climate uses significant amounts of water. Also consider the trend towards Xeriscape™and a more natural landscape or wildscape. Learn more about landscaping...
5. Water Only What Your Plants Need
Most water is wasted in your garden by watering when you plants do not need the water or by not maintaining the irrigation system. Be attentive if you are manual watering by setting your oven timer or some other reminder to move the water promptly. Make sure your irrigation controller has a rain shutoff device and that it's appropriately scheduled. Most water is wasted in months prior to or just after the rainy season when intermittent rains occur. You can also consider installing a weather adjusting ET irrigation controller (see description in glossary) that automatically saves water by not watering when the plants don't need the water, check with your local water provider to inquire if ET controllers work in your area. Learn more about using the features that you have in your garage for efficient watering like your hose and irrigation controller timer...
Recent surveys by U.S. and Canadian home inspectors resulted in this list of the ten problems most frequently found in the homes they have inspected:
1. Improper Surface Grading/Drainage
This was by far the most frequently found problem, reported by 35.8% of the survey respondents. It is responsible for the most common of household maladies, including water penetration of the basement and crawlspace.
2. Improper Electrical Wiring
A significant number (19.9%) chose this item as the most common home defect, which includes such situations as insufficient electrical service to the house, inadequate overload protection, and amateur and often dangerous wiring connections.
3. Roof Damage
Although reported by only 8.5% of the respondents as the most common problem, roof leakage caused by old or damaged shingles or improper flashing was considered by inspectors to be a frequent problem.
4. Heating Systems
Problems in this category include broken or malfunctioning operation controls, blocked chimneys, and unsafe exhaust disposal.
5. Poor Overall Maintenance
Even the novice home buyer is usually aware of this situation, demonstrated by such signs as cracked, peeling and dirty, painted surfaces, crumbling masonry, makeshift wiring and plumbing, and broken fixtures and appliances.
6. Structurally Related Problems
Many houses, as a result of problems in one or more of the other categories, sustain damage to such structural components as foundation walls, floor joists, rafters, and window and door headers.
Though not ranked by the respondents as a Number One problem, plumbing defects still rank high among the house problems encountered, and include the existence of old and incompatible piping materials, as well as faulty fixtures and waste lines.
Flaws in a home’s exterior, including windows, doors, and wall surfaces, are responsible for water and air penetration, but rarely have structural significance. Inadequate caulking and/or weatherstripping are the most common culprits.
9. Poor Ventilation
Perhaps due to overly ambitious efforts to save energy, many home owners have over-sealed their homes, resulting in excessive interior moisture. This can cause rotting and premature failure of both structural and non-structural elements.
This category includes primarily interior components, often cosmetic in nature, which were not found frequently enough to rank individually in our survey.
If you are selling your house, here are some ways to make your home inspection go smoother, with fewer concerns to delay closing.
1. Make sure the inspector has access, not only to the house, but also to the furnace, water heater and air- conditioning units (especially in closets, attics and crawlspaces).
2. Remove items blocking access to HVAC equipment, electric service, panels, water heaters, etc.
3. Check to see that the garage is open and that any water heater, utility panel and shutoffs and resets for ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) within are accessible.
4. Unlock areas the inspector must access, such as attic doors or hatches, electric service panels, closets, fence gates and crawlspaces.
5. Ensure that all utility services are on, with gas pilot lights burning.
6. Be sure pets won't hinder the inspection. Ideally, they should be removed from the premises or secured outside. Tell your agent about any pets at home.
7. Replace burned-out bulbs to avoid a "light did not operate" report that may suggest an electrical problem.
8. Remove stored items, debris and wood from the foundation. These may be cited as conditions conducive to wood-destroying insects.
9. Trim tree limbs to 10 feet from the roof and shrubs to 1 foot from the house to allow access.
10. Attend to broken or missing items such as doorknobs, locks and latches, windowpanes, screens and locks, and gutters, downspouts and chimney caps.
Checking these areas before your home inspection is an investment in selling your property, and will expedite your closing.
Air conditioners -- like autos -- will give you much better and much longer performance if you do a little simple maintenance. Don't constantly run the unit at very cool temperatures at very hot times -- at, say, 68° F when it's a humid, 100°+ F day. That's like running your car over 100 mph in the desert. It causes it to wear out faster.
As with all vehicles, change the filters frequently. Inspect them at least once a month. If they are dirty, change them.
Make sure the condenser (the part outside your house) is level and at least 3 inches above the ground. Most units have a piston and cylinder that lubricate from the bottom up, and they will last longer if they are evenly lubricated. Usually, unless the condenser is sitting on the ground and it is only 1 or 2 inches off level, you can level it yourself. Gently lift the front or back edge of the unit and insert a shim to level it. Be very careful not to damage the refrigerant lines!
Trim foliage back from the condenser. Manufacturers recommend at least 2 feet clearance around and 5 feet above the unit for proper air circulation and efficient operation. If part of the unit is too near a fence, consider installing screening or vents to allow air circulation.
Listen for unusual fan or motor noises. Inspect the coil fins for damage and repair, if it's not too extensive. Most hardware stores have special combs or tools for straightening bent coil fins.
As with your car, you should have your air-conditioning system checked by a licensed, qualified technician at least yearly. Make sure the technician uses a high-pressure vacuum to clear the drain to avoid any backup that could cause organic growth in your air conditioner and water damage to ceilings and walls.
Your home consists of more than just your house. A home includes the pool in your backyard, the tools in your garage, and the wedding ring on your finger. Most importantly, it also includes your family, their happiness and their safety. Homeowner's insurance allows you to protect every part of your home and gives you a greater sense of security, knowing that you'll always have a roof over your head. Homeowner's insurance coverage is an important purchase. Too little coverage could spell financial ruin for you if disaster strikes. The natural disasters of recent years were financial disasters for the insurers. Even if you think your coverage is adequate, it is important to keep in mind that insurers have made major changes to what risks are covered and the costs required to insure against them.
To make sure you have the right home insurance coverage at the right price, shop and compare at least once a year. If you haven't updated your coverage recently, you could be underinsured. The costs of rebuilding your home typically increase from year to year. The amount of homeowner's insurance coverage you have now may not cover the cost to rebuild your home at today's prices. Also, if you've done any remodeling, had a new roof put on, bought new furniture or even new electronic equipment, you need to update your homeowner's insurance coverage to cover these additional items. You can get a home insurance quote and compare and buy from a number of top homeowner's insurance company websites. These sites often also have simple but vital information on policy basics and types of coverage. They will help you understand what homeowner's insurance covers in one easy stop. It's a good way to make sure the coverage you end up with is the best value for your home insurance dollars and is the best coverage to protect your home and everything in it.
One of the most inconvenient and costly home repairs to ceiling/floor damage due to evaporator coil condensate overflow is preventable.
If you have upper floor- or attic-mounted evaporator coils (they're the ones inside your house; the condenser is the one on the outside), make sure you check the drain lines and drain pans. If you see moisture dripping from one of the little pipe stubs under the eaves (that's where they usually are), go check the drain pan under the evaporator (usually located in the attic). If it has water in it, the primary drain line is clogged and you should call a professional.
Each unit has a primary drain line to the house sewer/plumbing drainage (often visible under sinks) to handle the amazing amount of moisture an evaporator coil can produce (up to 50 gallons on a very hot, very humid day!). If the primary drain line becomes clogged, the drain pan under the evaporator coil and its attached secondary drain line are supposed to handle the water. Often, they do not, resulting in costly and unsightly ceiling and floor damage.
We highly recommend you have your HVAC system serviced by a professional in the spring and fall. To kill fungus, prevent organic buildup, and keep your primary drain running smoothly, pour one cup of a 50/50 solution of bleach and water into the opening at the condensate drain line where it leaves the evaporator coil. Doing this in the spring and fall will also help prevent condensate from backing up and flooding.
Make sure the drain pan opening to the secondary drain line (usually white PVC) is not clogged with organic material, insulation or other debris. If the line is visible, make sure it has a downhill slope to the outside (they are often jostled about or stepped on in the attic).
by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard
Clothes dryers evaporate the water from wet clothing by blowing hot air past them while they tumble inside a spinning drum. Heat is provided by an electrical heating element or gas burner. Some heavy garment loads can contain more than a gallon of water which, during the drying process, will become airborne water vapor and leave the dryer and home through an exhaust duct (more commonly known as a dryer vent).
A vent that exhausts moist air to the home's exterior has a number of requirements:
- It should be connected. The connection is usually behind the dryer but may be beneath it. Look carefully to make sure it’s actually connected.
- It should not be restricted. Dryer vents are often made from flexible plastic or metal duct, which may be easily kinked or crushed where they exit the dryer and enter the wall or floor. This is often a problem since dryers tend to be tucked away into small areas with little room to work. Vent hardware is available which is designed to turn 90° in a limited space without restricting the flow of exhaust air. Restrictions should be noted in the inspector's report. Airflow restrictions are a potential fire hazard.
- One of the reasons that restrictions are a potential fire hazard is that, along with water vapor evaporated out of wet clothes, the exhaust stream carries lint – highly flammable particles of clothing made of cotton and polyester. Lint can accumulate in an exhaust duct, reducing the dryer’s ability to expel heated water vapor, which then accumulates as heat energy within the machine. As the dryer overheats, mechanical failures can trigger sparks, which can cause lint trapped in the dryer vent to burst into flames. This condition can cause the whole house to burst into flames. Fires generally originate within the dryer but spread by escaping through the ventilation duct, incinerating trapped lint, and following its path into the building wall.
InterNACHI believes that house fires caused by dryers are far more common than are generally believed, a fact that can be appreciated upon reviewing statistics from the National Fire Protection Agency. Fires caused by dryers in 2005 were responsible for approximately 13,775 house fires, 418 injuries, 15 deaths, and $196 million in property damage. Most of these incidents occur in residences and are the result of improper lint cleanup and maintenance. Fortunately, these fires are very easy to prevent.
by Nick Gromicko
The following items are essential tools, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to ask an InterNACHI inspector during your next inspection about other tools that you might find useful.
A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most inconvenient household problems that you will face. With a plunger on hand, however, you can usually remedy these plumbing issues relatively quickly. It is best to have two plungers -- one for the sink and one for the toilet.
2. Combination Wrench Set
One end of a combination wrench set is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes, and because both varieties are widely used, you’ll need both sets of wrenches. For the most control and leverage, always pull the wrench toward you, instead of pushing on it. Also, avoid over-tightening.
3. Slip-Joint Pliers
Use slip-joint pliers to grab hold of a nail, a nut, a bolt, and much more. These types of pliers are versatile because of the jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many types of objects. There is also a built-in slip-joint, which allows the user to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.
4. Adjustable Wrench
Adjustable wrenches are somewhat awkward to use and can damage a bolt or nut if they are not handled properly. However, adjustable wrenches are ideal for situations where you need two wrenches of the same size. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging the bolt or nut.
5. Caulking Gun
Caulking is the process of sealing up cracks and gaps in various structures and certain types of piping. Caulking can provide noise mitigation and thermal insulation, and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.
None of the tools in this list is of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem, and solution, are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.
7. Tape Measure
Measuring house projects requires a tape measure -- not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although 25 feet is best. Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy.
A hacksaw is useful for cutting metal objects, such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Hacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they’ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.
9. Torpedo Level
Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal or vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in the viewfinder must be exactly in the middle -- not merely close.
10. Safety Glasses / Goggles
For all tasks involving a hammer or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals.
11. Claw Hammer
A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own. Use it to drive and remove nails, to pry wood loose from the house, and in combination with other tools. They come in a variety of sizes, although a 16-ounce hammer is the best all-purpose choice.
12. Screwdriver Set
It is best to have four screwdrivers: a small and large version of both a flathead and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers are sometimes convenient, but they're no substitute. Manual screwdrivers can reach into more places and they are less likely to damage the screw.
13. Wire Cutters
Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires and small nails.The side-cutting style (unlike the stronger end-cutting style) is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.
14. Respirator / Safety Mask
While paints and other coatings are now manufactured to be less toxic (and lead-free) than in previous decades, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally inhaling. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty and dirty environments. Disposable masks usually come in packs of 10 and should be thrown away after use. Full and half-face respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of very fine particles that ordinary facemasks will not stop.
15. Duct Tape
This tape is extremely strong and adaptable. Originally, it was widely used to make temporary repairs to many types of military equipment. Today, it’s one of the key items specified for home emergency kits because it is water-resistant and extremely sticky.
by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard
The purpose of this article is twofold. First, at InterNACHI, we’d like you to take measures to keep your garage free from fire. Fortunately, there are ways this can be done, some of which are described below. Secondly, garage fires do happen, and we’d like you to make sure that a fire cannot not easily spread to the rest of your house. While you can perform many of the recommendations in this article yourself, it is a good idea to hire an InterNACHI inspector to make sure your home is safe from a garage fire.
Why do many garages pose a fire hazard?
- Where are you most likely to do any welding, or any work on your car? These activities require working with all sorts of flammable materials.
- Water heaters and boilers are usually stored in garages, and they can create sparks that may ignite fumes or fluids. Car batteries, too, will spark under certain conditions.
- Oil and gasoline can drip from cars. These fluids may collect unnoticed and eventually ignite, given the proper conditions.
- Flammable liquids, such as gasoline, motor oil and paint are commonly stored in garages. Some other examples are brake fluid, varnish, paint thinner and lighter fluid.
The following tips can help prevent garage fires and their spread:
- If the garage allows access to the attic, make sure a hatch covers this access.
- The walls and ceiling should be fire-rated. Unfortunately, it will be difficult for untrained homeowners to tell if their walls are Type X fire-rated gypsum. An InterNACHI inspector can examine the walls and ceiling to make sure they are adequate fire barriers.
- The floor should be clear of clutter. Loose papers, matches, oily rags, and other potentially flammable items are extremely dangerous if they are strewn about the garage floor.
- Use light bulbs with the proper wattage, and do not overload electrical outlets.
- Tape down all cords and wires so they are not twisted or accidentally yanked.
If there is a door that connects the garage to the living area, consider the following:
- Do not install a pet door in the door! Flames can more easily spread into the living area through a pet door, especially if it’s made of plastic.
- Does the door have a window? An InterNACHI inspector can inspect the window to tell if it's fire-rated.
- The door should be self-closing. While it may be inconvenient, especially while carrying groceries into the house from the car, doors should be self-closing. You never know when a fire will happen, and it would be unfortunate to accidentally leave the door open while a fire is starting in the garage.
- Check the joints and open spaces around the door. Are they tightly sealed? Any openings at all can allow dangerous fumes, such as carbon monoxide or gasoline vapor, to enter the living area. An InterNACHI inspector can recommend ways to seal the door so that fumes cannot enter the living area.
Concerning items placed on the floor, you should check for the following:
- Store your flammable liquids in clearly labeled, self-closing containers, and only in small amounts. Keep them away from heaters, appliances, pilot lights and other sources of heat or flame.
- Never store propane tanks indoors. If they catch fire, they can explode. Propane tanks are sturdy enough to be stored outdoors.
In summary, there are plenty of things that you can do to prevent garage fires from spreading to the rest of the house, or to keep them from starting in the first place. However, it is highly recommended that you have your garage periodically examined by an InterNACHI inspector.
To maintain the performance and useful life of your home's locks, hinges and door hardware, your home maintenance program should include proper maintenance for locks and hinges. Locks, hinges and door hardware, especially on exterior doors, need periodic lubrication and adjustment to operate properly. Frequent opening, closing and slamming can loosen hardware. Sagging of the door can cause excessive wear. Maintenance for your locks, hinges and door hardware includes inspection. The Home-Wizardsuggests you inspect and lubricate these components annually. This will ensure smoother operation as well as proper door alignment, and will reduce wear on doors and frames.
- Tighten loose bolts on doorknobs and handles.
- Tighten loose screws in hinges.
- Arrange to re-hang doors if they have begun to sag or stick.
- Check that the door-closer valve is set.
- Locks should be lubricated with special graphite designed for locks.
- Hinges should be lubricated with penetrating oil.
1. Find better ways to heat and cool your house.
As much as half of the energy used in homes goes toward heating and cooling. The following are a few ways that energy bills can be reduced through adjustments to the heating and cooling systems:
- Install a ceiling fan. Ceiling fans can be used in place of air conditioners, which require a large amount of energy.
- Periodically replace air filters in air conditioners and heaters.
- Set thermostats to an appropriate temperature. Specifically, they should be turned down at night and when no one is home. In most homes, about 2% of the heating bill will be saved for each degree that the thermostat is lowered for at least eight hours each day. Turning down the thermostat from 75° F to 70° F, for example, saves about 10% on heating costs.
- Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat saves money by allowing heating and cooling appliances to be automatically turned down during times that no one is home and at night. Programmable thermostats contain no mercury and, in some climate zones, can save up to $150 per year in energy costs.
- Install a wood stove or a pellet stove. These are more efficient sources of heat than furnaces.
- At night, curtains drawn over windows will better insulate the room.
2. Install a tankless water heater.
Demand-type water heaters (tankless or instantaneous) provide hot water only as it is needed. They don't produce the standby energy losses associated with traditional storage water heaters, which will save on energy costs. Tankless water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. A gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, demand water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. You don't need to wait for a storage tank to fill up with enough hot water.
3. Replace incandescent lights.
The average household dedicates 11% of its energy budget to lighting. Traditional incandescent lights convert approximately only 10% of the energy they consume into light, while the rest becomes heat. The use of new lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), can reduce the energy use required by lighting by 50% to 75%. Advances in lighting controls offer further energy savings by reducing the amount of time that lights are on but not being used. Here are some facts about CFLs and LEDs:
- CFLs use 75% less energy and last about 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
- LEDs last even longer than CFLs and consume less energy.
- LEDs have no moving parts and, unlike CFLs, they contain no mercury.
4. Seal and insulate your home.
Sealing and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy-efficient, and you can do it yourself. A tightly sealed home can improve comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility bills. An InterNACHI energy auditor can assess leakage in the building envelope and recommend fixes that will dramatically increase comfort and energy savings.
The following are some common places where leakage may occur:
- electrical receptacles/outlets;
- mail slots;
- around pipes and wires;
- wall- or window-mounted air conditioners;
- attic hatches;
- fireplace dampers;
- inadequate weatherstripping around doors;
- window frames; and
- switch plates.
Because hot air rises, air leaks are most likely to occur in the attic. Homeowners can perform a variety of repairs and maintenance to their attics that save them money on cooling and heating, such as:
- Plug the large holes. Locations in the attic where leakage is most likely to be the greatest are where walls meet the attic floor, behind and under attic knee walls, and in dropped-ceiling areas.
- Seal the small holes. You can easily do this by looking for areas where the insulation is darkened. Darkened insulation is a result of dusty interior air being filtered by insulation before leaking through small holes in the building envelope. In cold weather, you may see frosty areas in the insulation caused by warm, moist air condensing and then freezing as it hits the cold attic air. In warmer weather, you’ll find water staining in these same areas. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the openings around plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires. Cover the areas with insulation after the caulk is dry.
- Seal up the attic access panel with weatherstripping. You can cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid foamboard insulation in the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic access panel. If you have pull-down attic stairs or an attic door, these should be sealed in a similar manner.
5. Install efficient showerheads and toilets.
The following systems can be installed to conserve water usage in homes:
- low-flow showerheads. They are available in different flow rates, and some have a pause button which shuts off the water while the bather lathers up;
- low-flow toilets. Toilets consume 30% to 40% of the total water used in homes, making them the biggest water users. Replacing an older 3.5-gallon toilet with a modern, low-flow 1.6-gallon toilet can reduce usage an average of 2 gallons-per-flush (GPF), saving 12,000 gallons of water per year. Low-flow toilets usually have "1.6 GPF" marked on the bowl behind the seat or inside the tank;
- vacuum-assist toilets. This type of toilet has a vacuum chamber that uses a siphon action to suck air from the trap beneath the bowl, allowing it to quickly fill with water to clear waste. Vacuum-assist toilets are relatively quiet; and
- dual-flush toilets. Dual-flush toilets have been used in Europe and Australia for years and are now gaining in popularity in the U.S. Dual-flush toilets let you choose between a 1-gallon (or less) flush for liquid waste, and a 1.6-gallon flush for solid waste. Dual-flush 1.6-GPF toilets reduce water consumption by an additional 30%.
Electricity is an essential part of our lives. However, it has the potential to cause great harm. Electrical systems will function almost indefinitely, if properly installed and not overloaded or physically abused. Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 485 Americans each year and injure 2,305 more. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects, but many more are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords. Some safety tips to remember:
- Never use anything but the proper fuse to protect a circuit.
- Find and correct overloaded circuits.
- Never place extension cords under rugs.
- Outlets near water should be GFCI-type outlets.
- Don't allow trees near power lines to be climbed.
- Keep ladders, kites, equipment and anything else away from overhead power lines.
Electricity enters the home through a control panel and a main switch where one can shut off all the power in an emergency. These panels are usually located in the basement. Control panels use either fuses or circuit breakers. Install the correct fuses for the panel. Never use a higher-numbered fuse or a metallic item, such as a penny. If fuses are used and there is a stoppage in power, look for the broken metal strip in the top of a blown fuse. Replace the fuse with a new one marked with the correct amperage. Reset circuit breakers from "off" to "on." Be sure to investigate why the fuse or circuit blew. Possible causes include frayed wires, overloaded outlets, or defective appliances. Never overload a circuit with high-wattage appliances. Check the wattage on appliance labels. If there is frayed insulation or a broken wire, a dangerous short circuit may result and cause a fire. If power stoppages continue or if a frayed or broken wire is found, contact an electrician.
Outlets and Extension Cords
Make sure all electrical receptacles or outlets are three-hole, grounded outlets. If there is water in the area, there should be a GFCI or ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet. All outdoor outlets should be GFCIs. There should be ample electrical capacity to run equipment without tripping circuit breakers or blowing fuses. Minimize extension cord use. Never place them under rugs. Use extension cords sparingly and check them periodically. Use the proper electrical cord for the job, and put safety plugs in unused outlets.
Appliances need to be treated with respect and care. They need room to breathe. Avoid enclosing them in a cabinet without proper openings, and do not store papers around them. Level appliances so they do not tip. Washers and dryers should be checked often. Their movement can put undue stress on electrical connections. If any appliance or device gives off a tingling shock, turn it off, unplug it, and have a qualified person correct the problem. Shocks can be fatal. Never insert metal objects into appliances without unplugging them. Check appliances periodically to spot worn or cracked insulation, loose terminals, corroded wires, defective parts and any other components that might not work correctly. Replace these appliances or have them repaired by a person qualified to do so.
Electrical Heating Equipment
Portable electrical heating equipment may be used in the home as a supplement to the home heating system. Caution must be taken when using these heating supplements. Keep them away from combustibles, and make sure they cannot be tipped over. Keep electrical heating equipment in good working condition. Do not use them in bathrooms because of the risk of contact with water and electrocution. Many people use electric blankets in their homes. They will work well if they are kept in good condition. Look for cracks and breaks in the wiring, plugs and connectors. Look for charred spots on both sides. Many things can cause electric blankets to overheat. They include other bedding placed on top of them, pets sleeping on top of them, and putting things on top of the blanket when it is in use. Folding the blankets can also bend the coils and cause overheating.
Electricity is important to the workings of the home, but can be dangerous, especially to children. Electrical safety needs to be taught to children early on. Safety plugs should be inserted in unused outlets when toddlers are in the home. Make sure all outlets in the home have face plates. Teach children not to put things into electrical outlets and not to chew on electrical cords. Keep electrical wiring boxes locked. Do not allow children to come in contact with power lines outside. Never allow them to climb trees near power lines, utility poles or high tension towers.
Electricity and Water
A body can act like a lightning rod and carry the current to the ground. People are good conductors of electricity, particularly when standing in water or on a damp floor. Never use any electrical appliance in the tub or shower. Never touch an electric cord or appliance with wet hands. Do not use electrical appliances in damp areas or while standing on damp floors. In areas where water is present, use outlets with GFCIs. Shocks can be fatal.
Mice and other rodents can chew on electrical wires and damage them. If rodents are suspected or known to be in the home, be aware of the damage they may cause, and take measures to get rid of them.
There are several electrical hazards outside the home. Be aware of overhead and underground power lines. People have been electrocuted when an object they are moving has come in contact with the overhead power lines. Keep ladders, antennae, kites and poles away from power lines leading to the house and other buildings. Do not plant trees, shrubs or bushes under power lines or near underground power lines. Never build a swimming pool or other structure under the power line leading to your house. Before digging, learn the location of underground power lines.
Do not climb power poles or transmission towers. Never let anyone shoot or throw stones at insulators. If you have an animal trapped in a tree or on the roof near electric lines, phone your utility company. Do not take a chance of electrocuting yourself. Be aware of weather conditions when installing and working with electrical appliances. Never use electrical power tools or appliances with rain overhead or water underfoot. Use only outdoor lights, fixtures and extension cords. Plug into outlets with a GFCI. Downed power lines are extremely dangerous. If you see a downed power line, call the electric company, and warn others to stay away. If a power line hits your car while you are in it, stay inside unless the car catches fire. If the car catches fire, jump clear without touching metal and the ground at the same time.
MORE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS :
- Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.
- Hire an InterNACHI inspector. InterNACHI inspectors must pass rigorous safety training and are knowledgeable in the ways to reduce the likelihood of electrocution.
- Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old and damaged appliance cords immediately.
- Use electrical extension cords wisely and don't overload them.
- Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
- Don't allow children to play with or around electrical appliances, such as space heaters, irons and hair dryers.
- Keep clothes, curtains and other potentially combustible items at least 3 feet from all heaters.
- If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
- Never overload extension cords or wall sockets. Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch, as well as lights that flicker. Use safety closures to childproof electrical outlets.
- Check your electrical tools regularly for signs of wear. If the cords are frayed or cracked, replace them. Replace any tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.
YOUR GARBAGE DISPOSAL IS NOT A TRASH CAN!
Your G/D is just a tool for grinding up small bits of leftovers so that you don't have to worry about clogging up your pipes. It is not made for metal, plastic, or anything harder than most household foods! Keep bones out, too! Don't ever put foreign chemicals into your system.
Go Buy A G/D Tool!
If it's not running, don't condemn it! Ninety-nine percent of garbage disposals have a hole underneath that allows you to handcrank it free once it's been jammed. You can either use a 1/4" alan key or a garbage disposal tool in this situation. Most home improvement stores sell them near dirt cheap, but I suggest the alan key because it has a million other uses. When you flip the switch for the g/d and it just hums, but doesn't take anything down; it probably just needs freed up.
Sharpen Your Teeth!
On the standard garbage disposal there are two odd-shaped little teeth inside that spin around, cutting up any chunks of softened food. After time and constant wear and tear these teeth begin to dull. If your garbade disposal jams a lot or contantly gets stuck the teeth may be heading south. If you drink coffee you can run a filter-full of coffee grinds through. The disposal makes an awful sound, but this does the job every time. Run it with cold water and make sure you let the g/d run until the grinds are completely dissolved. You can also fill it up with ice and run a dry cycle once a month to aid the teeth.
It really amazes me how often I come up on a disposal with a burnt motor due to the residents not running water before, during, and after usage. You absolutely have to run water before, during, and after using your g/d. This lubricates the teeth to ease the grinding and pushes the ground up disposables through the tiny drain holes. Make sure it's cold water because hot water can melt different substances off of your food and coat the interior lining or your pipes.
If you haven't been playing nicely and your disposal is suddenly without any power, it's time to reset it. Most people think when their g/d doesn't turn on the issue is electrical. Almost every garbage disposal has a little red button on the motor housing that stays inside as long as everything is working normal. When there's a bad jam or some other issue the motor will go into overload to avoid severe damage and this button will push out. Simply push it back in and everything should be fine. If you push it back in and it just hums, refer to bulletin two.
Never Put Expandable Foods Inside!
Alright let's think about this a second... what happens when you put things like spaghetti and rice in water? Right, the expand. They do the same thing once inside your pipes and/or garbage disposal. A lot of people say it's fine to do, but I've personally seen a ton of garbage disposals and kitchen drain stacks backed up because of this. Just take a second extra and scoop it into the trash can.
Not For Fat!
Don't ever put fat of any kind down your disposal. Some say that cooked, solid fat from meat is fine but they're mistaken. Any type of fat can clog up the tiny drain holes in your garbage disposal and even further than that it will build up in the interior walls of your drain pipes. If you're having problems with your sink draining slow and you've ever put fat or grease down your drain, you may want to go ahead and pull off your J-bend for a thorough cleaning. To be rid of liquid fats or grease store them in an empty can in the fridge and then put them in your trash can.
Feed The Disposal Slowly.
Your disposal is not an incinerator. Make sure when disposing that you feed it only a little bit of food at a time. This means don't fill it up and then turn it on, expecting everything to disappear like magic. Over time this will cause all kinds of problems.
Don't Put It There!
Do not put anything inside the garbage disposal before you're ready to use it. Acid from the food we eat, if not disposed of immediately, over time will cause corrosion inside the unit. This can destroy the flywheel, teeth, and even lead to leaks forming. Don't ever leave food set inside it when you're not washing dishes.
Keep your disposal clean. Not only does this keep it running more efficiently but it's more sanitary and more pleasant for you. Pour a little dish soap inside and let the garbage disposal run for a minute or so with some cold water after washing dishes. The trick from earlier with the ice cubes will help with any smells from misuse over time. Running peels from your favorite type of citric fruit will not only clean off the sidewalls, but the acid contained within (a natural cleaning agent) will get rid of germs and funk.
Stay good to your disposal and it will stay to good to you. If properly maintained a disposal should last at least five years. Anything not covered within these ten bulletins should be considered a serious problem to be left to a professional. Always make sure that your garbage disposal is either unplugged or switched off before trying to service it in any way.