There are two types of exposed exterior doors, those that leak and those that are going to leak.
Sure, there are exceptions if your exterior doors are under an overhang or face north, but most doors exposed to weather are unsafe. There are a few things you can look for and adjust to make sure your home is free of leaks.
The Threshold. Doors that have missing thresholds are bound to leak. Thresholds can be designed to be on the outside or inside and are often installed backwards. Outside, look for water collecting on the top of the threshold and causing wood decay in the base of the jamb material - this is common on exposed doors with the metal thresholds and softwood jambs. Is the threshold sloped to drain properly? Is it level? Does it flex when walked on? Does it bow?
The Hinges. Make sure to have exterior rated hinges. These hinges cannot have the pins removed unless the door is halfway open; therefore they are secure. Make sure they are made of stainless steel or brass so they are resistant to rust.
Sill Pan Flashing. These are critical in keeping materials below an exposed door dry. You most likely won't be able to see these since they are installed below the threshold.
How to Test Yourself. Open the door and look at the base of the door and jamb for water stains or wood decay. Is your flooring inside cupped (assuming you have wood floors)? If you have carpet inside look to see if the tack strip or subfloor is stained or damaged.
I hope you find these tips helpful!
Home improvements that increase energy efficiency are appealing on many levels, from saving you money on heating and cooling costs to the confidence you get from knowing you're doing something good for the environment. They're even better when you can get some money back from the initial investment of making those improvements.
Heating accounts for 29 percent of a home's total energy use, cooling consumes 17 percent and water heating another 14 percent, according to EnergyStar.gov. Reducing energy consumption in those three areas through energy-efficient home improvements can help lower utility bills. Some improvements may also qualify for tax credits and rebates.
But how do you find that hidden money? Where do the rebates come from, who awards them and how can you get yours?
The U.S. government offers tax credits for certain energy-efficient home improvements. Alternative energy equipment such as solar water heaters, solar electricity equipment and wind turbines are eligible for a tax credit equal to 30 percent of the cost of the qualified improvement, according to the IRS. The credit is available through the end of 2016 and can be claimed on your federal tax return. If you think these systems are too expensive, keep in mind the long-term payback. Solar water heating, for example, repays your investment much faster than you might think - in as little as three to six years. The average solar water heater has a 15-year usable life, so once you've recouped your initial investment it's like getting free hot water for the life of the heater.
Some state, county and municipal governments also have credit programs for energy-efficient home improvements. Visit www.dsireusa.org to view a clickable map of U.S. states where such rebates are available. Choose your state, and you'll see a list of county, municipal and state programs that may be available to you.
Your local utility company may also offer incentives for energy-boosting upgrades. If you still receive paper bills, take a moment to check over the inserts that come with it. Often, they provide information on money-saving programs, including any available rebates. Or, go to your gas or electricity provider's website and search for rebates. If all else fails, pick up the phone and call.
We've probably all passed up on a rebate opportunity for a lower-cost product because it was a hassle to send in the paperwork. But when it's a rebate for a new HVAC system or water heater, the savings can be significant. If you're in the market for a new energy-efficient appliance, water heater or HVAC unit, look for manufacturer's rebates. For example, Rheem, a manufacturer of eco-friendly HVAC systems, water heaters, pool and spa heaters, and boilers, offers a cash-back incentive twice yearly when homeowners purchase a qualifying HVAC system from the company.
Choose products that provide the maximum savings
When you're considering what energy-efficient product to buy, the energy savings are only part of the picture. Keep in mind available credits and rebates and look for products that maximize those benefits. The savings will mount when you choose options that qualify for not only the federal tax credit, but also local credits, manufacturer's rebates and utility company rebates. Products like Rheem's Hybrid Electric Heat Pump Water Heater qualify for incentives like utility rebates. This unit is nearly 2.5 times as efficient as a standard electric water heater and it costs only $18 a month to operate. Visit www.Rheem.com to learn more about energy-efficient products and the manufacturer's incentives.
When it comes to improving your home, nothing beats the satisfaction of knowing you've made a long-term cost-cutting decision. But tax credits and rebates can sweeten the deal and provide a more immediate return on your investment.
CENTRAL HUMIDIFIERSHumidifiers are devices that humidify air so that building occupants are comfortable. Central humidifiers are hard-wired into a house’s plumbing and forced-air heating systems.
What is humidity?
Humidity refers to the amount of moisture in the air. “Relative humidity” signifies the amount of moisture in the air relative to the maximum amount of water the air can contain before it becomes saturated. This maximum moisture count is related to air temperature in that the hotter the air is, the more moisture it can hold. For instance, if indoor air temperature drops, relative humidity will increase.
How do central air humidifiers work?
Central air humidifiers are integrated into the forced-air heating system so that they humidify air while it is being heated. The water that is used by the device is pumped automatically into the humidifier from household plumbing, unlike portable humidifiers, which require the user to periodically supply water to the device. Humidifiers are available in various designs, each of which turns liquid water into water vapor, which is then vented into the house at an adjustable rate.
Why humidify air?
Certain airborne pathogens, such as those that cause the flu, circulate easier in dry air than in moist air. Moist air also seems to soothe irritated, inflamed airways. For someone with a cold and thick nasal secretions, a humidifier can help thin out the secretions and make breathing easier.
Indoor air that is too dry can also cause the following problems:
Humidifiers can cause various diseases. The young, elderly and infirm may be particularly at risk to contamination from airborne pollutants such as bacteria and fungi. These can grow in humidifiers and get into the air by way of the vapor where it can be breathed in. Some of the more common diseases and pathogens transmitted by humidifiers are:
Know when to repair or replace your furnace, air conditioner and water heaterAs a home inspector, I see a lot of furnaces, air conditioners and water heaters that are past their useful life. This is not something a home buyer wants to hear and usually not something a home owner wants to replace.
If your furnace, air conditioner or water heater is not working properly, you probably notice it long before you actually inspect the appliance itself. You know because those winter mornings are a little too cold, those July days are a little too hot or your morning showers are chillier than normal. All three are signs that these crucial systems are not running as efficiently as they once did.
You know you need to make a fast decision to either repair or replace, but how do you know which is the right choice? Follow these tips from the professionals at Rheem to point you in the right direction and help you make the best possible decision.
You should repair if:
* It's still under warranty. This may seem obvious but many people forget to check the warranty when their HVAC or water heating system has an issue. If your appliance is still under warranty, having it repaired is a smart financial decision. You'll be out the cost for the technician's labor but you'll save money compared to buying new.
* You've maintained the product over the years. If you've treated your HVAC system to seasonal tune-ups and changed the air filters regularly, and done things like flushing sediment and checking the anode rod in your water heater, repairing an arising problem is the better choice because the trouble is likely to be smaller.
* It's still in its youth. Every water heater, air conditioner or furnace will need repairs at different times depending on usage and environment, but if your product is still in its early days, you are probably better off paying for the repairs instead of replacing the system.
You should replace if:
* The previous points are untrue. If your appliance is not under warranty, in the later stages of life and/or has been subject to poor maintenance, a replacement will probably be necessary.
*Your unit is running inefficiently. Inefficient is defined as running excessively, constantly turning on and off and failing to heat or cool your home, or provide you with enough hot water. If you notice any of these problems and your unit is in the later stages of its life, it's time for a replacement. The 90 percent + Gas Furnace from Rheem has efficiencies exceeding 97 percent, as well as improved electrical efficiencies and 20 percent less operating noise. And, Rheem's Prestige Series High-Efficiency Condensing Power Direct Vent (PDV) Water Heater is the most efficient gas-fired, tank-type water heater designed for residential applications on the market today. It was recognized by This Old House magazine as one of 2013's Top 100 Best New Products of the Year.
* Its inefficiencies are hitting you in the pocket book. You may not notice that your unit is running excessively, but you'll certainly notice a change in your energy bill. If an outdated, old furnace, air conditioner or water heater is causing a spike in monthly energy expenditures, then it's time to replace your system.
Be sure to talk with a qualified contractor before you move forward with any repairs or replacements as they can give you customized advice based upon your family's heating, cooling or water heating demands and your current system's performance.
In this day and age of high tech gadgets, we sometimes forget about a low tech gadget we may take for granted, thermostats. As an inspector, I see all sorts of thermostats from analog non-programmable types, digital programmable and now automatic.
Tips and Tricks
Maximize energy savings by having a programmable thermostat. Did you know they can pay for themselves in as little as four years?
You should learn as much as you can before selecting a programmable thermostat. When shopping for for a new unit, bring information with you about your current unit, including the brand and model number.
Here are some great questions to ask before buying a thermostat:
Before you buy a programmable thermostat, chart your weekly habits including wake up and departure times, return times, and bedtimes, with the temperatures you or your family find most comfortable. This will help you decide what type of thermostat will best serve your needs.
The location of your thermostat can affect its performance and efficiency. Read the manufacturer’s installation instructions to prevent “ghost readings” or unnecessary furnace or air conditioner cycling. Place thermostats away from direct sunlight, drafts, doorways, skylights and windows. Also, make sure your thermostat is located for convenient programming.
Some modern heating and cooling systems require special controls. Heat pumps are the most common and usually require special setback thermostats. These thermostats will typically use special algorithms to minimize the use of backup electric resistance heat systems.
Electric resistance systems, such as electric baseboard heating, also require thermostats capable of directly controlling 120 volt or 240 volt line-voltage circuits. Only a few companies manufacture line voltage setback thermostats.
A Note for Heat Pump Owners
When a heat pump is in heating mode, setting back a conventional heat pump thermostat can cause the unit to operate inefficiently, thereby canceling out any savings achieved by lowering the temperature setting. Maintaining a moderate setting is the most cost-effective practice. However, some companies have recently begun to sell specially designed setback thermostats for heat pumps, which make setting back the thermostat cost effective. In its cooling mode, the heat pump operates like an air conditioner, so that manually turning up the thermostat saves you money.
A Simpler Way to Control Your Environment
The best thermostat for you will depend on your lifestyle and comfort level in varying temperatures. While automatic and programmable thermostats save energy, a manual unit can be equally effective if you diligently regulate its setting and don’t mind a chilly house on winter mornings. If you decide to choose an automatic thermostat, you can set it to raise the temperature before you wake up which may spare you some discomfort. It will also perform consistently and dependably to keep your house at comfortable temperatures during the summer heat.
Why Buy and Energy Efficient Air Conditioner?
In an average air conditioned home, air conditioning consumes more than 2000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, causing about 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide and 31 pounds of sulfur dioxide to be emitted at the power plant and, at average electricity prices, costs you about $150.
Central Air Conditioning and Cooling Info
It might surprise you to know that buying a bigger room central air conditioning unit won’t necessarily make you feel more comfortable during the hot summer months. In fact, a room air conditioner that’s too big for the area it is supposed to cool will perform less efficiently and less effectively than a smaller, properly sized unit. This is because room units work better if they run for relatively long periods of time than if they are continually, switching off and on. Longer run times allow air conditioners to maintain a more constant room temperature. Running longer also allows them to remove a larger amount of moisture from the air, which lowers humidity and, more importantly, makes you feel more comfortable.
Sizing is equally important for central air-conditioning systems, which need to be sized by professionals. If you have a central air system in your home, set the fan to shut off at the same time as the cooling unit (compressor). In other words, don’t use the system’s central fan to provide circulation, but instead use circulating fans in individual rooms.
As a home inspector, I know there are many things that can be detrimental to homes. The number one enemy is water. The second are homeowners. Sure, we love stores like Home Depot and Lowes but if you don't know the proper way to fix something or improve it, you may be making it worse. Here are a few examples below to ensure you're avoiding products that shouldn't be sold in these stores.
1. Screened Dryer Vents
This is a simple one, lint is flammable and when you install a screen on a dryer vent it becomes a fire hazard. Current building codes state that vents are not allowed on a dryer termination. If you have one on your home, it should be replaced by a qualified contractor as soon as possible.
2. Plastic Dryer Vents
It's estimated that over 15,000 dryer fires are started every year. Plastic cannot withstand heat and will melt quickly and allow a fire to spread. A metal dryer vent cannot prevent a fire from spreading, but it does allow more time for detection and to have the fire extinguished. Plastic vents serve no purpose in a home.
3. Splash Blocks
Nearly every house has splash blocks. They sit at the bottom of a downspout and are supposed to direct water away from the home. I like to see water discharge a minimum of 6 feet from the foundation and splash blocks don't provide this. For less than $10 you can buy downspout extensions to ensure water doesn't enter the foundation.
4. Corrugated Plumbing
These accordion style drain materials are not approved for most drainage systems. They don't create a proper trap and can allow sewer gas to enter the home. They also trap food, hair and other debris and become clogged easily. If you have one of these, replace them with a proper drainage system.
Duct tape can be a great staple to patch a number of things. There are certain items in your home that should not have duct tape as they pose a danger to both your family and your home.
Water and duct tape don't mix, plain and simple. Water will leak through, get to the surrounding wood or wall structure and begin to form mold. Make sure to call a qualified plumber if you ever notice leaks forming.
2. Gas Appliance Vents
The purpose of gas appliance vents is to move the combustion by products to the exterior of the home. Failure to do so can cause carbon monoxide to leak into the home causing illness or worse, death. If you have a leak in these vents, do not patch them with duct tape. Make sure to call a HVAC contractor to repair as necessary.
3. Dryer Vents
Duct tape collects lint, lint is a fire hazard. If you want to prevent fires from starting in your walls, crawlspace or basement, then avoid securing your dryer vent with duct tape.
Duct tape despite it's name, should never be used on ducts. If there is a gap in the supply or return vents, make sure to use metal sleeves or mastic. Duct tape will eventually fail and does not make a good seal.
It's quite common when I'm inspecting homes to come across bathrooms and other areas close to water that don't have GFCI rated outlets. Some clients ask for this in their resolutions and an electrician will charge anywhere from $60 to $125 per outlet to change them. If you aren't comfortable with doing this, I do encourage you to hire an electrician. If you want to save some money and feel confident that you can do this safely, follow these 5 easy steps below.
Step 1 - Turn off the Power
First make sure you have copper wiring, if you have aluminum then you may want to contact an electrician. Turn off the power to the outlet at the circuit breaker box. If the breaker is not labeled, plug a radio into the outlet and turn off the breakers until the radio turns off.
Step 2 - Remove the Cover and Prepare the Wires
Removed the outlet cover plate and use your radio or an outlet tested to make sure the power is off.
Disconnect the wires from the outlet.
eparate the wires from the outlet into two pairs. One will be the "line" or power supply, the other will be the "load" which carries additional power to outlets on the same circuit. A GFCI outlet will protect all outlets on the "load" side if properly installed.
Step 3 - Test the Wires
Ensure the wires are not touching each other and then turn the power back on at the breaker box.
Use a circuit tester to determine which wires carry power.
Turn the power back off.
Step 4 - Connect the Wires
Here is where we'll connect the wires that are "load" and "line". Connect the white wires (neutral line) to the silver screws and the black wires (load) to the copper or brass screws. The outlet may indicate proper color connections.
Connect the bare copper ground wire to the green screw.
Put the outlet back in place and secure with the screws. Attach the cover plate.
Step 5 - Turn on the Power and Test
Turn the power back on at the breaker box and plug your radio into the outlet.
Press the black button on the GFCI, if the radio turns off you've wired it correctly.
Press the red button, the radio should come back on.
here you go, you just saved yourself some money and deserve a nice cold beverage!
One of the most common items found in homes I inspect are windows that have caulking that is either missing or cracked. Nearly 65% of a homes energy bill is used to cool or heat the home, yet nearly half of this conditioned air leaks out of the home. Sealing your windows is an easy task to do and could save you up to $150 a year in costs.
1. Check for Leaks
The first step would be to see if you have drafts through your closed windows. You can do this by holding a lit candle around the seams of the window. If the flame bends, you may have leaks. Also, check the exterior caulking. In the summer, caulk can dry up and crack. If you see cracks and gaps, it's time to get out the caulk gun.
2. Remove Old Caulking
You can use a caulk softener if the caulk doesn't easily come off. Make sure to apply this two hours prior. Once it has set, use a putty knife and the old caulk should come off easily. You want to remove as much of the old caulk as possible to make sure the new caulk will adhere and give you a good seal.
3. Apply New Caulk
There are many different kinds of caulk, but for big and small gaps Polyurethane works great. Cut the tip of the caulk tube at a 45 degree angle to ensure the tip will fit snug into the window seam, then insert into the caulking gun. Hold the caulking gun at a 45 degree angle and apply in a smooth, slow motion. Use a wet finger to smooth out the surface to give it a clean, finished look. Allow 12-15 hours to set and your windows will be air tight for the season.
Devereaux Van Dyne, Certified Professional Home Inspector