Trash Compactors

Why Use a Trash Compactor?
Permanently installed residential trash compactors run on electricity and use a small hydraulic system to crush trash down to a fraction of its original volume (sometimes down to 25%) in order to reduce the amount of non-biodegradable waste regularly generated by a household.  Smaller and narrower than a dishwasher, they are a standard kitchen appliance in new-construction homes.

How They Work
Trash compactors have three main components:  the motor; the ram; and the trash container drawer.  The motor runs using household electricity, which activates the ram that is operated using hydraulics.  Units vary by size, quality and cost.  The loading capacity for the average home unit is generally around 25 gallons, and the compacting force can range between 2,000 pounds to 5,000 pounds, depending on type and quality.

Most units must be at least half full in order to work properly.  To use the unit, non-food refuse should be placed or stacked neatly at the bottom of the drawer.  When it is at least half full, the unit can be activated so that the ram compacts the drawer’s contents.

Safely Disposing of Household Trash
Generally, bottles, cans, cardboard, paper and plastic items and the like can be conveniently disposed of in a trash compactor.  In order to minimize odors, containers that once held food and beverages should be rinsed before being placed in the drawer.

Trash compactors require the use of specially-fitted bags that, once filled, easily lift out of the unit for disposal or trash pickup.

Perishable food items can stain the unit’s interior and create unnecessary mess and foul odors, which is why they should not be disposed of in a trash compactor.  These types of items should be discarded using a garbage disposal or food grinder, or recycled as compost waste.

Additionally, hazardous materials should never be placed in a trash compactor, as crushing them can have unintended consequences that can damage the unit, create an unsafe environment, and/or cause negative health effects.  These include batteries, cigarette butts (which may not be fully extinguished), household rags used with toxic substances, cans and containers that held hazardous liquids and chemicals (as residue can spill out and cause damage or negative health effects), and similar items.  These should be wrapped and disposed of separately, or recycled according to local guidelines or ordinances.

Safety Precautions and Sensors
As a safety precaution, trash must never be stuffed down into the bottom of the drawer with one’s hands or feet, as this can dent or offset the drawer and its rollers, as well as damage the hydraulics. Rough use and frequent misuse can lead to chronic problems with the unit and its components.

Caution should be used when removing filled bags, as items that have been crushed may create sharp protrusions.  Many people wear gloves while removing bags for disposal.

The unit should always be locked, even when not in use.  Curious children may wish to pull open the drawer and hide inside, or activate the unit, which is why they should never be left unattended around an unlocked trash compactor.

Spills around the unit should be immediately cleaned up for safety as well as hygienic reasons.  Because trash compactors use electricity, spilled water or other liquids can cause the unit to short out or create an unsafe hazard for users.

Trash compactors have built-in safeguards, such as locks, misload sensors, tilt sensors, and drawer-monitor switches, which are designed to help prevent injury, over-filling and under-filling, as well as detect when trash has been accidentally placed within the unit but outside the drawer (such as behind the drawer where the ram and hydraulics are located).  However, because they are constructed of many mechanical parts and electrical wiring, trash compactors can malfunction and chronically break down if not used and maintained properly.
Repairs and replacing parts should be performed by a qualified professional.

Dishwashers

How Does a Dishwasher Work?
Dishwashers are labor-saving and water-conserving appliances that were first invented in the U.S. in the 1850s.  There are both portable units and permanently installed units that are found in most homes today.
Permanently installed dishwashers rely on the home’s electrical and plumbing systems, which is why their proper operation and maintenance are critical to household safety and trouble-free use.

A dishwasher operates with sprayed water using multiple cycles of washing and rinsing, followed by drying, using hot, forced circulated air.  These cycles may be further distinguished according to length of cycle, power and temperature.

Dishwashers are plugged into a dedicated electrical receptacle at the back of the unit, and usually plumbed into the home’s hot water supply, although the cold water supply is also an option.  This assures that the dishwasher’s load is optimally washed and rinsed using the maximum recommended temperature range of between 130°  F and 170° F.

The dimensions of an average unit are 24×24 inches, although deluxe models may be wider and/or deeper to accommodate larger loads.  Its interior components are typically made of stainless steel and/or plastic, and the exterior door may be metal, enamel-covered metal, or having a wood or wood-like veneer to match the decor of the kitchen cabinets.

Use, Maintenance and Precautions
Dishwasher-safe glasses, cups, plates, bowls, pots, pans and utensils, as well as some ceramic-ware and cutlery, are loaded into pull-out racks and baskets.  They can be safely washed and rinsed in cycles that vary in intensity and length.

Many users rinse, soak or pre-treat cookware to remove solids and excess food waste before loading it in the dishwasher; this is a matter of personal preference, as well as how well the unit works on everyday and heavy-duty loads, although waste that cannot be adequately drained should be removed from dishware before the soiled items are loaded into the unit.

Dishwashers can also be used to effectively disinfect toothbrushes, infants’ plastic toys, formula bottles and synthetic nipples, and teething rings, as well as other household and personal hygiene items. However, extremely soiled items that come into contact with potentially hazardous or toxic materials, such as tools, gardening implements and the like, should not be washed in a dishwasher, as the toxic residue may not fully rinse out of the interior, which can contaminate future loads of dishware and utensils, as well as clog plumbing lines.

Soaps, pre-treaters and rinsing agents to prevent or eliminate water spots are available in a variety of costs, quality and effectiveness.  They also come in both powder and liquid form.  Regardless of the type of detergent used, it should be specifically for dishwasher use only, as other soaps can leave behind residue, as well as create excess foam and leaks.

Maintenance is relatively easy and can be done by running the unit through a hot-water cycle while it is empty, but this is only suggested following an especially dirty load where residue has not fully washed and drained for some reason.

Dishwashers should never be overloaded.  Loads should be distributed and racked such that cleaning will be effective.  It is recommended that plastic items be loaded into the unit’s top rack to avoid their coming into contact with hot elements in the unit’s bottom and then melting, or being jostled by the power of the sprayers and subsequently blocking them, which may prevent the water from reaching the unit’s entire load.

It is important to monitor the unit for failure to fully drain, as well as for leaks, excessive noise and movement, and burning smells, which can indicate a burned-out motor, an issue with the plumbing connected to the unit, or a problem with its original installation.  A qualified professional should evaluate a malfunctioning unit and perform any repairs.

Roof Penetrations: Vents

Homeowners don’t generally want to climb on their roofs to check its condition unless they’ve experienced a major storm or other issue that prompts them to investigate.  This is smart because, as untrained non-professionals, homeowners are at greater risk for accidents and injuries than pros.

But it’s useful for homeowners to know what they’re likely to find if they do climb their roof—or have someone else climb it, such as an insurance adjuster or roofing contractor—so that they have some idea of what the components are and what they do, as well as when those components are damaged and creating problems down below.

The proper term for anything that pokes out of the surface of the roof is known as a roof penetration.  Whether it’s a chimney, skylight or vent pipe, it falls under that category.  As such, there are important elements related to the installation of all roof penetrations that prevent their premature deterioration, which means that your roof and the structure under it will stay dry and problem-free.

Vents
The most common type of roof penetration are vents. Every home has them. Vents are installed to expel gas or moisture of some sort from an appliance or area inside the house.  Vents are also called flues.

Here are the most common types and their functions:

  • Exhaust vents or mechanical ventilation allow the escape of damp air and odors from a bathroom, clothes dryer, and from the range above a stove in order to prevent the buildup of condensation.
  • Each plumbing drainpipe in the home is connected to a plumbing stack vent, which helps ensure the appliance’s proper drainage by preventing back-siphoning, which can pull noxious vapors and sewer gases back into the home.  One important aspect of their installation is that they should not be located with 3 feet of an openable window so that these gases don’t get sucked back into the home.
  • Vents installed in the attic space are known as roof vents or turtle vents, which release hot air that can build up inside the attic as a result of heat rising from the living space below.  Venting this hot air is important to prevent the premature deterioration of the roofing materials, which can overheat and lose adhesion or delaminate, as well as form condensation, under the right conditions, which can also affect wooden structural members and insulation.
  • Combustion vents are installed for fuel-burning appliances, such as a furnace, boiler, water heater, gas range, fireplace—any appliance that burns fuel for its operation, such as gas, propane, oil, wood, etc. They exhaust the toxic byproducts of combustion to the outdoors.

Vents can be made of galvanized steel, such as a dryer vent.  PVC is appropriate to use as plumbing stack vents, depending on the appliance, as long as there is no chance of the exhausted air being too warm, which can cause the PVC to melt. Some vents may have caps or hoods to prevent rainwater from entering them (such as a dryer vent), and others don’t, such as plumbing stacks. There are also vent-like roof penetrations that are actually air intakes, such as for a furnace, which aid proper combustion.

Vents can be double-walled or single-wall, depending on their purpose.  Combustion vents tend to be double-walled.  Some vents serve multiple items or appliances, but they tend to be of the same type.  A vent that serves more than one plumbing fixture needs to be larger in order to move the gas at an appropriate rate.

Problems with Combustion Vents
If installed properly, vents tend to operate problem-free, but poor installation or materials can lead to issues, such as leaks, corrosion, and insufficient ventilation.  That’s when the problems can affect the living space and appliances below.  The most common issues occur with combustion vents.

To work effectively, a combustion vent has to draw adequately, which is the natural process that moves hot exhaust gases up and out the exhaust flue or vent. Another way to say it is that the vent needs to have a good draft. The effectiveness of the draft is influenced by several factors.

These factors include:

  • thermal buoyancy, which is the tendency of hot air to rise. The hotter the gas is, the faster it will rise;
  • unrestricted flow, which means that the exhaust flue can’t be too small or have too many bends, since these two things slow the flow; and
  • proper length. If a flue is too long, the gases will cool and condensation will form. Condensation can cause corrosion of the sheet metal exhaust flue, as well as the furnace’s components.

An important factor in the quality of the draft is adequate clearance above the roof.  This generally means that the vent should follow either the manufacturer’s installation recommendations or the “2-10 Rule” required by most building code regulations for chimney terminations.  The 2-10 Rule states that combustion vents should terminate at least 2 feet above any part of the highest part of the roof, including the roof itself, within 10 feet.  For example, if a combustion vent is 3 feet away from a dryer vent on a flat roof, the combustion vent should be two feet higher than the dryer vent.  If a combustion vent is on the low part of a sloping roof, the vent must be 2 feet higher than the nearest point of the sloped roof that’s within 10 feet.  So, if you see a vent that doesn’t meet the 2-10 Rule, a qualified HVAC contractor may need to re-install a vent of the proper height.

White deposits on combustion vents or on the roof below them are evidence that excessive condensation has been forming. This can be caused by a vent that:

  • is too long;
  • has too many bends; or
  • has poorly sloped sections that slow the flow of exhaust gases.

If you see this condition on a roof, you should look for similar white deposits on the combustion appliance served by the vent. Poor venting can cause corrosion that may shorten the lifespan of that appliance.

Flashing for Vents
The critical installation that keeps moisture and the elements from entering the roof surface down the side of the vent is called flashing.  Different types of vents require flashing that is appropriate for the type of vent installation, as well as of a compatible material so that it doesn’t cause galvanic corrosion or other issues that will cause the vent or flashing to deteriorate prematurely.  Flashing may need to be on top of roof shingles or below stone tiles; a good roofing contractor who specializes in your roof’s material will know what type of flashing is required and how it should be installed.

Of course, a leak in the attic, or any signs of rust or staining on the vent, flashing or roof is a sign of a problem.  If you do suspect a problem, your first call should be to your home inspector so that he can investigate it before you call a contractor.  Most contractors are honest, but since the contractor has something to sell, and it’s in his best interests to find a problem that he can charge you to fix.  Call your InterNACHI home inspector first; it’s his job to find the problem, not fix it.

Exterior Cladding: Vinyl Siding

There are many different types of cladding or covering for the exterior of homes that give them their particular style and appeal.  Different cladding types have their own particular pros and cons, as well as maintenance issues.  Here are some facts and tips for homeowners whose homes have vinyl siding.

Homeowners, remodeling contractors and builders often choose vinyl siding as an alternative to wood and aluminum because it’s attractive, durable, easy to maintain, and cost-effective.  Vinyl siding is made with PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and is often textured to resemble wood or stone in a variety of colors.  Vinyl siding came into use as an exterior cladding in the late 1950s.  Today, it’s the most common choice for exterior cladding.

Advantages:

  • Vinyl siding is very durable.
  • It will last for decades when properly installed and maintained.
  • It will not fade.
  • It will not rust.
  • The outer layer contains pigment that adds color to the siding and resists breakdown from UV radiation from sunlight.  If scratched, the siding will reveal the same color as the unscratched exterior, so minor imperfections are not too noticeable.
  • As long as the siding has been properly installed, maintenance is very simple, limited mostly to spray-washing once a year or whenever necessary.

Disadvantages:

  • In extreme weather conditions, vinyl siding is susceptible to damage, as is any other type of siding.
  • In severe cold, vinyl siding can become brittle and more susceptible to cracking.
  • Extreme heat can also cause vinyl to melt or distort.  There are reported cases of sunlight reflected from nearby windows that has caused vinyl siding to warp and melt.
  • Vinyl siding is not a form of insulation—it is simply an exterior cladding.  However, some salespeople misrepresent this fact with claims that new siding will aid energy efficiency.  This is only true for siding that includes special insulating inserts or backings—not to the vinyl siding itself.
  • Vinyl siding is not a watertight covering, so check the inside occasionally for water intrusion if you’ve experienced heavy weather.
  • If a fire occurs, vinyl siding will melt or burn and may release toxic chemicals, making the situation more dangerous for the home’s occupants.  Some green advocates believe that PVC itself can have a negative impact on health, and there is much debate about these claims.

Tips for Homeowners:

  • Properly installed panels and accessories should move freely from side to side.
  • Drainage holes or slots in horizontal vinyl siding allow water behind the siding to drain and should not be covered or caulked.
  • Ripples in the siding can result from stapling or nailing through the face of the siding, which is an incorrect installation.  Distortion and buckling of panels may be caused by fasteners that were not driven straight and level.  If this happens, the homeowner should consult their builder’s warranty.
  • Exterior lights and other features should not be attached directly to the vinyl siding.  They should be secured to mounting blocks instead, since fasteners penetrating the siding will restrict the siding’s natural expansion and contraction.  Always use corrosion-resistant fasteners for any exterior installation.
  • Power-wash the exterior as often as necessary.
  • Check the condition of vinyl gutters and downspouts at least once a year.  While vinyl siding can last for 60 years, gutters and downspouts last around half as long, when properly installed and maintained.

Attic Access Pull-Down Ladders

Attic Access Pull-Down Stairs
An attic pull-down ladder, also called an attic pull-down stairway or stairs, is a collapsible ladder that’s permanently attached to the attic floor. It’s used to access the attic without being required to use a portable ladder, which can be unstable, as well as inconvenient.

Common Defects
It’s typical for the homeowner, rather than the professional builder, to install the attic pull-down stairs, especially if it’s an older home or a newer home that’s been built upward in order to use the attic for living or storage space. That’s why these stairs rarely meet safety standards and are prone to a number of defects.

Some of the more common defective conditions include:

  • Cut bottom cord of structural truss. The homeowner may have cut through a structural member while installing a pull-down ladder, unknowingly weakening the structure. Structural members should not be modified without an engineer’s approval;
  • Fastened with improper nails or screws. Drywall or deck screws may be used instead of the standard 16d penny nails or ¼x3-inch lag screws. Nails and screws that are intended for other purposes may have reduced shear strength and may not support the pull-down ladder;
    fastened with an insufficient number of nails or screws. Manufacturers provide a certain number of nails with instructions that they all be used, and they do this for a good reason;
  • Lack of insulation. The attic hatch or door is not likely to be weatherstripped and/or insulated, which will allow air from the attic to flow freely into the living space of the home, and this will cause the heating or cooling system to run overtime. An attic hatch cover box can be installed to increase energy savings;
  • Loose mounting bolts, which is typically caused by age, although improper installation will hasten the loosening process;
  • Attic pull-down ladders that are cut too short. The stairs should reach the floor;
  • Attic pull-down ladders that are cut too long. This causes pressure at the folding hinge, which can cause breakage;
  • Improper or missing fasteners
  • Compromised fire barrier (when the attic and access are above an attached garage);
  • Attic ladder frame that is not properly secured to the ceiling opening; and
  • Closed ladder that is covered with debris, such as blown insulation or roofing material shed during roof work.
  • Cracked steps. This defect is a problem with wooden ladders.

Safety Tips:
If yours is a sliding pull-down ladder, there is a potential for it to slide down too quickly, which can lead to an injury. Always pull the ladder down slowly and cautiously.
Do not allow children to enter the attic unattended. The lanyard attached to the attic stairs should be short enough that children cannot reach it. Parents can also lock the attic ladder so that a key or combination is required to access it.
If possible, avoid carrying large loads into the attic. While a properly installed stairway will safely support an adult, it might fail if you’re carrying a very heavy load. Many trips can be made to reduce the total weight load, if possible.
Replace an old, rickety wooden ladder with a new one. The newer aluminum models are lightweight, sturdy and easy to install. If you do install a new ladder, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter, and test the ladder’s operation before actually using it.

Scott Price, CPI, #1532
Certified Home Inspector
Home Run Inspections
405-905-9175
homeruninspections@icloud.com
We cover all of the bases!

Serving the Oklahoma City metro and surrounding areas including Edmond, Guthrie, Cashion, Yukon, Moore, Norman, Chickasha, Midwest City/Del City, Bethany, El Reno, Shawnee, Harrah, and more.

Schedule Inspections Online at:
www.Home-RunInspections.com
Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/homeruninspections
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Attic Insulation

atticinsulation

Heating and cooling costs can be slashed by up to 30% per year by properly sealing and insulating the home. Insulating the attic should be a top priority for preventing heat loss because as heat rises, a critical amount of heat loss from the living areas of the home occurs through an unfinished attic. During the summer months, heat trapped in the attic can reduce the home’s ability to keep cool, forcing the home’s cooling system to work overtime.

The lack of adequate ventilation in insulated attics is a common problem. Ensuring that there is a free flow of outside air from the soffits to the roof vents is key to a well-functioning insulation system. Look behind the baffles to see if there is any misplaced insulation obstructing the natural air flow, and check the roof vents to make sure that outside air is exhausting properly. Also, look for spots where the insulation is compacted; it may need to be fluffed out. If loose-fill insulation is installed, check for any thinly spread areas that may need topping up. Finally, look for dark spots in the insulation where incoming air is admitting wind-blown dust and moisture into the material. Any unintended openings or holes caused by weathering or pest damage should be repaired first.

Installing Attic Insulation
The objective in an attic insulation project is to insulate the living space of the house while allowing the roof to retain the same temperature as the outdoors. This prevents cold outside air from traveling through the attic and into the living area of the home. In order to accomplish this, an adequate venting system must be in place to vent the roof by allowing air flow to enter through soffit-intake vents and out through ridge vents, gable vents or louver vents.

If there is currently a floor in the attic, it will be necessary to pull up pieces of the floor to install the insulation. In this case, it will be easier to use a blower and loose-fill insulation to effectively fill the spaces between the joists. If you choose to go with blown-in insulation, you can usually get free use of a blower when you purchase a certain amount of insulation.

When installing fiberglass insulation, make sure that you wear personal protective equipment, including a hat, gloves, goggles and a face mask, as stray fiberglass material can become airborne, which can cause irritation to the lungs, eyes and exposed skin.

Before you begin actually installing the insulation, there is some important preparation involved in order to ensure that the insulation is applied properly to prevent hazards and to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Step 1: Install Roof Baffles
In order to maintain the free flow of outside air, it is recommended that polystyrene or plastic roof baffles are installed where the joists meet the rafters. These can be stapled into place.

Step 2: Place Baffles Around Electrical Fixtures
Next, place baffles around any electrical fixtures (lights, electrical receptacles, etc.), since these may become hot while in use. Hold the baffles in place by cross-sectioning the rafters with 2x4s placed at a 3-inch clearance around the fixture. Cut the polystyrene board to fit around the fixture and inside the wood square you have just created.

Step 3: Install a Vapor Barrier
If you are installing insulation with a vapor barrier, make sure it faces the interior of the house. Another option for a vapor barrier is to take sheets of plastic and lay them between the ceiling joists. Then, using a staple gun, tack them to the sides of the joists.

Step 4: Apply the Insulation
Begin by cutting long strips of fiberglass to measure, and lay them in between the joists. Do not bunch or compress the material; this will reduce the insulative effect.
If you’re not planning to put in an attic floor, a second layer of insulation may be laid at a 90-degree angle to the first layer. Do not lay in a second moisture barrier, as moisture could potentially be trapped between the two layers. This second layer of insulation will make it easier to obtain the recommended R-value. In colder climates, an R-value of 49 is recommended for adequate attic insulation. In warmer climates, an R-value of 30 is recommended. Fiberglass insulation has an R-value of roughly R-3 per inch of thickness; cellulose has an R-value of roughly R-4 per inch, but it doesn’t retain its R-value rating as well as fiberglass.

If an attic floor is in place, it will be easier to use a blower to add cellulose insulation into the spaces. The best way to achieve this is to carefully select pieces of the floor and remove them in a manner such that you will have access to all of the spaces in between the joists. Run the blower hose up into the attic. A helper may be needed to control the blower. Blow the insulation into the spaces between the joists, taking care not to blow insulation near electrical fixtures. Replace any flooring pieces that were removed.

Loose-fill insulation, either fiberglass or cellulose, is also a good option in cases where there is no attic floor. In such circumstances, you won’t need a blower; you can simply place the insulation between the joists by hand. You may also wish to even out the spread with a notched leveler.

Scott Price, CPI, #1532
Certified Home Inspector
Home Run Inspections
405-905-9175
homeruninspections@icloud.com
We cover all of the bases!

Serving the Oklahoma City metro and surrounding areas including Edmond, Guthrie, Cashion, Yukon, Moore, Norman, Chickasha, Midwest City/Del City, Bethany, El Reno, Shawnee, Harrah, and more.

Schedule Inspections Online at:
www.Home-RunInspections.com
Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/homeruninspections
Follow us on Twitter: www.Twitter.com/HomeRunInspect2

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HVAC Filter Maintenance

Part of responsible homeownership includes, of course, regular home maintenance.  And there are some tasks that, if deferred, can lead to a home system that’s inefficient and overworked, which can result in problems and expenses.  One such task is changing the filter of the home’s HVAC system.  It’s simple and inexpensive, and taking care of it at least every three months can mean the difference between optimum comfort and avoidable repairs.

What Can Go Wrong
Most homes have some sort of furnace or heat pump, and many of those homes (especially newer ones) have combined heating, ventilation and air-conditioning or HVAC systems.  Each type uses some type of air filter or screen to prevent larger airborne particles (up to 40 microns) from entering the system and clogging sensitive machinery.  A system that has a dirty filter can suffer from pressure drop, which can lead to reduced air flow, or “blow-out,” resulting in no air infiltration at all.  Any of these conditions can cause the system to work harder to keep the home warm or cool (depending on the season and the setting).  And any mechanical component that has to work harder to run efficiently puts undue stress on the whole system, which can lead to premature failure, resulting in repair or replacement.

Also, a dirty filter that’s exposed to condensation can become damp, which can lead to mold growth that can be spread throughout the home by the HVAC system.  This can lead to serious health consequences, not to mention a compromised unit that will likely require servicing and may require replacement, depending on the severity of the moisture problem.

Types of Filters
Most HVAC and furnace filters are disposable, made of biodegradable paper or similar media, and shaped in cells, screens or fins designed to trap as much airborne debris as possible.  Filters can typically be purchased in economical multi-packs, and there are many types that will fit different models of furnace/HVAC units.  It’s important to use the appropriate filter for your unit; using the wrong filter that doesn’t fit the unit properly can create the same types of problems as having a dirty filter.  Your HVAC installer can show you where the filter goes and how to remove the old one and install a new one.  Your unit may also have an affixed label with directions for easy filter replacement.

How Often?
Your HVAC or furnace technician should service your unit once a year.  Because a furnace/HVAC unit contains moving parts, it’s important that belts are not cracked and dry, ventilation ductwork is not gapped, cracked or rusted, and components, such as coils and fans, are clog-free and adequately lubricated for unimpeded operation.  This sort of evaluation is best left to the professional, unless you’ve had the appropriate training.

The filter of the unit, especially if it’s an HVAC unit that will tend to get nearly year-round use, should be changed by the homeowner at least every three months, but possibly more often.

Check your filter’s condition and change it once a month if:

  • You run your unit six months a year to year-round.
  • You have pets.  Pet dander can become airborne and circulate through the home’s ventilation system just as typical household dust does.
  • You have a large family.  More activity means more household dust, dirt and debris.
  • You smoke indoors.
  • You or someone in your household suffers from allergies or a respiratory condition.
  • You live in a particularly windy area or experience high winds for extended periods, especially if there are no nearby shrubs or trees to provide a natural windbreak.
  • You live in an area prone to or having recently experienced any wildfires.  Airborne ash outdoors will eventually find its way indoors.
  • You have a fireplace that you occasionally use.
  • You live on a working farm or ranch.  Dust and dirt that gets kicked up by outdoor work activity and/or large animals can be pulled into the home’s ventilation system, especially through open windows.
  • You have a large garden.  Depending on its size and how often you work it, tilling soil, planting, pulling weeds, using herbicides and pesticides, and even watering mean that dirt, chemicals and condensation can be pulled into your home’s ventilation system.
  • There is construction taking place around or near the home.  You may be installing a new roof or a pool, or perhaps a neighbor is building a home or addition.  Even if the activity is only temporary, dust and debris from worksites adjacent to or near the home can be sucked into the home’s ventilation system, and this increased activity can tax your HVAC system.

Change the filter immediately if:

  • The filter is damaged.  A damaged filter won’t work as intended.
  • The filter is damp.  A filter affected by moisture intrusion, system condensation, or even high indoor humidity can quickly become moldy and spread airborne mold spores throughout the home via the ventilation system.
  • There is evidence of microbial growth or mold on the filter.  Mold spores already infiltrating the home via the HVAC system are not only bad for the unit itself, but they can pose a health hazard for the family, ranging from an irritated respiratory system to a serious allergic reaction.

Tips on Changing the Filter

  • Turn off the unit before replacing the filter.
  • Use the right filter for your unit and make sure it’s not damaged out of the package.
  • Follow the directions for your unit to make sure you’re installing the filter properly.  For example, many filters use different colors for the front and back (or upstream and downstream flow) so that they’re not installed backwards.
  • Make sure there aren’t any gaps around the filter frame.  If this is the case, you may have the wrong size filter, or the filter itself may be defective or damaged.
  • Use a rag to clean up any residual dust before and after you replace the filter.
  • Securely replace any levers, gaskets and/or seals.
  • Turn the unit on and observe it while it’s operating to make sure the filter stays in place.
  • Note the date of filter replacement in a convenient location for the next time you inspect it.  A filter that becomes dirty enough to change within a short period of time may indicate a problem with the unit or ventilation system, so monitoring how often the filter requires changing is important information for your technician to have.

Call a technician for servicing if:

  • Your unit fails to turn back on.
  • The fan is slow or makes excessive noise, or the fins are bent.
  • The coils are excessively dusty or clogged.
  • You notice moisture intrusion from an unknown source anywhere in the system.

Homeowners who take care of the easy task of changing their HVAC filter can help prevent system downtime and avoidable expenses, as well as keep their families living and breathing comfortably.  Your InterNACHI inspector can provide more useful tips and reminders during your Annual Home Maintenance Inspection.

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Preventing Water Intrusion in Basements and Crawlspaces

The biggest concern for homeowners related to their basement and/or crawlspace area is unwanted moisture intrusion.  This can be the result of several factors, which is why homeowners should occasionally check these areas.

The basement is typically the area of a home most at risk for water damage because it’s located below grade and surrounded by soil.  Soil releases the water it has absorbed during rain or when snow melts, and the water can end up in the basement through cracks.  Water can even migrate through solid concrete walls via capillary action, which is a phenomenon whereby liquid spontaneously rises in a narrow space, such as a thin tube, or via porous materials.  Wet basements can cause problems that include peeling paint, toxic mold contamination, building rot, foundation collapse, and termite damage.  Even interior air quality can be affected if naturally occurring gases released by the soil are being transmitted into the basement.

Properly waterproofing a basement will lessen the risk of damage caused by moisture or water.  Homeowners should be aware of what they can do to keep their basements and crawlspaces dry and safe from damage.

Prevent water entry.
You can help prevent water from entering the basement by ensuring that it’s diverted away from the foundation.  Poor roof drainage and surface runoff due to gutter defects and improper site grading may be the most common causes of a wet basement.

Here are some measures to use to divert water away from the foundation:

  • Install and maintain gutters and downspouts so that they route all rainwater and snow melt at least 10 feet away from the foundation to prevent pooling near the exterior walls.  At the point where water leaves the downspout, it should be able to flow freely away from the foundation instead of back toward it, and it should not be collecting in standing puddles.  A backsplash and diverter can help with this.
  • The finish grade should be sloped away from the building for 10 to 15 feet.  Low spots that may lead to water pooling near the foundation should be re-graded and evened out.
  • Shallow ditches called swales should be dug if one or more sides of the home face an upward slope.  A swale should slope away from the home for 10 to 15 feet, at which point it can empty into another swale that directs water around to the downhill-side of the property, leading it away from the foundation.

Repair all cracks and holes.
There are several causes of cracks and holes that permit moisture intrusion.  Poor workmanship during the home’s construction is one factor.  Water pressure from the outside can also build up, forcing water through the walls.  The house may have settled, causing cracks in the floor or walls.  It’s important to repair all cracks and small holes to prevent leaks and floods.  Any large cracks or holes should be evaluated by a professional after consulting with your InterNACHI home inspector.

Here are some steps to take if you suspect that water is entering the basement through cracks or holes:

  • Examine the basement for holes and cracks and for moisture, leaks and discoloration.
  • A waterproof mixture of epoxy and latex cement can be used to fill small hairline cracks and holes.
  • Any cracks larger than about 1/8-inch should be filled with mortar made from one part cement and two parts fine sand, with just enough water to make a fairly stiff mortar.  It should be pressed firmly into all parts of the larger cracks and holes to be sure that no air bubbles or pockets remain.  As long as water is not being forced through the basement walls due to outside pressure, the application of mortar with a standard trowel will be sufficient if special care is taken to fill all cracks completely.
  • If water is being forced through by outside pressure, a slightly different method of patching can be used, involving chiseling out the mouth the crack along its length and cutting a dovetail groove, which is then filled with mortar.  You may wish to defer this type of repair to a masonry professional.
  • Sodium silicate is a water-based mixture that will actually penetrate the substrate by up to 4 inches.  Concrete, concrete block and masonry include lime as a natural component, which reacts with the sodium silicate to produce a solid, crystalline structure that fills in all the microscopic cracks, holes and pores.  No water vapor or gas will be able penetrate via capillary action because the concrete and masonry have now become harder and denser from the sodium silicate.  It is an alkaline substance and, as such, can burn the skin and eyes on contact.  Inhalation can also cause respiratory irritation.  All surfaces receiving this treatment must be prepared, and the several required applications must be thorough.  These are all reasons that this type of work should be performed by a trained professional.

Always have any large cracks evaluated by your InterNACHI inspector before undertaking any repairs yourself or hiring a professional, and check your basement and crawlspace regularly for moisture intrusion.

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Dryer Vent Safety

dryerventsafety

House fires caused by dryers are far more common than are generally believed. According to 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.

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 that will become airborne water vapor and leave the dryer and home through an exhaust duct, more commonly known as the dryer vent.

A vent that exhausts damp air to the home’s exterior has a number of requirements:
• It should be connected. The connection is usually behind the dryer but may it be under 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 that is designed to turn 90 degrees in a limited space without restricting the flow of exhaust air. Air flow restrictions are a potential fire hazard.
• One of the reasons that restrictions pose a 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, wool 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, a subsequent mechanical failure can trigger a spark, which can cause the lint trapped in the dryer vent to burst into flames. This condition can cause the whole house to catch fire. Fires generally originate within the dryer but spread by escaping through the ventilation duct, incinerating trapped lint, and following its path into the home’s walls.

Problems & Tips
If your dryer vent terminates in the crawlspace or attic, it can deposit moisture there, which can encourage the growth of mold, wood decay, and other structural problems. The vent may also terminate just under the attic ventilators. This is also a defective installation. Make sure your dryer vent terminates at the exterior and away from any doors and windows so that damp, exhausted air won’t re-enter the home. Also, the end of the dryer vent should have a free-moving damper installed to keep out birds and other pests that like to build nests in this warm environment. If you find a screen, this is a defective installation because a screen can block lint and other debris, causing it to accumulate and leading to a house fire. If it’s safety accessible, make sure your dryer vent is unobstructed and that the damper works properly.

Scott Price, CPI, #1532
Certified Home Inspector
Home Run Inspections
405-905-9175
homeruninspections@icloud.com
We cover all of the bases!

Serving the Oklahoma City metro and surrounding areas including Edmond, Guthrie, Cashion, Yukon, Moore, Norman, Chickasha, Midwest City/Del City, Bethany, El Reno, Shawnee, Harrah, and more.

Schedule Inspections Online at:
www.Home-RunInspections.com
Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/homeruninspections
Follow us on Twitter: www.Twitter.com/HomeRunInspect2

#dryerventsafety  #dryerventcleaning  #homesafety  #homemaintenance

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Fall Yard Work Planned? Don’t forget to call 811 before you dig.

 

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Believe you me, as a technician working for the cable and phone companies, we went through roll after roll of underground cable during the spring and the fall. On more than one occasion, in addition to cutting the customer’s own cable line, they had also damaged electrical and gas lines.

It only takes a few seconds to damage a buried pipeline, but the consequences could last
a lifetime. Digging before having underground utilities marked puts you in serious danger
of injury or even death. There’s an easy way to prevent that – just dial 811! It’s a free
call that can keep you and your neighbors safe.

There is a vast network of pipelines, telecommunication cables and electrical wires buried underground that need to be identified before beginning any digging project, to prevent injury, damage and service outages.
One phone call to 8II from wherever you are will route your call to Okie811 which will
alert owners of pipelines, telecommunication cables and power lines to mark their buried
assets within two full business days of the request.

There’s no charge to you for this service.

You may also submit a locate request ticket online by visiting www.okie 811.org
or by downloading the Okie811 mobile app.

Whether you’re planting a tree or installing a sprinkler system, always remember to call 811 at least two full business days before you plan to dig to allow all utility line locations to be marked.

Whatever the time of year, be safe –
call 811 before you dig!

 

Scott Price, CPI, #1532
Certified Home Inspector
Home Run Inspections
405-905-9175
homeruninspections@icloud.com
We cover all of the bases!

Serving the Oklahoma City metro and surrounding areas including Edmond, Guthrie, Cashion, Yukon, Moore, Norman, Chickasha, Midwest City/Del City, Bethany, El Reno, Shawnee, Harrah, and more.

Schedule Inspections Online at:
www.Home-RunInspections.com
Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/homeruninspections
Follow us on Twitter: www.Twitter.com/HomeRunInspect2

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