Clothes Dryer Safety

By Jon McCreath, NPI Property Inspector, Emerson, Georgia

Clogged Dry VentAccording to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 15,000 fires are sparked every year by clothes dryers.  Lint and other debris can build up in your dryer vent, reducing air flow to the dryer, backing up dryer exhaust gases, creating a fire hazard.

Here are some of the signs that it’s time to clean your vent:

  • Clothing does not dry completely after a normal drying cycle.
  • Drying time for clothing takes longer than 35 to 40 minutes in duration.
  • A musty odor is noticed in the clothing following the drying cycle.
  • Clothing seems unusually hot to the touch after a complete drying cycle.
  • The dryer vent hood flap does not properly open as it is designed to do during the operation of the dryer.
  • Debris is noticed within the outside dryer vent opening.
  • Excessive heat is noticed within the room in which the dryer is being operated.
  • Large amounts of lint accumulate in the lint trap for the dryer during operation.
  • A visible sign of lint and debris is noticed around the lint filter for the dryer.
  • Excessive odor is noticed from dryer sheets that are used during the drying cycle.

Tips to decrease debris

  • Limit the use of dryer sheets used when drying clothing.  Instead of dryer sheets, use liquid fabric softener.
  • Only operate clothing dryers for intervals of 30 to 40 minutes per batch of laundry.  This allows more air circulation within the dryer and less lint build up from occurring.
  • When possible hang clothing such as heavy bedding, pillows and other large articles outside to line dry.McCreath PhotoJon McCreath is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in northwest Georgia.
    If you live in the area, call 404.426.3661 to schedule your home inspection with Jon.
    NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home.
    Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home.

    Canada: gpiweb.ca/FindAnInspector
    United States: npiweb.com/FindAnInspector

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Extending the life of your water heater

By Jon McCreath, NPI Property Inspector, Emerson, Georgia

drain_water_heaterExtending the life of your water heater is something most homeowners don’t think much about.  Draining your water heater tank is something that you should do every year, and it only takes about 5-10 minutes.  How can this procedure extend the life or your water heater?

Over time, any type of water heater tank will build up sediment- which has three harmful effects on your home’s hot water system.  First, the sediment takes up space, effectively making your water heater smaller.  Second, the sediment can insulate the bottom of the tank in a gas water heater where much of the flame’s heat is absorbed into the water, or even cover a lower element in an electric water heater causing a reduction in heating efficiency.  Third, the sediment scratches the glass lining of water heater tank, resulting in exposed metal – which leads to rust and eventual tank failure.

You can extend the life of the tank and increase the efficiency of the system by simply draining a couple gallons of water off the bottom of the tank.
1. Shut the unit down, either by turning the gas valve to “pilot” or “off”, or flipping off the breaker to an electric unit.
2. Turn off the cold water supply line, usually located on the right side as you face the unit.
3. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve on the water heater tank, and run it to a drain.
4. turn on a hot water faucet somewhere in your home to allow the water to flow, and then open the drain valve toward the bottom of the tank.

Check the color of the water that drains- at first it may appear dark, but after just a few gallons it will become clear.  At that point, you can close the drain, and turn off the hot water faucet you had turned on previously.  Turn the cold water supply back on, turn the power or gas supply back on, and you’re done!  The next time you turn on a hot water faucet, there may be a couple of air pockets, so don’t worry if you hear a bit of noise as the noise should abate quickly.

While it may also be a good idea to have your water heater examined by a professional on a regular basis, draining your tank is relatively easy and can save you some money while helping to extend the life of your water heater.

McCreath PhotoJon McCreath is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in northwest Georgia. If you live in the area, call 404.426.3661 to schedule your home inspection with Jon.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home.

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Today’s Tip: Don’t Neglect Your Water Heater

By Jon McCreath, NPI Franchise Owner, Emerson, Georgia

Water Heater_shutterstock_113790454If you’re like most savvy homeowners, one of your main goals is to maintain your appliances for as long as possible before the need to replace them forces a new purchase. Water heaters are no exception to this, and they are one of the most important appliances in your home.

How Long Does the Average Water Heater Last?
According to manufacturers’ information, the average life expectancy of a traditional tank-style electric or natural gas water heater is around eight to 10 years. Some estimates show that electric water heaters may last slightly longer — up to 15 years. Years can be added or subtracted, however, based on weather, the unit’s design, its original installation, and the level of maintenance the unit has been given. Maintaining your water heater on an annual basis may add as many as five years to the life of the unit.

How to Maintain Your Water Heater
The first step in providing the appropriate maintenance is to have a professional plumbing company perform an annual inspection. When managing electricity or gas with water, you’ll want to ensure that repairs and installations are completed by thoroughly trained, licensed and insured technicians.

The majority of work takes place during the process of draining and flushing the water heater. This should be done at least once a year. A technician will test the temperature-pressure-release valve (this valve stops the tank pressure from climbing too high). Next, they will drain the heater and stir up sediment by opening the cold-water supply valve. They will repeat this process is until the water runs clear.

Excessive sediment is important to remove, as it will not only cause the tank liner to crack, but it will also coat the anode rod with calcium and allow it to corrode. The anode rod is used to slow down corrosion inside the tank and extend the life of your water heater, and it should be replaced if it’s less than 1/2 inch thick or covered. A technician can also adjust your thermostat to the recommended 120° F (49° C). This prevents the tank from overheating and causing damage.

Looking to save even more on energy costs? A technician can help you with that, too. By lowering your water temperature by 10 degrees, you may save up to 5 percent on your utility bills! Enclosing hot- and cold-water pipes with foam pipe insulation will preserve water temperatures as well.

When Should You Replace a Water Heater?
Age is not always a prime indicator for appliance replacement, but an appliance does warrant evaluation if you are investing in more repairs as the unit ages. If your water heater is more than 10 years old, it could be on its last leg. Other signs that a water heater replacement is in your future: it operates intermittently, produces rusty water (a qualified plumber can tell you whether you have a rusty tank or the issue is in the pipes), makes rumbling noises (which may be caused by hardened sediment in your tank), or leaks.

McCreath PhotoJon McCreath is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in northwest Georgia. If you live in the area, call 404.426.3661 to schedule your home inspection with Jon.


NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home.

 

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Today’s Tip: Freshen Up Your Garbage Disposal

Kitchen Faucet_shutterstock_85457362The kitchen is a source of odors in the home. Some, like apple pie, are pleasing. Others, like the odor emitting from a kitchen drain, can hit you right in the gut.

To clean and freshen your drains, pour the juice from half a lemon and a handful of baking soda down the drain. Flush well with hot water.

Garbage disposals are another part of the sink that can get stinky. To freshen your garbage disposal:

  1. Cut a lemon in quarters.
  2. Run cold water down the disposal.
  3. Turn on the disposal and drop in one piece of lemon.
  4. Follow with a second piece.
  5. Once both pieces of lemon clear the disposal, add a handful of baking soda.

Remember to keep your fingers away from moving parts at all times. While the disposal runs, use the other lemons to make refreshing drinks.

Cold water should always be used with a garbage disposal because it helps congeal the fats and grease that may be in the disposal. Warm water will liquefy these items, but could cause them to congeal and block the plumbing before they are completely flushed from the system.

Although the garbage disposal itself generally requires little maintenance, the area under the kitchen sink is prone to leaks. Every month, be sure to open the cabinet doors, remove all of the items and check carefully for dampness or drips. Stopping leaks early can prevent expensive fixes later.

If your house has a septic system, there may be something you may not have thought of: If you have a garbage disposal, you likely will have will to clean the septic system more frequently because of the build-up of solid foods and grease from the disposal.

Your local NPI or GPI home inspector can provide you with a full assessment of your home’s systems and condition. To find an inspector near you, visit one of the links below.

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Water Heaters and Earthquake Safety

By Roger Pigeon, NPI Franchise Owner, San Diego, California

Water Heater_shutterstock_113790454If you live in a house, condo or manufactured home in California that has a water heater — which most of us here in California do — you may have wondered about those metal straps around your water heater. This may be especially perplexing if you’re moving to California from another state. Here is what you should know about water heater bracing and safety in California.

Many years ago, California adopted a health and safety code that requires all water heaters to be braced or strapped with approved straps in order to help prevent catastrophic damage to a home in the event of an earthquake. It was found that during an earthquake, a water heater has the potential to topple over and fall. As if this weren’t bad enough, when the water heater falls, it usually results in to damage the gas, electrical and water connections to the water heater. A damaged gas line may result in fire, causing further serious damage to your home and threatening your personal safety. Damage to the electrical connection can pose an electrocution hazard. And, of course, damage to the water connections can lead to flooding of your home.

Pigeon

Figure 1

The diagram in Figure 1 shows an approved water heater strapping method. There are some key things you will want to look for when examining your water heater:

  • You should see two metal straps on the water heater, and these should be installed at the top and bottom third of the unit. These straps should be approved for use in securing water heaters. Water heater strapping kits are available at your local hardware store or online. Plumber’s tape is NOT approved for securing a water heater.
  • The metal straps should be attached to wall stud with at least 5/16 x 3-inch lag screws. If your water heater is not installed close to a wall, then you may need to contact a local contractor to design a method to properly secure your water heater.
  • You also should see flexible water connectors at the top of the water heater and flexible gas or electrical connectors (depending on whether your water heater is gas or electric). Flexible connectors allow for some movement of the water heater during an earthquake.

If you are unsure whether your water heater is safe or not, I urge you to call a local plumber you trust. And, when it is time to buy a new home, the professionals in your local National Property Inspections office will inspect your home thoroughly and make recommendations for repairs and safety upgrades.

Pigeon PhotoRoger Pigeon is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in San Diego. If you live in the area, call 760.420.8659 to schedule your home inspection with Roger.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an inspection of your home or a home you are planning to purchase.

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Your Appliances May Be Trying to Tell You Something

Appliance PlugDoes the circuit breaker trip every time you start your microwave? Did your toaster give you an unexpected shock this morning? When an appliance repeatedly trips a circuit breaker, blows a fuse or gives you a shock, it’s not just a fluke — something is wrong with the appliance.

Prevent further and possibly more dangerous malfunctions by immediately unplugging the appliance. Don’t use it until you have it checked out and repaired by a professional electrician or repairman — although in some cases, it may be less expensive just to replace the appliance.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home.

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Tips for Proper Furnace Maintenance

By Kenn Garder, National Accounts Manager and Technical Support, NPI/GPI

Furnace_shutterstock_132626027A gas furnace is a key piece of equipment in a home. Most furnaces are installed centrally in the house but often are tucked away in a closet, up in the attic, or in the basement or crawl space. In other words, they may not be the easy to access. To help your home’s heating equipment live a good, long life, regular maintenance is strongly recommended. Just because the furnace is out of sight doesn’t mean it should be out of mind.

Many HVAC companies offer service agreements that include a regular scheduled maintenance program. Or maybe you’re a handy do-it-yourselfer who wants to get their hands dirty and take care of things themselves. If that’s you,  here are a few furnace maintenance tips.

  1. Change the filter regularly. The filter prevents dirt from entering the furnace. Dirt and debris can build up on the blower fan and in the ductwork, which can also reduce air flow, wasting fuel and drastically lowering the unit’s efficiency. The filter may be changed monthly, quarterly or annually, depending on the type of filter and the conditions the furnace is operating under. Generally, we recommend changing the filter monthly. Make sure to use the proper size filter.
  2. Remember safety first. When maintaining your furnace, follow some basic safety practices. Most furnaces have a service switch that can be shut off so the unit won’t turn on during maintenance. Check for gas leaks and loose wires before you begin cleaning the furnace. If you smell gas smell or notice a loose wire, contact an HVAC professional.
  3. Clean the blower and ducts. The blower assembly is usually next to the filter, so the dust and dirt that penetrates or goes around the air filter goes to the blower. Use a damp cloth or vacuum to clean the blower, belts and pulleys to remove any accumulated dirt.
  4. Inspect the fan. After the dirt has been removed, make sure the fan spins smoothly and is properly secured. The bearings on the fan and motor may need lubricating, and if the fan is belt-driven, then the fan belt should be checked for proper tension.

Cleaning and maintaining a furnace is not a daunting task and is fairly inexpensive to complete. Proper maintenance will extend the service life of your equipment and help your furnace stay energy efficient.

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What’s the Life Expectancy for Your Appliances?

You might not think much about your appliances — after all, they are just part of your everyday life — but when it comes time to replace one or more of them, you’ll want to be prepared. Wondering about the average life expectancy and cost of common household appliances? We have some answers:

Appliance Life

Sources: AngiesList.com, ThisOldHouse.com, Energy.gov, HomeAdvisor.com

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What’s Wrong With This Photo?

Snapshots From the Field

In this photo, the home owner has disconnected the humidifier pipe from the return air duct to the humidifier to the supply air side on the plenum. Which of the following statements is true?

  1. Using traditional duct tape (as pictured) is preferable and increases the efficiency of an HVAC system.
  2. Foil or metallic-type duct tape would be a better choice than traditional duct tape.
  3. You should use duct tape and cardboard to fix holes in the plenum or ductwork of an HVAC system.
  4. The humidifier works better when it is installed this way.

Correct Answer: B. Foil or metallic-type duct tape should be used rather than traditional duct tape.

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Taking a Hard Look at Your Water

By Rodney Twyford, NPI Franchise Owner, San Antonio, Texas

showerheadAn overwhelming 85 percent of the United States has hard water, and the cities with the hardest water are Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Phoenix, San Antonio and Tampa. In Canada, Yorkton, Laval des Rapids, Beaconsfield and Kitchener are among the cities with the hardest water.

What is hard water, and why is it a concern? The elements that make up water, hydrogen and oxygen, do not account for the foreign ingredients found in every drop of the water we use every day. Most of these other ingredients are considered safe to consume, through municipal sources, but they can be damaging to appliances and the plumbing that distributes water.

The most damaging ingredients found in most hard water are calcium and magnesium. Water picks up high levels of hardness minerals as it trickles through the ground (about seven grains or more per gallon). These hard minerals can cause scaling on metal components, resulting in water-flow restriction, poor fixture operation that can cause damage, leaks and increased energy costs. The more mineral deposits that form around heating elements, the more energy is required to heat the water, which eventually results in high energy costs and equipment failure.

How to Soften Hard Water
While there are many theories on how best to soften water, the most common and widely recognized method is to remove the calcium from the water with technology known as ion exchange. The basics of how this works is with a water softener consisting of a media/resin tank and a salt/brine tank. A common myth is that salt softens water; in fact, it is the resin, charged with sodium or potassium, that does the work. Hard water flows through the resin tank where the sodium-coated resin beads exchange the hardness ions in the water for the sodium or potassium ions they are holding. The result is soft water.

After the resin beads are coated with calcium and magnesium, it’s time to regenerate or clean the beads so they can continue to capture more hard water minerals. This is where the salt tank is needed. The salt creates a brine solution that is pumped into the resin tank to remove the hard minerals from the beads and recharge them with sodium. The used brine solution and hard minerals are drained from the softener, allowing the cycle to start again.

What to Know When Shopping for a Water Softener
The main differences in water softeners are how the equipment accomplishes the process of ion exchange and the cost of the equipment. The two main types of water softeners are demand-initiated regeneration (DIR) and timer-based regeneration.

A timer-based softener will regenerate at a preset time regardless of water use and is not the most efficient type of water softener. The DIR softener is the best model and is required by some municipalities because of its efficiencies. A DIR system meters water use and only regenerates when it needs to, requiring less water, salt and energy to operate.

It is important to only regenerate at a time when water will not be used, typically around 2 a.m., so the time of day will need to be fairly accurately set so the equipment knows when to regenerate. Some systems have dual media tanks where one regenerates while the other softens water. This type of system does not rely on a clock setting or electricity, but it will have more gears constantly moving and may increase the possibility for failures to occur. With that said, don’t let the use of electricity be a deciding factor in your selection, as it is typically equivalent to that of a clock radio. All systems have their pros and cons, so do your research.

As for the cost of a water softener, prices are all over the place, but it is important to know that all ion exchange water softeners basically work the same way to soften the water. So, when shopping, focus on the quality of the equipment and its warranties.

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