Prevent Hot Water Burns

Family at Home_shutterstock_151320977Protecting young children and others in your home from burns caused by hot water can be a concern. Water temperatures over 120° F (48° C) can potentially cause scalds. That’s why a water temperature assessment is part of a general home inspection.

This assessment has two parts: First, the inspector uses a thermometer, usually held under the water in the shower while operating at least one other water fixture to determine any significant changes in water temperature. The temperature in the shower is adjusted to about 105° F (40° C). Next, the inspector will flush the toilet and turn on the sink. If the water temperature in the shower shifts more than five degrees, the inspector will note it in the inspection report. This same test is also used help assess and report on water volume and flow in the home. The inspector will note visible changes in the water volume or flow when all three fixtures are operating.

To test the general temperature of a home’s hot water, your inspector will turn on the hot water in the kitchen and test it with the thermometer. Inspectors frequently find that a home’s water is too hot, but the temperature setting usually can be changed on the water heater to protect people in your home.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home from roof to foundation. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for your next home inspection.

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U.S. Energy Standards for Air Conditioning Equipment

By Kenn Garder, Corporate Accounts Manager, NPI/GPI Corporate Office

Inspector + ACThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) implemented the Appliance and Equipment Standards Program in the 1980s. In 2015, U.S. consumers saved an estimated $63 billion on utility bills, largely due to the increased efficiency of appliances and equipment.

It is estimated that that 60 percent of U.S. houses have a central cooling system, and most new homes are designed and built with central air systems. About 19 percent of those units are heat pumps. Many other technologies can improve the efficiency of these systems. For example, variable speed motors, advanced compressing methods, and a greater area of heat distribution from the coils of the condenser all can reduce energy consumption.

Residential central air conditioners and heat pumps use electric motors and compressors usually housed in a cabinet installed outside the house. A unit’s Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is the cooling output during a typical cooling season divided by the total electric energy input during the same period. In short, the higher the unit’s SEER rating the more energy efficient it is. In 2006, the United States increased the national standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps from 10 SEER to 13 SEER.

New efficiency standards from the DOE went into effect in January 2015. Unlike previous standards, the 2015 standards create minimum-efficiency standards that vary by region. There are three regions established using population-weighted heating degree days (HDD). The lower 48 states are divided into these regions: Northern — states with an HDD greater than or equal to 5,000; Southern — states with an HDD less than 5,000; and Southwestern.  Click here to see a map of the regions and the SEER requirements.

Federal energy efficiency standards benefit the environment, reducing carbon dioxide created to produce the electricity. They also benefit consumers by reducing energy use and bills. And finally, these standards also benefit manufacturers, as they reduce the potential patchwork of state standards with a single federal standard, streamlining the design and production process.

Garder PhotoWith 10 years of experience in his current position, Kenn Garder is the central point of contact for NPI/GPI’s national accounts. He also provides technical support to our franchise owners/inspectors and teaches the commercial segment of our training program.

To find an NPI or GPI inspector in your area, click one of the links below:

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Do You Need to Add a Vapor Barrier in Your Home?

TS-77902336_vapor-barrier-crop_s4x3.jpg.rend.hgtvcom.1280.960Because common foundation materials, such as concrete blocks, are somewhat porous, adding an air or vapor barrier can be important an important step when it comes to insulating a basement, crawl space, garage or other unheated area of a house. To improve comfort and utility costs for adjacent heated rooms, home owners may consider adding insulation to the ceiling or walls of the unheated space. Another thing to consider is adding a vapor barrier.

A vapor barrier installed on the warm side of the insulation will prevent air from moving through the insulation, adding to the insulation’s effectiveness. A vapor barrier is difficult to install once insulation is already in place, so if you are planning to re-insulate an area of your home, you might want to consider also adding a vapor barrier.

It is important to avoid putting vapor barriers on the cold side of the insulation. This can trap moisture in the insulation, causing possible rot around wood framing or walls. Air and vapor barriers also should not be used to hold insulation to the ceiling of an unheated garage or crawl space.

An earthen floor in a crawl space or basement can cause elevated moisture levels in the air and promote rot in wooden structural beams, so it is advisable to add a moisture barrier like a polyethylene sheet over such floors. The moisture barrier should be sealed at the joints and around the perimeter. A layer of gravel or sand can help prevent rips or tears.

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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Light Bulb Technology Gets Smart

CFL BulbsIf you thought the newest light bulb technology was the CFL or LED bulb, then you’re in for a big surprise. The latest innovations are smart light bulbs that offer a vast array of exciting features, such as wi-fi and Bluetooth, automation, and color changing. Here are just a few of the new options available:

BeOn Starter Pack
Each BeOn smart bulb houses a removable battery pack that allows the bulb to illuminate even when the light switch is turned off. This feature is handy in the case of power outages, and you can leave the battery pack in any bulbs that you want to stay on while you’re out of the house.

BeOn bulbs offer a unique security feature: If the bulbs “hear” your doorbell or alarm, they’ll light up automatically to make it look like someone is home, and in the event of a fire, they will hear your smoke alarm and light up so you can safely get out of the house. According to CNET, BeOn bulbs “also have a sort-of DVR function that lets you set them to ‘replay’ your typical at-home lighting patterns when you’re out on vacation.”

C by GE LED Starter Pack
Science suggests that the color temperature of lighting affects humans’ circadian rhythms. For example, a warm, lower color temperature tone (such as orange) can help you sleep better, while a cooler, higher color temperature (such as white) can help perk you up in the morning. With this in mind, the C by GE LED bulb changes color temperatures automatically, which can help stimulate melatonin levels and balance your circadian rhythm.

In addition, each bulb contains a Bluetooth radio, so you can pair it with your phone to control brightness and to turn the bulb on and off.

Qube bulbs offer built-in wi-fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), so the bulbs can connect to your mobile devices without a hub. You can also use your mobile device to control the bulb’s color, brightness and motion (dancing lights, anyone?). Priced under $20 per bulb, Qube claims to be the most comprehensive and affordable lighting solution.

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Where Should Your Thermostat Be Located?

Thermostat_shutterstock_92965054Thermostats control the operation of heating and/or cooling systems in your home. Proper location, maintenance and operation of your thermostat keeps indoor temperatures comfortable and can save on utility costs.

Your thermostat should be located on an interior wall near the center of your home. It should not be in direct sunlight or near radiated heat from fireplaces, radiators or other heat sources. Generally, the thermostat is placed outside the kitchen. It should also be away from doors and windows that open and close frequently. Thermostats are generally located about five feet above the floor so they can be read or adjusted easily, and they may be controlled by a gauge, a dial or digitally with a panel of buttons. Thermostats should be assessed as part of a home’s general mechanical system during a home inspection.

Most thermostats for gas-fired appliances also have a variable anticipator to help prevent overheating. The anticipator “fools” the heating unit into shutting down just before the room hits the set temperature so the heat remaining in the furnace finishes the job.

Whenever changing a thermostat or performing routine maintenance, it’s a good idea to make sure the settings for the anticipator are correct.

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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Prepare for Cold Weather: Caulk, Seal and Weather-strip

Winter House_shutterstock_128124284As you prepare your home for the cold weather, you’ll want to be sure to eliminate drafts, which can cause cold spots in your home and waste energy. Caulking, sealing and weather-stripping windows and doors is the way to stop drafts in their tracks.

In addition to saving money and eliminated cold spots near doors and windows, sealing drafts can help prevent unwanted visitors like rodents from entering your home.

Regardless of the season, sealing cracks around doors and windows offers a number benefits and is wise for any home owner:

  • Saves money by preventing cold air from entering your house in the winter or hot air entering in the summer.
  • Eliminates easy entry points for insects such as ants, roaches, spiders, flies and crickets.
  • Requires no special skills to apply caulk, sealant or weather-stripping.
  • Offers an inexpensive solution. You can purchase any type of weather stripping, caulk or sealer from your local hardware store, and it will be worth the investment.
  • Provides an accent to the paint around the trim of the doors and windows inside your home and can be appealing to the eye. A paint job or stain can look unfinished and appear to have unattractive gaps or spacing without proper caulk or sealant.
  • Prevents rain and snow from entering your house. If the existing doors or windows in your home are wood, then weather stripping prevents water from damaging the wood.
  • Dampens some of the outdoor noise levels (animals, mowers, children, vehicles).
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Make Your Home More Comfortable: Improve Its Insulation

Insulation in Attic_shutterstock_95608564Did you know that most homes don’t have enough insulation? Insufficient insulation may be caused by uncompleted rooms or areas of the house, incorrect type of insulation, or improperly installed insulation. Regardless of the cause, the result will be that heat will escape your home in the winter and enter during the summer. If your home is properly insulated, you can save up to 10 percent on your annual energy bill.

Signs of Inadequate or Missing Insulation

  • Drafts: Air drafts coming in around doors, floors, windows and through outlets could be a sign that your home needs more insulation.
  • Icicles: Icicles hanging frozen from the roof edges and gutters could indicate that the home’s insulation is insufficient. Icicles mean that heat is escaping through the attic and melting rooftop snow, causing a freezing drip.
  • Leaky roof: A roof that has been leaking could have allowed water to soak insulation. If insulation has been wet, it needs replacing, as it will no longer be as effective and will most likely grow mold.
  • Excessively hot areas: In a two- or three-story house, you may have an upstairs floor that is excessively warm in the summer, which could be an indication that hot air is seeping through to the inside of the home.
  • Wall sweat: Walls will appear to “sweat” when there is no or insufficient insulation.

Types of Insulation
Insulation comes in a variety of types. Choose the one that works best for your home and the area you are insulating.

  • Foam board: Comes in sheets like a drywall sheet and can vary in thickness that range from one-half to 2 inches. Foam board allows moisture to escape, so it is used outside or under and between concrete — like basement walls and floors.
  • Blown-in insulation: This type comes in blocks, and a machine is used to spray it into areas, such as an attic. The machine breaks the insulation into small pieces so it is distributed evenly and accurately. You can hire an insulation company to blow insulation into your home, or you can purchase the insulation and rent the machine from a home improvement store and do it yourself.
  • Spray foam insulation: This insulation is available in smaller spray cans and typically used around windows or doors to seal small areas where air may leak through. You can also find larger quantities of spray foam to spray entire walls if you choose. Spray foam insulation has one of the higher R-values compared to some other types of insulation.
  • Rolls or batts of insulation: Typically made of fiberglass, this insulation is similar to blankets. To install, you cut off the length you need and lay it where you need insulation. Some people use a staple gun to affix the edges of the paper to wall studs. To insulate a floor, you can basically cut pieces to fit and drop or roll them into place.

Got Some Time This Weekend? Insulation Is an Easy DIY Project
Installing insulation is a simple weekend project you can do yourself. You may only need to measure, cut and stuff or roll the insulation between joists, but spraying or nailing insulation in place can be just as simple.

If you don’t have the time or the desire to attempt the project, hiring a professional to install insulation costs between $1.50 and $3.50 per square foot, depending on the size of the area, location in the home and type of insulation used.

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How Homes Are Getting Smarter

By Randy Yates, Technical Supervisor and Technical Training Administrator, NPI/GPI

Modern House at Night_shutterstock_146068007The term “smart home” and home automation technology have been around for quite some time. Early-generation systems required hardwiring to make the systems function within homes. Back in those days, it seemed as though only the super-rich could afford to have a smart home. Costs of installing those systems ran into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to install. I’m not saying that a smart system installation can’t cost that much these days, depending on the size and whether it’s a fully computerized monitoring system like we see in the movies, but some smart home elements and technologies are much more affordable.

With the rise of wi-fi, cellphones, the Internet, and wireless devices and systems, we are seeing a dramatic rise in smart home systems and technology and a drastic reduction in costs for these systems. Early-generation security systems required hardwiring and actually were the beginning stages of what was then called home automation technology. Today, we see homes where wireless devices and wi-fi have practically eliminated the need for hardwiring, and that has reduced the costs dramatically.

Command centers are being replaced by applications on our smartphones that allow home owners to control just about anything — lights inside and outside the home, temperature, TV and stereo systems, opening and closing blinds and curtains, locking doors, and a security system that can be set up and monitored by the police and fire departments. You can even find smart appliances, which can be connected to the Internet and to each other, and sales of these appliances are expected to explode over the next five years.

In the long run, smart home technology can save energy, which can result in reduced energy consumption and save money in the long run. It also reduces your carbon footprint.

If you’re ready to jump on the smart home bandwagon, do some research online to find systems and providers. For example, several telecom companies offer monthly smart home subscription services that can be affordable. You can also check out DIY smart home options, such as Staples Connect and Belkin WeMo.

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Is It Time for New Windows? Here Are Some Shopping Tips

Empty RoomOne of the best ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency — as well as to give it a facelift — is to install new windows. But once you start shopping for new windows, all of the latest technologies available may seem overwhelming: Glazing materials now come with a variety of coatings and feature options; you can buy frames in aluminum, wood, vinyl, fiberglass or a combination of materials. And, each glazing or frame option has its own pros and cons. How are you to know what to choose for your home and your budget?

Here, we’ve collected some tips for window shopping:

  • Look for the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label to ensure that the window’s performance is certified.
  • The lower the U-value, the better the window’s insulation. In colder climates, a U-value of .35 or lower is recommended because these windows have double glazing and a low-e coating.
  • In warmer climates, where summertime heat coming through windows is the main concern, look for windows with double glazing and spectrally selective coatings to reduce heat gain.
  • Select windows with air leakage ratings of 0.3 cubic feet per minute or less.
  • To maximize the seasonal energy benefits in temperate climates, choose windows with both low U-values and low solar heat gain coefficiency (SHGC).
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR® AND EnergyGuide labels on the windows.
  • Vinyl windows are a low-cost durable option — it’s virtually indestructible, impervious to moisture and insect- and rot-proof.
  • Fiberglass windows won’t warp, rot or crack, but they also cost about twice as much as vinyl windows.
  • Although aluminum windows are extremely strong, aluminum has many downsides: It doesn’t insulate well against heat and cold; expands and contracts rapidly relative to glass, putting stress on seals; and is susceptible to the corrosive effects of salt air, so it’s not a great choice for coastal climates
  • Wood windows have a certain charm, but they aren’t as durable, are susceptible to rot and insect attack, require vigilant maintenance and cost more.
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How Can I Determine Energy Loss in My Commercial Building?

RbyEnergy loss in buildings can occur in many areas and through many systems. Our focus will be on the most common areas of energy loss:

  • Hot- and cold-air leaks from a building. Energy is used to create conditioned air that is used to heat or cool a building. A heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is usually one of a building’s largest energy users. In a forced-air HVAC system, the ductwork should be sealed to reduce the air escaping into an unconditioned space. Fans and blowers on these systems — and the motors driving them — must be properly maintained. Overheated and malfunctioning motors indicate mechanical or electrical problems that lead to more energy use. Sealing ductwork and regularly maintaining the motors and HVAC equipment can reduce the amount of energy used.
  • The building envelope. The building envelope separates the outdoor environment from the interior space. Areas of energy loss through the building envelope include the following:
    • Roof. Make sure the roof or attic area has adequate insulation. Penetrations through the roof, if not sealed properly, can enable conditioned air to escape and allow moisture into the building. If roof insulation gets wet, then the insulation value is greatly reduced and more energy is lost.
    • Walls. Walls between conditioned and unconditioned spaces may not have adequate insulation, or insulation may be missing. Installing insulation can reduce energy loss in walls.
    • Doors, window frames and other wall penetrations. Doors and windows should fit properly and have weather-stripping installed to minimize conditioned air escape. All wall penetrations, including door and window frames, should be sealed where the frame meets the exterior wall surface in order to minimize air loss.
  • Electrical systems. Studies have shown that approximately 20 percent of electricity consumption is used in lighting. Commercial buildings account for an estimated 40 percent of that use. Energy consumption can be reduced by replacing older light fixtures with newer, more efficient fixtures and bulbs.

By reducing the amount of energy used in a building, the cost to operate the building is reduced. Moreover, many energy-efficient upgrades can pay for themselves over time.

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