Water Heaters

Second only to the cost of heating and cooling a home, hot water can be a most costly expense. It is used in almost every appliance and consumed at an astounding rate. In fact, hot water heating alone makes up approximately a quarter of every dollar spent in the home! Therefore, it is absolutely worth taking the time to explore some money saving techniques. Having an annual maintenance inspection by a certified plumbing technician is a sure way to keep costs as low as possible, and is one of the numerous services offered by National Property Inspections.

Other than lifestyle and the amount of use, you can reduce the amount of water used by testing to see if your showers and tubs are “low-flow.” To be considered low-flow, a shower head must produce water at a rate of less than 2.5 gallons per minute. You can test this at home with your own bucket and faucet; if it takes anything less than 20 seconds to fill to the 1-gallon mark, your energy bills may benefit from a low-flow shower head.

To begin your transformation into efficiency, fix any water leaks right away to keep your pennies from dripping down the drain. Install low-flow fixtures in sinks, bathtubs and showers that keep water running efficiently without breaking the bank. Once you are ready for a bigger step, try energy-efficient dishwashers and clothes washers, which use less water in the long haul with a better pay-off for both you and the environment. If you decide to go away for more than a few days, be sure to turn down the temperature on the water heater to save on those costly utilities.

When it comes to water heaters, there are two kinds: those with tanks or without, or “instantaneous” heaters. Waterless tanks are 34% more efficient than tank water heaters, which must constantly heat and reheat a tank of hot water, whereas a tankless water heater only heats it as needed. On any given day households waste 6.35 gallons of water a day waiting for water to heat. With tankless water heaters, this problem is moot, heating in as little as five seconds compared to thirty. Costing between $650-$3,000 initially, the reduced energy and water costs make up for it in the long term, especially when serviced regularly.

Before purchasing a tankless water heater, there are some things to learn first. For example, it is extremely helpful to find out the groundwater temperature of your home. Since tankless water heaters draw directly from the underground supply lines, it helps to know the number of degrees the water will need to be heated as it migrates from the ground to your sink or shower. Second, the desired flow rate must be calculated at peak time to ensure you can run all appliances at the same time. Do this by considering what and how many appliances may be running at the same time, add up the number of gallons, and buy a heater that will be able to handle your needs.

With the help and knowledge of a trained National Property Inspections professional, it is simple to maintain an energy and budget efficient home. With the proper preparation, planning, and maintenance, your home can be the best of both worlds. Call today to talk about your next inspection and save money in the long-term.

Chimney Maintenance

Like any home appliance, chimneys need their share of maintenance. Inspecting and cleaning your chimney annually is essential to fire prevention, as well as your ventilation system. This can include the chimney itself, the flue liners that keep it protected, as well as the vents that encompass the entire home. Vents, like chimney flues, are used to transfer exhaust from appliances and some furnaces to ensure your family’s safety from day to day. In high efficiency furnaces, vents may be plastic as well as metal.

Inside a chimney, the conditions are bleak. Burning wood creates creosote, an oily black substance that coats the lining of your flue, which over time can become thick enough to ignite. If this happens, and the resulting creosote fire is intense enough, it can crack the liner of the chimney itself, risking weakening it and surrounding flammable materials which can include wood framing. If this happens, a comforting evening by the hearth can turn into a full-blown house fire, which is why it is so essential to have your National Property Inspections team member visit annually for prevention. The Chimney Safety Institute recommends a cleaning once the creosote gets to ¼ inch or thicker, so if you live with the fire burning, be wary of your creosotes. However, once your chimney sweep has finished, feel free to use the leftover creosote residue in flowerbeds. It is a great source of calcium and other nutrients!

During cleaning, your chimneysweep should check the damper to ensure correct positioning, as this helps with energy efficiency. Along with the flue itself, the damper ledge must always be cleaned, while the outside should be checked for obstructions as well as normal wear and tear. A chimney cap, which serves an important function, should be in place if it is not already, because it keeps animals, rainwater, leaves and debris out, while keeping the flames held in. If you decide a wood fire is best for you, remember never to burn green wood, but to make sure it is seasoned enough to crackle.

Between inspections, it is always good to keep an eye out for rust, discoloration, or cracking, especially the areas around joints. To prevent damage should there ever be a fire, always be sure to install smoke detectors in every level of the home to properly detect and alert everyone to the hazard. It goes without saying, never forget to check the smoke detectors each month for functionality.

What is the proper location for the thermostat in my house?

Thermostats 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.

 

Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home and appliances.

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

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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
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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