Important Information About Preventing Appliance Fires

Kitchen2Preventing appliance fires comes down to proper planning and maintenance. This is especially true for the kitchen, which contains many appliances that without proper care could pose a hazard. To limit future problems, there are a few things every homeowner can do:

  • Have an Expert Look at Wiring — Have an electrician or home inspector check your wiring to see whether it can handle your household’s demand. These professionals can also look for faulty appliances and other problems.
  • Check for Recalls — Sometimes avoiding a problem means being proactive. Appliances are often recalled by the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) and posted on websites, like www.CPSC.gov and www.recall.gov. Check these websites now and again to see if your appliance has been recalled. You can also register your new appliances with the manufacturer. If there is a recall, the manufacturer will be obligated to let you know immediately.
  • Be Careful in the Kitchen — Some problems are caused by the misuse of appliances. Keep small children and pets away from hot surfaces, and never leave cooking unattended. Be sure to keep rags, plastic bags and other flammable materials away from the cooking range. Also, unplug small appliances while not in use.

Kitchen fires are not only common, but they also make up about half of all household fires in the United States every year. Enlist the help of experts and do your best to keep this area of your home well maintained. Make kitchen safety a priority and keep your home running smoothly.

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I Want to Speak to the President

Submitted by Roland Bates, President, National Property Inspections/Global Property Inspections

RolandPicemail sizeAs the president of the company, I get a variety of phone calls. One thing I’ve learned is when the caller asks, “Are you the president of the company?” 99 percent of the time it’s a complaint call. Occasionally a complaint is warranted. Oftentimes they are not, and despite my best effort to sound insightful, the first word out of my mouth is, “Huh,” followed by a struggle to find the right words. What follows are a few examples of those calls:

Buyer/Caller: I am so upset with the inspector. He is so dumb … The toilet was leaking and he told me, “You’ll have to fix that.” I am a single mom. What makes him think I know how to fix a toilet?

President: I don’t think he meant you personally. I think he meant you should hire a plumber.

Buyer/Caller: Oh.

 

Caller/Realtor: I refer him lots of inspections and he just insults me very much.

President: What did he do to insult you, sir?

Caller/Realtor: He invited me to an outdoor dinner and told me to bring my own chair. If I invite him to my house, I let him sit on my chair!

President: He must like you and has paid you a compliment by inviting you to his cookout. He must not have enough chairs for all his quests and doesn’t want you to stand. So, he has asked you to bring your own chair.

Caller/Realtor: You take his side … [click].

 

Seller/Caller: I just got a copy of the inspector’s report, and I am very upset about what he said.

President: What did he say to upset you, sir?

Seller/Caller: He said my electric panel is unsafe and should be replaced.

President: Are you saying it doesn’t need replaced?

Seller/Caller: I know it needs to be replaced, I’m an electrician! I want to know who’s going to pay for it.

President: I’m not sure I know how to help you, sir. That’s something you’ll need to negotiate with the buyer.

Seller/Caller: Where did you say you are?

President: I’m in Omaha, Nebraska.

Seller/Caller: Nebraska? So you’re one of them corn-heads. That figures … [click].

 

Relocating Employee/Caller: My wife and I both work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and we’re going to have you and your company investigated by the Pentagon.

President: And why would you want to have us investigated, sir? (It’s hard to know what he said next. I was too busy thinking, “What does someone who tracks the planting of soybeans have to do with the Pentagon?)

Relocating Employee/Caller: I know the roof is pretty old, and it does leak here and there, but what gives some inspector the right to call my roof defective?

President: If I’m hearing you correctly, sir, aren’t you also calling your roof defective? (Apparently we were not in agreement on this point because he started yelling obscenities.)

At any rate, he must have been serious about the Pentagon investigating me. Every time I drive somewhere cars follow me.

I have to go now. My phone’s ringing.

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Care Must Be Taken With Electricity and Electrical Components

Submitted by Garry Pigeon, Global Property Inspections Franchise Owner, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

iStock_000001974024SmallThis is my first blog submission and because of my background and interest, I would like to concentrate predominantly on electrical system and component issues.

I have been involved in some facet of the electrical industry for 30 years; as an electrician, a systems technologist, safety coordinator and component design/manufacturing consultant.

For this first post, I am going to make some bold “red flag” statements, which I hope will not cause too much consternation among inspectors, referral agents or clients. Rather, the intent is to stimulate conversation and promote safety when working with or near electrical equipment. If there is enough interest, I will certainly expound on these statements in subsequent blogs.

  1. Given the right circumstances, common household 15-amp branch circuits can cause severe injury and even death.
  2. Old adages such as, “it’s not the voltage that kills, it is the amperage,” are entirely FALSE.
  3. Every electrical distribution and auxiliary panel should be approached with caution while wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and using calibrated test equipment.
  4. Removing the dead-front cover on electrical panels should be done only by qualified individuals who are well versed in electrical safety.
  5. The optimal design life of most consumer electrical service components such as electrical panels, circuit breakers, GFCI components, switches and receptacles is 40 years.
  6. All electrical systems, and many components, require regular maintenance. This is rarely, if ever, done in residential properties.
  7. There is no acceptable knob-and-tube electrical system.
  8. EXTREME CAUTION is required upon entry into enclosed areas such as crawl spaces/attics; electrical hazards may be well hidden.
  9. Higher voltages in commercial properties can result in arcs that “jump” from one object to another, including an inspector with a screwdriver in hand.
  10. FEAR of electrical equipment is not a bad substitute for proficiency.

Electricity is a fascinating subject and kept Mr. Einstein entertained for a number of years. We have captured lightning to use for our convenience in powering our compact fluorescent lamps, stir-frying vegetables for dinner and watching CNN.

We would do well to remember, though … it is still lightning.

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Spring Home Maintenance Checklist

cžSpring is upon us, and it’s time to do some home maintenance. Here’s a handy checklist of items you should take care of indoors and out.

Outdoors

  • Clean the gutters and check for any leaky or loose areas.
  • Check the siding for missing or peeling paint and repair. Also check siding for any damage that may have occurred over the winter.
  • Trim shrubs and trees away from the house to preserve the siding and roof.
  • Rake up any leaves from last fall. Pull up weeds and dead plants from last season.
  • Check your roof for any missing shingles that may have been lost during winter. Have a qualified roofer check the flashing around plumbing vents, skylights and chimneys and repair if necessary.
  • Have your chimney and flue inspected and the flue cleaned by a chimney professional.
  • Remove any firewood stored near your home so that it is at least 18 inches off the ground and at least 2 feet from the house.
  • Check your outdoor faucets for freeze damage.
  • Have the air conditioning unit cleaned, inspected and tuned up for the hot days ahead.
  • Check your gas- and battery-powered lawn equipment to ensure that it’s ready for spring and summer use. Tune up the lawn mower and have the blades sharpened.
  • Examine the house’s foundation for any cracks and caulk or call a foundation specialist for more permanent repairs.
  • Pressure-wash your home to remove dirt, mold and stains from the siding, deck and patio.
  • Repair cracked sidewalks and driveways.
  • Inspect your deck and reseal if necessary. Also check for and fix any loose railings and decay.
  • Check and clean the dryer vent.

Indoors

  • Check windows and doors for air and water leaks and fill or repair.
  • Check your cracks and gaps where insects or mice can get into your home, and fill these areas.
  • Check faucets and plumbing for leaks and repair or replace any leaky pipes or faucets.
  • Check tiles and grout for cracks and reseal any areas where cracking occurs.
  • Clean the windows and screens inside and out.
  • If you don’t have central air conditioning, then spring is the time to reinstall window AC units.
  • Vacuum your refrigerator coils so the fridge operates at top efficiency.
  • Replace batteries in smoke detectors.
  • Drain the water heater. Click here for instructions.

Sources: HGTV.com, BobVila.com, Kiplinger.com, http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2013/03/14/15-spring-home-maintenance-tips

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Ice Dams: Where Do They Come From?

Submitted by Doug Kendall, Global Property Inspections Franchise Owner, Kanata, Ontario, Canada

Ice dams can happen a couple of different ways, and they cost money to repair.

One way ice dams occur is when snow melts on the roof and water backs up behind the ice and then seeps back under the shingles and into the attic space. This can be caused by poorly sealed and insulated attic hatches, exhaust vents dropping onto the roof and melting the snow around them, or from heat from bath vents in the attic space.

The other way ice dams are created is from vents being dropped into the soffit area where the warm, moist air of the bathroom drops and freezes inside the soffit and backs up and flows down the wall into the basement. This process also builds a frost layer on the back side of the plywood and can saturate the ceiling of the home in this area. It also damages the roof ply and shingles from the back side out.

In the photos below (click to enlarge), the inside of the attic on the right shows the bath vent pipe. The insulation originally was covering the vent pipe and touching the plywood. This allowed the water to absorb into the insulation and lamp-wick into the ceiling and walls. Yes, there was water in the basement that morning. The vent was causing the ice dam on the roof and in the soffit.

Bath vents need to vent out of the home completely and be insulated to prevent condensation and ensure that there is no blow-back into the attic space. Capture

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12 Home Inspection Preparation Tips for Homeowners

Submitted by Joe Hartman, National Property Inspections Franchise Owner, Morgantown, W.V.

IMG_4752In West Virginia, as in many other areas, property inspectors are not required or advised to move personal items that block access to areas that need to be inspected. This condition may result in an incomplete inspection, call-backs, additional fees and a frustrated buyer.

As a homeowner, it is to your best advantage to do the following to prepare for a home inspection:

  1. Make sure there is easy access to the electrical panel and subpanels. Move or remove items from the front and sides of the panel and from the floor around it. If the panel has been hidden (for example, behind a picture or panel), remove or open the cover.
  2. Make sure there is easy access to the furnace or boiler or other HVAC equipment.
  3. Make sure there is easy access to the hot water heater. If the unit is in a closet, move or remove items from around and from the top of the unit. (Items should never be stored on top of the water heater.)
  4. Provide access to the main water line and indoor meters.
  5. If the attic access hatch is in a closet, hallway, or garage, make sure it is accessible. If possible, remove modular and other shelving. If the attic access is a pull-down staircase, make sure it can be completely opened.
  6. If your house has a crawl space, make sure the door is not locked or screwed so solidly in place that it can’t be easily opened.
  7. Remove decorative items from doors and windows. As a general rule, at least one window in every room will be opened during the inspection.
  8. Provide easy and safe access to the garage and service doors.
  9. Remove items from the oven(s) and, if possible, from the dishwasher, and be prepared to have the dishwasher run through a cycle.
  10. Provide clear access to foundation walls, especially the corners of basements and garages.
  11. If no one is living in the house when the inspection is scheduled, make every effort to have the utilities, especially the water, on during the short time period of the inspection. If utilities are shut off, the inspector may be asked to return to reinspect after they are on, and he/she may elect to charge the seller for the second visit.
  12. Provide a safe place for your pets. This may mean taking them to the home of a friend or relative during the short time of the inspection.
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Saving Energy — And Money

Submitted by Mike Hunger, NPI Franchise Owner, Winston-Salem, N.C.

5.5w-LED-BulbA couple of weeks ago, I inspected a fairly new house (built in 2003) for a retiring couple. They have many interests and wanted a house with plenty of open space. Part of the reason for this was their rather large and extended family. Frequent get-togethers are common.

During the inspection, I heard the couple — directly and indirectly — making comments about the affordability of the house. Mostly their comments centered on the energy bills. I kept this in mind as I did the inspection, making mental notes about how they might save on energy use. I focused on the simple ways to save — the low-hanging fruit.

The house has two heat pumps, but one was a SEER 14 and the other a SEER 16 — not much room for inexpensive improvement there.

However, I did see one “glaring” item that would improve the energy bill: recessed lighting. During the inspection, I looked to see if the common incandescent bulbs were in use, or if they had been replaced by a less energy-consuming type, such as CFL, halogen or LED bulbs. Nope, not so.

Every room had recessed lighting — even the bedrooms and bathrooms. The family/dining area had at least 20 lights, and the kitchen had another 12.

Each of the fixtures held a 65-watt flood lamp. So let’s look at the kitchen:

If each of the kitchen fixtures was used for four hours a day, that would be 260 watts per day. In our area of the country, the price for a one kilowatt hour (standard electrical unit, kwh) is about 10 cents. So, the cost of operating that fixture is approximately 2.5¢ per day. Not much. But multiply that by 12, now you’re at 30 cents per day. So, operating your kitchen lights is costing you about $110 per year. What if you could reduce that by 80 percent?

When LED lights hit the market a few years ago, I ran the numbers for replacing my kitchen lights. It would take about four years for them to pay for themselves, based on a $30 price tag for each bulb. But now, they are around half that; I paid $14.37 (with tax) for each LED bulb at Costco a month ago. They’ve dropped in price more since then. An LED bulb that replaces a standard 65-watt flood uses only 13 watts — 80 percent less.

As more LED bulbs are used, the costs will go down — probably not close to the cost of an incandescent (around $1.50), but in the $8 to $10 range, and maybe less. But consider this:  An incandescent usually lasts for around 5,000 hours of use; an LED is good for 20,000 to 30,000. That’s significant.

So, maybe an LED would be a good choice for you, especially in a high-use area like the kitchen. Do the math, it might surprise you. LED bulbs have been around for decades now, and the applications are extensive. They’re safe, they don’t produce much heat energy, and they don’t require a chemical suit if they break.

Next time … thermostats.

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FBR Survey Results Are In

Survey Comparison-Home ServicesWe recently worked with Franchise Business Review to conduct a survey of our franchisee satisfaction. We could tell you that we have a satisfied franchisee base, but the results of our 2014 Franchisee Satisfaction Survey conducted by Franchise Business Review speak for themselves. The highlights are below, but you can click here to check out the full survey summary.

  • Fifty-one percent of respondents considered starting a property inspection business on their own (independently). Over 96 percent of our franchisees are glad they decided start an NPI/GPI franchise.
  • Over 96 percent of respondents rated our training program above average.
  • Over 89 percent of respondents rated our marketing and promotional programs above average.
  • Over 97 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they trust and respect National Property Inspections, Inc., as a franchisor.
  • Over 98 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that National Property Inspections, Inc., operates with a high level of honesty and integrity.
  • Over 93 percent of respondents said that National Property Inspections, Inc., cares about their success.
  • Over 96 percent of respondents said that they enjoy operating an NPI/GPI franchise.
  • Over 90 percent of respondents said they have a positive attitude about their affiliation with NPI/GPI.
  • Nearly 94 percent of respondents rated their satisfaction with NPI/GPI above average.
  • Over 93 percent of respondents said they would recommend an NPI/GPI franchise to others.

And here’s what some of our franchisees had to say about us:

“[I chose NPI for] the stability of the organization and tenure of office personnel; the reputation, professionalism, and ethics of the owner and staff; the support; and the ability to operate my business with autonomy but with all the support I need from NPI.”

— John Braddock, Franchisee

“[NPI’s] training is provided by world-class experts, a priceless commodity in today’s competitive market. Support is rarely needed but always helpful and in a very timely manner.”

— Jeff DeOliveira, Franchisee

“[I liked NPI’s] value. Tangible assets in return for the franchise fee: training, inspection equipment, computer, software with free upgrades, website, business plan template including contacts for inspection work (draws & field service), ongoing technical support, annual meeting with continuing education, marketing materials and assistance. NPI, Inc., is truly interested in helping the franchisee succeed in business. The other franchisors seemed to be only interested in selling franchises.”

— Jim Brumback, Franchisee

“[NPI’s royalty] fee, while higher than others, did not add on an additional advertising fee, so the net fee was lower. I liked the territory protection, and most of all, I got a good feeling about the people who worked there. It was a good fit for me.”

— Jeff Gilly, Franchisee

“[The] NPI staff [is] incredibly responsive, always positive, supportive and knowledgeable.”

— Rich Buhrman, Franchisee

“Honestly, we never inquired about any other brands. After my initial contact, Julie Erickson, contacted my wife and I to tell us about NPI and answer our questions. She was very friendly, knowledgeable, and made us feel very comfortable. We very soon thereafter received a comprehensive information package. We then contacted several current franchise owners. All of them were very friendly, eager to share their experiences and encouraging. After all of this, it just seemed right.”

— Geoff Lowrey, Franchisee

“I believe the [software] quality is top-drawer. [NPI is] constantly changing the software to meet new standards, and any issues are promptly resolved.”

— Ben Christianson, Franchisee

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Clean Up Kitchen Prior to Home Inspection

Submitted by Lawrence Englehart, Global Property Inspections Franchise Owner, Nova Scotia, Canada

IMG_4726The kitchen portion of a home inspection includes the plumbing, electrical and any built-in appliances. That means a professional home inspector is going to look under the sink, open appliance doors (including the stove and dishwasher) and look inside the cupboards. The inspector will need to see the bottom of both sides of the sink and visually observe what is behind electrical panels, even those that might be hiding in cupboards.

Unfortunately, for liability reasons, the home inspector is not required, nor advised, to move items blocking access to areas that need to be inspected. Furthermore, they are not required to operate any system or component that has been shut down or unplugged, which may include any shut-off valves, an unplugged appliance or even tripped breakers in the electrical panel. This is because the home inspector does not have enough information to know why a particular appliance or system has been shut down, and if the inspector were to reactivate it, it could potentially put your home, the appliance or a system at risk.

Failure to provide adequate access to these areas during the inspection could lead to incomplete results, call-backs or worse — a frustrated buyer.

To make the process as smooth as possible, prior to the home inspection you should do the following:

  • Ensure the utilities are on (i.e., water, electrical, gas, etc.)
  • Remove the garbage, cleaning supplies and other materials from under the sink
  • Remove items in front of electrical panels
  • Clean up dirty dishes and put them away
  • Remove items from inside the stove
  • De-clutter and clean the countertop

The result will be a complete inspection that provides accurate information with less of a potential for reinspection and, likely, a faster closing.

Don’t forget to provide a safe and secure place for pets, too.

Whether a prospective buyer, home inspector, appraiser or real estate agent is coming into your home, it’s important to provide a safe place for your pets. This may mean a sturdy, appropriately sized kennel in the home. It may also mean taking the pet to a friend or relative they are comfortable with until things are more settled.

Please remember, many of these professionals will need to view both the interior and exterior of the home. Simply putting pets in an open yard may not be enough.

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Play It Safe With Electrical Wires

Submitted by Roland Bates, President, National Property Inspections/Global Property Inspections

Bates_Electrical photoWhich wire in the photo can a homeowner touch? Let’s play it safe and say, ” “None.”

Over-fused, double tapped, open ground, reverse polarity, no GFCIs, fused neutrals, open splices, etc. There are so many potential safety issues they can’t all be addressed in a few short paragraphs. Adding to the confusion for most homeowners are black wires; white wires; red wires; green wires; copper wires; aluminum wires; and hot, neutral, traveler and ground wires. What does it all mean? I don’t know, but a scene from a movie just popped in my head: “The bells! The bells!

Assuming you are unfamiliar with wiring, I will first address wire color. Imagine the wall switch in your bedroom has not been turned off, the ceiling fan has been removed, and the wires have been pulled out and you can see and touch them. Keeping it simple, you will probably see a black wire, a white wire and a bare copper wire. Do not try this at home kids — I am a professional — if it’s wired correctly and I touched the bare copper wire, and the white wire, I would feel nothing. If I touched the black wire, I would get shocked. The black wire is the “hot,” the white wire is the “neutral” and the bare copper wire is the “ground.”

A wire does not know or care what color it is. If the black wire and the white wires were reversed in the electrical panel, and I touched the white wire, I would get shocked. Color coding makes it much easier to affect proper connections. Electrically speaking, the biggest mess I ever saw was here in Omaha: Every single wire in the panel was white — the hots, neutrals and ground wires were all white. Who knows why this happened, but it would make it very, very difficult to affect proper connections.

As a homeowner, and unless you are very familiar with electrical, don’t take anything for granted. You can get shocked or create faulty wiring in your home. Leave wiring to electricians or highly skilled handymen. It is just not worth the risk.

And speaking of risk, I will close with a quick word about electrical safety and complacency. Old-time electricians didn’t have the circuit testers and voltage sensors that we have today. To test a light socket they might stick their finger in the socket. Did they get shocked? You bet. Did most electricians from the 1950s have curly hair? You bet. Some electricians from that time played with their personal safety. Never do that at home.

I have done enough wiring to be too comfortable. When I replaced the ceiling fan in my son’s room, I simply turned off the wall switch. I was too lazy (complacent) to go to the basement and flip the breaker. It was one-in-a-million chance, but at the precise moment that I was twisting the hot wires together, my son walked into the room and instinctively turned on the wall switch. It knocked me off the ladder. His was 10 years old then. He’s grown now and we haven’t spoken since — but that probably would have happened anyway, right?

When it comes to home ownership and electrical wiring, take nothing for granted and never become complacent.

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