How Can I Determine My Home’s Energy Loss?

Infrared House_shutterstock_108938912If you think you may be experiencing high-cost utility bills in your home, then your first step should be to contact your utility company to see whether it offers free or discounted energy audits to customers. If not, then you need to hire a home energy audit professional, such as a certified home energy rater, to evaluate your home’s energy efficiency.

A professional home energy auditor will use a variety of techniques and specialized equipment to determine the energy efficiency of your home. Equipment used includes blower doors, which measure the extent of leaks in the building envelope, and infrared cameras, which reveal hard-to-detect areas of air infiltration and missing insulation. The auditor will look at your HVAC system and equipment to determine the age and the energy efficiency of the unit. To complete the survey a professional auditor will also look at the major appliances to determine the same. Some surveys may go as far as inspecting light fixtures and the type of lamps (light bulbs) to see if a better solution may be needed.

For the best results in determining whether you are living in an energy hog of a house, you are best off hiring a professional energy auditor. The cost savings in energy consumption may be well worth the cost of hiring a professional to get the job done right.

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What to Look for When Hiring a Qualified Home Inspector

Submitted by Randy Yates, Technical Supervisor and Technical Training Administrator, NPI/GPI Corporate Office

Inspector with bag3When hiring a home inspector, you must first of all understand the difference between qualified and certified. Qualified could mean that the inspector has met basic requirements, which could mean something as simple as someone grabbing a clipboard, paper and pen and flashlight and saying, “I’m a qualified home inspector.” If they claim that, “RUN, Forrest, RUN!”

If you live in a state that requires licensing of home inspectors, then at least you know your inspector was required by state law to acquire some type of training or attend a state-approved education program. Certified is an entirely different subject.

There are some basic qualities to look for when hiring a qualified home inspector, including the following:

  • Is a state license required? If so, make sure that your home inspector is indeed licensed.
  • Where did the inspector get training, if state required? Did he/she attend an approved training facility or college-accredited program?
  • How long has he/she been an inspector? Refer to the previous question. If the inspector has a few years of experience, great.  Just getting started? Then if they have the backing of a franchise company, that can be as good as someone who may be an independent contractor with a few years of experience.
  • Does the inspector carry errors and omissions (E&O) and general liability insurance? Most states require inspectors to carry such insurance.
  • Speaking of franchises, is the inspector from a franchise, or is he/she an independent? That can make a huge difference in some cases, as franchise inspectors adhere to strict standards of practice that independent inspectors may not. Check with the inspector to see what standards of practice they adhere to. They should follow the standards of a national organization, such as ASHI or InterNACHI.
  • Does the inspector carry the right tools? The average client may not even know the right kind and proper tools needed to conduct an inspection.  It is more than just a clipboard, paper and pen, and a flashlight.

These are good basics for what to consider when hiring a qualified home inspector.

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Is Anything Wrong With This Photo?

A. The plastic prevents the plugs from rusting.
B. The timer acts as a surge suppressor.
C. This is not a waterproof exterior electrical outlet.
D. There is safely room for one more cord.

Blog-Outlets

Correct answer: C. This is not a waterproof exterior electrical outlet and is an electrical shock hazard that could hurt someone.

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Reduce Dampness and Moisture in Your Home

Empty RoomIs the humidity in your home too high? Telltale signs include condensation on the windows and a damp feeling in the air, but more serious problems can occur. For example, high humidity levels contribute to mold growth and dust mites, neither of which is healthy for your home and its inhabitants.

Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air, and the mold and dust mites that high humidity levels promote are allergens that can cause people to cough and sneeze, as well as experience skin irritations. In addition, high humidity levels can cause rot, especially in the south, and they draw insects, as the condensation from high humidity provides them with the water they need.

So, what’s the right amount of humidity? A level of 50 percent or lower is ideal for most people, but you also don’t want the level too low, either, especially in the winter months. To mitigate high humidity, add ventilation, use exhaust fans and dehumidifiers, and run the air conditioning for a spell.

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National Property Inspections Franchisees Welcomes Four New Franchise Owners in January

Picture2National Property Inspections, Inc., parent company of National Property Inspections in the United States and Global Property Inspections in Canada, is pleased to announce four new franchise owners in January who will take the NPI brand to new areas:

  • James Dunlap from Anacortes, Washington, will have franchise territory covering Snohomish County in Washington.
  • Gary Hudkins of Cornelius, North Carolina, will have franchise territory covering Cabarrus and Rowan counties in North Carolina.
  • Jared Jackson from Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, will have territory covering Coeur d’ Alene and a portion of southern Spokane County in Washington.
  • Steve Stavros of Oak Harbor, Washington, will have franchise territory in Whatcom County, San Juan County, Island County, Skagit County and Snohomish County in Washington.

“Our January class is a talented, intelligent group of young men,” said Roland Bates, president of NPI. “Based on the time I spent with them and their performance during training, I feel they will work hard to get their businesses up and running, and they’ll all be very successful. These are exciting times for us as we grow our business and bring NPI franchises to new territory.”

Dunlap, Hudkins, Jackson and Stavros completed NPI’s intensive 120-hour training program this month at the National Property Inspections, Inc., headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, and will undergo field training with experienced NPI franchise owners in their regions as they study for their national and state licensing exams.

For information about franchising with NPI or GPI, visit http://www.npifranchise.com in the United States, or http://www.gpifranchise.com in Canada.

 

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Gutter Maintenance for the Home Owner

Submitted by Jon McCreath, NPI Franchise Owner, Emerson, Georgia

McCreath1Gutter systems are one of the most important components of a home, yet they are oftentimes one of the most overlooked items when it comes to home maintenance. Gutter systems are designed to protect a building’s foundation by channeling water away from it. Gutters, if maintained properly, can also prevent soil erosion and foundation leaks, as well as protect the exterior surfaces of a dwelling from deterioration and rotting. Fortunately, gutter maintenance is typically an easy DIY for homeowners, or if you desire to have a professional maintain your gutter system, it can be done so relatively inexpensively. Either way, a gutter maintenance program can prevent long-term problems and expensive repairs.

Your Gutter System
Gutter systems — which include the gutters, downspouts and extensions — are typically made of steel, aluminum or vinyl. Steel gutters are generally stronger and longer lasting than their aluminum and vinyl counterparts, as those products can be susceptible to ladder damage. Galvanized steel products can be susceptible to rust if not properly maintained. Most of today’s homes will likely have a steel or aluminum product in place.

Current standards suggest that a horizontal run of gutter should have a downspout for every 35-40 feet of run. However, attention should be given to the pitch of the roof as well as the number of slopes that are directed to a single downspout. The steeper the slope, the greater the velocity of water runoff. Gutters should have a 1/4-inch of slope per 10 feet of run. Extensions and splash blocks should extend 3 to 6 feet away from the foundation.

Gutter Problems
McCreath2The most common maintenance issue for gutters is clogging. Gutters can become clogged with leaves and other debris, including the granules from shingles. Continued water runoff can create a sludge-like condition that will eventually render the gutter system useless. It is suggested that gutters be cleaned at least one to two times a year. Unless it is a safety concern, you can generally clean your own gutters, as hiring a professional to do so is usually inexpensive.

Sometimes a clogged gutter will lead to another common issue: sagging gutters. Once a gutter is clogged with debris, the standing water and debris can weigh down the gutters and pull them away from their hangers or attachments to the home. However, it isn’t always a clogged gutter that leads to sagging. Through time, hangers can deteriorate and fasteners can simply back out due to expansion and contraction. The good news is that this is also an inexpensive DIY project to add more hangers, or re-secure the existing.

Leaks at gutter seams are also something to keep an eye on. Another easy DIY: Simply apply a gutter sealant at the seam/joint and be sure to allow 24 hours for curing.

Take the time and do an annual inspection of your gutter system. Avoiding these common issues by implementing a gutter maintenance program is the No. 1 way to prevent expensive water damage problems to your home.

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It’s Cold: Turn the Thermostat Down — I Mean Up

Submitted by Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI

Thermostat_shutterstock_92965054As property inspectors, we are frequently asked to explain how various components of a home work. For example, if someone has never owned a heat pump, then a heat pump would certainly generate curiosity. The same holds true for any number of components, and we are happy to explain them. That’s part of our service and especially important to a first-time home buyer.

One of the calls that we receive with more frequency pertains to thermostats. Today’s programmable thermostats are nothing short of computers. Some even give weather forecasts and the like. Throw in phone apps, where a homeowner can adjust the thermostat from afar, and you get a lot more “this-thing-isn’t-working” calls.

Most professional inspectors become very familiar with programmable thermostats and are happy to explain them to the homebuyer. Let your inspector do so, or take the time to learn how to program your thermostat yourself. Don’t end up setting your thermostat to where you want it and pressing “hold.” That won’t affect the intended energy savings.

A couple of throwback stories pertaining to thermostats: I remember doing an inspection on a small house in the dead of winter and it was very warm inside. The prospective buyer commented that since the house was so warm it must be well insulated. That wasn’t the case. The thermostat was simply cranked all the way up. Another homeowner had sweating, poorly insulated single-pane windows. He figured out that if he turned the thermostat way up, the sweating went away. (Warmer air holds more moisture.) This didn’t fix the problem, but the thermostat helped to hide it.

In short, thermostats control the HVAC, which in turn leads to our personal comfort. And used correctly, they can save energy and more to the point, save you money.

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Franchise Business Review Names National Property Inspections, Inc., a Top Franchise of 2015

Picture2National Property Inspections, Inc., parent company of National Property Inspections in the United States and Global Property Inspections in Canada, is pleased to be included in Franchise Business Review’s Top Franchises 2015 report. The report ranks the best franchises based on franchisee satisfaction. Franchise Business Review’s research looked at survey feedback from current NPI and GPI franchise owners and determined that NPI/GPI was the No. 1 home inspection franchise surveyed.

In February 2014, National Property Inspections, Inc., commissioned an independent franchisee satisfaction survey conducted by Franchise Business Review. NPI/GPI outperformed competitors in the industry and showed high franchisee satisfaction, making NPI/GPI a four-star franchisor. Some of the highlights of the survey include the following:

  • Over 96 percent of respondents rated NPI/GPI’s training program above average.
  • Over 89 percent of respondents rated NPIGPI’s marketing and promotional programs above average.
  • Over 97 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they trust and respect NPI/GPI as a franchisor.
  • Over 98 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that NPI/GPI operates with a high level of honesty and integrity.
  • Over 93 percent of respondents said that NPI/GPI 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.

As a top franchisor, NPI/GPI offers low-cost franchises for less than $35,000 in the United States and Canada, with a 10 percent discount on the initial franchise fee for military veterans.

To learn more about NPI/GPI franchise opportunities, visit http://npifranchise.com/ in the United States or http://gpifranchise.com/ in Canada. To access the Franchise Business Review Top Franchises 2015 report visit http://www.franchisebusinessreview.com/franchise-reports/top-franchises-2015/.

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