January 2016: Winter Maintenance

Ask The Inspector

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

A. 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.

Ask the inspector

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.

Be Advised

Water Under Shingles Spells Trouble for Home Owners

Snow or rain can cause big problems in attics if insulation, ventilation and caulking, or sealing is not installed or maintained correctly.

Be Advised

In colder climates, ice dams, thick ridges of solid ice forming in the gutter or in the eaves of a home can damage gutters, siding or walls if left uncontrolled. Ice dams are caused when warm air flows into the attic and can’t escape. The warm air heats the roof, melting the snow above. The snow melts, and the melt-off runs down the roof to the eaves. Colder temperatures lower down toward the eaves cause the water to refreeze. Eventually, the ice forms dams in the gutters. Then, water flowing down the roof backs up under the shingles and can flow from there into the attic or interior wall spaces. Wet insulation or framing members can reduce R-values, lead to possible mold and mildew problems, or damage interior finishes.

In warmer climates, mildew and mold can still be a problem if warm moist air coming up from the house isn’t properly vented outside. Excessively warm temperatures in the attic can weaken components of the roof and shorten the lifespan of roofing material. Make sure all appliances in your home vent outside and your soffit vents are kept clear of insulation and other debris. This allows cooler air to come in at the bottom of the roofline and push warmer air out the top.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?

Snapshots From The Field

  1. This is called ice damming and is bad news for a home’s roof and attic.
  2. This is called ice bridging and is bad news for a home’s roof and attic.
  3. This is normal ice and snow melt-off from the roof and poses no threat.

Correct Answer 1. This is called ice damming and is usually caused by inadequate insulation and ventilation. This is about the worst case of ice damning we’ve ever seen. It will be tough for the home owner to fix because the ceilings on the second floor of this house are vaulted, leaving little room for ventilation, which is one of the things need to keep this problem from occurring.

Noteworthy News

Smart Light Bulb Technology

Noteworthy News

If you thought the newest lightbulb 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.

Maintenance Matters

Dryer Maintenance for a Safer Home

Maintenance Matters

If you own a clothes dryer, then the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers recommends that you clean the lint filter after each load, and you should also check and clean the dryer vent periodically. This helps improve air flow and energy efficiency while reducing the chance of overheating and fire. Despite several improvements in dryer construction and safety, several thousand fires are started by dryer lint each year.

Like your oven and stove, your dryer uses extreme heat on flammable materials. Although most people are careful to keep their eye on the stove when cooking, they think nothing of leaving a dryer unattended in the basement, garage or utility room for an hour or more.

Other tips to prevent dryer fires and improve appliance efficiency include the following:

    • Occasionally remove the filter and clean with a nylon brush and hot, soapy water.
    • Avoid drying clothes that have had any type of oil or other flammable liquid spilled on them, such as alcohol or gasoline.
    • Replace plastic or vinyl exhaust hoses with rigid or flexible metal venting.

For more information about dryer lint safety, see this article on our blog.

Did You Know?

AFCI and GFCI Outlets Improve Electrical Safety in Your Home

Advancements in electrical protection devices help keep homes and businesses safe. These devices include ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). Both help prevent electrical shock and fires caused by erratic surges in electrical current.

GFCI outlets are designed to trip when they sense even a minor imbalance in current between the hot (black) and neutral (white) legs of an electrical circuit. They cut off power to the receptacle in a fraction of a second — fast enough to avoid a potentially fatal shock. Although requirements vary by location, GFCIs are generally found in kitchens, bathrooms, basements, garages and other areas where water may be present, such as a workshop. GFCI outlets have test and reset buttons, and it’s a good idea to test them monthly to make sure they are operating properly.

AFCI outlets are designed to help prevent fires caused by arcing faults — erratic current flows that get hot enough fast enough to start a fire without ever tripping the breakers. In many areas, AFCIs are required on branch circuits that serve residential bedrooms in newly constructed homes. Existing structures are not required to have AFCIs, but it may be a good idea to look into having them installed in your home. A home inspector can help pinpoint areas where added safety measures such as AFCI or GFCI outlets could help protect your family.

From Our Blog

Proper Fireplace Venting: A Complex Issue

One of the most controversial issues with home construction has been proper fireplace ventilation. In an effort to prevent indoor air contamination and improve overall efficiencies within modern homes, the home envelopes have become tighter — meaning little to no air leaks between interior and exterior spaces. While the intentions were good, constructing a tight home has caused some other issues, such as poor air change ratios and controlling pressures between interior and exterior spaces. This has resulted in new technologies to provide controlled mechanical ventilation systems.

Click here to read the rest of the blog posts.

Monthly Trivia Question

What is the oldest building material that is still used today?

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