Posts

April 2018: Spring Tips for the Home

Ask The Inspector

Understanding Your Home’s Phantom Load

What if we told you your home is full of phantoms? Your home’s phantom load, or the amount of energy that appliances consume when they’re turned off, can be scary for your electric bill. Luckily, you can cut back phantom usage with this quick guide. Learn More

3 Tips for Child Safety at Home

While home is often the safest place to be, your house could pose unseen threats to your family. Here are some ways you can prevent accidents around your home and have a healthier, happier household. Learn More

Expert Advice

Flipping Houses 101

If you’ve already mastered homeownership, you may be looking for your next investment. Here’s how to know if flipping houses is right for you, as well as the best types of fixer-upper homes to look out for. Learn More

Why Does My House Smell?

Sometimes previous owners can leave things behind. And sometimes, those things aren’t tangible items, like plates and furniture – they’re smells. Before you walk away from your dream home, use these tips to pinpoint the source of odors and be on your way to breathing easy. Learn More

Snapshots From The Field

Every day on the job, our inspectors come across safety hazards that you and your family should know about. Here’s one that’s far more common that you might think, and fortunately there’s an easy fix.

A clogged dryer vent is one of your home’s most dangerous fire hazards. Each year, more than 2,900 house fires originate in clogged dryer vents. While we cover the topic a lot, this photo from just a few weeks ago proves that it never hurts to keep spreading the word!

Remember, when it comes to your dryer vent, it doesn’t end with cleaning the lint trap (though that’s definitely part of it). You’ll also need to periodically clean the vent itself. Here’s how to go about cleaning if your vent is less than three feet long and leads outside:

  1. Empty the lint screen like you normally would after a load of laundry.
  2. Unplug the dryer, then move it away from the wall to access the vent.
  3. You’ll notice a tube leading from the back of your dryer to a hole in the wall—this is the vent, and the tubing will have to be detached from the back of the dryer in order to clean it. It’s generally attached to your dryer with a set of four screws, which can be removed with a normal flat or Philips head screwdriver.
  4. Using the nozzle attachment on your vacuum cleaner, vacuum as much lint as you can, as far as you can down the tube and into the vent.
  5. Hook everything back up.
  6. Going outside, locate the escape vent and make sure it’s also clear of visible debris. Once the vent is clear, run the dryer and make sure hot air is flowing freely to the outside.
  7. You’re done!

If your vent is long and doesn’t vent directly outside, just give a call your nearest professional.

Maintenance Matters

How to Remove Scratches from Wood Floors

We all know that replacing hardwood floors can be time-consuming and expensive. Before you start looking for a contractor, try this simple technique for fixing scratches, pet damage and more. Learn More

Your 7-Item Checklist for an Efficient Air Conditioner

Whether you run your A/C year-round or you’re gearing up for warmer temperatures, you can perform this easy checkup on your system to make sure that it’s running as smoothly as possible. Learn More

How to Clean a Clogged Showerhead in 6 Easy Steps

There’s nothing more annoying than a clogged showerhead. If your water pressure has been feeling weak lately, try this simple, chemical-free trick for unclogging a blocked showerhead. Learn More

Dos and Don’ts for Pet Stains in Carpet

If you’ve ever been frustrated that a pet stain hasn’t fully disappeared no matter how hard you scrub, this article is for you. We’ll tell you everything you need to know to get your carpets looking fresh and new again. Learn More

Monthly Trivia Question

How much electricity (in U.S. dollars) do modern appliances on low power mode waste each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency?

A. $1Million
B. $5 Million
C. $4 Billion
D. Over a Trillion

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

Your 7-Item Checklist for an Efficient Air Conditioner

Weather is funny – it tends to warm up right under our noses. Then, before long, it’s time to crank up the air conditioning. Whether you’re going straight from cold to warm temperatures or you use your A/C regularly, these maintenance tips will help you keep your system in great working order.

Before you begin with your checkup, you’ll need to set your system. Make sure that the thermostat is off with the temperature set at 80 degrees.

1. Start with your thermostat

When was the last time you replaced your thermostat? If you’ve just moved into your new home, what do you know about it? If it’s been awhile, you might be working with an outdated model. In that case, it’s worth looking into springing for a programmable, energy-efficient thermostat. Most can be controlled remotely from your phone for ultimate savings.

2. Look out for wear on exposed ductwork

Worn ductwork is one of the biggest culprits for cooling loss in your home. Look for visible signs of damage and wear.

3. Check the flow of your air vents

You never know what might be blocking airflow, from furniture to curtains to your child’s toys. Walk room to room and be sure that all the air vents are free of obstructions. We promise it’ll make a difference!

4. Make sure your drain line isn’t clogged

Mounted above your furnace, you should see a drain near the cooling coil. This can become clogged with dirt, dust and debris over time. You can be sure that your drain line isn’t clogged by flushing a cup of bleach followed by a gallon of water down it.

5. Replace your air filter

Changing out your air filter is a super simple fix that will make a huge difference in indoor air quality and flow. Your filter should be changed every three months at a minimum, and more like once a month during seasons that necessitate heavy A/C usage.

6. Check your circuits

Look over your home’s electrical circuits to ensure that the connections are on and in working order.

7. Head outside to check the condenser unit

Your A/C unit’s outdoor equipment is just as important as its indoor system. First, make sure that no foliage is touching your unit, and remember not to make plans for any gardening in its vicinity. It’s just not worth it since plants can cause rusting, blockages and other damage. You’ll next want to make sure that refrigerant lines are insulated. If the insulation looks worn, you’ll need to hire an HVAC professional to replace it. The same goes for outdoor electrical wiring—when in doubt, hire out.

Once you’ve completed these seven steps, you can turn your A/C on to a comfortable temperature and wait for it to begin cooling your home. Be sure to head back outside to listen to the condenser. It shouldn’t sound irregular and you should feel warm air blowing out the top. Allow your air conditioning to run for about 15 minutes to be sure everything is working smoothly.

Call NPI to Schedule Your Inspection

National Property Inspections inspectors can provide a full report on the condition of your HVAC system as well as the other major components of your home. Call us today for help making decisions about your most important investment – your home.

June 2017: Air Conditioner Maintenance

Ask The Inspector

Air Conditioner Issues

Q: The second story of my house is much warmer in the summer months than the lower level. Why is this, and what can I do to reduce the temperature difference between the upstairs and downstairs?

Ask The Inspector

A. Cooling the upstairs of a home can be difficult — especially if the HVAC air handler system is in the basement, or if no basement is present, on the first floor. Typically, hot air rises and cold air falls, so in some aspects the air handler has to work harder to pump cold air up through the ductwork systems in order to keep the upstairs of a two-story house as comfortable as the downstairs.

There certainly are alternatives available to help keep air temperatures in balance. One simple solution is to close off some of the dampers (registers) on the first floor, which will force more air upstairs and create a stronger flow of air on the second story. The first floor may not be as cool as before, but this could produce a more balanced temperature difference between the two floors.

The other alternative would be to install a secondary cooling system in the attic, if there is room, resulting in more comfortable air. The downside of this would be more of an expense for installing and maintaining two systems. Also, one system could be installed in the attic and you could install a zoning system in the ductwork. A zoned system is controlled by electronic motors on dampers within the ductwork system, which can be controlled to distribute more air to certain parts of the house depending on your comfort needs.

Be Advised

The Effects of Humidity

People generally talk about comfort in terms of temperature, but it’s more than that. In regulating indoor temperature, humidity is a key factor. Humidity is the amount of water vapor suspended in air at a given temperature. Relative humidity, a term often used by meteorologists, measures the water vapor the air is holding, compared to how much it could hold. The measure is expressed as a percentage.

Be Advised

Relative humidity is important because the human body cools itself by sweating. The faster the moisture on the skin evaporates into the surrounding air, the “cooler” and more comfortable temperatures can seem. The higher the humidity in the air, the more saturated it is with water vapor. That reduces speed at which sweat evaporates off the skin, making temperatures more uncomfortable.

Of course, air that is too dry isn’t good either. Generally, a range between 30-50 percent relative humidity is preferable. This prevents skin from drying and static-electric build-up while still allowing for evaporation of water off the skin. When comfort is considered, humidity levels are an important factor when selecting or modifying any heating or cooling system.

Snapshots From The Field

Can you guess what is wrong in this photo?
Snapshots From The Field

  1. Nearly everything
  2. Extension cord shouldn’t be used to run an HVAC unit
  3. A replacement fan shouldn’t be attached like this
  4. All of the above

Correct Answer 4. All of the above. In this situation, it is time to call the HVAC technician.

Noteworthy News

Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans circulate air. They do not ventilate a room or lower the temperature. They simply create a draft. That draft, or air movement over the skin, provides a wind chill effect on our bodies, making the room seem cooler. This can allow a person to set the cooling temperature on the air conditioner higher, reducing energy bills and possibly prolonging the life of the cooling equipment.

Noteworthy News

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, using a ceiling fan with an air conditioning system will allow most people to raise the thermostat temperature setting about 4 degrees without a reduction in comfort. Raising the temperature is what creates the savings, not installing and running the fan. For more energy savings, turn fans off when exiting a room. Furniture can’t “feel” the wind chill effect.

Here are a few things to consider when installing new ceiling fans:

  • Ceiling fans should be installed in rooms that are at least 8 feet high
  • Larger ceiling fans move more air than smaller fans
  • Small and medium-sized fans will provide cooling in a 4- to 6-foot diameter area
  • Larger fans are effective up to 10 feet

For best efficiency, consider the type of lights in the ceiling fans when purchasing. The fan itself may only be used part of the year; many times, lights are used every day. A single bulb can be more efficient than many bulbs and fluorescent lights are far more efficient than incandescent.

Maintenance Matters

Air Conditioner Maintenance

A broken air conditioning system can mean some pretty miserable summer days. Taking steps to prevent wear and tear helps avoid some of the problems and the cost of an emergency fix. For instance:

MAINTENANCE MATTERS

  • Check heating and cooling filters monthly. Clean or replace as necessary. More frequent replacement or cleaning will help reduce pollen and other allergens in the air.
  • Use heat-producing appliances like stoves, clothes dryers and dishwashers in the evening when temperatures are cooler.
  • Remove obvious obstructions, including the cover, branches and other foliage from outside condenser units. Condenser units require free air flow to function efficiently.
  • Make sure all access panels are secure with all screws in place.
  • Indoors, remove obstructions, including curtains and furniture from over vents.
  • Schedule an annual maintenance check on all air conditioning equipment. Check with the local Better Business Bureau for companies with clean service records.
  • Install programmable thermostats. Even raising the temperature a few degrees when people aren’t home can save big bucks over time on energy bills.

Be sure to keep track of service calls and what repairs were made. Remember if you feel uncomfortable with any of these items, it is important to have a professional do an annual air conditioner checkup for you. These simple checks and a single service call will help the cooling system run well all summer and possibly extend the life of the unit.

Did You Know?

The average central air conditioner unit lasts 7 to 15 years. You can extend its life and get the most out of it by having it serviced every year and by following a few simple maintenance checks.

Monthly Trivia Question

Humidity is measured with a:

  1. barometer
  2. thermometer
  3. hygrometer

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbuck’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

Home Alert: Top 11 Common HVAC Issues Found During a Home Inspection

The following is a list of 6 common forced air furnace problems and 5 common problems in a combined heating/cooling HVAC unit:

A home inspection provides you with information regarding the condition and functionality of different systems inside and outside the home. The heating or heating/cooling system is part of the inspection. One of the most common heating systems in the United States is the forced-air furnace. In a forced-air furnace, oil or gas is used to heat a piece of metal. A fan pushes the warmed air into a series of ducts, which carry it throughout the house. The cold-air return feeds air back into the system. The following is a list of six common forced-air furnace problems and five common problems in a combined heating/cooling HVAC unit:

Forced-air Furnace:

  1. Electrical issues. Electrical service to the home may not be adequate for the heating/cooling system. This could mean a blown fuse or tripped breaker during heavy use. An electrical kill switch should be located near the heating unit so the power can be cut off in case of an emergency.
  2. Dirty/clogged filter. Filters were originally designed to keep mechanical elements free from dirt and dust. Today, filters are designed to help clean the air while the equipment is running. If the filter is not changed or cleaned regularly, it can block sufficient air flow and cause problems with heating and cooling functions.
  3. Cracks/breaks in ductwork. Improperly installed air ducts, or cracked or broken connections between ducts, can cause the heated or cooled air to vent into attics or walls instead of into the intended rooms.
  4. Blocked/closed registers. Furniture, boxes or drapery may be blocking the register in certain rooms. This disrupts the flow of heat.
  5. Old/unmaintained system. Heating and cooling systems operating longer than their design life can cause health or safety issues. Gas-fired appliances, including furnaces, must have a properly operating exhaust system to vent the byproducts of combustion, including carbon monoxide, a potentially harmful gas, outside. Cracked heat exchangers and other problems could cause these gases to leak into the home.
  6. Poorly installed flue pipes. The flue moves the exhaust gas, created during combustion, from the heating unit to the outside, or to a chimney that vents outside. This flue, or vent pipe, must be kept away from all flammable materials, be properly supported and slope up on its way to the outdoor vent or chimney.

Air Conditioner

  1. Dirty/clogged condenser coils. Restricting air flow to the outdoor condenser unit can lead to poor heat transfer. All foliage or obstructions should be cut back at least 1 foot around the outdoor condenser unit. The fin surface of the evaporator coil can be cleaned using a brush or vacuum.
  2. Uneven condenser unit pad. The outside unit should be within 10 degrees of level. If it is not level, it can reduce the effectiveness of lubrication in the tubing or increase stress on refrigerant lines.
  3. Leaks. The indoor portion of an air conditioner can be installed in a basement, closet or attic. A drain hose is used to remove the condensation that collects during the cooling process. If the drain hose becomes clogged, then water will eventually back up and spill over onto the floor.
  4. Unable to inspect due to weather. Temperatures must be warm enough to turn on the air conditioning unit. Turning on the unit when temperatures are too low can cause extensive damage. If the inspector is unable to check the functionality of the air conditioner, then it should be noted in the written report.
  5. Missing insulation. Two pipes carry refrigerant between the evaporator and condenser coils. The larger one, carrying the cool gas, should be insulated. This prevents the line from sweating indoors, causing water damage, and improves efficiency by keeping the line cool.

Because of the health and safety issues involved, it is important to maintain your heating/cooling systems. Have your furnace and air conditioner inspected by a licensed technician at least once a year.