Posts

Make Your Refrigerator More Efficient with These 8 Hacks

When we think of ways to save energy, we don’t often turn to the fridge. It just does its thing, right? Well, not quite. Here are eight ways to make your refrigerator more efficient.

First, it’s important to note that if your refrigerator is 15 or more years old, you may not be able to get the most out of it energy-wise, even if you do everything right. Older models are simply never going to be quite as efficient as newer models, and more sophisticated units are coming out all the time. When you decide to replace your older fridge, opt for an Energy-Star-certified model.

Now, on to the hacks!

1. Get rid of frost if you have it.

This is much more common in older units. If your refrigerator is accumulating frost, the first thing you’ll need to do is defrost it. Otherwise, you’re automatically setting yourself up for a far less efficient fridge. That’s because frost buildup can cause fridge coils to work overtime and make it more difficult for the unit to keep at a consistently cool temperature. It’s a bit of a process, but defrosting is totally worth it—plus, who couldn’t use extra room in the freezer?

2. Open your fridge as little as possible.

One of the easiest ways to save energy is to keep your refrigerator closed. That means not leaving the door hanging open while you’re cooking and making selections quickly when you need something. The less your refrigerator has to readjust its temperature from being introduced to warm air in your home, the less it has to work and the more energy you’ll save.

3. Use your in-door water and ice.

This one goes right along with keeping those refrigerator doors closed. The less you open your fridge or freezer for beverages and ice, the less you’ll need to open your fridge.

4. Avoid putting hot or warm dishes in your fridge.

This is a small one, but it could make a big impact over time. Use Tupperware and plastic wrap whenever possible, and allow any food to cool down completely before placing it in the fridge. This helps keep heat out of your unit.

5. Remove fridge clutter.

Raise your hand if your fridge is packed at all times. If you have a big family or a penchant for cooking, it can be unavoidable. Luckily, it’s almost guaranteed that there’s an item or two in there that’s out of date. So take some time to go through your refrigerator’s contents and weed out the stuff that isn’t going to get eaten. It’s especially important not to store large items, like takeout boxes, casserole dishes and loaves of bread on the top shelf, as they could trap heat in the unit and cause your compressor to work overtime.

6. Use the power-saver switch.

Your unit might not have one of these, but if it does, it’s in your best interest to use it! Power-saver switches are connected to heaters built into the walls of refrigerator units. These heaters are designed to help prevent condensation, but the secret is that they may not even be needed. Try turning on the power-saver switch to disable this feature—you may find that no condensation builds up and you can save a little energy.

7. Keep your refrigerator away from your stove.

The heat from your stove can cause your refrigerator’s compressor to work overtime every time you go to cook. Over time, this can even wear out the unit and shorten the life of your appliance. While you may be stuck with this setup for the time being, keep in mind that ideally, your fridge should be several feet away from your stove when you mock up new design plans.

8. Clean your condenser coils.

Cleaning behind the fridge hardly ever makes the top of the old chore list, but if you’d like to have a more efficient unit, it’s a must. Dust removes heat and causes the coils to work much harder than they need to. Pulling the fridge out and sweeping under it, then using a bristle brush to dust the back will do the trick. And luckily, you shouldn’t need to do this too often.

Call National Property Inspections to have your home questions answered.

Our NPI inspectors can answer the most important questions you have about the condition and maintenance of your home. Call us to sell or buy with confidence.

How Long Your Appliances Will Last

How Long Do Appliances Last

Whether you’re getting ready to move into your new home with its own set of aging appliances, or you’re just taking stock of the ones you already own, it’s helpful to know just how much life they have left in them. New homeowners typically forget to budget for the average of $9,000 in hidden expenses they’ll run into in the first months and years of home ownership, and appliances are a substantial part of that expense. Here’s a breakdown of how long your home appliances should last, and how you can lengthen their lifespans to save money in the long run.

For All Appliances

Before we get started, the numbers you’ll see below are averages. You can get a rough estimate of how long your appliances have left before they give up the ghost based solely on their age, but what’s more important is how much use they get. A washing machine that handles clothes for a family of 5 will see a lot more action than a bachelor’s, for example, which will shorten its lifespan accordingly.

Oven Range: 13-15 Years

Whether you have a gas, electric or induction range, they tend to have similar lifespans. The best way to extend the life of your range is with regular cleaning. For gas ranges, make sure to clean the burner ports using a straight pin on a set schedule (usually once every three months)—this ensures that the ports don’t get clogged with grease that can cause uneven cooking and wear on the stove.

Dishwasher: 9-13 Years

The best advice for maintaining your dishwasher? Run it regularly. If you don’t, the rubber gaskets and seals that keep water where it’s supposed to be can dry out and fail. You should also clean out the filter regularly to avoid buildup that can keep water from draining from the dishwasher at the end of a cycle.

Refrigerator: 11-19 Years

Depending on the style you have, refrigerators can have very different lifespans. Typical side-by-side fridge/freezer combos normally last 14 years, while two-door fridges (top freezer, bottom refrigerator) last around 17 years. Since standalone freezers have to work harder than refrigerators, they also wear out faster. These last only about 11 years.

You can help your fridge last longer by reducing how hard it works on a daily basis. This means keeping the doors closed as much as possible, and keeping the temperature off the “coldest” setting.

Microwave: 9-10 Years

With not a lot of moving parts and even fewer serviceable ones, your microwave oven is one of the most durable appliances in your kitchen. That being said, there’s not a lot you can do to make yours last longer, besides keeping it clean and taking it easy on the door hinge.

Garbage Disposal: 10-12 Years

When it comes to garbage disposals, the most important thing to remember is what not to put down it. This includes foods like rice, egg shells, fibrous vegetables or grease, which can clog the disposal and dull its blades. To keep your garbage disposal clean, cut a lemon into smallish wedges and put them down the disposal, along with a handful or two of ice cubes. The acid in lemon juice combines with the gentle abrasive action of the ice to loosen stuck-on debris and eliminate odor, too.

Washing Machine/Dryer: 10 to 14 Years

For washing machines and dryers, lifespan is determined by which style you have. Top-loading washing machines tend to last a little longer than front-loading ones—the reason for this is up for some debate, but it may come down to the fact that front-loading washing machines are generally more technologically advanced. More moving parts, bells and whistles equal more opportunities for things to break down.

Dryers come in on the lower end of the lifespan range, simply because their heating elements tend to undergo more stress than washing machines.

Furnace: 15-18 Years

A gas furnace will normally outlast an electric one by about three years, and the reasons are twofold. First, gas is a more efficient fuel source than electricity, so the system doesn’t have to work as hard to provide the same amount of heat. Second, gas furnaces are usually less complex, with fewer parts that can wear and break. Also, today’s high-efficiency furnaces will outlast those using older technology.

AC Unit: 10-15 Years

In order to work with optimal efficiency, your air conditioning unit needs regular care and maintenance, starting with making sure the coils and foil fins are clean and straight. You’ll also want to call in a professional once a year to check the system’s refrigerant levels—if they’re too high or low, you’ll end up with problems like iced-over coils or too much stress put on the system.

Water Heater: 10-25 Years

Tankless water heaters can easily last over two decades, while more common tank models generally fall in the lifespan range of 10 to 15 years. Electric models wear out sooner, again because they’re less efficient. Other factors come into play with water heaters as well—for those with hard water, excess mineral buildup and scaling can shorten the life of this appliance, while those on a well water system should also look out for sediment deposits.

Call Your NPI Inspector Today

Our NPI inspectors have the knowledge and expertise to assess your home’s major systems and provide a full report. Call us today to buy or sell with confidence.

September 2018: End of Summer

Ask The Inspector

Ask The Inspector

Building Permits: Why You Need One and How to Get It

As a home improvement guru, you might have the idea that building permits are a nuisance. While it’s true that building permits can be a pain, they actually serve a very important role that makes the process worthwhile. We’ll explain why building permits are a thing, why you need one and how to get one. Learn more

5 Signs You Might Have a Foundation Problem

Foundation issues can easily be one of the most expensive things you’ll deal with as a homeowner. Since literally everything rests on your foundation, you can see subtle signs that might spell trouble all over your house—you just have to know where to look. Learn more

How Long Your Appliances Will Last

Whether you’re getting ready to move into your new home with its own set of aging appliances, or you’re just taking stock of the ones you already own, it’s helpful to know just how much life is left in them. Here’s a breakdown of how long each appliance should last and how you can lengthen their lifespans. Learn more

Expert Advice

Ask The Inspector

 

How to Remove Paint from Wood

Removing paint from wood can be painstaking, but it’s definitely worth it for the results. We’ll show you the best tools and techniques to make the process as easy as possible. Learn more

Your Guide to the Humble Hammer

Few tools are more essential and multifunctional than a hammer. Hammers aren’t as simple as they look, though—there’s a variation for every job you can think of, and using the wrong one can be a waste of time and material, or even dangerous. Here’s a handy guide to some of the most common types of hammers and what they’re used for. Learn more

How to Tell If You Have Hard Water

Hard water. Soft water. If you’re not sure what the difference is, or what that difference means for your home, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll explain everything you need to know about hard water and how to tell if it’s an issue in your home. Learn more

Snapshots From The Field

What’s wrong with this picture?

Pictured here is the entrance to the attic in a brand new construction. But there appears to be something blocking the doorway—a roof truss!

When building or repairing a home, blocking any entry point should be avoided at all costs, but trusses present an especially big challenge. Since attic trusses support your home’s structure and help bear the weight of the roof, they play an endlessly important role in your home’s overall condition. Some trusses are more crucial than others, but it’s difficult to tell exactly what the “workload” of each truss is. To keep your home and family safe, you should never cut or attempt to remove a truss without a consultation from a professional engineer.

As for whether the truss blocking access to the attic in this new home will present a problem, it’s still up in the air. At worst, if any mechanical systems have been installed in the attic, it could be impossible to remove them for maintenance or replacement down the road without cutting the truss. At best, the partially obstructed access could prove an annoyance for the homeowners when it comes to placing items in the space for storage or other maintenance matters.

Maintenance Matters

Ask The Inspector

Do I need a new roof?

If you’ve asked yourself the question, “Do I need a new roof?” you might be wondering exactly how you can tell. Since it’s far better to get your roof replaced on a regular 20- to 25-year schedule than to wait until you experience leaks, we’re here to help you determine if it’s time for an overhaul. Learn more

8 Cleaning Tasks You Might Be Overlooking

Keeping a neat and tidy house is no easy task, and you’ll inevitably overlook a few much-needed cleaning duties from time to time. Here are eight oft forgotten jobs that are worth the extra effort for a healthier, happier home. Learn more

 

Monthly Trivia Question

Question: Which type of furnace typically lasts longer by up to three years, gas or electric?
Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

September 2017: Appliance Inspections

Ask The Inspector

Appliance Inspections

Q: What areas and appliances will my home inspector check in the kitchen?

Ask The Inspector

The kitchen is a room where nearly all major home systems — mechanical, electrical, and plumbing — come together. As in the bathroom and laundry area, the presence of plumbing in the kitchen makes it one room that home owners should routinely examine for leaks.

During a general home inspection, your inspector will examine the condition and functionality of many kitchen components, including the interiors of doors and windows. Your inspector will also check the countertops, cabinets and drawers, which is a good way to spot past damage. At the same time, the inspector will make note of missing drawer pulls and the operation of the sliding mechanisms.

If the dishwasher is built-in, then your home inspector will run it and check for leaks. Issues with the kitchen sink are common at pipe connections and under the basket strainer. Leaks may also appear on the countertop between the sink and wall if water has had a chance to pool behind the faucet and seep under the surface. Also, extendable sprayers and faucets are common sites for leaking and other issues.

The kitchen is generally the room with the most electrical outlets in the home. Your home inspector will check a representative number of outlets to be sure that they are grounded and wired properly. In addition, ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets are needed in the kitchen near the sink, so your inspector will note whether these are present and functioning correctly.

Be Advised

Prevent Appliance Fires

Preventing 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:

Be Advised

  • 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.recalls.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 is 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, they make up approximately half of all household fires in the United States every year. Enlist the help of experts and make kitchen safety a priority in your home.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Snapshots From The Field

  1. The drain stopper pivot rod is installed backward.
  2. Flex piping is used on drain pipes to make them easier to install.
  3. Accordion-style PVC drain pipes are not recommended.
  4. A and C.

Correct Answer D.The drain stopper pivot arm is installed backward, so the sink will not drain properly. In addition, although it makes installation easier, accordion-style PVC is not recommended for drain pipes, as it tends to clog faster and require more maintenance.

Noteworthy News

Add Curb Appeal To Your Home

Some of the most impactful home improvements are simple and easy to implement. This is why making a few upgrades creates opportunities when you’re selling a home. A little elbow grease and some bright colors can improve the look of the exterior of a house and improve the likelihood of a quick sale.

Noteworthy News

To show off a home, clean up and clean out. Make sure the lawn is mowed and edged, and overgrowth has been cleared. Sweeping the porch and walkway can make a big difference too. Also, touching up any faded or chipped paint is important, especially for the front of the house and garage.

Potted plants can make an impact with bright and vibrant foliage on a front porch or deck. Toward late summer and early fall, many of the potted plants drop drastically in price, making it inexpensive to add new color. Many hardy plants, including mums, will last well into fall with appropriate care.

If you’re putting your house on the market, or simply sprucing it up, you can make it look like new for little cost. Look into simple home improvement projects to make your home standout in your neighborhood.

Maintenance Matters

Proper Maintenance For Electrical Systems

Taking care of electrical problems starts with proper maintenance. There are some common wiring issues that can be checked for proper functioning, especially concerning outlets. Here are some problems to be on the lookout for:

MAINTENANCE MATTERS

  • Reverse polarity is simply an outlet that is wired backwards. Certain colored wires must be attached to the correct screws and problems can arise if this isn’t the case.
  • Ungrounded outlets don’t allow excess electricity to flow safely or limit static electricity buildup for electronics. Any modern three-prong outlet should be grounded, although they often aren’t.
  • Ground Fault Interruption Outlets (GFIs) are placed in rooms like the kitchen and bathroom and automatically shut off when a small ground fault is detected. These outlets can restrict shock hazards and should be installed in water-intensive areas.

A qualified inspector or electrician should be called to see if there are any problems with your outlets. With some simple maintenance and periodic testing, your outlets should provide safe electricity throughout your home.

Did You Know?

What’s a Kilowatt and Kilowatt Hour?

Each month, your electric bill shows how much you are charged for kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity — simply, how much energy you use per hour in your home. Watts are a unit of power, and one kilowatt (kW) equals 1,000 watts. The average price for electricity in the United States is 12 cents per kWh. Here are some common household appliances and how much energy they consume per hour on average:

  • Ceiling fan: 0.075 kWh per hour
  • Central air conditioning unit (3 ton/12 SEER): 3.0 kWh per hour
  • Electric furnace: 10.5 kWh per hour
  • ENERGY STAR frost-free refrigerator (17 cu. ft.): 73.0 kWh per month
  • Washing machine (hot wash/ warm rinse): 73.0 kWh per month
  • Television (40–49-inch LCD): 0.4 kWh per hour
  • Laptop computer: 0.02 to 0.05 kWh per hour
  • DVR recorder: 28.8 kWh per month
  • Xbox 360 gaming system: 0.15 kWh per hour

Sources: duke-energy.com, solaroregon.org, npr.org

Monthly Trivia Question

What are Phantom Loads?

  1. Electronics and appliances that consume power when they are turned off but still plugged in.
  2. Residual or unused energy that can be re-purposed to power electronics and appliances.
  3. The energy stored in electronics and appliances after they are unplugged.
  4. Warnings on electronic devices that indicate they need to be charged or plugged in.

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

February 2016: Kitchen Appliance Inspections

Ask The Inspector

Q. What areas and appliances will my home inspector check in the kitchen of the house I plan to buy?

A. The kitchen is a room where nearly all major home systems — mechanical, electrical and plumbing — come together. As in the bathroom and laundry room, the presence of plumbing in the kitchen makes it one room that home owners should also routinely examine for leaks.

Ask the inspector

During a general home inspection, your inspector will examine the condition and functionality of many kitchen components, including the interiors of doors and windows. Your inspector will also check the countertops, cabinets and drawers. Looking inside cabinets and drawers is a good way to spot current leaks and past damage. At the same time, the inspector can make note of missing drawer pulls and the operation of the sliding mechanisms.

Leaks are a major point of the kitchen inspection. If the dishwasher is built-in, then your home inspector will run it and check for leaks. Leaks in the kitchen sink are common at pipe connections and under the basket strainer. Leaks also may appear on the countertop between the sink and the wall if water has had a chance to pool behind the faucet and seep under the surface into the wood below. And, finally, extendable sprayers and faucets are common sites for leaks.

The kitchen is generally the room with the most electrical outlets in the home. Your home inspector will check a representative number of outlets to be sure that they are grounded and wired properly. In addition, ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets are needed in the kitchen near the sink, so your inspector will note whether those are present and functioning correctly.

Be Advised

Do You Need to Add a Vapor Barrier in Your Home?

Because 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.

Be Advised

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.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?

Snapshots From The Field

  1. The drain stopper pivot rod is designed to hold a hand towel or washcloth.
  2. Flex piping is used on drain pipes to make them easier to install.
  3. The drain stopper pivot rod is installed backward.
  4. The current position of the drain stopper pivot arm is correct to allow the sink to drain properly.
  5. Accordion-style PVC drain pipes are not recommended.
  6. C and E.

Correct Answer 6.The drain stopper pivot arm is installed backward, so the sink will not drain properly. In addition, although it makes installation easier, accordion-style PVC is not recommended for drain pipes, as it tends to clog faster and require more maintenance.

Noteworthy News

Keep Your Home Safe and Secure

While many home owners have installed home security systems, plenty can’t afford the expense of installation and monthly service fees. Here are some inexpensive tips to help you safeguard your home if you don’t have a security system.

Noteworthy News

  1. Security cameras are very useful, but even dummy cameras will deter many burglars.
  2. Even if you don’t have a security system, you can buy decals that say the premises are protected by an alarm. These stickers are available at most hardware and home improvement stores. Place them prominently on doors and windows.
  3. When you go out of town or on vacation, put mail and newspaper deliveries on hold, and ask a neighbor to watch your house. Also, refrain from announcing on social media sites that you’re going on vacation or are on vacation. It’s tempting to post those pictures right after you take them, but that lets burglars know your house is empty.
  4. It sounds like common sense to make sure all of your doors and windows are locked, but you’d be surprised how many home owners become burglary victims because of unlocked doors and windows.
  5. If you’re working on a home improvement project, never leave a ladder outside — it allows burglars to easily climb into high windows, which home owners often leave unlocked.
  6. Close your blinds and curtains when you’re away from home or sleeping to prevent snoopy burglars from scoping out your valuables through the windows.
  7. Hide your valuables in unlikely places so burglars are less likely to find them. Click here for some clever ideas.
  8. You can add layers of protection to your house with deadbolts, chain locks, slide bolt locks, window alarm kits and doorstop alarms.
  9. Use light to your advantage: Add timers to indoor lights, lamps, and radios or TVs to make it look and sound like you’re home even when you’re away. Outdoors, install dusk-to-dawn photocell motion lights that will light up at night when someone comes near your house or door.
  10. Don’t leave electronics boxes at the curb — this only lets thieves know you recently bought a computer, large TV, or other item they’d love to steal.

Maintenance Matters

Freshen Up Your Garbage Disposal

The kitchen is a source of odors in the home. Some, like apple pie, are pleasing. Others, like the odor emitting from a kitchen drain, can hit you right in the gut.

Maintenance Matters

To clean and freshen your drains, pour the juice from half a lemon and a handful of baking soda down the drain. Flush well with hot water.

Garbage disposals are another part of the sink that can get stinky. To freshen your garbage disposal:

  1. Cut a lemon in quarters
  2. Run cold water down the disposal.
  3. Turn on the disposal and drop in one piece of lemon.
  4. Follow with a second piece.
  5. Once both pieces of lemon clear the disposal, add a handful of baking soda.

Remember to keep your fingers away from moving parts at all times. While the disposal runs, use the other lemons to make refreshing drinks.

Cold water should always be used with a garbage disposal because it helps congeal the fats and grease that may be in the disposal. Warm water will liquefy these items, but could cause them to congeal and block the plumbing before they are completely flushed from the system.

Although the garbage disposal itself generally requires little maintenance, the area under the kitchen sink is prone to leaks. Every month, be sure to open the cabinet doors, remove all of the items and check carefully for dampness or drips. Stopping leaks early can prevent expensive fixes later.

If your house has a septic system, there may be something you may not have thought of: If you have a garbage disposal, you likely will have will to clean the septic system more frequently because of the build-up of solid foods and grease from the disposal.

Did You Know?

What Are Weep Holes?

Brick can be a structural component of a home, serving as the wall itself, or it can be a veneer, which is a type of siding. As a veneer, a single thickness of brick is added to the outside of a wood-framed home and serves the same purpose as any exterior siding.

One way to identify the presence of brick veneer is to look for weep holes — small openings at the bottom of brick veneer walls. Weep holes are designed to give moisture that accumulates between the home’s interior wooden wall and the exterior veneer a way out. Without weep holes for ventilation, moisture may become trapped in this cavity, causing mold, reducing the effectiveness of insulation, encouraging the formation of rot and attracting pests.

Weep holes can often be identified by open slots on a course, or row, of bricks near the foundation. The holes are typically 32 to 33 inches apart and should be kept unobstructed. It is a good idea to check and clear weep holes periodically. Do not allow dirt, mulch or broken pieces of mortar to block the holes and trap moisture inside.

From Our Blog

Mold: Friend or Foe?

Mold in general is an important part of our ecosystem. It is all around us! Is it really harmful? Why does media treat mold as a bad thing? Is it a bad thing? Should you be concerned?

Good questions. When it comes to living in a home — an enclosed environment, so to speak — the most important issue is ensuring that you manage the environment you live in to help reduce the risk of high levels of harmful or toxic molds. Mold in general needs a food source (e.g., water or elevated moisture levels) to grow and spread.

Click here to read the rest of the blog post.

Monthly Trivia Question

What does the lumber grade S4S stand for?

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