Andy's Eagle Eye Home Inspections LLC - Licensed/Serving, Polk County / Osceola County / Orange County
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House Numbers

  Ever wonder about your house number? Often, the previous owner installed the number and the new owner never had to think about it, leaving them clueless as to why it was placed where it is or why a particular color or size was chosen. These numbers are more important than you probably realize, and a lot of thought goes into making sure they are visible.
House numbers should be clear enough so that police, the fire department, paramedics, etc., can quickly locate properties in an emergency. Numbers are often the only way that first-responders can identify their intended destinations. Your city might even have laws requiring your house number to be of a certain size or color. Also, think of the poor pizza delivery guy who runs late because he can’t find your house, or frustrated party guests who have to knock on neighbors’ doors before they find yours.
 
Consider the following recommendations:

  • The numbers should be large, within reason. Try to make them at least 5 or 6 inches tall. Smaller numbers may not be visible from the street if you have a large front yard. Replacement house numbers can be purchased from hardware stores and on line.
  • The numbers should be of a color that contrasts with their background. Reflective numbers are great because they are easier to see at night. Brown on black or white on yellow may look swanky but are bad choices for the purpose.
  • Try not to put house numbers behind any trees, shrubs, or anything else that may obscure their view from the street.
  • Make sure that the number faces the street that is listed in the house’s address. It does emergency workers no good if the house number faces a different street than the one the workers are traveling on.
  • Is your house not visible from the road? Then the number should be placed at the driveway's entrance.
  • The next time you hire an InterNACHI inspector, ask him whether your numbers are adequate. Inspectors should know the laws in your area and be able to offer you a professional opinion. 

Keep in mind that you may need to make adjustments.
Even if your house number is currently adequate. Andy's Eagle Eye Home Inspections LLC, believes that it might need adjustment in the future. The following are common reasons why you may need to adjust your number in the future:

  • The addresses assigned to houses by the city occasionally change, and you must adjust your numbers accordingly.
  • The trees or shrubs in front of your house have grown so much that the number is no longer visible.
  • House numbers installed in the winter may be visible during that season, but become blocked by budding vegetation by spring or summer.

Maintain your house numbers, along with the rest of your home's exterior.

  • Keep your numbers clean. They may not be reflective or contrasting if they are covered in mud.  
  • Trim back vegetation as needed. 
  • Don’t let piles of snow obscure the numbers. If this happens, raise the number so this situation does not happen again.

 
In summary, house numbers serve a critical function for emergency personnel and should be clearly displayed.


Andy's Eagle Eye Home Inspections LLC
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Home Winterization
 
Winterization is the process of preparing a home for the harsh conditions of winter. It is usually performed in the fall before snow and excessive cold have arrived. Winterization protects against damage due to bursting water pipes, and from heat loss due to openings in the building envelope. Inspectors should know how winterization works and be able to pass this information on to their clients.
Plumbing System

Water damage caused by bursting pipes during cold weather can be devastating. A ruptured pipe will release water and not stop until someone shuts off the water. If no one is home to do this, an enormous quantity of water can flood a house and cause thousands of dollars' worth of damage. Even during very small ruptures or ruptures that are stopped quickly, water leakage can result in mold and property damage. Broken water pipes can be costly to repair.

  • All exposed water pipes in cold areas, such as attics, garages, and crawlspaces, should be insulated. Foam or fiberglass insulation can be purchased at most hardware stores.  Insulation should cover the entirety of a pipe.
  • Plastic is more tolerant of cold expansion than copper or steel. Houses in colder climates might benefit from the exclusive use of approved plastic plumbing. 
  • Water supply for exterior pipes should be shut off from inside the house and then drained.
  • Sprinkler systems are particularly vulnerable to cracking due to cold-weather expansion. In addition to turning them, it helps to purge the system of any remaining water with compressed air.
  • Homeowners should be aware that much of the plumbing system travels through areas that are significantly colder than the rest of the house. Because it is impossible to monitor the temperature of every portion of the plumbing system, indoor air temperature should be kept high enough throughout the winter to keep pipes in any unheated places from freezing.

Leaks in the Building Envelope
Leaky window frames, door frames, and electrical outlets can allow warm air to escape into the outdoors.

  • Windows that leak will allow cold air into the home. Feeling for drafts with a hand or watching for horizontal smoke from an incense stick are a few easy ways to inspect for leaks. They can be repaired with tape or caulk.
  • On a breezy day, a homeowner can walk through the house and find far more leaks than they knew existed. Leaks are most likely in areas where a seam exists between two or more building materials.

Insulation

  • Because hot air rises into the attic, a disproportionately larger amount of heat is lost there than in other parts of the house. Like a winter hat that keeps a head warm, adequate attic insulation will prevent warm indoor air from escaping. Attic insulation should be 12 inches thick in cold climates.
  • Storm doors and windows should be installed to insulate the house and protect against bad weather.

Heating Systems
 
The heating system is used most during the winter so it’s a good idea to make sure that it works before it’s desperately needed. The following inspection and maintenance tips can be of some help to homeowners:

  • Test the furnace by raising the temperature on the thermostat. If it does not respond to the adjustment quickly it might be broken.
  • Replace the air filter if it’s dirty.
  • If the furnace is equipped with an oil or propane tank, the tank should be full.

Cooling Systems

  • Use a hose to remove leaves and other debris from the outdoor condensing unit, if the home is equipped with one. Protect the unit with a breathable waterproof cover to prevent rusting and freezing of its components.
  • Remove and store window air conditioners when they are no longer needed. Cold air can damage their components and enter the house through openings between the air conditioner and the windowpane.
  • Ceiling fans can be reversed in order to warm air trapped beneath the ceiling to recirculate. A fan has been reversed if it spins clockwise.

Chimneys and Fireplaces

  • The chimney should be inspected for nesting animals trying to escape the cold. Squirrels and raccoons have been known to enter chimneys for this reason.
  • The damper should open and close with ease. Smoke should rise up the chimney when the damper is open. If it doesn't, this means that there is an obstruction in the chimney that must be cleared before the fireplace can be used.
  • A chimney-cleaning service professional should clean the chimney if it has not been cleaned for several years.
  • The damper should be closed when the fireplace is not in use. An open damper might not be as obvious to the homeowner as an open window, but it can allow a significant amount of warm air to escape.
  • Glass doors can be installed in fireplaces and wood stoves to provide an extra layer of insulation.

Roofs

  • If debris is left in gutters, it can get wet and freeze, permitting the formation of ice dams that prevent water from draining. This added weight has the potential to cause damage to gutters. Also, trapped water in the gutter can enter the house and lead to the growth of mold. For these reasons, leaves, pine needles, and all other debris must be cleared from gutters. This can be done by hand or with a hose.
  • Missing shingles should be replaced.

Landscape

  • Patio furniture should be covered.
  • If there is a deck, it might need an extra coat of sealer.

Adequate winterization is especially crucial for homes that are left unoccupied during the winter. This sometimes happens when homeowners who own multiple properties leave one home vacant for months at a time while they occupy their summer homes. Foreclosed homes are sometimes left unoccupied, as well. The heat may be shut off in vacant homes in order to save money. Such homes must be winterized in order to prevent catastrophic building damage.
 
In addition to the information above, InterNACHI advises the following measures to prepare an unoccupied home for the winter:

  • Winterize toilets by emptying them completely. Antifreeze can be poured into toilets and other plumbing fixtures.   
  • Winterize faucets by opening them and leaving them open.
  • Water tanks and pumps need to be drained completely.
  • Drain all water from indoor and outdoor plumbing.
  • Unplug all non-essential electrical appliances, especially the refrigerator. If no electrical appliances are needed, electricity can be shut off at the main breaker. 

 
In summary, home winterization is a collection of preventative measures designed to protect homes against damage caused by cold temperatures. These measures should be performed in the fall, before it gets cold enough for damage to occur. Indoor plumbing is probably the most critical area to consider when preparing a home for winter, although other systems should not be ignored.



 
Tree Dangers  
  Although trees are generally a desirable feature of home landscaping, they can pose a threat to buildings in a number of different ways. Inspectors may want to educate themselves about tree dangers so that they can inform their clients about potentially dangerous situations.  
Tree Roots and Foundations  Contrary to popular belief, InterNACHI has found that tree roots cannot normally pierce through a building's foundation. They can, however, damage a foundation in the following ways:

  • Roots can sometimes penetrate a building's foundation through pre-existing cracks.  
  • Large root systems that extend beneath a house can cause foundation uplift.
  • Roots can leech water from the soil beneath foundations, causing the structures to settle and sink unevenly.

Other Dangers:

  • Trees that are too close to buildings may be fire hazards. Soffit vents provide easy access for flames to enter a house.
  • Leaves and broken branches can clog gutters, potentially causing ice dams or water penetration into the building.
  • Old, damaged or otherwise weak trees may fall and endanger lives and property. Large, weak branches, too, are a hazard, especially if weighed down by ice. 
  • Tree roots can potentially penetrate underground drainage pipes, especially when they leak. Water that leaks from a drainage or sanitary pipe can encourage root growth in the direction of the leak, where the roots may eventually enter the pipe and obstruct its flow.
  • Trees may be used by insects and rodents to gain access to the building. 
  • Falling trees and branches can topple power lines and communication lines.


Structural Defects in Trees
.  Trees with structural defects likely to cause failure to all or part of a tree can damage nearby buildings. The following are indications that a tree has a structural defect:

  • dead twigs, dead branches, or small, off-color leaves;
  • species-specific defects. Some species of maple, ash and pear often form weak branch unions, while some other fast-growing species of maple, aspen, ailanthus and willow are weak-wooded and prone to breakage at a relatively young age;
  • cankers, which are localized areas on branches or stems of a tree where the bark is sunken or missing. Cankers are caused by wounding or disease. The presence of a canker increases the chance that the stem will break near the canker. A tree with a canker that encompasses more than half of the tree's circumference may be hazardous even if the exposed wood appears healthy;
  • hollowed trunks;
  • Advanced decay (wood that is soft, punky or crumbly, or a cavity where the wood is missing) can create a serious hazard. Evidence of fungal activity, such as mushrooms, conks and brackets growing on root flares, stems or branches are indications of advanced decay. A tree usually decays from the inside out, eventually forming a cavity, but sound wood is also added to the outside of the tree as it grows. Trees with sound outer wood shells may be relatively safe, but this depends on the ratio of sound-to-decayed wood, and other defects that might be present; 
  • cracks, which are deep splits through the bark, extending into the wood of the tree. Cracks are very dangerous because they indicate that the tree is presently failing;
  • V-shaped forks. Elm, oak, maple, yellow poplar and willow are especially prone to breakage at weak forks;
  • The tree leans at more than 15 degrees from vertical. Generally, trees bent to this degree should be removed if they pose a danger. Trees that have grown in a leaning orientation are not as hazardous as trees that were originally straight but subsequently developed a lean due to wind or root damage. Large trees that have tipped in intense winds seldom recover. The general growth-form of the tree and any uplifted soil on the side of the tree opposite the lean provide clues as to when the lean developed.


Tips that inspectors can pass on to their clients:

  • Binoculars are helpful for examining the higher portions of tall trees for damage. 
  • When planting trees, they should be kept far from the house. It is impossible for the homeowner to reliably predict how far the roots will spread, and trees that are too close to a building may be a fire hazard. 
  • Do not damage roots. In addition to providing nutrition for the tree, roots anchor the tree to the ground. Trees with damaged roots are more likely to lean and topple than trees with healthy roots. Vehicles are capable of damaging a tree's root system.
  • Dead trees within the range of a house should be removed. If they are not removed, the small twigs will fall first, followed by the larger branches, and eventually the trunk. This process can take several years.
  • Inspect your trees periodically for hazards, especially in large, old trees. Every tree likely to have a problem should be inspected from bottom to top. Look for signs of decay and continue up the trunk toward the crown, noting anything that might indicate a potential hazard.

In summary, trees that are too close to buildings can potentially cause structural damage.



Protect Your Property From
Water Damage.
Water may be essential to life, but, as a destructive force, water can diminish the value of your home or building. Homes as well as commercial buildings can suffer water damage that results in increased maintenance costs, a decrease in the value of the property, lowered productivity, and potential liability associated with a decline in indoor air quality. The best way to protect against this potential loss is to ensure that the building components which enclose the structure, known as the building envelope, are water-resistant. Also, you will want to ensure that manufacturing processes, if present, do not allow excess water to accumulate. Finally, make sure that the plumbing and ventilation systems, which can be quite complicated in buildings, operate efficiently and are well-maintained. This article provides some basic steps for identifying and eliminating potentially damaging excess moisture.
 
Identify and Repair All Leaks and Cracks
 
The following are common building-related sources of water intrusion:

  • windows and doors: Check for leaks around your windows, storefront systems and doors.
  • roof: Improper drainage systems and roof sloping reduce roof life and become a primary source of moisture intrusion. Leaks are also common around vents for exhaust or plumbing, rooftop air-conditioning units, or other specialized equipment.
  • foundation and exterior walls: Seal any cracks and holes in exterior walls, joints and foundations. These often develop as a naturally occurring byproduct of differential soil settlement.
  • plumbing: Check for leaking plumbing fixtures, dripping pipes (including fire sprinkler systems), clogged drains (both interior and exterior), defective water drainage systems and damaged manufacturing equipment.
  • ventilation, heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems: Numerous types, some very sophisticated, are a crucial component to maintaining a healthy, comfortable work environment. They are comprised of a number of components (including chilled water piping and condensation drains) that can directly contribute to excessive moisture in the work environment. In addition, in humid climates, one of the functions of the system is to reduce the ambient air moisture level (relative humidity) throughout the building. An improperly operating HVAC system will not perform this function.


Prevent Water Intrusion Through Good
Inspection and Maintenance Programs
 
Hire a qualified InterNACHI inspector to perform an inspection of the following elements of your building to ensure that they remain in good condition:

  • flashings and sealants: Flashing, which is typically a thin metal strip found around doors, windows and roofs, are designed to prevent water intrusion in spaces where two building materials come together. Sealants and caulking are specifically applied to prevent moisture intrusion at building joints. Both must be maintained and in good condition.
  • vents: All vents should have appropriate hoods, exhaust to the exterior, and be in good working order.
  • Review the use of manufacturing equipment that may include water for processing or cooling. Ensure wastewater drains adequately away, with no spillage. Check for condensation around hot or cold materials or heat-transfer equipment.
  • HVAC systems are much more complicated incommercial buildings. Check for leakage in supply and return water lines, pumps, air handlers and other components. Drain lines should be clean and clear of obstructions. Ductwork should be insulated to prevent condensation on exterior surfaces.
  • humidity: Except in specialized facilities, the relative humidity in your building should be between 30% and 50%. Condensation on windows, wet stains on walls and ceilings, and musty smells are signs that relative humidity may be high. If you are concerned about the humidity level in your building, consult with a mechanical engineer, contractor or air-conditioning repair company to determine if your HVAC system is properly sized and in good working order. A mechanical engineer should be consulted when renovations to interior spaces take place.
  • moist areas: Regularly clean off, then dry all surfaces where moisture frequently collects.
  • expansion joints: Expansion joints are materials between bricks, pipes and other building materials that absorb movement. If expansion joints are not in good condition, water intrusion can occur.

Protection From Water Damage

  • interior finish materials: Replace drywall, plaster, carpet and stained or water-damaged ceiling tiles. These are not only good evidence of a moisture intrusion problem, but can lead to deterioration of the work environment, if they remain over time.
  • exterior walls: Exterior walls are generally comprised of a number of materials combined into a wall assembly. When properly designed and constructed, the assembly is the first line of defense between water and the interior of your building. It is essential that they be maintained properly (including regular refinishing and/or resealing with the correct materials).
  • storage areas: Storage areas should be kept clean.  Allow air to circulate to prevent potential moisture accumulation.

Act Quickly if  Water Intrusion Occurs
 
Label shut-off valves so that the water supply can be easily closed in the event of a plumbing leak. If water intrusion does occur, you can minimize the damage by addressing the problem quickly and thoroughly. Immediately remove standing water and all moist materials, and consult with a building professional. Should your building become damaged by a catastrophic event, such as fire, flood or storm, take appropriate action to prevent further water damage, once it is safe to do so. This may include boarding up damaged windows, covering a damaged roof with plastic sheeting, and/or removing wet materials and supplies. Fast action on your part will help minimize the time and expense for repairs, resulting in a faster recovery.




15 Tools That Every Homeowner Should Own.
 
The following items are essential tools but this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to ask an InterNACHI inspector during your next inspection about other tools that you might find useful.
 
1.  Plunger

A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most disturbing problems that you will face. With a plunger on hand, however, you can usually remedy these troubling plumbing issues relatively quickly. It is best to have two plungers -- one for the sink and one for the toilet.
2.  Combination Wrench Set
One end of a combination wrench set is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes and because both varieties are widely used, so you’ll need both sets of wrenches. For the most control and leverage, always pull the wrench toward you, instead of pushing on it. Also, avoid over-tightening.

3.  Slip-Joint Pliers
Use slip-joint pliers to grab hold of a nail, a nut, a bolt, and much more. These types of pliers are versatile because of the jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many types of objects. There is also a built-in slip-joint, which allows the user to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.

4.  Adjustable Wrench

Adjustable wrenches are somewhat awkward to use and can damage a bolt or nut if they are not handled properly. However, adjustable wrenches are ideal for situations where you need two wrenches of the same size. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging the bolt or nut.

5.  Caulking Gun

Caulking is the process of sealing up cracks and gaps in various structures and certain types of piping. Caulking can provide noise mitigation and thermal insulation, and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.
 
6.  Flashlight

None of the tools in this list is of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem, and solution, are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.
 
7.  Tape Measure

Measuring house projects requires a tape measure, not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although 25 feet is best.  Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy. 
 
8.  Hacksaw
These are great for cutting metal objects such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Hacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they’ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.

9. Torpedo Level
Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal or vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in viewfinder must be exactly in the middle, not merely close.

10.  Safety Glasses / Goggles
For all tasks involving a hammer or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals.

11.  Claw Hammer
A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own.  Use it to drive and remove nails, to pry wood loose from the house, and in combination with other tools. They come in a variety of sizes, although a 16-ounce hammer is the best all-purpose choice.

12.  Screwdriver Set
It is best to have four screwdrivers: a small and large version of both a flat-head and a Phillips- head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers are sometimes convenient, but they're no substitute.  Manual screwdrivers can reach into more places and they are less likely to damage the screw.

13.  Wire Cutters

Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires and small nails.The “side-cutting” (unlike the stronger "end-cutting" style) style is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.

14.  Respirator / Safety Mask
While paints and other coatings have become less toxic (and lead-free) over time, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally getting them in your lungs. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty or dirty environments. Disposable masks usually come in packs of 10 and should be thrown away after use. Full and half-face respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of very fine particles that ordinary facemasks will not not stop.

15.  Duct Tape

This tape is extremely strong and adaptable. Originally, it was widely used to make temporary repairs to many types of military equipment. Today, it’s one of the key items specified for home emergency kits because it is water-resistant and extremely sticky.
 
In summary, the above is a list of tools that every homeowner should have.


10 Easy Ways to Save
Energy in Your Home.
   Most people don’t know how easy it is to make their homes run on less energy, and here at InterNACHI, we want to change that. Drastic reductions in heating, cooling and electricity costs can be accomplished through very simple changes, most of which homeowners can do themselves. Of course, for homeowners who want their homes to take advantage of the most up-to-date knowledge and systems in home energy-efficiency, InterNACHI energy auditors can perform in-depth testing to find the best energy solutions for your particular home.  Why make your home more energy efficient? Here are a few good reasons:

  • Federal, state, utility and local jurisdictions' financial incentives, such as tax breaks, are very advantageous in most parts of the U.S.
  • It saves money. It costs less to power a home that has been converted to be more energy-efficient.
  • It increases indoor comfort levels.
  • It reduces our impact on climate change. Many scientists now believe that excessive energy consumption contributes significantly to global warming.
  • It reduces pollution. Conventional power production introduces pollutants that find their way into the air, soil and water supplies.


1. Find better ways to heat and cool your house.
 As much as half of the energy used in homes goes toward heating and cooling. The following are a few ways that energy bills can be reduced through adjustments to the heating and cooling systems:

  • Install a ceiling fan. Ceiling fans can be used in place of air conditioners, which require a large amount of energy.
  • Periodically replace air filters in air conditioners and heaters.
  • Set thermostats to an appropriate temperature. Specifically, they should be turned down at night and when no one is home. In most homes, about 2% of the heating bill will be saved for each degree that the thermostat is lowered for at least eight hours each day. Turning down the thermostat from 75° F to 70°F, for example, saves about 10% on heating costs.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat saves money by allowing heating and cooling appliances to be automatically turned down during times that no one is home and at night. Programmable thermostats contain no mercury and, in some climate zones, can save up to $150 per year in energy costs.
  • Install a wood stove or a pellet stove. These are more efficient sources of heat than furnaces.
  • At night, curtains drawn over windows will better insulate the room.


2. Install a tankless water heater.
Demand water heaters (tankless or instantaneous) provide hot water only as it is needed. They don't produce the standby energy losses associated with storage water heaters, which will save on energy costs. Demand water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. Therefore, they avoid the standby heat losses required by traditional storage water heaters. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. Either a gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, demand water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. You don't need to wait for a storage tank to fill up with enough hot water.
3. Replace incandescent lights.
The average household dedicates 11% of its energy budget to lighting. Traditional incandescent lights convert approximately only 10% of the energy they consume into light, while the rest becomes heat. The use of new lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), can reduce energy use required by lighting by 50% to 75%. Advances in lighting controls offer further energy savings by reducing the amount of time lights are on but not being used. Here are some facts about CFLs and LEDs:

  • CFLs use 75% less energy and last about 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
  • LEDs last even longer than CFLs and consume less energy.
  • LEDs have no moving parts and, unlike CFLs, they contain no mercury.


4. Seal and insulate your home.
Sealing and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy efficient -– and you can do it yourself. A tightly sealed home can improve comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility bills. An InterNACHI energy auditor can be hired to assess envelope leakage and recommend fixes that will dramatically increase comfort and energy savings. The following are some common places where leakage may occur:

  • electrical outlets;
  • mail slots;
  • around pipes and wires;
  • wall- or window-mounted air conditioners;
  • attic hatches;
  • fireplace dampers;
  • weatherstripping around doors;
  • baseboards;
  • window frames; and
  • switch plates.

Because hot air rises, air leaks are most likely to occur in the attic. Homeowners can perform a variety of repairs and maintenance to their attics that save them money on cooling and heating, such as: 

  • Plug the large holes. Locations in the attic where leakage is most likely to be the greatest are where walls meet the attic floor, behind and under attic knee walls, and in dropped-ceiling areas.
  • Seal the small holes. You can easily do this by looking for areas where the insulation is darkened. Darkened insulation is a result of dusty interior air being filtered by insulation before leaking through small holes in the building envelope. In cold weather, you may see frosty areas in the insulation caused by warm, moist air condensing and then freezing as it hits the cold attic air. In warmer weather, you’ll find water staining in these same areas. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the openings around plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires. Cover the areas with insulation after the caulk is dry.
  • Seal up the attic access panel with weatherstripping. You can cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid foam board insulation the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic access panel. If you have pull-down attic stairs or an attic door, these should be sealed in a similar manner.


5. Install efficient shower heads and toilets.
The following systems can be installed to conserve water usage in homes:

  • low-flow shower heads. They are available in different flow rates, and some have a pause button which shuts off the water while the bather lathers up;
  • low-flow toilets. Toilets consume 30% to 40% of the total water used in homes, making them the biggest water users. Replacing an older 3.5-gallon toilet with a modern, low-flow 1.6-gallon toilet can reduce usage an average of two gallons-per-flush (GPF), saving 12,000 gallons of water per year. Low-flow toilets usually have "1.6 GPF" marked on the bowl behind the seat or inside the tank;
  • vacuum-assist toilets. These types of toilets have a vacuum chamber which uses a siphon action to suck air from the trap beneath the bowl, allowing it to quickly fill with water to clear waste. Vacuum toilets are relatively quiet; and
  • dual-flush toilets. Dual-flush toilets have been used in Europe and Australia for years, and are now gaining in popularity in the U.S. Dual-flush toilets let you choose between a 1-gallon (or less) flush for liquid waste, and a 1.6-gallon flush for solid waste. Dual-flush 1.6-GPF toilets reduce water consumption by an additional 30%.


6. Use appliances and electronics responsibly.
Appliances and electronics account for about 20% of household energy bills in a typical U.S. home. The following are tips that will reduce the required energy of electronics and appliances:

  • Refrigerators and freezers should not be located near the stove, dishwasher or heat vents, or exposed to direct sunlight. Exposure to warm areas will force them to use more energy to remain cool.  
  • Computers should be shut off when not in use. If unattended computers must be left on, their monitors should be shut off. According to some studies, computers account for approximately 3% of all energy consumption in the United States.
  • Use efficient “Energy Star”-rated appliances and electronics. These devices, approved by the DOE and the EPA’s Energy Star Program, include TVs, home theater systems, DVD players, CD players, receivers, speakers and more. According to the EPA, if just 10% of homes used energy-efficient appliances, it would reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of 1.7 million acres of trees.
  • Chargers, such as those for laptops and cell phones, consume energy when they are plugged in. When they are not connected to electronics, chargers should be unplugged.
  • Laptop computers consume considerably less electricity than desktop computers.


7. Install daylighting as an alternative to electrical lighting.
Daylighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate the home's interior. It can be achieved using the following approaches:

  • skylights. It’s important that they be double-pane or they may not be cost-effective. Flashing skylights correctly is key to avoiding leaks;
  • lightshelves. Light shelves are passive devices designed to bounce light deep into a building. They may be interior or exterior. Light shelves can introduce light into a space up to 2½ times the distance from the floor to the top of the window, and advanced light shelves may introduce four times that amount;
  • clerestory windows.  Clerestory windows are short, wide windows set high on the wall. Protected from the summer sun by the roof overhang, they allow winter sun to shine through for natural lighting and warmth; and 
  • light tubes.  Light tubes use a special lens designed to amplify low-level light and reduce light intensity from the midday sun. Sunlight is channeled through a tube coated with a highly reflective material, then enters the living space through a diffuser designed to distribute light evenly.


8. Insulate windows and doors.
About one-third of the home's total heat loss usually occurs through windows and doors. The following are ways to reduce energy lost through windows and doors:

  • Seal all window edges and cracks with rope caulk. This is the cheapest and simplest option.
  • Windows can be weatherstripped with a special lining that is inserted between the window and the frame. For doors, weatherstrip around the whole perimeter to ensure a tight seal when closed. Install quality door sweeps on the bottom of the doors, if they aren't already in place.
  • Install storm windows at windows with only single panes. A removable glass frame can be installed over an existing window.
  • If existing windows have rotted or damaged wood, cracked glass, missing putty, poorly fitting sashes, or locks that don't work, they should be repaired or replaced.


9. Cook smart.
An enormous amount of energy is wasted while cooking. The following recommendations and statistics illustrate less wasteful ways of cooking:

  • Convection ovens are more efficient that conventional ovens. They use fans to force hot air to circulate more evenly, thereby allowing food to be cooked at a lower temperature. Convection ovens use approximately 20% less electricity than conventional ovens.
  • Microwave ovens consume approximately 80% less energy than conventional ovens.
  • Pans should be placed on the correctly-sized heating element or flame. 
  • Lids make food heat more quickly than pans that do not have lids.
  • Pressure cookers reduce cooking time dramatically.
  • When using conventional ovens, food should be placed on the top rack. The top rack is hotter and will cook food faster.


10. Change the way you wash your clothes.

  • Do not use the “half load” setting on your washer. Wait until you have a full load of clothes, as the “half load” setting saves less than half of the water and energy.
  • Avoid using high-temperature settings when clothes are not that dirty. Water that is 140 degrees uses far more energy than 103 degrees for a "warm" setting, but 140 degrees isn’t that much better for washing purposes.
  • Clean the lint trap before you use the dryer, every time. Not only is excess lint a fire hazard, but it will prolong the amount of time required for your clothes to dry.
  • If possible, air-dry your clothes on lines and racks.
  • Spin-dry or wring clothes out before putting them into a dryer. 

Homeowners who take the initiative to make these changes usually discover that the energy savings are more than worth the effort. 



Barbeque Safety.
 
With barbeque season, Homeowners should heed the following safety precautions in order to keep their families and property safe.

  • Propane grills present an enormous fire hazard, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is aware of more than 500 fires that result annually from their misuse or malfunction. The following precautions are recommended specifically when using propane grills:
    • Store propane tanks outdoors and never near the grill or any other heat source. In addition, never store or transport them in your car’s trunk.
    • Make sure to completely turn off the gas after you have finished, or when you are changing the tank. Even a small gas leak can cause a deadly explosion. 
    • Check for damage to a tank before refilling it, and only buy propane from reputable suppliers.
    • Never use a propane barbecue grill on a terrace, balcony or roof, as this is dangerous and illegal.
    • No more than two 20-pound propane tanks are allowed on the property of a one- or two-family home.
    • To inspect for a leak, spray a soapy solution over the connections and watch for bubbles. If you see evidence of a leak, reconnect the components and try again. If bubbles persist, replace the leaking parts before using the grill.
    • Make sure connections are secure before turning on the gas, especially if the grill hasn’t been used in months. The most dangerous time to use a propane grill is at the beginning of the barbeque season.
    • Ignite a propane grill with the lid open, not closed. Propane can accumulate beneath a closed lid and explode.
    • When finished, turn off the gas first, and then the controls. This way, residual gas in the pipe will be used up.


  • Charcoal grills pose a serious poisoning threat due to the venting of carbon monoxide (CO). The CPSC estimates that 20 people die annually from accidentally ingesting CO from charcoal grills.  These grills can also be a potential fire hazard. Follow these precautions when using charcoal grills:
    • Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even if the area is ventilated. CO is colorless and odorless, and you will not know you are in danger until it is too late.
    • Use only barbeque starter fluid to start the grill, and don’t add the fluid to an open flame. It is possible for the flame to follow the fluid’s path back to the container as you're holding it.
    • Let the fluid soak into the coals for a minute before igniting them to allow explosive vapors to dissipate.
    • Charcoal grills are permitted on terraces and balconies only if there is at least 10 feet of clearance from the building, and a water source immediately nearby, such as a hose (or 4 gallons of water).
    • Be careful not to spill any fluid on yourself, and stand back when igniting the grill. Keep the charcoal lighter fluid container at a safe distance from the grill.
    • When cleaning the grill, dispose of the ashes in a metal container with a tight lid, and add water. Do not remove the ashes until they have fully cooled.
    • Fill the base of the grill with charcoal to a depth of no more than 2 inches.


  • Electric grills are probably safer than propane and charcoal grills, but safety precautions need to be used with them as well. Follow these tips when using electric grills:
    • Do not use lighter fluid or any other combustible materials. 
    • When using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the amperage required by the grill. The cord should be unplugged when not in use, and out of a busy foot path to prevent tripping.
    • As always, follow the manufacturer's instructions.


Safety Recommendations for General Grill Use

  • Always make sure that the grill is used in a safe place, where kids and pets won't touch or bump into it. Keep in mind that the grill will still be hot after you finish cooking, and anyone coming into contact with it could be burned.
  • If you use a grill lighter, make sure you don't leave it lying around where children can reach it. They will quickly learn how to use it.
  • Never leave the grill unattended, as this is generally when accidents happen.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby.
  • Ensure that the grill is completely cooled before moving it or placing it back in storage.
  • Ensure that the grill is only used on a flat surface that cannot burn, and well away from any shed, trees or shrubs.
  • Clean out the grease and other debris in the grill periodically. Be sure to look for rust or other signs of deterioration.
  • Don't wear loose clothing that might catch fire while you're cooking.
  • Use long-handled barbecue tools and flame-resistant oven mitts.
  • Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill; they are flammable!

In summary, homeowners should exercise caution when using any kind of grill, as they can harm life and property in numerous ways.



Swimming Pool Barriers.
 
An outdoor swimming pool barrier is a physical obstacle that surrounds an outdoor pool so that pool access is limited to adults. “Pool,” in this context, includes outdoor hot tubs and spas. This barrier is often referred to as “pool fencing,” although walls made from brick or stone can be acceptable as well. Children should not be able to get under, over, or through the barrier.
 
Why are pool barriers important?
 
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), approximately 250 children drown every year in residential swimming pools. In states where swimming pools are open year-round, such as Florida, Arizona and California, drowning is the leading cause of death in and around the home for children under 5 years old. Many of these deaths result when young children gain unsupervised access to swimming pools due to inadequate pool fencing.
 
Inspectors may want to cite visible defects in pool barriers or recommend that they be evaluated by professionals, especially if their clients have small children. Inspectors should be careful, however, to make their clients aware that defect detection does not constitute inspection. It is better for clients to know that an inspector has not provided a service than to allow them to assume that the service has been provided. Pool inspection is outside of the scope of InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice. Inspectors should disclaim pool inspection wherever pools are present, if they have not provided this service.
 
Codes concerning pool barriers vary by jurisdiction. Some states, such as Arizona, Florida and California, have compiled their own laws concerning pool barriers, while other locations rely on the International Residential Code (IRC). The CPSC has thoroughly researched pool-related hazards and has compiled its own set of codes for pool fencing. The Australian government, too, has placed tremendous emphasis on the development of pool barrier codes in an attempt to reduce the number of deaths due to drowning in that country. The code below is taken mostly from the 2006 edition of the IRC and is substantially similar to the other codes previously mentioned. A few helpful parts of the Australian code are listed as well.
 
2006 International Building Code Pool Barrier Requirements:
AG105.2 Outdoor swimming pool. An outdoor swimming pool, including an in-ground, above-ground or on-ground pool, hot tub or spa, shall be surrounded by a barrier which shall comply with the following: 1.  The top of the barrier shall be at least 48 inches (1,219 mm) above grade measured on the side of the barrier which faces away from the swimming pool. The maximum vertical clearance between grade and the bottom of the barrier shall be 2 inches (51 mm) measured on the side of the barrier which faces away from the swimming pool. Where the top of the pool structure is above grade, such as an above-ground pool, the barrier may be at ground level, such as the pool structure, or mounted on top of the pool structure. Where the barrier is mounted on top of the pool structure, the maximum vertical clearance between the top of the pool structure and the bottom of the barrier shall be 4 inches (102 mm). 2.  Openings in the barrier shall not allow passage of a 4-inch-diameter (102 mm) sphere. 3.  Solid barriers which do not have openings, such as a masonry or stone wall, shall not contain indentations or protrusions, except for normal construction tolerances and tooled masonry joints.  4.  Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members and the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is less than 45 inches (1,143 mm), the horizontal members shall be located on the swimming pool side of the fence. Spacing between vertical members shall not exceed 1-3/4 inches (44 mm) in width. Where there are decorative cutouts within vertical members, spacing within the cutouts shall not exceed 1-3/4 inches (44 mm) in width 5. Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members and the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is 45 inches (1,143 mm) or more, spacing between vertical members shall not exceed 4 inches (102 mm). Where there are decorative cutouts within vertical members, spacing within the cutouts shall not exceed 1-3/4 inches (44 mm) in width. 6. Maximum mesh size for chain link fences shall be a 2-1/4 inch (57 mm) square unless the fence has slats fastened at the top or the bottom which reduce the openings to not more than 1-1/4 inches (44 mm). 7.  Where the barrier is composed of diagonal members, such as a lattice fence, the maximum opening formed by the diagonal members shall not be more than 1-3/4 inches (44 mm). 8.  Access gates shall comply with the requirements of Section AG105.2, Items 1 through 7, and shall be equipped to accommodate a locking device. Pedestrian access gates shall open outward, away from the pool, and shall be self-closing and have a self-latching device. Gates other than pedestrian access gates shall have a self-latching device. Where the release mechanism of the self-latching device is located less than 54 inches (1,372 mm) from the bottom of the gate, the release mechanism and openings shall comply with the following:    8.1 The release mechanism shall be located on the pool-side of the gate at least 3 inches (76 mm) below the top of the gate; and    8.2 The gate and barrier shall have no opening larger than 1/2-inch (13 mm) within 18 inches (457 mm) of the release mechanism. 9. Where a wall of a dwelling serves as part of the barrier, one of the following conditions shall be met:    9.1. The pool shall be equipped with a powered safety cover in compliance with ASTM F 1346; or    9.2. Doors with direct access to the pool through that wall shall be equipped with an alarm which produces an audible warning when the door and/or its screen, if present, are opened. The alarm shall be listed in accordance with UL 2017. The audible alarm shall activate within seven seconds and  sound continuously for a minimum of 30 seconds after the door and/or its screen, if present, are opened and be capable of being heard throughout the house during normal household activities. The alarm shall automatically reset under all conditions. The alarm system shall be equipped with a manual means, such as touch pad or switch, to temporarily de-activate the alarm for a single opening. De-activation shall last for not more than 15 seconds. The de-activation switch(es) shall be located at least 54 inches (1,372 mm) above the threshold of the door; or   9.3. Other means of protection, such as self-closing doors with self-latching devices, which are approved by the governing body, shall be acceptable, so long as the degree of protection afforded is not less than the protection afforded by Item 9.1 or 9.2 described above.10. Where an above-ground pool structure is used as a barrier, or where the barrier is mounted on top of the pool structure, and the means of access is a ladder or steps:    10.1. The ladder or steps shall be capable of being secured, locked or removed to prevent access; or   10.2. The ladder or steps shall be surrounded by a barrier which meets the requirements of Section AG105.2, Items 1 through 9. When the ladder or steps are secured, locked or removed, any opening created shall not allow the passage of a 4-inch-diameter (102 mm) sphere.
AG105.3 Indoor swimming pool.
Walls surrounding an indoor swimming pool shall comply with Section AG105.2, Item 9.
AG105.4 Prohibited locations. Barriers shall be located to prohibit permanent structures, equipment or similar objects from being used to climb them.
AG105.5 Barrier exceptions. Spas or hot tubs with a safety cover, which complies with ASTM F 1346, as listed in Section AG107, shall be exempt from the provisions of this appendix.
The 1994 edition of Australia’s Building Code offers the following suggestions concerning fence gaps:
"If a fence has gaps, they should be of such a size that a young child is prevented from slipping through, but the gaps also need to have dimensions such that any part of a young child's body cannot be trapped."
Currently, the IRC makes no mention of regulations for “danger” or CPR signs that should be contained on pool barriers. The Australian Building Code offers the following concerning CPR signs:
"The CPR sign needs to be durable, and placed in a conspicuous place near the pool. It must detail the procedures necessary to undertake cardiopulmonary resuscitation."
In summary, it is helpful, although not required, for inspectors to be able to spot defects in pool fencing.












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