Happy Father’s Day

My father is daily remembered for having taught me the most valuable lesson in life. A difficult lesson and not one that I recognized till years later, my father taught me the meaning of ‘tough love.’

Now many of you reading this will jump to the conclusion that my father compelled me to suffer some great hardship to learn this lesson. That was certainly a popular idea when I was growing up. Force the kids to endure the harsh realities of life.

Exactly the opposite was true. The love he taught me was tough on him, not on me. Countless times he went to bat for me and supported me despite having to sacrifice some of his own pride, personal ambition, or leisure.

After some time when I had been defiant, argumentative or downright combative and he had responded similarly, he came and apologized. Not for my behavior, I came to realize, but for his own, where he thought he had not achieved some standard he held himself to.

The lesson is simple enough. One I’ve needed with my own children and not easy to live up to. Love is sacrifice. I need to give up my own foolish pride, my selfish ambition, my wants, my time, and my self-serving indignation.

The proving ground for this may be your own family as it has been for dad and myself, but the real test is carrying this sacrifice into the world. Something dad excelled at as well, “Love your neighbor as thyself.”

Honesty

In this election year we have been besieged with troubling allegations of dishonesty and corruption at the highest levels of government. We have become all too familiar and acceptant of the low standards commonly attributed to politicians.

At Independent Home Inspection honesty is job number one. I report things only as they are without the exaggeration we so often encounter.

Even new homes have some defects. All defects can be fixed. My pledge to you is to simply present them honestly for your evaluation. You will then be in a better position to decide how to proceed.

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Garage Door Safety

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You may not have given your garage door much thought lately. You press a button and it opens, another and it closes. Have you ever lost power to your door and had to open it by hand? Do you know how to do that?

Your garage door could be quite heavy. Older overhead doors were made entirely of wood. Newer doors are usually aluminum or fiberglass.

There will be a way to disconnect your overhead door from the opening apparatus so you can open it manually. This is usually a short cord and handle hanging from the track about half way to the door. pulling it disengages the door chain or cable and the door is then free to be raised.

Overhead door remote operation should be checked occasionally to ensure safe operation. The ‘electric eye’ operation to prevent door closure is fairly obvious. Recommended height for this beam is 4-6 inches off the floor. Too low and it may shine under your car and allow operation when you are only partially in the garage.

Less obvious is the automatic reversing feature required of overhead doors. This will reverse the door when it strikes an object while descending. This will not prevent damage or injury but will prevent entrapment of the object or person.

The Garage Door Manufacturers Association recommends testing the reverse function with a 2×4 laid across the door opening. Adjustment is usually a simple operation, consult the manufacturers manual for detailed specific information.
Children should be cautioned or forbidden as necessary to prevent dangerous overhead door operation.

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Smoke Alarms

The idea behind smoke alarms is fairly simple. If you are alerted by the smoke before he flame reaches your location, you will have more time to escape.

Multiple smoke alarms that can signal each other can alert you even before the smoke reaches your location. These new alarms are ‘interconnected.’ This can be done either with an actual wire or with a dedicated RF (radio frequency) signal.

Many of the homes with fatal home fires were found to have smoke alarms with dead batteries. Either the batteries were simply to weak to operate the alarm or had been removed in anticipation of replacement and simply forgotten.

To resolve this problem newer smoke alarms are supplied with ten year batteries and can be hardwired to the homes electrical system.

Hardwiring and interconnection is a code requirement of new construction in most areas. This presents far more time to get your family safely away from the house in the event that becomes necessary.

A licensing requirement for Baltimore County rental properties requires hardwired and interconnected smoke alarms regardless of the age of the property. Since many of these properties will be retrofitted for smoke alarms the wiring requirement becomes much simpler by the use of ‘radio linked’ alarms.

Combination alarms that detect carbon monoxide (CO) gases as well as smoke are available to accommodate homes that require them. Interconnection provides the same advantage of time as do the smoke alarms.

Don’t become a statistic. Install a smoke alarm if your home does not already have one. Become familiar with how it works and how to test and service it.ymf-151

4 Quick Tips to Save Energy

As energy costs rise each of us can benefit from reduced usage. Some of the more obvious tips are the first to be forgotten.

As children mom and dad always had us turn out lights when not in use. Today we can also benefit from low energy lighting such as CFL and LED bulbs. Tip No. 1 is to use low energy lighting wherever possible. A fringe benefit of LED lighting outdoors is it attracts less bugs (low heat).

Clean air filters for your HVAC unit will allow it to run at peak efficiency. Tape or magic marker on your filter duct the exact filter size so you’ll know it when you need it. Tip No. 2 is to buy more than filters than you need and you’ll have spares handy to change more often.

Turn the thermostat down when your not home. Programmable thermostats are inexpensive and easily installed (low voltage). Make sure you get the thermostat appropriate for your heating unit (heat pumps have special requirements). Tip No. 3 is to program your thermostat to lower heat or cooling when your not home and during the night.

While you’ll only wear warmer clothes during the cold weather your house will benefit from insulation all year long. Unconditioned spaces (not heated or cooled) should be insulated from the rest of your home. Typical unconditioned spaces are attics, basements or crawl spaces, and garages. Tip No. 4 is to install or add insulation to bring you house to the recommended R value for your region.

Montgomery County Radon Law

Montgomery County Bill 31-15 will take effect on October 1st of this year requiring radon testing for certain residential Real Estate transactions.

In an article published last fall the ‘Bethesda Beat’ discusses some of the ramifications of this bill.

The article erroneously suggests, however, that radon test kits can be had for as little as $15-25 at hardware and lumber stores. Had the authors taken the time to actually read the instructions with these kits, they would have known that an additional $50-75 fee is necessary to submit these kits to a lab by mail.

For a Real Estate transaction the time required to test and mail the kits may not accommodate the settlement schedule. Radon Testing for a Real Estate transaction will require a minimum two day (48 hour) short term test. A professional Radon Testing company, like myself, can provide results the same day that testing concludes.

Bob Kenney
Independent Home Inspection

Danger of CSST

¬¬¬¬There has been a great deal of talk lately about a material called CSST. The letters stand for Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing. The name accurately describes what it is, but its use for natural gas (or propane) lines in your home may not be so clear.

Gas is traditionally piped through the house with ‘black pipe.’ This is a steel pipe that is not galvanized and must be threaded to accommodate junctions and elbows. The threading is an arduous time consuming process done on the job site.

CSST was developed to be flexible and can be run to appliances throughout the house without multiple threaded junctions. Ends are terminated with suitable threaded connectors that are easily installed. The product greatly simplifies gas plumbing in new homes.

The ‘danger’ occurs when lightning energizes a CSST line and arcs to an adjacent grounded metal surface. The arc readily punctures the thin walls of the CSST and ignites the gas now leaking out of the puncture.

Bear in mind that direct lightning strikes can severely damage a home with or without CSST. Certain geographical areas of the US are more prone to lightning storms, and seasonal prevalence of lightning varies across the country.

Proper installation of CSST requires ‘bonding’ (create an electrical path) the CSST to the homes electrical ground. The intended purpose of bonding is to prevent the CSST from becoming the lightnings electrical path by diverting the energy to ground.

Maryland law requires a statement in a home inspection report to suggest that only a licensed Master Electrician can verify a properly bonded CSST system.

While this is certainly good advice, it bears mentioning that proven fires caused by CSST represent a fraction of one percent of all the current installations. To date no class action lawsuits against CSST manufacturers have been successful in proving their case.

One reputable law firm on the internet advises that, “Since August 2011, it has been reported that at least 140 fires involving lightning and CSST have occurred across the United States.” Continued reading on this site reveals that there are more than six million homes across the United States that are equipped with CSST. You do the math.

There is no question that CSST should be properly installed and bonded, but don’t let its presence scare you away from a perfectly good home.