Category Archives: Save energy

Smoke Alarms Re-visited

There are four distinct requirements for Baltimore County Rental Inspection smoke detectors. This continues to be a topic of confusion for owners who are trying to comply with the law. Maryland code for residential properties has never been retro-active. This means that new code only applies to new construction. However, because you are re-purposing the property for rent the licensing laws in Baltimore County are in addition to and supersede the current code.

Section A of the inspection sheet details the specific requirements for smoke alarms. The first paragraph applies to all properties, while the subsequent categories define the locations for various property configurations.

The first requirement is that ALL smoke alarms in a rental property must be hardwired. That is, they are powered by the house wiring with a battery backup in case of a power failure. There are no exceptions!

The second requirement is interconnection of multiple smoke alarms. This is not to be confused with hardwiring. Interconnection of smoke alarms allows them to all respond simultaneously to smoke at a single location. Smoke that originates in the basement will set off all the alarms to alert you no matter where in the home you are. This has the advantage of allowing you more time to exit the property.

Interconnection of smoke alarms can be accomplished in two different ways. One is to simply connect a physical wire between each of the smoke alarms. This may not be practical in situations where the wire must traverse multiple floors such as a town house.

A newer method of interconnection is by radio signal. A coded signal is transmitted between smoke alarm stations by radio waves when a smoke alert is needed. Wiring is greatly simplified by this method and transmitted signals do not interfere with other devices in the home. Note that this method only accomplishes interconnection and does not replace the need to hardwire the smoke alarms for power.

The third requirement for smoke alarms in Baltimore County Rental properties is that they be less than ten years old. Testing has been done by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) that shows that smoke alarm sensitivity is significantly reduced after ten years. Diminished sensitivity of smoke alarms will reduce the time you have to exit the premises and increase the risk of harmful smoke exposure or death. Smoke alarms ten years or older must be replaced.

Hardwired smoke alarms, as required by Baltimore County Rental licensing, can never be replaced by battery only alarms.

The final requirement for rental properties in Baltimore County is that all installed smoke alarms be from the same manufacturer to insure proper interconnectivity.

I hope this clarifies the Baltimore County Smoke alarm requirements. I have run into a few situations where the installer has complied with the new smoke alarm law, but not with the Baltimore County Rental regulations. Feel free to call Independent Home Inspection if you have any questions.

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Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality has become increasingly important to homeowners. Year round temperature control inside homes results in windows that are seldom opened and air that is continuously recycled. Skyrocketing energy costs have accelerated the sealing off of homes from the outdoor environment.

Many homeowners believe that their air handler filters can play a larger role in the quality of air inside the home. Towards this end they spend money on expensive furnace filters in the hope that that will significantly improve the air quality in their home.

To affect air quality in your home you will need an air handler that is capable of 10 to 15 air changes per hour. Typical residential air handlers average only 4 to 7.5 air changes per hour if run continuously and may only operate twenty minutes or less out of every hour on auto.

After reading above you now know that your system is not optimized to affect indoor air quality. You may have made maters worse by installing a “high efficiency” filter. A filter that has high efficiency (catches more and smaller dirt) has a low air flow. It is simply more restrictive. Low air flow will result in inadequate cooling or heating.

In order to efficiently cool or heat your home your system needs optimum air flow. this is achieved with a less restrictive filter. The purpose of the filter in your system is to protect the air handler components only, not to affect air quality.

Save your money and buy the least restrictive filter for your system. In the long run you will save on energy costs as well simply because your system will run less to do more work!

An Independent Home Inspection can save you money over the life of your home.

 

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Radon Testing

January is National Action Month for Radon Awareness.  Do you know the Radon levels in your home?  Do you know the effects of long term exposure to you and your children.

Independent Home Inspection is offering a 20% reduction in our fee for Radon tests with or without a home inspection.  This includes testing those homes that already have a Radon mitigation system.  Testing homes with mitigation systems installed insures their continued effectiveness at reducing Radon to safe levels.

You’re wise to check your new home for Radon before you buy. The EPA says all homes can have Radon. This includes new homes as well as older homes. No mitigation systems installed in your neighborhood may simply mean those homes haven’t been tested.

So, what results do you need to make a decision about Radon levels. The answer is simply the average concentration over the testing period. This includes short term tests, as in a Real Estate transaction, or long term tests that might be done to monitor the effectiveness of an installed mitigation system. The EPA has set 4.0 piCul as the action level for a single family home. At or above that level requires a mitigation system to reduce harmful Radon levels.

Independent Home Inspection uses an electret based Radon monitoring system to measure your homes Radon level. Electrets have an initial electrical charge that decays at a known rate in the presence of Radon. I use annually calibrated equipment to measure the electret charge before and after exposure and a computer generates the result on the basis of the measured differences.

Electret systems advantages are many. They require no power source during testing. They continuously respond to Radon exposure rather than sampling (other methods sample hourly or ½ hourly). Results do not require a lab and accurately indicate the Radon average over the testing period. In fact this method of Radon testing has been determined to be the most accurate system available today.

Independent Home Inspection is available to test your homes Radon either with a home inspection or alone. Call or text today for availability and cost: 410-504-3751

www.IndependentHomeInspectionMD.com

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.”

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.

Mothers day

M is for the million things she gave me

O means only that she’s growing old

T is for the tears she shed to save me

H is for her heart of purest gold

E is for her eyes with love light shining

R means right and right she’ll always be

Put them all together they spell mother

A word that means the world to me
Howard Johnson

“Love is patient, love is kind, it does not boast…”

Mom didn’t teach me the words, she showed me.

Mom didn’t drive when we were little, but she would of taken the streetcar across country if the need arose. She rode the streetcar to care for her parents, rode it again to care for her aunts. Welcomed each of the grandparents in turn into the home as it became necessary.

Mom came from an ‘extended’ family. They were always extending themselves to others in need and so mom extended ours. With three boys and two girls it didn’t need a lot of extension.

Our family, past and present, ancestors and descendants always shared that secret ingredient that Mom excelled at, LOVE.

Building Codes

Building codes represent minimum safe standards of design and construction required by a local municipality. Differences in code from one location to another reflect the varying needs and demographics of each area.

As a home inspector my concern for building codes is not for their enforcement, but rather the safety standards they represent. As a home buyer you will want to insure that your family is protected by the most current safety standards.

Housing needs have changed over the years as technologies and materials have changed. In the post WWII building boom no one could have anticipated the vast array of electrical appliances we enjoy today. As a result houses built during those years, current in their time, no longer have a sufficient quantity or style of electrical outlets. Heating systems and insulation that was adequate when fuel was cheap are no longer satisfactory today. Building codes change to reflect the changing needs of modern homeowners.

Many of these systems are invisible to the average home-buyer. Investigating and calling out these disparities is what a good home inspection is all about. It provides a benchmark for comfortable and economical ownership.

No, we don’t enforce building codes, but you will want your family to benefit from current accepted safety standards and the local building codes provide just that reference.