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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

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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

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Danger of CSST

¬¬¬¬There has been a good deal of concern 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 obvious.

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.

Independent Home Inspection 410-504-3751

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.

Are You Winterized?

My Grandfather and then my father seemed like they wore sweaters pretty much all year as they got older.  You could say they were ‘winterized,’ but that’s not what I’m asking.

As a youngster growing up in a non-air conditioned house, winterized meant the screens were taken off the windows and the storm windows were installed.  The furnace was serviced and the boiler lit.  If you’re a home owner already the term “winterized’ may mean something similar to you.

My concern as a home inspector though deals with those homes that have had their electricity and water turned off to save money during an extended vacancy.  Usually bank owned properties.

On more than one occasion I have scheduled an inspection for a client only to find out that the home has been ‘winterized.’  Hopefully I can find this out before the scheduled time has arrived and the inspection can be postponed until such time as the utilities have been restored.

A Home Inspector simply cannot perform a thorough inspection without running water or electricity.  Toilets can’t be flushed, faucets cannot be operated to check for proper water flow, and with nothing to drain… well you can’t very well check for proper drainage or leaks.

No electricity, no heat, hence the reason the water was turned off to start with; to prevent the pipes from freezing. So now the Home Inspector can’t check outlets, switches, light fixtures, appliances, garage door openers…the list goes on.  Wouldn’t you like to know if your heat or air conditioning actually operates?  We forget how much we depend on the daily convenience of all these things.

Despite all the precautions taken to prevent pipe freezing when the electricity is turned off (typically an anti-freeze is added to the water remaining in the pipes), a house I was contracted to inspect recently suffered broken pipes when the water was restored.  The necessary repairs created over a month of delay before a home inspection could be performed.

Now you know the reason a Home Inspector will not turn on the utilities in a ‘winterized’ home.  It is the seller’s responsibility to insure utilities are turned on at the time of inspection and make any repairs should damage occur.

Inspecting a house without these items, well. . .it’s not really inspecting a house!

Bob

Carbon Monoxide in your home?

Many of us are familiar with the poisonous fumes of automobile exhaust as carbon monoxide. One carbon atom joined to one oxygen atom its molecular abbreviation is easily recognized as the letters CO.

Now before we go too far it’s important to recognize that CO is a colorless, odorless gas. Completely invisible it is not to be confused with the visible water vapor or oil smoke associated with car exhaust. Just as important is the fact that CO is a byproduct of incomplete combustion. Any combustion, so this includes any fuel burning device or appliance in your home.

Fuels that are most often burned inside the home are heating oil, natural gas, propane, wood, and some years ago coal.

The most obvious appliance to burn any fuel is the home furnace or boiler and if you heat your home with wood then a wood stove or fireplace. Gas cooking ranges and ovens can be fueled either by natural gas or propane as can be your water heater which might alternately be fueled by oil.

Did you know that your gas dryer’s combustion exhaust is vented through the same four inch duct as the moist air? It is essential here to use a metal foil duct.

For the most part all of these devices are vented through a chimney in some way to the outdoors. A negative pressure in the home or an equipment malfunction (flue damage) can occur which does not allow the combustion gasses from these appliances to vent properly. Should this happen a working CO detector can save your families’ life.

The place to put your CO detector is in the hallway outside the bedrooms or one in each bedroom. Yes, I know the furnace is not in your bedroom, but the time when you are most susceptible to CO poisoning will be when you are asleep. While you are asleep your air handler will distribute the CO, should any occur, to the various bedrooms. This might happen in either a heating or cooling situation, you will want the earliest possible alarm so you can move your family to fresh air (outside) and call someone to correct the problem.

Take a moment this evening to consider your homes fuel burning appliances. Install a CO detector, readily available at all the lumber outlets, outside of the sleeping areas for your families’ protection.

Visit me at: http://www.IndependentHomeInspectionMD.com for more information on this and other safety items in the home.