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The Home Inspectors Perspective

An ongoing series of informational blog entries.

Infrared Imaging

October 28, 2019

What is infrared thermography? It is the use of special cameras or imagers to capture an image of the radiation emitted by objects. Since everything above a temperature of absolute zero emits radiation, and the amount of radiation emitted is directly related to temperature, we can use IR thermography to measure temperature and see variations in temperature in the objects around us.

In home inspections we are often not as concerned by the temperature itself as much as the difference in temperature between objects. Let’s say you take an image of an electrical service panel. The exact temperature could vary with the ambient air temperature so it may not be useful to know what the exact temperature of the components of the enclosure is. But let’s say that one breaker or one conductor was very different from the others by 50 to 70 degrees. Now we have something we need to drill down and see what’s going on. Since we know that resistance causes heat, we should be looking for connections that are not tight like breakers that are not snug fitting on buss bars or conductors that are not tight or corroded at their connection points. We might need to check the load on a circuit, or the size of the conductor. Our experience will direct us to where to start.

Plumbing leaks and moisture problems can be located when conditions are right. If we can create a temperature difference, we can see it with the imager. You might not be able to see moisture in a wall or a broken pipe in the floor if the temperature has equalized in surrounding materials. If you suspect a leaking pipe in a concrete floor, warm the floor and run water through nearby fixtures. The water flowing through the pipe will be colder than the surrounding concrete and it will be detectable. Same with hot water. IR cameras are not magic, you just have to put some thought into their use.

Turning on the furnace to warm the building while running exhaust fans to create negative pressure in the building envelope will allow you to see the cold air coming in around doors, windows, heating registers, receptacles and other wall penetrations. Ever felt a cold draft across your feet and legs while relaxing on the couch. Receptacle outlets were not sealed during construction unless your home is very new. So cold air that sneaks into a wall cavity because the wind outside created a pressure difference in the wall can find a path across your wife’s legs while she’s trying to enjoy a movie. Yeah, that’s not going to go well for you. We can help find the draft with infrared images.

Not all home inspectors use thermal images. I don’t use thermal imaging for every square foot of a home inspection. I do use thermal imaging to back other findings or to eliminate the need for destructive testing. If you have a specific concern about a building or you have questions about inspecting with infrared imagers, contact me, I may be able to help.

 


                                                                            

The Home Inspectors Perspective

An ongoing series of informational blog entries.

October is National Energy Awareness Month

October 13, 2019

October is here and where I live summer is gone except for a few afternoons that reach into the eighties. That means it’s time to change the batteries in the smoke alarms, clean the rain gutters, and seal up anything that shouldn’t get wet.

It is the perfect time to walk around your house and have a good look for caulking that needs to be replaced and paint that the summer sun baked to the point of peeling. Any building material that is not waterproof and exposed needs to be taken care of now. Water is the root cause of most problems that slowly eat away at a building. Spray foam, caulking and paint are cheap compared to rotten wood and mold.

While you’re looking around the outside, get a couple of tubes of caulking and some spray foam to seal any air leaks to the inside of the building too. A very small opening can allow conditioned air to escape and unconditioned air and pests to enter your home. You might be surprised at how much difference in comfort and energy use can be made by sealing drafts around receptacle outlets, switches, and lighting fixtures. If you need advice on how to seal air leaks in your home we can help.

Everyone wants to live in a comfortable home and no one wants to pay more for energy than they need to. I live in a home built in 1920 and before dual pane windows and insulation were installed it was almost unbearable compared to newer homes. Building science has evolved substantially in the last few years. Even if your home was built in the last fifteen years, there are probably improvements that can improve comfort and energy efficiency.

It is also a very good idea to service HVAC systems now. A service and new filter will keep your furnace working longer. I often see units that were installed new and never touched again until there was a failure. They never fail when they are not in use. You don’t want to find out that your furnace had a problem that could have been fixed during the mild weather but is now down when it is freezing outside. The cost of having a new unit installed in the middle of December is not going to be budget friendly. If you are still rockin that 25-30 year old heater, you might be surprised to find out that newer units are so much more efficient that the energy savings often pay for them in ten years or less.

It is going to be darker earlier soon. How is your interior lighting? New LED lighting puts out an amazing amount of light while using less electricity and creating less heat. It is well documented that low light in the home can cause eye strain when reading, as well as contributing to depression and vitamin D deficiencies. Adequate lighting is known to improve energy levels and mood contributing to overall comfort and happiness in your home.

Take advantage of the greatness of fall and give your home some love while taking your comfort to the next level.

                                                                            

The Home Inspectors Perspective

An ongoing series of informational blog entries.

Landscaping

August 3, 2019

If you live in a hot climate like I do, planting trees and shrubs to shade the house can be a good idea. A deciduous tree on the south side of a home will be full of leaves and give shade in the summer and drop the leaves and allow the warmth of the sun to heat the building in the winter. If you don’t mind raking leaves, it’s win-win.

Often, as a home inspector, I find trees and shrubs growing against or over a house. This is not a good situation. Trees against shingles will cause physical damage to the roof that is costly to repair. Shrubs and bushes against the house can hide moisture problems and give pests an easy way into your home. Builders spend a lot of time making a foundation more difficult for pest entry, then we plant things so close to the house that there are natural ladders leading right into any opening they can find. When bushes are planted against walls, then we water them to keep them green, those same bushes block air flow to the house and slow air movement preventing any chance of drying.

Moisture is a huge factor in building deterioration. Drying has to occur to prevent pests and rot. Bugs need a drink of water, don’t give them one inside your house. Wet walls are very attractive to termites, ants, and cockroaches not to mention wood destroying fungi. The walls were built to dry if we don’t do things to hamper the process.

Remember, your landscaping plan should consider the mature size not what plantings look like when they are small. Pruning plants to keep them from touching building materials and preventing drying should be part of regular home maintenance.

Your home is usually the largest investment you will ever make (except for kids, especially if they eat like mine). A little time spent planning and pruning will cause your investment to grow. Ignoring your landscape will cost you in repair bills.

The Home Inspectors Perspective

An ongoing series of informational blog entries.

Should sellers have a home inspection done?

June 11, 2017

Good buyer’s agents always recommend a home inspection to their clients. A home inspector goes through a house with a fine tooth inspection and helps to bring the health and safety hazards to the surface.

After a home inspection is completed the buyers and their agent review the report and decide to proceed one of 3 ways.

One: If the deficiencies are minimal enough they can repair them after the close of escrow.

Two: If the repairs are of a more serious concern they can choose to go back to the seller’s and request the repairs be completed at the seller’s cost prior to the close of escrow.

Or three: The buyers can request that the seller reduce the price of the home based on the needed repairs noted by the home inspector.

Options 2 and 3 can greatly delay the escrow process and the value of your home sale. Who can really afford that?

But what if………

What if, as a seller, you took the initiative to get a home inspection BEFORE you listed your home so that you had a heads up of what health and safety concerns could delay your escrow and possibly even lower the value of your house? In the end, we are talking about your profit after all! Often times the repairs are important but the cost to correct them is minimal. Having them done before you list your home can help show buyers that you are honest, pro-active and care about a swift and smooth transaction as much as they do!

Know the details of your home before buyers do and add one more layer of confidence towards selling your investment at the highest rate of return!

The Home Inspectors Perspective

An ongoing series of informational blog entries.

Water Heaters

December 17, 2018

I am often asked during a home inspection, "What about the water heater?" Water heaters are expensive and seem to fail without warning.

During an inspection we look for indicators like rust, gurgling noises, and location to try to determine the life expectancy of water heaters. The truth is they rust from the inside out and sometimes you can't see a failure that is about to happen. Manufacturers and Inspector's Associations publish life cycle data as guidelines to help but they can be way off depending on water quality and other factors. We take all the information we can gather to inform buyers about the condition of the water heater.

Sometimes I'm surprised at the age of water heaters i see. Two of my inspections last week had water heaters still going well beyond what anyone could have predicted. The unit in the photo above was original in a home built in 1988 and still quietly just doing its job delivering hot water. The other one was a 42 years old and still working like new. In contrast, there was also the house with a seven year old unit that had rust stains and water below it signalling that it was about to deliver a cold morning shower or a flooded garage.

When I inspect a water heater, i will use the date of manufacture, listen for noises that are not normal, use a flashlight and mirror if needed, and see if it delivers hot water. That is just the list for the appliance itself. Strapping, and plumbing to and from the water heater are also inspected.

I have heard of Inspectors getting stung by a failed water heater a short time after an inspection. The truth is it could happen to any one of us. Some things you just can't detect. i will try to find and report every defect.

For most people a home purchase is the biggest investment they will ever make. Get inspections! Go look at the house more than once and at different times of day. Use the information to make a good investment because surprises are for birthdays!