Maintenance & Safety
At Qualitex Home Inspections we put the safety of our client and their investment first. As such we have put some maintenance and safety tips together for the benefit of our clients. As time progresses we may add more tips to this document, but will not make it too long where it can become a challenge to digest.
Below are a few tips we have put together for our clients. The selected topics are reflections on some things commonly found while doing inspections. These tips are just some of the things home owners need to do on a regular basis or pay attention to in maintaining the home and its systems, and also to keep the home’s occupants safe. In most cases the home owners can do themselves,
but some things maybe done better if done by a professional depending on complexities.
Outside the home
Exposed wood, such as around windows, and around doors, must be painted to prevent deterioration of the wood.
Do not store firewood up against the walls of the home. Reason is, this will result in moisture being held close to the home which is not good for the home. A second reason is, it will also tend to harbor insects which may eventually find their way into the home. This could be a real and serious problem in areas that are considered termite prone areas.
Ensure above ground downspouts discharge away from the home. Reason is, you do not want water settling around the foundation of the home. Water settling around the home may find its way inside eventually. This is true no matter type of construction technique used on the home.
Where there are shrubs up against the walls of the home (which we are not fans of, but we recognize that some people are), care should be taken so the landscaping will encourage water to move away from the home, and not settle against the wall. Reason previously given.
Vines Growing on Walls
Some home owners think this makes the house looks good…true. But on the flip side it can be detrimental to the home. Vines growing on walls should be avoided. Once again, moisture being held close to the wall is the issue. This is true of masonry walls, and wood walls, but obviously worse for wood than masonry.
Inside the Home
We recommend replacing smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors immediately after moving in the home. Reason is, you cannot tell how long ago the previously home owners installed these devices. Therefore, you cannot be sure if they are working correctly. Also any smoke detector you currently own should be replaced at least every 10 years. Like everything else, they do wear out over tiome and maybe become unreliable.
Smoke Detector Locations
When installing new smoke detectors, avoid installing them too close to the stove, or immediately outside a bathroom door. In both cases this will lead to frequent false alarms. Follow the recommendation of the fire department on the placement of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. We suggest placing smoke detectors on every floor of the home including the basement. We recommend carbon monoxide detectors be placed near sleeping quarters. If the fire department suggests doing differently than what we suggest here, then follow the fire department’s advice. It is not possible for your family to be too safe.
Smoke Detector Care
After new smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are installed, batteries should be replaced each time all the clocks in the home are re-adjusted. That is from EST to DST, or vice versa. Do not apply paint to smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. By doing so you would render them ineffective, and putting your family at risk.
Many homes have humidifiers attached to their furnaces. For modern construction techniques they offer no benefit to the home itself. However, during the dry winter months they do provide comfort to the occupants. There are several types: drum, trickle, and atomizing steam units. Residentially, drum and trickle are the most common. Where there are humidifiers, the unit should not be installed over the furnace. Reason is, a failure may cause water to get unto the furnaces heat exchanger causing it to rust out. This reduces the life of the furnace, and put the family at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Humidifiers (particularly the drum type) require regular maintenance. The trickle type requires less maintenance than the drum type.
Humidifiers have dampers. This damper must be closed in the cooling season (summer), and open during the heating (winter) season.
Furnace and Air Conditioner
Heating/Cooling plant (i.e. furnace and air conditioner) has filters that the home owner will need to replace from time to time. The cheapest filters are meant to be replaced monthly, but the more expensive one are recommended by the manufacturer to be replaced every three months. Some models are even washable. The purpose of the filter is to minimize the circulation of pollutants through the system and through the home. Irrespective of the type you have, make sure you both know the correct size, and have fresh un-used ones stored. Replace when necessary or recommended based the type you have. A dirty filter reduces the efficiency of the HVAC system, over work the fan, and can cause frost build up on the air conditioner coil.
A central air conditioner is a two part system: an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. Above the furnace is the evaporator coil. The outdoor unit houses the condenser and compressor. There are two things that are important and doable by the home owner in so far as the outdoor unit is concerned. They are as follows:
- Ensure the outdoor unit is level (within 10 degrees).
- Ensure the outdoor unit has breathing space. That is keep brushes and shrubs at lest 3 feet from the unit.
The majority of modern homes in Canada use forced air heating systems. So during the heating season, heat is generated by the furnace and delivered to the living spaces via ducts and registers. During the cooling season, these same ducts and registers delivers cool air from the A/C to the living spaces. So the ducts are used in both winter and summer. The question as to when or how frequently the ducts should be cleaned may arise. After all, we all get calls from duct cleaning companies offering these services weekly if not daily.
Two scenarios exist where we at Qualitex Home Inspection feel a home owner should definitely have their ducts cleaned:
|Duct Cleaning (when required)|
|Reason 1||If there has recently been some renovation or construction work done in the home||Rationale
Renovation and construction work generates a tremendous amount of dust and debris. Some of this will undoubtedly enter the duct system. The duct system is a closed loop system so the debris will just keep circulating through the home and breathed in by the home’s occupants. This can go on for a long time.
|Reason 2||You have recently moved into an existing home||Rationale
Simply put, you do not know what the last home owner did. You do not know their habits or when last they actually cleaned the ducts. Also all duct cleaning companies are not equal. So even if it was done last week, you do not know if it was done properly and completely.
As to how frequently should the ducts be cleaned? The Environmental Protection Agency has no data on this. However, we feel the number of occupants in the home (especially pets), and overall traffic in and out of the home both play significant roles. Lifestyle or habits of the occupants may also have some effect. Therefore, there is no one size fits all rule here.
When cleaning the ducts and registers, the furnace (i.e the fan) should be cleaned also. A dirty fan is less efficient than a clean one. That is because the volume of air moved across the heat exchanger (in furnace during the heating season), or the evaporator coil (in the A/C during the cooling season) may be reduced if the fan is dirty. Significantly reduced air flow can cause frost build up when the A/C is on, leading to some other problems. So cleaning the whole system has two benefits: greater efficiency, and potentially a longer fan life. Greater efficiency and longer life of your heating/cooling plant means you get to keep more of your hard earned dollars.
For more information on duct cleaning, or Indoor Air Quality, check with the EPA website.
Energy Saving Tips
Where energy conservation is concerned, there are a few things a home owner can do that will not involve major expenditures, or a contractor to do. One example would be replacing old inefficient incandescent bulbs with newer more efficient choices. The other example would be replacing old appliances with more modern energy efficient choices. Either will certainly result in noticeable hydro savings.
Use energy efficient bulbs where possible. Technology has given us a number of choices: regular florescent tubes, Compact Florescent Lamps (CFL), Light Emitting Diodes (LED). See the chart near the end of this section.
|Regular Incandescent||Tube Florescent||CFL||LED||Halogen|
|Cost (purchasing)||Very low (less than $1 each)||About $3 to $5 each||About $5 each||Varies depending on type: $5 to $10)||About $8 to $10 each|
|Cost (operating)||High||Very good||very good||Excellent: The least of all types||High|
|Lifespan||Varies widely 1,000-8,000 hours||about 10,000 hours||8,000-10,000 hours||25,000 hours||Good|
|Dimmable||Yes||No||Check label||Check label||Yes|
|Light quality or choices||Poor||Many||Soft white & cool white||Usually warm (2700K to cool (3000K)||Quality good, but not many choices|
A note on halogen bulbs:
Halogen bulbs are really incandescent bulbs. They contain halogen gas inside, and that’s how they got their name. They are slightly more efficient than a regular bulb, but not by much. They produce a better quality light when compared with a regular incandescent bulb, and have about the same lifespan.
Two notes of caution worth mentioning about halogen bulbs.
- Halogen bulbs operate at very hot temperatures
- Halogen bulbs must not be handled by the bare hands. Reason: body oils coming into contact with the glass will result in premature failure of the bulb because of their very high operating temperatures
Energy efficient appliances – Look for the Energy Star label
New appliances like refrigerators and freezers now carry the Energy Star label. This means these appliances meet some preset standard relating to the energy they consume. Generally speaking, a fridge or freezer that is over 15 years old most likely will not meet this standard. Newer fridges and freezers are better insulated and overall better designed. So they are able to operate at a lower cost while providing the same or greater storage capacity.
We do not inspect appliances as part of a Standard Home inspection. However, we do see situations where the energy label on new refrigerators, are less than one half of the label on the older 18 year old fridge that they are supposed to replace. So replacing these will certainly help if the fridge or freezer is 15 years or older.
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