• Health Effects From Biological Contaminants

     

    Some biological contaminants trigger allergic reactions, including hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic rhinitis, and some types of asthma. Infectious illnesses, such as influenza, measles and chicken pox, are transmitted through the air. Molds and mildews release disease-causing toxins. Symptoms of health problems caused by biological pollutants include sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, dizziness, lethargy, fever and digestive problems.

    Allergic reactions occur only after repeated exposure to a specific biological allergen. However, that reaction may occur immediately upon re-exposure, or after multiple exposures over time. As a result, people who have noticed only mild allergic reactions, or no reactions at all, may suddenly find themselves very sensitive to particular allergens. Some diseases, such as humidifier fever, are associated with exposure to toxins from microorganisms that can grow in large buildings’ ventilation systems. However, these diseases can also be traced to micro-organisms that grow in home heating and cooling systems and humidifiers. Children, elderly people, and people with breathing problems, allergies, and lung diseases are particularly susceptible to disease-causing biological agents in the indoor air. Mold, dust mites, pet dander, and pest droppings or body parts can trigger asthma. Biological contaminants, including molds and pollens, can cause allergic reactions for a significant portion of the population. Tuberculosis, measles, staphylococcus infections, Legionella and influenza are known to be transmitted by air.

    Combustion Pollutants

    Combustion appliances are those which burn fuels for warmth, cooking or decorative purposes. Typical fuels are gas, both natural and liquefied petroleum (LP), kerosene, oil, coal and wood. Examples of the appliances are space heaters, ranges, ovens, stoves, furnaces, fireplaces, water heaters, and clothes dryers. These appliances are usually safe. However, under certain conditions, these appliances can produce combustion pollutants that can damage your health, or even kill you.

    What are Combustion Pollutants?

    Combustion pollutants are gases and particles that come from burning materials. The combustion pollutants come from burning fuels in appliances. The types and amounts of pollutants produced depend on the type of appliance, how well the appliance is installed, maintained and vented, and the kind of fuel it uses. Some of the common pollutants produced from burning these fuels are carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particles, and sulfur dioxide. Particles can have hazardous chemicals attached to them. Other pollutants that can be produced by some appliances are unburned hydrocarbons and aldehydes. Combustion always produces water vapor. Water vapor is not usually considered a pollutant, but it can act as one. It can result in high humidity and wet surfaces.

    Where do Combustion Pollutants Come From?

    Combustion pollutants found indoors include outdoor air, tobacco smoke, exhaust from car and lawn mower internal combustion engines, and some hobby activities, such as welding, woodburning and soldering. Combustion pollutants can also come from vented or unvented combustion appliances. These appliances include space heaters, gas ranges and ovens, furnaces, gas water heaters, gas clothes dryers, wood and coal-burning stoves, and fireplaces. As a group, these are called “combustion appliances.”

    Appliances

    Vented appliances are appliances designed to be used with a duct, chimney, pipe, or other device that carries the combustion pollutants outside the home. These appliances can release large amounts of pollutants directly into your home if a vent is not properly installed, or is blocked or leaking. Unvented appliances do not vent to the outside, so they release combustion pollutants directly into the home. Many of these problems are hard for a homeowner to identify. A professional is needed.

    What are the Health Effects of Combustion Pollutants?

    The health effects of combustion pollutants range from headaches and breathing difficulties to death. The health effects may show up immediately after exposure, or occur after being exposed to the pollutants for a long time. The effects depend on the type and amount of pollutants, and the length of time of exposure to them. They also depend upon several factors related to the exposed person. These include the age and any existing health problems. There are still some questions about the level of pollutants or the period of exposure needed to produce specific health effects. Further studies to better define the release of pollutants from combustion appliances and their health effects are needed.

    The sections below discuss health problems associated with some common combustion pollutants. These pollutants include carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, particles, and sulfur dioxide. Even if you are healthy, high levels of carbon monoxide can kill you within a short time. The health effects of the other pollutants are generally more subtle and are more likely to affect susceptible people. It is always a good idea to reduce exposure to combustion pollutants by using and maintaining combustion appliances properly.

    Carbon Monoxide:

    Each year, according to CPSC, there are more than 200 carbon monoxide deaths related to the use of all types of combustion appliances in the home. Exposure to carbon monoxide reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Often, a person or an entire family may not recognize that carbon monoxide is poisoning them. The chemical is odorless, and some of the symptoms are similar to common illnesses. This is particularly dangerous because carbon monoxide’s deadly effects will not be recognized until it is too late to take action against them. Carbon monoxide exposures especially affect unborn babies, infants, and people with anemia or a history of heart disease. Breathing low levels of the chemical can cause fatigue and increase chest pain in people with chronic heart disease. Breathing higher levels of carbon monoxide causes symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and weakness in healthy people. Carbon monoxide also causes sleepiness, nausea, vomiting, confusion and disorientation. At very high levels, it causes loss of consciousness and death.

    Nitrogen Dioxide:

    Breathing high levels of nitrogen dioxide causes irritation of the respiratory tract and causes shortness of breath. Compared to healthy people, children, and individuals with respiratory illnesses such as asthma, may be more susceptible to the effects of nitrogen dioxide. Some studies have shown that children may have more colds and flu when exposed to low levels of nitrogen dioxide. When people with asthma inhale low levels of nitrogen dioxide while exercising, their lung airways can narrow and react more to inhaled materials.

    Particles:

    Particles suspended in the air can cause eye, nose, throat and lung irritation. They can increase respiratory symptoms, especially in people with chronic lung disease or heart problems. Certain chemicals attached to particles may cause lung cancer, if they are inhaled. The risk of lung cancer increases with the amount and length of exposure. The health effects from inhaling particles depend upon many factors, including the size of the particle and its chemical make-up.

    Sulfur Dioxide:

    Sulfur dioxide at low levels of exposure can cause eye, nose, and respiratory tract irritation. At high exposure levels, it causes the lung airways to narrow. This causes wheezing, chest tightness, and breathing problems. People with asthma are particularly susceptible to the effects of sulfur dioxide. They may have symptoms at levels that are much lower than the rest of the population.

    Other Pollutants:

    Combustion may release other pollutants. They include unburned hydrocarbons and aldehydes. Little is known about the levels of these pollutants in indoor air and the resulting health effects.

    What do I do if I suspect that combustion pollutants are affecting my health?

    If you suspect you are being subjected to carbon monoxide poisoning, get fresh air immediately. Open windows and doors for more ventilation, turn off any combustion appliances, and leave the house. You could lose consciousness and die from carbon monoxide poisoning if you do nothing. It is also important to contact a doctor immediately for a proper diagnosis. Remember to tell your doctor that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning is causing your problems. Prompt medical attention is important. Some symptoms from combustion pollutants — including headaches, dizziness, sleepiness, coughing, and watery eyes — may also occur because of common medical problems. These medical problems include colds, the flu, and allergies. Similar symptoms may also occur because of other indoor air pollutants. Contact your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

    How can I reduce my exposure to combustion pollutants?

    Proper selection, installation, inspection and maintenance of your appliances are extremely important in reducing your exposure to these pollutants. Providing good ventilation in your home and correctly using your appliance can also reduce your exposure to these pollutants. Additionally, there are several different residential carbon monoxide detectors for sale. These detectors alert consumers to harmful carbon monoxide levels in the home. They may soon be widely available to reduce deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Appliance Selection

    • Choose vented appliances whenever possible.
    • Buy only combustion appliances that have been tested and certified to meet current safety standards. Examples of certifying organizations are Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the American Gas Association (AGA) Laboratories. Look for a label that clearly shows the certification.
    • All currently manufactured vented gas heaters are required by industry safety standards to have a safety shut-off device. This device helps protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning by shutting off an improperly vented heater.
    • Check your local and state building codes and fire ordinances to see if you can use an unvented space heater, if you are considering purchasing one. They are not allowed to be used in some communities, dwellings, and certain rooms in the house.
    • If you must replace an unvented gas space heater with another, make it a new one. Heaters made after 1982 have a pilot light safety system called an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS). This system shuts off the heater when there is not enough fresh air, before the heater begins producing large amounts of carbon monoxide. Look for the label that tells you that the appliance has this safety system. Older heaters will not have this protection system.
    • Consider buying gas appliances that have electronic ignitions rather than pilot lights. These appliances are usually more energy-efficient and eliminate the continuous low-level pollutants from pilot lights.
    • Buy appliances that are the correct size for the area you want to heat. Using the wrong size heater may produce more pollutants in your home and is not an efficient use of energy.
    • All new wood stoves are EPA-certified to limit the amounts of pollutants released into the outdoor air. For more information on selecting, installing, operating, and maintaining wood-burning stoves, write to the EPA Wood Heater Program. Before buying a wood stove, check your local laws about the installation and use of wood stoves.

    Ventilation

    To reduce indoor air pollution, a good supply of fresh, outdoor air is needed. The movement of air into and out of your home is very important. Normally, air comes in through cracks around doors and windows. This air helps reduce the level of pollutants indoors. This supply of fresh air is also important to help carry pollutants up the chimney, stovepipe or flue to the outside.

    • Keep doors open to the rest of the house from the room where you are using an unvented gas space heater or kerosene heater, and crack open a window. This allows enough air for proper combustion, and reduces the level of pollutants, especially carbon monoxide.
    • Use a hood fan if you are using a range. They reduce the level of pollutants you breathe if they exhaust to the outside. Make sure that enough air is coming into the house when you use an exhaust fan. If needed, open a door or window slightly, especially if other appliances are in use. For proper operation of most combustion appliances and their venting systems, the air pressure in the house should be greater than that outside. If not, the vented appliances could release combustion pollutants into the house rather than outdoors. If you suspect that you have this problem, you may need the help of a qualified person to solve it.
    • Make sure that your vented appliance has the vent connected and that nothing is blocking it. Make sure there are no holes or cracks in the vent. Do not vent gas clothes dryers or water heaters into the house for heating. This is unsafe.
    • Open the stove’s damper when adding wood. This allows more air into the stove. More air helps the wood burn properly, and prevents pollutants from being drawn back into the house instead of going up the chimney. If there is isible smoke or a constant smoky odor inside the home while using a wood-burning stove, this is a sign that the stove is not working properly. Soot on furniture in the rooms where you are using the stove also tells this. Smoke and soot are signs that the stove is releasing pollutants into the indoor air.

    Correct Use of Appliances

    • Read and follow the instructions for all appliances so that you understand how they work. Keep the owner’s manual in a convenient place to refer to when needed. Also, read and follow the warning labels because they tell you important safety information that you need to know. Reading and following the instructions and warning labels could save your life.
    • Always use the correct fuel for the appliance.
    • Use only water-clear ASTM 1-K kerosene for kerosene heaters. The use of kerosene other than 1-K could lead to a release of more pollutants in your home. Never use gasoline in a kerosene heater because it can cause a fire or an explosion. Using even small amounts of gasoline could cause a fire.
    • Use seasoned hardwoods (elm, maple, oak) instead of softwoods (cedar, fir, pine) in wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. Hardwoods are better because they burn hotter and form less creosote, an oily, black tar that sticks to chimneys and stove pipes. Do not use green or wet woods as the primary wood because they make more creosote and smoke. Never burn painted scrap wood or wood treated with preservatives, because they could release highly toxic pollutants, such as arsenic or lead. Plastics, charcoal, and colored paper, such as comics and wrapping paper, also produce pollutants. Never burn anything that the stove or fireplace manufacturer does not recommend.
    • Never use a range, oven or dryer to heat your home. When you misuse gas appliances in this way, they can produce fatal amounts of carbon monoxide. They can produce high levels of nitrogen dioxide, too.
    • Never use an unvented combustion heater overnight or in a room where you are sleeping. Carbon monoxide from combustion heaters can reach dangerous levels.
    • Never ignore a safety device when it shuts off an appliance. It means that something is wrong. Read your appliance instructions to find out what you should do, or have a professional check out the problem.
    • Never ignore the smell of fuel. This usually indicates that the appliance is not operating properly or is leaking fuel. Leaking fuel will not always be detectable by smell. If you suspect that you have a fuel leak, have it fixed as soon as possible. In most cases, you should shut off the appliance, extinguish any other flames or pilot lights, shut off other appliances in the area, open windows and doors, call for help, and leave the area.

    Inspection and Maintenance

    Have your combustion appliance regularly inspected and maintained to reduce your exposure to pollutants. Appliances that are not working properly can release harmful and even fatal amounts of pollutants, especially carbon monoxide. Have chimneys and vents inspected when installing or changing vented heating appliances. Some modifications may be required. For example, if a change was made in your heating system from oil to natural gas, the flue gas produced by the gas system could be hot enough to melt accumulated oil-combustion debris in the chimney or vent. This debris could block the vent, forcing pollutants into the house. It is important to clean your chimney and vents, especially when changing heating systems. Always hire an InterNACHI inspector to perform your home inspections, as they all must pass the most comprehensive, rigorous training program available.

    What are the Inspection and Maintenance Procedures?

    The best advice is to follow the recommendations of the manufacturer. The same combustion appliance may have different inspection and maintenance requirements, depending on where you live. In general, check the flame in the furnace combustion chamber at the beginning of the heating season. Natural gas furnaces should have a blue flame with perhaps only a slight yellow tip. Call your appliance service representative to adjust the burner if there is a lot of yellow in the flame, or call your local utility company for this service. LP units should have a flame with a bright blue center that may have a light yellow tip. Pilot lights on gas water heaters and gas cooking appliances should also have a blue flame. Have a trained service representative adjust the pilot light if it is yellow or orange. Before each heating season, have flues and chimneys inspected before each heating season for leakage and for blockage by creosote or debris. Creosote buildup or leakage could cause black stains on the outside of the chimney or flue. These stains can mean that pollutants are leaking into the house.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

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  • With barbeque season already here, homeowners should heed the following safety precautions in order to keep their families and property safe.

    •Propane grills present an enormous fire hazard, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is aware of more than 500 fires that result annually from their misuse or malfunction. The following precautions are recommended specifically when using propane grills:

    ◦Store propane tanks outdoors and never near the grill or any other heat source. In addition, never store or transport them in your car’s trunk.

    ◦Make sure to completely turn off the gas after you have finished, or when you are changing the tank. Even a small gas leak can cause a deadly explosion.

    ◦Check for damage to a tank before refilling it, and only buy propane from reputable suppliers.

    ◦Never use a propane barbecue grill on a terrace, balcony or roof, as this is dangerous and illegal.

    ◦No more than two 20-pound propane tanks are allowed on the property of a one- or two-family home.

    ◦To inspect for a leak, spray a soapy solution over the connections and watch for bubbles. If you see evidence of a leak, reconnect the components and try again. If bubbles persist, replace the leaking parts before using the grill.

    ◦Make sure connections are secure before turning on the gas, especially if the grill hasn’t been used in months. The most dangerous time to use a propane grill is at the beginning of the barbeque season.

    ◦Ignite a propane grill with the lid open, not closed. Propane can accumulate beneath a closed lid and explode.

    ◦When finished, turn off the gas first, and then the controls. This way, residual gas in the pipe will be used up.

    •Charcoal grills pose a serious poisoning threat due to the venting of carbon monoxide (CO). The CPSC estimates that 20 people die annually from accidentally ingesting CO from charcoal grills. These grills can also be a potential fire hazard. Follow these precautions when using charcoal grills:

    ◦Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even if the area is ventilated. CO is colorless and odorless, and you will not know you are in danger until it is too late.

    ◦Use only barbeque starter fluid to start the grill, and don’t add the fluid to an open flame. It is possible for the flame to follow the fluid’s path back to the container as you’re holding it.

    ◦Let the fluid soak into the coals for a minute before igniting them to allow explosive vapors to dissipate.

    ◦Charcoal grills are permitted on terraces and balconies only if there is at least 10 feet of clearance from the building, and a water source immediately nearby, such as a hose (or 4 gallons of water).

    ◦Be careful not to spill any fluid on yourself, and stand back when igniting the grill. Keep the charcoal lighter fluid container at a safe distance from the grill.

    ◦When cleaning the grill, dispose of the ashes in a metal container with a tight lid, and add water. Do not remove the ashes until they have fully cooled.

    ◦Fill the base of the grill with charcoal to a depth of no more than 2 inches.

    •Electric grills are probably safer than propane and charcoal grills, but safety precautions need to be used with them as well. Follow these tips when using electric grills:

    ◦Do not use lighter fluid or any other combustible materials.

    ◦When using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the amperage required by the grill. The cord should be unplugged when not in use, and out of a busy foot path to prevent tripping.

    ◦As always, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

    Safety Recommendations for General Grill Use

    •Always make sure that the grill is used in a safe place, where kids and pets won’t touch or bump into it. Keep in mind that the grill will still be hot after you finish cooking, and anyone coming into contact with it could be burned.

    •If you use a grill lighter, make sure you don’t leave it lying around where children can reach it. They will quickly learn how to use it.

    •Never leave the grill unattended, as this is generally when accidents happen.

    •Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby.

    •Ensure that the grill is completely cooled before moving it or placing it back in storage.

    •Ensure that the grill is only used on a flat surface that cannot burn, and well away from any shed, trees or shrubs.

    •Clean out the grease and other debris in the grill periodically. Be sure to look for rust or other signs of deterioration.

    •Don’t wear loose clothing that might catch fire while you’re cooking.

    •Use long-handled barbecue tools and flame-resistant oven mitts.

    •Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill; they are flammable!

    In summary, homeowners should exercise caution when using any kind of grill, as they can harm life and property in numerous ways.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

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  • Attached Garage Fire Hazards

    The purpose of this article is twofold. First, at Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh, we’d like you to take measures to keep your garage free from fire. Fortunately, there are ways this can be done, some of which are described below. Secondly, garage fires do happen, and we’d like you to make sure that a fire cannot not easily spread to the rest of your house. While you can perform many of the recommendations in this article yourself, it is a good idea to hire a licensed home inspector to make sure your home is safe from a garage fire.

    Why do many garages pose a fire hazard?

    •Where are you most likely to do any welding, or any work on your car? These activities require working with all sorts of flammable materials.

    •Water heaters and boilers are usually stored in garages, and they can create sparks that may ignite fumes or fluids. Car batteries, too, will spark under certain conditions.

    •Oil and gasoline can drip from cars. These fluids may collect unnoticed and eventually ignite, given the proper conditions.

    •Flammable liquids, such as gasoline, motor oil and paint are commonly stored in garages. Some other examples are brake fluid, varnish, paint thinner and lighter fluid.

    The following tips can help prevent garage fires and their spread:

    •If the garage allows access to the attic, make sure a hatch covers this access.

    •The walls and ceiling should be fire-rated. Unfortunately, it will be difficult for untrained homeowners to tell if their walls are Type X fire-rated gypsum. A licensed home inspector can examine the walls and ceiling to make sure they are adequate fire barriers.

    •The floor should be clear of clutter. Loose papers, matches, oily rags, and other potentially flammable items are extremely dangerous if they are strewn about the garage floor.

    •Use light bulbs with the proper wattage, and do not overload electrical outlets.

    •Tape down all cords and wires so they are not twisted or accidentally yanked.

    If there is a door that connects the garage to the living area, consider the following:

    •Do not install a pet door in the door! Flames can more easily spread into the living area through a pet door, especially if it’s made of plastic.

    •Does the door have a window? A licensed inspector can inspect the window to tell if it’s fire-rated.

    •The door should be self-closing. While it may be inconvenient, especially while carrying groceries into the house from the car, doors should be self-closing. You never know when a fire will happen, and it would be unfortunate to accidentally leave the door open while a fire is starting in the garage.

    •Check the joints and open spaces around the door. Are they tightly sealed? Any openings at all can allow dangerous fumes, such as carbon monoxide or gasoline vapor, to enter the living area. An InterNACHI inspector can recommend ways to seal the door so that fumes cannot enter the living area.

    Concerning items placed on the floor, you should check for the following:

    •Store your flammable liquids in clearly labeled, self-closing containers, and only in small amounts. Keep them away from heaters, appliances, pilot lights and other sources of heat or flame.

    •Never store propane tanks indoors. If they catch fire, they can explode. Propane tanks are sturdy enough to be stored outdoors.

    In summary, there are plenty of things that you can do to prevent garage fires from spreading to the rest of the house, or to keep them from starting in the first place. However, it is highly recommended that you have your garage periodically examined by a licensed home inspector.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

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  • Solar energy offers considerable advantages over conventional energy systems by nullifying flaws in those systems long considered to be unchangeable. Solar power for home energy production has its flaws, too, which are outlined in another article, but they’re dwarfed by the advantages listed below.
     
    Solar energy is a great choice
    The following are advantages of solar energy:
    • Raw materials are renewable and unlimited. The amount of available solar energy is staggering — roughly 10,000 times that currently required by humans — and it’s constantly replaced. A mere 0.02% of incoming sunlight, if captured correctly, would be sufficient to replace every other fuel source currently used.

    Granted, the Earth does need much of this solar energy to drive its weather, so let’s look only at the unused portion of sunlight that is reflected back into space, known as the albedo. Earth’s average albedo is around 30%, meaning that roughly 52 petawatts of energy is reflected by the Earth and lost into space every year. Compare this number with global energy-consumption statistics.  Annually, the energy lost to space is the combined equivalent of 400 hurricanes, 1 million Hoover Dams, Great Britain’s energy requirement for 250,000 years, worldwide oil, gas and coal production for 387 years, 75 million cars, and 50 million 747s running perpetually for one year (not to mention 1 million fictional DeLorean time machines!). 

    • Solar power is low-emission. Solar panels produce no pollution, although they impose environmental costs through manufacture and construction. These environmental tolls are negligible, however, when compared with the damage inflicted by conventional energy sources:  the burning of fossil fuels releases roughly 21.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. 
    • Solar power is suitable for remote areas that are not connected to energy grids. It may come as a surprise to city-dwellers but, according to Home Power Magazine, as of 2006, 180,000 houses in the United States were off-grid, and that figure is likely considerably higher today. California, Colorado, Maine, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have long been refuges for such energy rebels, though people live off the grid in every state. While many of these people shun the grid on principle, owing to politics and environmental concerns, few of the world’s 1.8 billion off-the-gridders have any choice in the matter. Solar energy can drastically improve the quality of life for millions of people who live in the dark, especially in places such as Sub-Saharan Africa, where as many as 90% of the rural population lacks access to electricity. People in these areas must rely on fuel-based lighting, which inflicts significant social and environmental costs, from jeopardized health through Home Inspection Raleigh - Solar Energycontamination of indoor air, to limited overall productivity.   
    • Solar power provides green jobs. Production of solar panels for domestic use is becoming a growing source of employment in research, manufacture, sales and installation.
    • Solar panels contain no moving parts and thus produce no noise. Wind turbines, by contrast, require noisy gearboxes and blades.
    • In the long run, solar power is economical. Solar panels and installation involve high initial expenses, but this cost is soon offset by savings on energy bills.  Eventually, they may even produce a profit on their use.
    • Solar power takes advantage of net metering, which is the practice of crediting homeowners for electricity they produce and return to the power grid. As part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, public electric utilities are required to make available, upon request, net metering to their Home Inspection Raleigh -Manhattan, and much of the northeast USA, goes dark in August, 2003customers. This practice offers an advantage for homeowners who use solar panels (or wind turbines or fuel cells) that may, at times, produce more energy than their homes require. If net metering is not an option, excess energy may be stored in batteries.
    • Solar power can mean government tax credits. U.S. federal subsidies credit up to 30% of system costs, and each state offers its own incentives. California, blessed with abundant sunshine and plagued by high electric rates and an over-taxed grid, was the first state to offer generous renewable-energy incentives for homes and businesses.
    • Solar power is reliable. Many homeowners favor solar energy because it is virtually immune to potential failings of utility companies, mainly in the form of political or economic turmoil, terrorism, natural disasters, or brownouts due to overuse. The Northeast Blackout of 2003 unplugged 55 million people across two countries, while rolling blackouts are a part of regular life in some South Asian countries, and occasionally in California and Texas.
    • Solar power conserves foreign energy expenditures. In many countries, a large percentage of earnings is used to pay for imported oil for power generation. The United States alone spends $13 million per hour on oil, much of which comes from Persian Gulf nations. As oil supplies dwindle and prices rise in this politically unstable region, these problems continue to catalyze the expansion of solar power and other alternative-energy systems.
    In summary, solar energy offers advantages to conventional fossil fuels and other renewable energy systems.

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

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  • The following items are essential tools but this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to ask an your Advantage inspector during your next inspection about other tools that you might find useful.
     
    1.  Plunger
    A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most disturbing problems that you will face. With a plunger on hand, however, you can usually remedy these troubling plumbing issues relatively quickly. It is best to have two plungers — one for the sink and one for the toilet.

     

    2.  Combination Wrench Set

    One end of a combination wrench set is open and the other end is a closed loop. Nuts and bolts are manufactured in standard and metric sizes and because both varieties are widely used, so you’ll need both sets of wrenches. For the most control and leverage, always pull the wrench toward you, instead of pushing on it. Also, avoid over-tightening.

    3.  Slip-Joint Pliers

    Use slip-joint pliers to grab hold of a nail, a nut, a bolt, and much more. These types of pliers are versatile because of the jaws, which feature both flat and curved areas for gripping many types of objects. There is also a built-in slip-joint, which allows the user to quickly adjust the jaw size to suit most tasks.

    4.  Adjustable WrenchCaulking gun

    Adjustable wrenches are somewhat awkward to use and can damage a bolt or nut if they are not handled properly. However, adjustable wrenches are ideal for situations where you need two wrenches of the same size. Screw the jaws all the way closed to avoid damaging the bolt or nut.

    5.  Caulking Gun
    Caulking is the process of sealing up cracks and gaps in various structures and certain types of piping. Caulking can provide noise mitigation and thermal insulation, and control water penetration. Caulk should be applied only to areas that are clean and dry.
     
    6.  Flashlight
    None of the tools in this list is of any use if you cannot visually inspect the situation. The problem, and solution, are apparent only with a good flashlight. A traditional two-battery flashlight is usually sufficient, as larger flashlights may be too unwieldy.
     
    7.  Tape Measure
    Measuring house projects requires a tape measure, not a ruler or a yardstick. Tape measures come in many lengths, although 25 feet is best.  Measure everything at least twice to ensure accuracy. 
     

    8.  Hacksaw
    These are great for cutting metal objects such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Torpedo levelHacksaws look thin and flimsy, but they’ll easily cut through even the hardest of metals. Blades are replaceable, so focus your purchase on a quality hacksaw frame.
     
    9. Torpedo Level
    Only a level can be used to determine if something, such as a shelf, appliance or picture, is correctly oriented. The torpedo-style level is unique because it not only shows when an object is perfectly horizontal or vertical, but it also has a gauge that shows when an object is at a 45-degree angle. The bubble in viewfinder must be exactly in the middle, not merely close.

    10.  Safety Glasses / Goggles
    For all tasks involving a hammer or a power tool, you should always wear safety glasses or goggles. They should also be worn while you mix chemicals.

    11.  Claw Hammer
    A good hammer is one of the most important tools you can own.  Use it to drive and remove nails, to pry wood loose from the house, and in combination with other tools. They come in a variety of sizes, although a 16-ounce hammer is the best all-purpose choice.

    12.  Screwdriver Set
    It is best to have four screwdrivers: a small and large version of both a flat-head and a Phillips- head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers areWire cutter sometimes convenient, but they’re no substitute.  Manual screwdrivers can reach into more places and they are less likely to damage the screw. 

    13.  Wire Cutters
    Wire cutters are pliers designed to cut wires and small nails. The “side-cutting” (unlike the stronger “end-cutting” style) style is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.

    14.  Respirator / Safety Mask
    While paints and other coatings have become less toxic (and lead-free) over time, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally getting them in your lungs. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty or dirty environments. Disposable masks usually come in packs of 10 and should be thrown away after use. Full and half-face respirators can be used to prevent the inhalation of very fine particles that ordinary facemasks will not not stop. 

    15.  Duct Tape
    This tape is extremely strong and adaptable. Originally, it was widely used to make temporary repairs to many types of military equipment. Today, it’s one of the key items specified for home emergency kits because it is water-resistant and extremely sticky.
     
    In summary, the above is a list of tools that every homeowner should have. 

    Dave Park
    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    Davepark@advantageinspection.com

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh. . . performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 20 years, Advantage Home Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve: Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.

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  • Raleigh Home InspectorEven if you undertook the task of building your own deck, you understand the large investment (both monetary and in time) that went into the project. Decks add beauty and value to a home, and are often the family’s favorite place on lovely afternoons. In order to protect that investment, deck waterproofing is nearly as important as making sure your basement is dry and safe from water damage.

    After the completion of your deck, either you or the contracted builder should seal the wood with a water-resistant coating. Water-resistant sealants are painted on the wood, covering the entire deck. This coating helps to protect the wood from absorbing excess water. Not only does this seal the deck but also provides wonderful preservation of the deck’s beauty.

    If you choose to use redwood for your deck, waterproofing can extend the life of the wood’s color. It is strongly recommended that you seal this type of wood prior to construction. This ensures that the wood was properly and evening coated with the deck waterproofing sealant. When using redwood for construction, be sure re-apply the sealant coating once every 12 to 18 months in order to prevent the wood from darkening.

    Untreated wood will eventually become damaged. Being submitted to harsh weather and direct sunlight is often a killer of untreated wood. Wood can begin to rot, crack, and in severe cases, provide an open invitation to termites. Redwood is not as prone to rot and other damage as softer, lighter woods. Despite its durability, you should seriously consider waterproofing for enhanced beauty. Deck waterproofing is the only way to prevent premature damage to your deck. Decks are often a substantial investment and deck waterproofing is insurance for your peace of mind.

    Advantage Inspection Raleigh

    . . .  performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 18 years, Advantage Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve:  Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.  Advantage Inspection Raleigh serves Raleigh, Durham and the Triangle area.
     

    Dave Park 

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    more than just an inspection company!”
    www.adrdu.com

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  • Are you Ready? 

    We all wonder.  And that wonder can lead to arguments.  Lead to disagreements.  Lead to questions.

    We all wonder about the value of our homes.  The American Dream.  The economic impact on one of our nest eggs, our safety net and our investment. . .  OK enough wondering!

    Let’s move forward.  You are selling or refinancing.  You have to have your home appraised.  Now it is time to get ready for the appraiser.  What do you do?

    Paige Tepping of RISMEDIA gives us a list.  And we all love lists!

    Advantage Home Inspection•  The appraiser will need approximately 30 minutes to one hour to complete the inspection phase of the appraisal process, which includes: exterior photos of the front and rear of the home and a photo of the street in front of the property; measurements of the exterior of the home, garage and any outbuildings; a walk-through inspection of all rooms and levels of the interior of the home including the basement.

    •  Get organized. Put together a checklist that will help you get ready for your appraisal and get the results you’re looking for.

    •  Be flexible when scheduling the appointment.

    •  Have a copy of your home’s blueprint to help verify measurements and lot size.

    •  Provide a list of improvements made to the property since the purchase. Improvements that should be noted include adding a pool, patio, updating your kitchen or bathroom and any room additions, etc.

    •  Allow your appraiser access to the entire property, including access to any crawl space or attic areas.

    •  Keep in mind that a clean home makes a good impression. Be sure to trim the lawn, clean the pool and garage, repair cracked windows or torn screens, check for leaky faucets and secure gutters and down spouts before your appraisal.

    •  Point out any amenities that may not be obvious to the appraiser: sprinkler systems, patios, pools, security systems, built in vacuum, etc.

    •  Provide a copy of last year’s tax assessment information.

    •  Know what year the house was built and when improvements were made.Advantage Inspection Raleigh

    •  The first thing appraisers look for is comparables, so be prepared and have a list of recent sales of similar properties in the immediate neighborhood.

    Remember the Scouts modo “Be Prepared”.  You are allowed to participate in your homes appraisal.  Information is king and that is what the appraiser is looking for.  Just make sure you have the back up!

    Now take your  list and click you heels together 3 times and repeat . . . There’s No Place Like Home, There’s No Place Like Home, There’s No Place Like Home!!

    Advantage Inspection Raleigh

    . . .  performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 18 years, Advantage Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve:  Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.  Advantage Inspection Raleigh serves Raleigh, Durham and the Triangle area.
     

    Dave Park 

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    more than just an inspection company!”
    www.adrdu.com

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  • Today what can you get for $500?  A set of 4 tires, a 42″ flat screen TV, maid service for 2 months or a home inspection.  Yes a home inspection for those who are in the market may be the best money you will ever spend, writes Roger Taylor, Business Columnist for the Chronicle Herald.

    In an interview with Henry Blumenthal, a vice-president and chief underwriter for TD Insurance, Mr. Blumenthal said, “Everyone knows spring is prime time for the real estate sector. But before you buy, every potential purchaser should take a few basic steps to protect themselves from making a poor investment decision.”

    "DIYWhile most would-be homebuyers have enough sense to hire a home inspector to identify construction flaws before the deal is completed, Blumenthal says, there are still a surprising number of people who try to avoid spending an average of $500 on a professional inspection.

    Based on what comes back from the inspection, take a few minutes to call your insurance company and find out if there are any issues or potential issues (found in) that inspection because you never know.

    If the house has been damaged by water, for example, and if you’re not sure it has been fixed, you may want to opt for special insurance coverage, he says.

    Mr. Taylor writes that just because the inspector has identified areas of concern, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be enough to scuttle the deal. The inspection usually tips off the homebuyer to potential issues, and that could lead to a price adjustment. In rare cases, the inspection could identify issues that may result in the homeowner not being able to get insurance because the property has a dramatic flaw.

    Well you may be a High Def kind of guy, a weekend warrior or  a tire kicker, but for “Peace of Mind” on one of the biggest investments of your lifetime the $500 you spend on a home inspection might just be the best money you will ever spend!

    Advantage Home Inspection. . .  performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 18 years, Advantage Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve:  Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.  Advantage Inspection Raleigh serves Raleigh, Durham and the Triangle area.
     

    Dave Park 

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    more than just an inspection company!”
    www.adrdu.com

    Tags: , , , , , , ,

  • Many people read “do-it-yourself” books and think they now know everything about construction, home improvement, and even home inspections. But that’s not really the case. With his firm Advantage Inspection based in Raleigh, Dave Park serves the entire Triangle area of North Carolina, and talks here about why it’s important to hire a professional home inspector to carry out your next home inspection, instead of trying to do it yourself…

    Every year the number of home inspections rises. Every year the price of home inspections rises. Every year the “do it yourself” subculture rises. The “do it yourself” subculture is here and is here to stay.  Home improvement stores have commercials that tell you to save money and just do it yourself. And an assortment of television shows pride themselves on showing the average person how to fix it or renovate it or replace it. And at bookstores, shelves are devoted to the weekend warrior.

    At first blush, it might appear that these tools of education and instruction are bad for the home inspection business. business. But, do not worry as you need to consider what all this has all provided for the profession:

    1. They have raised consumer consciousness about the need to have a home inspection.
    2. Sure, people like to be educated, but the DIY culture has made people realize that deep down, they want to hire a professional.
    3. It takes a professional with years of experience to inspect a home in two to three  hours. How long would it take an amateur guided by a book?
    4. People are more aware now of liability: Who wants it and who has it?
    5. Tools. Home inspectors have them, and they know how to use them. Those DIYers do not.
    6. Objectivity. Home inspectors have it. Homeowners can’t have it: That’s why they leave it up to us.
    7. Nobody to blame but yourself. Saving $400 just cost the do-it-yourselfer $4,000 on something that was missed.

    The irony of the do it yourself media, both video and written, is that it carries a disclaimer that warns clients not to get in over their heads. So please just “do it yourself” –  and call in a professional home inspector.

    This interview was conducted by Wendy Sloane, writer with Yodle.

    Advantage Inspection Raleigh

    . . .  performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 18 years, Advantage Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve:  Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.  Advantage Inspection Raleigh serves Raleigh, Durham and the Triangle area.
     

    Dave Park 

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    more than just an inspection company!”
    www.adrdu.com

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  • Thomas Paine

    Common Sense is a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine. It was first published anonymously on January 10, 1776, during the American Revolution. Common Sense, signed “Written by an Englishman”, became an immediate success.

    Paine wrote and reasoned in a style that common people understood; forgoing the philosophy and Latin references used by Enlightenment era writers, Paine structured Common Sense like a sermon and relied on Biblical references to make his case to the people.   Historian Gordon S. Wood described Common Sense as, “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era”

    One of the major concerns in the world today is depletion of energy. As concerned citizens all of us must make a concerted effort to be conscious citizens and save electricity. Electricity has become integral to life but imagine having to live without power.

    Conservation of electricity benefits you personally as you will pay lower bills.

    Consider these “Paine-fully” Simple Common Sense Tips:

    1.            Doing an energy audit. This will tell you how and when you use energy and where the wastage lies. You will be able to make an “energy savings plan” by pinpointing exactly how you can cut back on energy consumption. Some ideas may be as simple as don’t leave the coffee machine on at all times.

    2.            Think about resetting the thermostat ten degrees lower during the night. If you can do this for say approximately eight hours a day you will save 10% on electricity without sacrificing comfort. Insulate the home in winter by drawing shut the drapes.

    3.            Check all insulation in the house. If you increase attic insulation to around 12 inches the electricity consumption will reduce by 20 percent.

    4.            Plant more trees around the house these will cool the house in summer and insulate the house in winter. Studies show that a green cover benefits in many ways.

    5.            Have all electricity wires and outlets checked for leakage. Check all fuses and appliances.

    6.            Fluorescent light bulbs are energy efficient. They use 75% less energy than ordinary light bulbs. These have a longer life and contribute to great savings.

    7.            Use energy efficient appliances. These use less energy and believe it or not a high efficiency refrigerator uses less electricity than a light bulb.

    8.            When you are away even for a few hours or days you should turn off and unplug   all electrical appliances and turn settings on the thermostat, water heater, and refrigerator to   the lowest setting.

    9.            Ensure that you use a water-saving shower head. Water heating costs for a family can be lowered by at least US$ 250 a year.

    10.          Weatherize your home. This helps reduce heating bills by 20% and cooling by at least 10 percent. Even when building a home or decorating it use weather friendly materials—those that are not good conductors of heat and cold. Install windows and glass panes in the roof in such away that you use sunlight to light up the rooms during day light hours. Make an effort to switch off lights and fans when leaving a room. Ensure that the filters in air conditioners and heaters are always cleaned and free of clog and dust.

    Common Sense

    If you live an energy efficient lifestyle you will see the numbers on the energy bill actually reducing. The power to cut energy costs is well within your control. It is as simple as only washing full loads and that to in cold water. Use the hot wash option only for very dirty clothes.  Cook food only just before you are ready to eat that way you can save reheating costs as well as refrigerating costs of storing the food. Turn the thermostat of the refrigerator to minimum in cold or cool weather. Switch off freezers if they are not in use. Small contributions can all add up to significant amounts of power saved. And, power saved means money in the bank.

    Advantage Inspection Raleigh

    . . .  performs the Nation’s Best Home Inspection and provides the Nation’s Only “No Denied Claims Warranty” available in the industry. For the last 18 years, Advantage Inspection has been the deciding factor for the people we serve:  Buyers, Sellers, Real Estate Agents and Home Inspectors.  Advantage Inspection Raleigh serves Raleigh, Durham and the Triangle area.
     

    Dave Park 

    Advantage Home Inspection Raleigh
    more than just an inspection company!”
    www.adrdu.com

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