Did you know that you can call us to ask a home inspection related question EVEN if we are not the home inspector that inspected the home you are buying or selling? So feel free to reach out to Jerry to get his opinion on any home related question you may have. With over 35 years of home building and inspecting experience he really has the knowledge to help explain things, or direct you to the right person. We look forward to helping you!
- 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.
- 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!
It is heating up out here in Arizona (finally) – even here in Prescott, but especially in the Phoenix area. Now is the time to make sure your air conditioning is ready to handle the heat! As part of a home inspection (in the Phoenix and Prescott areas) we do take a close look at the HVAC units, and if in doubt we will suggest an HVAC company come take a closer look. We also have routine maintenance done on our own home’s unit since a building’s central air-conditioning system must be periodically inspected and maintained in order to function properly. While an annual inspection performed by a trained professional is recommended, homeowners can do a lot of the work themselves by following the tips offered in this guide.
- Remove any leaves, spider webs and other debris from the unit’s exterior. Trim foliage back several feet from the unit to ensure proper air flow.
- Remove the cover grille to clean any debris from the unit’s interior. A garden hose can be helpful for this task.
- Straighten any bent fins with a tool called a fin comb.
- Add lubricating oil to the motor. Check your owner’s manual for specific instructions.
- Clean the evaporator coil and condenser coil at least once a year. When they collect dirt, they may not function properly.
- Inspect the drain line for obstructions, such as algae and debris. If the line becomes blocked, water will back up into the drain pan and overflow, potentially causing a safety hazard or water damage to your home.
- Make sure the hoses are secured and fit properly.
When the cooling season is over, you should cover the exterior condenser unit in preparation for winter. If it isn’t being used, why expose it to the elements? This measure will prevent ice, leaves and dirt from entering the unit, which can harm components and require additional maintenance in the spring. A cover can be purchased, or you can make one yourself by taping together plastic trash bags. Be sure to turn the unit off before covering it.
- Have the air-conditioning system inspected by a professional each year before the start of the cooling season.
- Reduce stress on the air conditioning system by enhancing your home’s energy efficiency. Switch from incandescent lights to compact fluorescents, for instance, which produce less heat.
Baby, it’s cold outside! So today’s blog from your hometown Home Inspector is all about heat pumps. Whether you are in the Phoenix area, or in Prescott and quad cities area, learning how your heat pump operates may help you. Here, we cover some fundamentals of a particular heating system called a heat pump using non-invasive, visual-only inspection techniques. We also discuss its defrost cycle. Yes, more than you may want to know, but… here you go. As always, feel free to contact me with any of your home inspection questions.
a bad reversing valve;
a damaged outdoor coil;
a wiring problem;
a bad thermostat;
a leak in the refrigerant;
a dirty outdoor coil covered with grass, dirt, debris and/or pet hair;
a fan that won’t turn on;
a fan installed backwards with the blades running in the wrong direction;
a motor operating in the incorrect direction; and/or
a replacement fan motor spinning at a very low rpm.
Whether you live in the Phoenix area, or in Prescott, it is important to know how to winterize your home. Winterization is the process of preparing a home for the harsh conditions of winter. It is usually performed in the fall before snow and excessive cold have arrived. Winterization protects against damage due to bursting water pipes, and from heat loss due to openings in the building envelope. One additional service that I provide as a home inspector is to watch over your vacation homes during your extended absence, and can work with you to make sure the home is winterized. But for those doing it themselves, here are some guidelines.
Water damage caused by bursting pipes during cold weather can be devastating. A ruptured pipe will release water and not stop until someone shuts off the water. If no one is home to do this, an enormous quantity of water can flood a house and cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. Even during very small ruptures or ruptures that are stopped quickly, water leakage can result in mold and property damage. Broken water pipes can be costly to repair.
- All exposed water pipes in cold areas, such as attics, garages, and crawlspaces, should be insulated. Foam or fiberglass insulation can be purchased at most hardware stores. Insulation should cover the entirety of a pipe.
- Plastic is more tolerant of cold expansion than copper or steel. Houses in colder climates might benefit from the exclusive use of approved plastic plumbing.
- Water supply for exterior pipes should be shut off from inside the house and then drained.
- Sprinkler systems are particularly vulnerable to cracking due to cold-weather expansion. In addition to turning them, it helps to purge the system of any remaining water with compressed air.
- Homeowners should be aware that much of the plumbing system travels through areas that are significantly colder than the rest of the house. Because it is impossible to monitor the temperature of every portion of the plumbing system, indoor air temperature should be kept high enough throughout the winter to keep pipes in any unheated places from freezing.
Leaks in the Building Envelope
- Windows that leak will allow cold air into the home. Feeling for drafts with a hand or watching for horizontal smoke from an incense stick are a few easy ways to inspect for leaks. They can be repaired with tape or caulk.
- On a breezy day, a homeowner can walk through the house and find far more leaks than they knew existed. Leaks are most likely in areas where a seam exists between two or more building materials.
- Because hot air rises into the attic, a disproportionately larger amount of heat is lost there than in other parts of the house. Like a winter hat that keeps a head warm, adequate attic insulation will prevent warm indoor air from escaping. Attic insulation should be 12 inches thick in cold climates.
- Storm doors and windows should be installed to insulate the house and protect against bad weather.
- Test the furnace by raising the temperature on the thermostat. If it does not respond to the adjustment quickly it might be broken.
- Replace the air filter if it’s dirty.
- If the furnace is equipped with an oil or propane tank, the tank should be full.
- Use a hose to remove leaves and other debris from the outdoor condensing unit, if the home is equipped with one. Protect the unit with a breathable waterproof cover to prevent rusting and freezing of its components.
- Remove and store window air conditioners when they are no longer needed. Cold air can damage their components and enter the house through openings between the air conditioner and the windowpane.
- Ceiling fans can be reversed in order to warm air trapped beneath the ceiling to recirculate. A fan has been reversed if it spins clockwise.
- The chimney should be inspected for nesting animals trying to escape the cold. Squirrels and raccoons have been known to enter chimneys for this reason.
- The damper should open and close with ease. Smoke should rise up the chimney when the damper is open. If it doesn’t, this means that there is an obstruction in the chimney that must be cleared before the fireplace can be used.
- A chimney-cleaning service professional should clean the chimney if it has not been cleaned for several years.
- The damper should be closed when the fireplace is not in use. An open damper might not be as obvious to the homeowner as an open window, but it can allow a significant amount of warm air to escape.
- Glass doors can be installed in fireplaces and wood stoves to provide an extra layer of insulation.
- If debris is left in gutters, it can get wet and freeze, permitting the formation of ice dams that prevent water from draining. This added weight has the potential to cause damage to gutters. Also, trapped water in the gutter can enter the house and lead to the growth of mold. For these reasons, leaves, pine needles, and all other debris must be cleared from gutters. This can be done by hand or with a hose.
- Missing shingles should be replaced.
- Patio furniture should be covered.
- If there is a deck, it might need an extra coat of sealer.
If you are leaving for extended periods of time and want us to check on the home during your absence, we are happy to help. As always, let us know if you have any questions about how to care for your home.
Greetings from Prescott Valley, Arizona. Just want you to know that we are always here for you if you need a home inspection done, whether it is a holiday of not, and we look forward to working with you in the new year! In the meantime, from all of us here at Sonoran Property Inspections (and by all of us I mean Jerry, Pam, and the Golden Retriever!) we wish you a warm and happy holiday season, and a peaceful and prosperous new year! All we need now is just a little snow.
Since it is the first thing a buyer sees, the entryway is an important space within a home. It sets the stage for the whole tour of the home. Buyers will form opinions on a home within seconds of opening that front door. Here are some ways to improve your entry.
Make the front door a focal point.
The door is the first thing visitors focus on at any home’s entryway, so make it special. Paint it a bold color or add gorgeous greenery via a seasonal wreath. You can complement the home’s style and make a statement within a reasonable budget.
Invest in stylish but functional furniture.
Create a welcoming vignette of furniture that beckons guests to the door. Design a space for dropping keys and handbags, and a place to sit and remove shoes. Think elegant console tables with drawers (that hide the clutter), woven baskets, and an antique rug. You can take these new goodies with you when you move too!
Add art to the space.
Artwork in an entryway can make a big impact. Hang a beautiful piece of artwork or photography on the wall opposite the door. Choose carefully: You don’t want to put off buyers with something overly quirky. A mirror is a great choice and will help the entryway appear larger.
Illuminate the entryway with bold lighting.
The right lighting will give a welcoming feel to the entry, while being highly functional. Add a stylish lamp to the console table, or if the home has high ceilings or a two-story stairwell, go for a beautiful chandelier or pendant light in a timeless style.
These are great tips even if you are NOT selling the home! So make that entry something special, and enjoy it while you are living there too.
Don’t you hate it when you are in the shower and someone else in the house flushes a toilet and you get burned by hot water? I do test water temperature when I do a home inspection, but sometimes these fluctuations don’t show up until later. So let’s talk a little about anti-scald valves. Anti-scald valves, also known as tempering valves and mixing valves, mix cold water in with outgoing hot water so that the hot water that leaves a fixture is not hot enough to scald a person.
Facts and Figures
- Scalds account for 20% of all burns.
- More than 2,000 American children are scalded each year, mostly in the bathroom and kitchen.
- Scalding and other types of burns require costly and expensive hospital stays, often involving skin grafts and plastic surgery.
- Scalding may lead to additional injuries, such as falls and heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
- Water that is 160º F can cause scalding in 0.5 seconds.
Unwanted temperature fluctuations are an annoyance and a safety hazard. When a toilet is flushed, for instance, cold water flows into the toilet’s tank and lowers the pressure in the cold-water pipes. If someone is taking a shower, they will suddenly feel the water become hotter as less cold water is available to the shower valve. By the same principle, the shower water will become colder when someone in the house uses the hot-water faucet. This condition is exacerbated by plumbing that’s clogged, narrow, or installed in showers equipped with low-flow or multiple showerheads. A sudden burst of hot water can cause serious burns, particularly in young children, who have thinner skin than adults. Also, a startling thermal shock – hot or cold – may cause a person to fall in the shower as he or she scrambles on the slippery surface to adjust the water temperature. The elderly and physically challenged are at particular risk.
Anti-scald valves mitigate this danger by maintaining water temperature at a safe level, even as pressures fluctuate in water supply lines. They look similar to ordinary shower and tub valves and are equipped with a special diaphragm or piston mechanism that immediately balances the pressure of the hot- and cold-water inputs, limiting one or the other to keep the temperature within a range of several degrees. As a side effect, the use of an anti-scald valve increases the amount of available hot water, as it is drawn more slowly from the water heater. Inspectors and homeowners may want to check with the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to see if these safety measures are required in new construction in their area.
Installation of anti-scald valves is typically simple and inexpensive. Most models are installed in the hot-water line and require a cold-water feed. They also require a swing check valve on the cold-water feed line to prevent hot water from entering the cold-water system. They may be installed at the water heater to safeguard the plumbing for the whole building, or only at specific fixtures.
The actual temperature of the water that comes out of the fixture may be somewhat different than the target temperature set on the anti-scald valve. Such irregularities may be due to long, uninsulated plumbing lines or defects in the valve itself. Users may fine-tune the valve with a rotating mechanism that will allow the water to become hotter or colder, depending on which way it’s turned. Homeowners may contact an InterNACHI inspector (like me) or a qualified plumber if they have further questions or concerns.
In summary, anti-scald valves are used to reduce water temperature fluctuations that may otherwise inconvenience or harm unsuspecting building occupants.
We recently attended a Prescott Area Association of Realtors membership brunch where the topic was Realtor safety. While this blog article is not about home inspections, or home maintenance tips, it is an important topic for all agents. Too many times an agent is vulnerable to crimes just by virtue of the job. So we want to share some of the tips we learned, and remind everyone in this industry to stay safe out there.
- Have a ‘second meeting only’ policy. Meet clients in the office or another public location before agreeing to a private showing. This gives you (and other colleagues) the opportunity to vet them. You should also ask for a form of identification so you can confirm that they are who they claim to be.
- Make sure someone always knows your location. Before leaving for a showing, provide a colleague, friend or spouse with the address of the property where you’re going, along with the name and personal information of the client you’re meeting. Utilize location finding devices such as “Find my iPhone” so someone can easily track the location of your phone if necessary.
- Be mindful of what you wear. While you always want to put your best foot forward with a client, you also don’t want to appear attractive to criminals by wearing expensive jewelry or watches. It’s best to leave the Rolex at home. Keep this in mind when taking photos for marketing materials, as well.
- Program emergency numbers as ‘favorites.’ While you might have familiar numbers memorized, such as those to your office, emergency contact or colleague, program them into your phones as a “favorite” so they can be easily accessed in an emergency situation.
- Let the client take the lead. You may be inclined to lead clients through the property, but it’s safer to follow them so you always have them in your full view. Avoid going into the basement of a property and always be mindful of exit locations.
- Keep control of keys to the property at all times. Be sure to know exactly where property keys are located all times. Leaving keys outside of the home in locations such as under the doormat, above the door or behind a bush can expose you to the possibility of someone copying the key without your knowledge. Use a secure, electronic lockbox system so you can better control keys and access to a property.
- Follow your instinct. Most agents who have been victims of crime said they felt something was off but didn’t do anything. If something feels out of place, don’t hesitate to stop a showing or open house and leave immediately.
Here are some home inspection precautions that you can take to prevent poisoning from carbon monoxide:
- Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes.
- Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge or tools.
- Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine powered tool in or close to an enclosed space such as a garage, home or other building.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector.
- Never use portable fuel burning equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space.
- Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent.
- Never leave a car running in an attached garage.
- Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryer to heat your home.
- Never cover the bottom of natural gas or propane ovens with aluminum foil. Doing this blocks the combustion air flow through the appliance and can produce carbon monoxide.
- During home renovation, ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by tarps or debris. Make sure appliances are in proper working order when renovations are complete.
A carbon monoxide detector is the best way to determine when carbon monoxide is present. Different from smoke detectors, they do not need to be placed near ceiling level. The best place to keep a carbon monoxide alarm is close to heaters and other gas powered equipment. If the alarm detects carbon monoxide, it will sound, giving people a chance to safely leave the structure before too much exposure. If a carbon monoxide alarm goes off never ignore the alarm. Get outside as soon as possible and call your local emergency services. Carbon monoxide alarms are reliable and can be purchased at a local hardware store or at any home improvement store. Also make sure to have a home inspector check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections and also loose connections.