electrical

About Electrical Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters

Oklahoma City home inspection: The AFCI breakdown

As an Oklahoma City home inspection company owner, it is my job to be concerned with the safety features that a home could have to be better. One fairly new safety feature that has become the new wave of protection for electronics is an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter. Chances are (unless you have heard this term used by an inspector during an Oklahoma City home inspection or by an electrician) you’ve never heard of this technology. Just like many homeowners, you may not know what an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) really is.

The explanation of AFCI can be somewhat complicated to newcomers, but basically it is a type of breaker designed to detect arc faults in your home’s wiring. Arcing faults are a series that an arc occurs in electrical wiring when there is a small gap or break in a conductor. A parallel arc occurs when a small gap or break permits current to flow to the ground (a ground fault) or between the hot and neutral wires (a short circuit). This is where the AFCI comes in; it trips the breaker before those arcing faults can cause a fire. This is important, because over 40,000 fires, annually, are being attributed to home electrical wiring issues.

Oklahoma City home inspection tip # 1:
If you are curious whether you have AFCI breakers in your home, you can do a simple check to find out. Go to the electrical panels to see if any of the breakers have a test button. Next, read the label to see what type of breaker it is. There are two types of AFCI breakers you may keep an eye out for: Branch Feeder (or BRAF) and Combination type.

Oklahoma City home inspection tip # 2:
Combination type breakers are the newer ones. If you have panels with the older BRAF type breakers, it is recommended to replace them with the newer Combination type AFCI breakers.

Oklahoma City home inspection tip #3:
If you do not have AFCI breakers at all, then there is more for you to consider. Currently, there is not a way for AFCI breakers to be installed into very old homes without rewiring the circuits and installing new panels that could accept the AFCI breakers. If you’re not selling your home, then making the upgrade is solely up to your judgment as a homeowner.

Keep in mind, that the upgrade to AFCI breakers could be the difference between a home fire or replacement of expensive electronic items such as your radio, television or computer. AFCI breakers are truly a safety improvement for your home.

Give me a call (405-301-3321) to find out more, or if you feel you need an Oklahoma City home inspection!

frozen-pipe2

Inside Out Home Inspection Discusses Frozen Pipes: Part 2

Oklahoma City home inspection: Freezing weather tips

In part one of this series I discussed that when completing an Oklahoma City home inspection I see many things to be concerned about. One of the main things, with current temperatures, is frozen pipes that are prone to bursting. This can damage the inside and outside of your home. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety provided information that explains the true dangers of frozen pipes. In part two of this series I will show you a few more reasons why frozen pipes can be dangerous and explain to you a few more ways that you can prepare your home to prevent them. As mentioned previously, I am an Oklahoma City home inspection expert and I feel obliged to keep you knowledgeable.

Oklahoma City home inspection warning: Why frozen pipes are dangerous.

1.) A busted pipe can cost you well over $5,000 worth of water damage.
2.) 250 gallons of water can leak out from a crack that is as small as an eight of an inch.

Oklahoma City home inspection tip: What you can do to prevent frozen pipes.

There are things you should do to the interior and exterior of your home to prevent frozen pipes. The first thing you should do is disconnect all gardening hoses and install covers on all outside faucets. Also, wrap pipes nearest exterior walls and in crawl spaces with pipe insulation or with heating tape. This can prevent freezing, especially for interior pipes that run along outside walls. Additionally, if you insulate the outside walls and unheated areas of your home, you will be providing a “coat” for you home.

Oklahoma City home inspection bonus tip:

If you plan to be away from home for an extended period of time, shut off the water supply valves to your washing machine.

About me:
I’m Jan Banks of Inside Out Home Inspection Services. I do Oklahoma City home inspections in the metro to include a 50 mile radius. I am dedicated to serving all customer inspection needs across this greater Oklahoma City metropolitan area. I have over 20 years experience in the construction industry as an estimator, job superintendent and a licensed General Contractor.

frozen-pipe

Inside Out Home Inspection Discusses Frozen Pipes: Part 1

Oklahoma City home inspection: Freezing weather tips

When completing an Oklahoma City home inspection I see a great deal of issues. You may not have time to stop and think about home safety-related things, but the dangers of frozen pipes are real and should be noted. With these recent temperatures being below freezing, it is possible that your home’s pipes could get frozen. The damage that frozen pipes can do to your home is chilling. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety has a few startling statics about frozen pipes being one of the biggest risks of property damage when the temperature drops. In part one of this series I will show you a few reasons why frozen pipes can be dangerous and explain to you how you can prepare the inside of your home to prevent them. As your Oklahoma City home inspection expert, I feel obliged to keep you in the know.

Oklahoma City home inspection warning: Why frozen pipes are dangerous.

1.) The frozen pipe failures that occur in a basement comes to about 37%.
2.) A frozen pipe can lead to it bursting.

Oklahoma City home inspection tip: What you can do to prevent frozen pipes.

You can prevent your pipes from freezing by doing a number of things on the inside of your home. If you keep your house temperature at 68 degrees or higher, even if you’re leaving the house for an extended period of time, this will help out tremendously. Additionally, opening cabinet doors below sinks will allow heat from the home to circulate. It is also important to close all windows near water pipes and cover or close open-air vents. This is significant, because freezing temperatures combined with wind drafts can cause pipes to freeze more frequently. Finally, if you have a basement, heat it and consider weather sealing your windows.

Oklahoma City home inspection bonus tip:

You should identify the location of the main water valve and the valve on your water heater, because learning the location of these valves may come in handy during an emergency.

About me:

I’m Jan Banks of Inside Out Home Inspection Services. I do Oklahoma City home inspections in the metro to include a 50 mile radius. I am dedicated to serving all customer inspection needs across this greater Oklahoma City metropolitan area. I have over 20 years experience in the construction industry as an estimator, job superintendent and a licensed General Contractor.

Tips for Replacing Tubs and Showers

If you are replacing an existing tub, be sure to measure  and ensure it will fit in the same opening.  Be sure the plumbing and tub drain are in the same place.  Tubs are referred to as right or left drains.

Whirlpool tubs and tub surrounds are big.  Be sure they will fit the stairway and bathroom door.

Decide if you want shower curtains or a door.  If you convert to shower doors you can always go back, just realize that removing the door’s side rails will leave small holes in the walls.

The Real Skinny on Extension Cord Use

I can not tell you how many extension cords I see when I inspect homes.  I have inspected houses where extension cords are plugged into an outlet in a crawl space and run up through the floor of the home.  This can be a very dangerous situation and I do not think people are fully aware that it is and why.  This picture seems crazy and nobody would do that right?  Wrong!  I see things this dangerous on a regular basis.

Extension cords are a leading cause of electrical fires.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 3300 residential  fires originate in extension cords each year.  The most frequent causes of such fires is short circuits, overloading and damage to the cords.

Extension cords should only be used when necessary and on a temporary basis only.  The best practice is to plug any appliance directly into a wall outlet.  Things like garage door openers, outdoor fountains and freezers in garages should not have extension cords powering them as a permanent wiring solution. Extension cords are labeled with use,size and wattage ratings.  Cords are offered in different lengths and marked with a gauge based on the American Wiring Gauge (AWG).

When deciding to use an extension cord, carefully read manufacturers instructions for the tools you will be using.  A cord based on its gauge can power an appliance of a certain wattage only at specific distances.  As the cord gets longer, the current carrying capacity gets lower.

Quick Tip: If your appliance indicates that it uses 5 AMPS at 125Volts then the wattage rating would be 625 Watts. (5 x 125)

If you use an extension cord with 2 or more appliances, you must add together the wattage ratings for all the appliances being used on the cord.

If you decide to use an extension cord to temporarily power a tool or appliance, here are some tips to safely use the cord;

  • Check the plug and the body of the cord.  If it is hot (not warm) or the plastic is soft, this is a warning that the plug wires or connections are failing and the cord should be replaced
  • Do not use an extension cord while it is coiled or looped
  • Never cover an extension cord with newspapers, clothes or a rug.  It can overheat if it can’t discharge heat
  • Do not use staples to secure a cord to baseboard or other surface.  Staples can damage the cord and be a shock or fire hazard.
  • Do not overload by plugging in appliances that draw more watts than the rating of the cord.
  • When using outdoor tools or appliances, use only cords rated for outdoor use
  • Use polarized cords with polarized appliances and tools Polarized is where 1 prong is wider than the other and only goes in one way)
  • Do not use an adapter to plug a 3 prong cord into a 2 prong outlet
  • Do not plug extension cords together.  Use one long enough for the job

Use extension cords wisely to protect you and your home.  Feel free to call our office if you have any questions about extension cord use or any other home related concerns.  We would love to talk with you.

How to Make your Home Burglar Resistant

Some interesting statistics concerning break-ins in the United States:

  • In 2005, law enforcement agencies reported more than 2 million burglary offenses.
  • According to a survey, burglars enter homes through the following locations:
    • 81% enter through the first floor;
    • 34% of burglars enter through the front door;
    • 23% enter through a first-floor window;
    • 22% enter through the back door
    • 9% enter through the garage;
    • 4% enter through the basement;
    • 4% enter through an unlocked entrance;
    • 2% enter through a storage area;
    • and 2% enter anywhere on the second floor.

    Here are some ways to protect yourself and your family from break ins

    • Exterior Doors
    • Doors should be made of steel or solid-core wood construction. Hollow-core wood doors are more easily broken than heavy, solid-core doors.
    • Doors should be free of signs of rot, cracks and warping.
    • Doors should be protected by quality dead bolt locks. Chain locks are not adequate substitutes for dead bolt locks, although chain locks may be used as additional protection.
    • If a mail slot is present, it should be equipped with a cage or box. Mail slots that are not equipped with cages or boxes have been used by burglars to enter homes.  Burglars can insert a contraption made of wire and cord into the mail slot and use it to open the lock from the inside, if no box or cage is present.
    • If a door is equipped with glass panes, they should be installed far from the lock. Otherwise, burglars can smash the glass and reach through the door to unlock the door.
    • Spare keys should not be hidden in obvious locations. Burglars are very good at finding keys that homeowners believe are cleverly hidden. The best place for a spare key is in the house of a trusted neighbor. If keys must be hidden near the door, they should not be placed in obvious locations, such as under a doormat, rock or planter.
    • A peephole can be installed in doors so homeowners can see who is on their doorstep before they open the door.
    • Clients should consider installing bump-resistant locks on their doors. “Bumping” is a technique developed recently that can open almost any standard lock with less effort than is required by lock-picking. This technique uses “bump keys,” which are normal keys with slight modifications. Lock companies such as Schlage, Primus and Medeco manufacture a number of locks that offer some bump-resistance.
    • Pet Doors
    • Pet doors can be used by burglars to enter homes. Some burglars have reached through pet doors in order to unlock the door. It is advisable to not have a pet door, but if one is necessary, it should be as small as possible and installed far from the lock.
    • A crafty burglar may convince or coerce a small child to crawl through a pet door and unlock the door. Also, some burglars are children.
    • Electronic pet doors are available that open only when the pet, equipped with a signaling device in their collar, approaches the door. These doors are designed to keep stray animals out of the home, and may provide protection against burglars, as well.
    • Sliding Glass Doors
    • They should be equipped with locks on their tops and bottoms.
    • They should not be able to be lifted from their frames.
    • A cut-off broom handle, or a similar device, can be laid into the door track to prevent it from being opened.
    • Illumination
    • Lights should be installed on the exterior of all four sides of the house. Burglars prefer darkness so they cannot be seen by neighbors or passersby.
    • When building occupants are not home, a few lights should be left on.
    • It is helpful to install exterior lights that are activated by motion sensors. Burglars that are suddenly illuminated may flee.
    • Windows
    • All windows should be composed of strong glass, such as laminated glass, and be in good operating order.
    • They can be installed with bars, grilles, grates or heavy-duty wire screening. Barred windows must be equipped with a quick-release mechanism so occupants can quickly escape during a fire.
    • Windows should not be hidden by landscaping or structures. If landscaping or structures cannot be moved, lighting can be installed around the windows.
    • Landscaping and Yard
    • Shrubs and trees should not obscure the view of entrances. Shielded entrances can provide cover for burglars while they attempt to enter the residence.
    • Fences are helpful burglar deterrents, although they should not be difficult to see through.
    • While the house is vacant:
    • A loud radio can be used to make burglars think someone is home. Timers can be used to activate radios and lights to make the home seem occupied.
    • A car should always be parked in the driveway. A neighbor’s car can be parked there so that it appears as if someone is home.
    • The lawn should be cut regularly. Uncut grass is a clue that no one is home.
    • Other Tips
      • Dogs are excellent burglar deterrents. For clients who cannot own dogs, they can place “Beware of Dog” signs around the yard for nearly the same effect.
      • If no security system is installed, the client can post security alarm stickers around the yard.
      In summary, there are a number of tactics that you can do to help safeguard your home from break-ins.

15 Tools Every Homeowner Should Own

The following items are essential tools, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to ask us during your inspection about other helpful tools.
 
1.  Plunger
A clogged sink or toilet is one of the most inconvenient household problems that you will face. With a plunger on hand, however, you can usually remedy these 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, 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 Wrench

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
A hacksaw is useful for cutting metal objects, such as pipes, bolts and brackets. Hacksaws 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 the 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 flathead and a Phillips-head screwdriver. Electrical screwdrivers are 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 style (unlike the stronger end-cutting style) is handy, but not strong enough to cut small nails.

14.  Respirator / Safety Mask
While paints and other coatings are now manufactured to be less toxic (and lead-free) than in previous decades, most still contain dangerous chemicals, which is why you should wear a mask to avoid accidentally inhaling. A mask should also be worn when working in dusty and 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 face masks will 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.
Internachi. copyright Nick Gromicko

Keep Your Home Cool

Here are some tips for keeping your air conditioner efficient and operating properly.

Maintain your air conditioner

It’s easy to take your air conditioner for granted… until it stops working on a miserably hot day. If possible, have an air conditioning contractor inspect your unit before you start using it each summer. Regular maintenance will not only help spot potential problems, but will also increase the life and energy efficiency of your unit.

What you can do

Mold In your Home

How do molds grow in my home?

Once mold spores settle in your home, they need moisture to begin growing and digesting whatever they are growing on. There are molds that can grow on wood, ceiling tiles, wallpaper, paints, carpet, sheet rock, and insulation. When excess moisture or water builds up in your home from say, a leaky roof, high humidity, or flooding, conditions are often ideal for molds. Longstanding moisture or high humidity conditions and mold growth go together. Realistically, there is no way to rid all mold and mold spores from your home; the way to control mold growth is to control moisture.

How can I be exposed to mold?

When molds are disturbed, their spores may be released into the air. You then can be exposed to the spores through the air you breathe. Also, if you directly handle moldy materials, you can be exposed to mold and mold spores through contact with your skin. Eating moldy foods or hand-to-mouth contact after handling moldy materials is yet another way you may be exposed.

How do I know if I have a mold problem?

You may have seen white thread-like growths or clusters of small black specks along your damp bathroom or basement walls, or smelled a “musty” odor. Seeing and smelling mold is a good indication that you have a mold problem. However, you cannot always rely upon your senses to locate molds. Hidden mold can be growing behind wall coverings or ceiling tiles.

Common places to find mold are in areas where water has damaged building materials and furnishings perhaps from flooding or plumbing leaks. Mold can also be found growing along walls where warm moist air condenses on cooler wall surfaces, such as inside cold exterior walls, behind dressers, headboards, and in closets where articles are stored against walls. Rooms with both high water usage and humidity, such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and basements are often havens for mold. If you notice mold or know of water damaged areas in your home, it is time to take action to control its growth.

How can I control mold growth in my home?

Fix any moisture problems in your home:

  • Stop all water leaks first. Repair leaking roofs and plumbing fixtures. Move water away from concrete slabs and basement walls.
  • Increase air circulation within your home, especially along the inside of exterior walls, and ventilate with fresh air from outside. Provide warm air to all areas of the home. Move large objects away from the inside of exterior walls just a few inches to provide good air circulation.
  • Install and use exhaust fans in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.
  • Ventilate and insulate attic and crawl spaces. Cover earth floors in crawl spaces with heavy plastic.
  • Clean and dry water damaged carpets, clothing, bedding, upholstered furniture within 24 to 48 hours, or consider removing and replacing damaged furnishings.
  • Vacuum and clean your home regularly.

 

TWC article

Reduce Foundation Movement

What Can You Do to Reduce the Rate of Foundation Movement.

 

An owner can significantly reduce the rate of differential settlement by observing the following recommendations:

  • Try to maintain a constant moisture content in the soil around the foundation. Water the soil evenly and around the entire foundation during extended dry periods. This should prevent a gap from opening between the soil and foundation edge. However, if a gap does appear, water frequently (at least daily) around the entire foundation during extended dry periods (6 to 7 days in the summer). Do not apply water directly into the gap. Instead, water 1 to 2 feet away from the foundation edge.
  • Cut and cap the roots of any large trees growing closer to the foundation than the mature height of the trees. The roots from a large tree or several medium size trees can consume more water from the soil than can be added with a watering system. This will limit the consumption of water from the soil below the foundation and may prevent excessive differential settlement and cracks in the structure.
  • Properly grade the soil by filling in low spots and leveling off high spots adjacent to the foundation so that the surface of the soil slopes gradually away from the building. A recommended slope is 1 inch per foot for a distance of 3 to 4 feet from the foundation.
  • Control roof water runoff and help prevent soil erosion by using a gutter and downspout system. This is especially important if a building has no eaves which overhang the walls or if the eaves are less than 1 foot wide.
  • Water trees and shrubs growing near a building during extended dry periods as they cause shrinking of the soil due to their high water consumption. Keep in mind that moderate to large trees consume 50 to 75 gallons of water from the soil every day.

SUMMARY
Remember: the intent of foundation maintenance is to maintain a constant moisture content in the soil around and below the entire foundation and to prevent soil erosion that can result from water flowing off the roof or other large flat surfaces near the building.