The onset of subzero temperatures brings us an influx of phone calls regarding problems with furnaces. As temperatures drop, we begin to demand increasingly more from our furnaces, but unfortunately many aren’t up to the challenge. Since we still have several months of cold weather ahead, this is still a good time to make sure that your heating system is in good working condition and prepared for the workload ahead. (Much of the following information can be addressed by a licensed HVAC technician; however, if you wish to have more than just your heating system evaluated, our Maintenance Check-up is an excellent idea).
For most of us, regular care of a furnace isn’t a top priority – until it stops working. The first step in ensuring that that doesn’t happen is to find out when the unit was last serviced. Was it done recently? If not, the blower and inducing motors may need servicing. These components can become dirty, work themselves loose, or the bearings can deteriorate. Listen to the furnace while it is running; you can often detect odd noises that might indicate whether one of these situations is developing. Fixing a problem in its early stages can save your furnace, not to mention your wallet.
Another key component of your furnace is the filter, which removes excess particles from the air as it enters the unit. It is generally recommended to change your filter once a month, especially in summer and winter when the blower is working excessively. There are different types of filters on the market, including high-allergen filters (often listed as MERV 9 or above); however, we do not recommend the allergen filters because they are so thick that they can place excess strain on the furnace. Instead, we recommend the more inexpensive filters with a lower MERV rating, replaced a bit more frequently.
With freezing temperatures comes dry air. Our humidifiers are therefore working on overdrive as well. Humidifier pads can develop calcium build-up from water sources, which blocks the flow of water and diverts it to areas it shouldn’t be going. A common example is when humidifier water is diverted into the furnace itself, causing rust, damage, and eventual furnace failure. If you haven’t changed the pad in a while, inspect the area around the furnace. Look for water dripping under the humidifier or onto the furnace; these are signs that the unit is blocked and water is being misdirected. A general guideline to follow is to change your humidifier pad once each year, so if you haven’t changed it yet, now is a good time. It is easy to do, but you can have an HVAC technician do it, especially if you have one coming out for general servicing already.
Changing your own furnace filter and humidifier pad is relatively easy, and you can find both at most Big Box and hardware stores. Look for the name and model number on the side of your furnace unit, so you can purchase the appropriate size filter and pad. If you can’t find this information, you can pull the cover off of the humidifier and measure the pad, or simply take a few pictures that you can show to a salesperson at the store. The furnace filter location depends on the model, and can be a bit more difficult to find. It may be located on the side, bottom, or top of the unit, either easily accessible on the outside, or inside the unit where it is difficult to access. However, they should generally be located in the area where the return air duct connects with the main furnace unit. A professional technician can show you where your particular components are located. But, if we have performed an inspection on your home in the past, you can luckily call us for help!
Again, an HVAC technician can do all of these things for you, and this regular check-up should be done on an annual basis. An added benefit to hiring a professional is that, if you have a company come out to service the system every year, when a problem does come up (like your furnace shutting down on a below-zero night!) you’ll likely be near the top of their priority list versus a new client calling for the first time.
Lastly, if you have other concerns about your home in addition to your heating system, our Maintenance Check-up is an excellent service to provide you with peace of mind. The Check-up is identical to a pre-sale home inspection, providing you with an objective and utterly thorough analysis of all of your home’s systems – areas such as the roof, plumbing, electrical system, foundation, and everything in-between, including the furnace.
To read more about our Maintenance Check-up, click here.
If you’re building a new home, a home inspection might not be on the top of your to-do list. But if you forego this inspection it could cost you thousands of dollars in the long run. Here, we explain why a home inspection is one of the most important elements of new construction.
Why should I have a home inspection performed on a newly constructed home when the house is built to code and inspected and approved by the building department?
- Building codes themselves are the bare minimum required to make a home safe for occupancy.
- Municipal inspections usually only last 20-30 minutes, which is evidence that they are nowhere near as thorough as a private home inspection by Inspect, Inc. When you hire Inspect, you can expect us to perform an exhaustive inspection of your home and be on site for 2 hours or more depending on the size of the property being inspected.
- A building inspection looks at the completed project, but does not test the operation of the built-in fixtures and appliances attached to the utilities.
- The utilities are not turned on until all have been signed off by the municipal inspector. Therefore, these components – such as gas, water, and electricity – are not actually inspected for proper function by the building department. The best time to check the operation of these functional components is during a home inspection, after the utilities have been activated.
- The best time to inspect a newly constructed home is when it is brand new, while the builder’s warranty is still in effect.
Some of the items that Inspect, Inc. will examine, which are often bypassed in new-construction inspections:
- We examine the operational flow of water, and check for proper installation of plumbing fixtures and faucets. We look for loose or leaking connections. Faucets are turned on and drains are tested for leaks. These items are not covered by a municipal inspection.
- We inspect for gas leaks at piping and appliances.
- Check for the correct polarity, proper grounding, and operation of GFCI and AFCI faults in the electrical system.
- We inspect the function of all built-in appliances, including garbage disposals, dishwashers, ovens, ranges, cook tops, ceiling fans, exhaust fans, and garage door openers – all of which are not examined by municipal inspectors.
- Enter attics and crawl spaces, checking for proper ventilation and insulation value.
- Walk on roof to check for the proper installation of shingles, flashings, vents, etc, check for any damaged or missing components, weather permitting.
- Check for proper operation and installation of the heating and cooling systems, operation of the water heater(s), and evaluation of fireplace(s).
We understand that all new homes have some defects, usually minor, but potentially costly. Having us perform a home inspection on your new home gives you the best opportunity to take advantage of the builder’s warranty as well as learn what to expect in the future as the home settles into its new foundation. By not having a professional home inspection you may be putting yourself at risk for underlying problems that surface in the future.
Have you recently decided to purchase a home? Are you looking for a great inspector to make sure your investment is a worthwhile endeavor? It’s likely you’ve been told by your realtor, friends, or family to make sure you have a home inspection performed. And certainly we at INSPECT, INC. would tell you that you need look no further, you can rest assured that we are a sound choice. But how do you, the consumer, ultimately choose a home inspector that you trust is reliable, and what attributes make a great one?
You don’t want to follow someone’s recommendation or hire a mutual friend only to find that he or she missed an important defect in your home. While there are many important qualities in an inspector, such as professional affiliations and continuing education, the number one factor guiding your inspector search should be experience level – specifically the number of years that the inspector has been an active home inspector and the number of inspections he or she has personally performed. The number of inspections should reach well into the thousands, preferably around 5,000 or more, and with that many inspections in their history, it is likely an experienced inspector will have been actively inspecting for a decade or longer. Sufficient experience is the one characteristic of your home inspector that you must insist on, otherwise there is no point paying for a professional inspection!
The single most effective way for an inspector to develop their essential skills is through experience in the field. Classroom exercises can only teach the basic flow of a home inspection and usually involve following a simple check-list through a home. While this education is essential to building a good foundation, it is the many years of hands-on experience which teaches an inspector where problem spots occur and how to quickly identify them. Certain building styles have common defects, and homes built in different eras have unique building materials that are prone to specific problems. Having a truly qualified inspector can mean the difference between a dream-come-true and disaster: The discovery (or lack thereof) of defects, unbiased disclosure, and a clear understanding of all the home’s components are all essential to making a sound investment.
Buying a home is likely the single biggest investment you will make in your lifetime. Making sure it is safe for you and your family is the most important reason for having a home inspection. You can rest assured that INSPECT, INC. is a team of home inspectors with extensive experience who are at the top of their field, and we will provide you with the information you need to make an educated decision about your investment.
While we’re all enjoying the fabulous weather warm-up, it creates the perfect scenario for water damage around your home. All of that snow is melting quickly under the warm April sun, and snowdrifts act as dams by keeping the water pooled around outside foundation walls.
Water damage is expensive! Here are some suggestions to avoid potential problems:
- If needed, clear areas of remaining snow away from the outside of your home to create a pathway for pooled water to drain away properly. In spring, it may be necessary to readjust the grade around your home so that water drains away instead of collecting near the foundation.
- Check basements and crawlspaces to see if any water is leaking in through cracks in the foundation.
- Window wells can become tanks of water if snow-melt trickles in along the side of the house. Water can leak in quickly from these points!
- Make sure sump pumps are working properly and battery backups are functioning and ready to go.
- Clear leaf litter and debris from floor drains so that water can drain away quickly.
- If you have a sewer drain in the neighborhood near your home, check to see that it is clear of snow and leaves. The water draining from several yards can quickly turn into a small lake, and without adequate drainage it may begin to approach your home.
With Spring comes the welcome return of the great outdoors. Robins are back, grills are being fired up, and neighbors are once again active up and down the street. Unfortunately one other little neighbor is coming out of hibernation as well – chipmunks.
The fuzzy little critters have been captured in Disney movies and cartoons for years, and they are often fun to watch as they scurry around the yard in hot pursuit of each other. But many homeowners can tell you that they bring more harm than good to your backyard Eden.
Chipmunks are voracious eaters, attacking bulbs and seedlings and ravaging bird feeders until they hang empty. More serious destruction can happen around the foundation of your home. As chipmunks burrow to establish their underground pathways, they loosen and remove foundation materials underneath service walks and front stoops. As seen in this photo, when enough material is removed, the void created beneath structures can cause sagging and eventual collapse. So, while chipmunks can be a definite nuisance around your landscape, they turn downright damaging and costly when they start to affect your home. Gravel foundations for walks and steps can be surrounded by wire fencing in order to prevent rodents from burrowing through the material.
The best prevention is to simply be aware of the conditions around your home and watch for any new or increasing chipmunk activity. That way, while many homeowners are able to tolerate a certain amount of activity around their home, a severe problem can be caught in the early stages before it results in costly damage.