As usual, Old Man Winter arrived in a cold and cranky mood across much of the U.S. to start the new year. But we like to look at the bright side at A-Pro. Winter can still be a great time to sell homes, perform home inspections, and share knowledge that can help our businesses thrive.
In our latest issue of From the Rafters, we’ve included a discussion on inspecting vent connectors, tips on bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans, and hot news on thermal imaging inspections. Plus, there are a few fun facts to share with your clients. Have you ever suffered from sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia? Read on to find out.
As A-Pro celebrates our 25th anniversary, we wish you all the best in the coming year. Enjoy the newsletter and let us know how we can be of service. Remember…spring isn’t far away!
Jay Jaquess, CHI, PHI,
A-Pro Home Inspection Austin
It’s Always Flue Season at A-Pro
As we enter the depths of winter, it seems a good time to talk about one of the most important but lesser-known aspects of a complete home inspection—the exhaust flue, also known as a flue vent connector.
Usually made of single-wall steel or aluminum, the vent connector pipe runs from an appliance (e.g., a gas-fired furnace) to the chimney, helping to conduct combustion waste to the outside. The byproducts of combustion include carbon monoxide, lead, particulate matter, and sulfur and nitrogen oxides. These are produced in a home by gas- and oil-fired furnaces, boilers, and water heaters; wood stoves and fireplaces; portable propane, natural gas, and kerosene heaters; and other fuel-burning appliances.
When not vented properly, these waste products—either appearing as smoke or invisible gas—can spill into the home and pose serious health hazards and even death.
A certified home inspector will perform a visual inspection of a home’s venting system, including a thorough assessment of flue vent connectors. Common problems that will be noted in the home inspection report include:
Vent connectors that do not slope up to a chimney or outdoor vent.
Improper installation: The home inspector will indicate the presence of open seams, rusted holes, and other issues such as vent connectors that are too long to allow for exhaust gasses to easily exit the home.
Inadequate supports can lead to a pipe no longer maintaining its proper slope or causing condensation to form rust on the pipe. Installers are encouraged to carefully follow manufacturer guidelines in regard to installing vent connector supports.
Lack of sufficient connections or poorly installed connection screws can cause pipes to sag or leak. The inspector will examine the entirety of the connections to check for gaps, particularly where the pipe meets the furnace or chimney.
Pipes that are too close to or touching combustible materials such as insulation can present a fire hazard. (There should be a six-inch clearance, unless the installer has used a B-Vent, which requires one inch). Further, the inspector will point out if combustible material has been used as supports for the vent connector.
Other problems, such as a vent connector extending too far into the chimney, cannot be assessed visually and would require disassembly, which is not part of a typical home inspection. This circumstance, like a blocked flue, can result in deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
Be Fanatical About Exhaust Fan Maintenance
Here are a few tips from A-Pro regarding two often forgotten but valuable home maintenance appliances—bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans. Share these ideas with your clients to help prevent potentially big problems down the road.
A properly functioning bathroom exhaust fan is a good way to remove steam and odors. When not removed, steam turns into condensation that can breed mold and mildew, warp wood trim, and cause drywall to decay. It is recommended to clean the bathroom exhaust fan at least once a year to keep it running efficiently.
When you’re taking hot showers, be sure to run the bathroom exhaust fan during and afterwards until all the steam has been removed.
The kitchen exhaust fan—located in the range hood, or on the wall or cabinet above the stove—vents steam produced from cooking to the outside, in addition to removing smoke when you let the brats sizzle too long. Kitchen exhaust fans should also be cleaned once a year.
Consult your user manuals for proper cleaning procedures for kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans.
For the sake of saving energy, don’t forget to turn off your exhaust fans.
Bathroom and kitchen windows are helpful but shouldn’t be used as a replacement for exhaust fans.
Make sure a checkup of the bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans is part of the home inspection (a visual and operational examination of both appliances is part of an A-Pro complete 500-point inspection).
Among other actions, the inspector will turn on and listen to the fan; make sure it exhausts to the outside (venting to the ceiling, attic or other room is a definite no); check to make sure all seals are tight and that it has been correctly installed; report on evidence of moisture or condensation associated with the fan; determine if the exhaust duct is correctly attached based on whether it is a flex or rigid type; ensure that outside dampers are working; and test the unit’s flow rate.
Winter—A Good Time for a Thermal Imaging Examination
When temperatures plummet and your furnace kicks on, do you run to put on your favorite fleece sweatshirt? Are wall surfaces cold to the touch? Do you get hit by a chilly draft when passing an upstairs window? Are you running the heating system less but still paying high utility bills?
If you answered yes, then it’s time to consider a Thermal Imaging Home Inspection. These inspections take the guesswork out of understanding whether a home is sufficiently air tight or not.
As a real estate agent, recommending a Thermal Imaging Home Inspection to your home-selling and home-buying clients is also a smart idea. Through use of thermography, a home inspector can pinpoint areas in a home that are experiencing heat loss or heat gain.
During winter months, thermal imaging equipment can more easily detect if cold outside air is creeping into a home through walls, ceilings, the roof, poorly sealed windows and doors, chimneys, the attic, locations where there may be a lack of insulation, and other areas. Experts estimate that as much as 50% of a home’s energy consumption is due to these leaks.
Similarly, summer thermal imaging assessments—particularly during the hottest months—can dramatically highlight spots where warm outside air is finding its way into an air-conditioned home, making life miserable for the homeowner, both in terms of physical discomfort and unnecessarily high cooling costs.
Using an infrared camera, the home inspector can see a visual representation of heat differences at the finished surfaces of walls, floors, and ceilings. Thermal imaging can also identify hidden plumbing issues and high moisture areas that may be susceptible to mold, damage caused by wood destroying insects, overheating electrical wiring, and other dangerous and expensive problems.
Armed with this information, the home-seller can address these issues before listing the home and present potential buyers with a Thermal Imaging report that provides concrete evidence that the home meets standards for air tightness. If the inspection finds areas that were deficient, the seller can take action and then show proof of how problem spots were fixed.
For homebuyers, a Thermal Imaging Home Inspection can help them make a decision with confidence by enabling them to negotiate a fair price based on the findings or by requesting that the seller take care of air leakage concerns upfront.
Thermal Imaging Home Inspections are not part of a complete 500-point A-Pro home inspection.
Contact your local A-Pro Home Inspection team in Austin at 512-200-7250 for more information.
Real Estate Agent Question Corner
What is a Foundation Level Survey and why is it important?
A Foundation Level Survey accurately documents floor variations in every room of the home. It is performed in addition to other foundation assessments, including checking for evidence of wall buckling and cracks, gaps between wall seams, sagging floors and warped ceilings, and misaligned doors and windows.
This survey—a $150 value that comes free with a 500-point A-Pro inspection—helps identify areas of immediate concern and provides a recorded baseline to be compared against future foundation level surveys. When rechecked, the homeowners have a record of the original levels in the inspection report so they can determine if the home is settling and at what rate.
How It’s Done: A-Pro inspectors use a special digital meter that documents floor elevation. Results are analyzed by the inspector and noted in an easy-to-understand table included in the home inspection report.
What this Means to You: Your home-buying clients receive peace of mind knowing this important aspect of the home’s structure has been examined. For home-selling clients who have had an inspection performed before listing the home, details about the building’s structural integrity can make it more marketable and help it to sell faster.
A foundation inspection and free foundation level survey are just part of an A-Pro 500-point home inspection.
Contact your local A-Pro Home Inspection team in Austin at 512-200-7250 for more information.
A-Pro, since 1994
Winter Fun Facts
There are some folks who take the phrase, “Let’s build a snowman!” to extremes. Case in point, the residents of Bethel, Maine. With help from surrounding communities, they piled up 13 million pounds of snow to make a snowwoman measuring 122 feet, one inch tall—only slightly shorter than the Statue of Liberty. Built over a month in February 2008, the towering creation (a Guinness Book of World Records champ) was adorned with truck tires for buttons, eyelashes made from eight pairs of skis, and 30-foot-tall spruce tree arms.
If you’re old enough to remember ABC’s Wide World of Sports, you probably became acquainted with barrel jumping, which was periodically featured on the show. As the name implies, it involves ice skaters jumping over barrels lined up side by side—a feat that would find a welcome place at today’s X-Games. The record for most barrels jumped belongs to Yvon Jolin of Canada, who successfully soared 29 feet, five inches over 18 barrels.
Brain freeze…it can happen to any of us when we gulp down a snow-cone or drink a frosty brew too fast. Scientifically, it’s known as sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. It occurs when there is a rapid change in temperature at the artery where blood feeds your brain. Drinking a cold beverage too quickly doesn’t allow the mouth enough time to warm it properly. The result is a rapid onset headache caused by a dilation and contraction of associated arteries.
A Final Thought: When your clients need home inspections this winter– or any season – give your local team at A-Pro a call. We’ve performed thousands of inspections from coast to coast since 1994.