INSPECT IT ALL SERVICES

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Home Winterization

If you're concerned about your house then call Inspect it All 
to do a Maintenance Inspection!
Plumbing System

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

Leaky window frames, door frames, and electrical outlets can allow warm air to escape into the outdoors.
  • 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. 
Insulation
  • 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. 
Heating Systems

The heating system is used most during the winter so it’s a good idea to make sure that it works before it’s desperately needed. 
  • 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. 
Cooling Systems
  • 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. 
Chimneys and Fireplaces
  • 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. 
Roofs
  • 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. 
Landscape
  • Patio furniture should be covered. 
  • If there is a deck, it might need an extra coat of sealer. 
Adequate winterization is especially crucial for homes that are left unoccupied during the winter. This sometimes happens when homeowners who own multiple properties leave one home vacant for months at a time while they occupy their summer homes. Foreclosed homes are sometimes left unoccupied, as well. The heat may be shut off in vacant homes in order to save money. Such homes must be winterized in order to prevent catastrophic building damage.

In addition to the information above, INSPECTIT ALL advises the following measures to prepare an unoccupied home for the winter: 
  • Winterize toilets by emptying them completely. Antifreeze can be poured into       toilets and other plumbing fixtures. 
  • Winterize faucets by opening them and leaving them open. 
  • Water tanks and pumps need to be drained completely. 
  • Drain all water from indoor and outdoor plumbing. 
  • Unplug all non-essential electrical appliances, especially the refrigerator. If no electrical appliances are needed, electricity can be shut off at the main breaker. 
In summary, home winterization is a collection of preventative measures designed to protect homes against damage caused by cold temperatures. These measures should be performed in the fall, before it gets cold enough for damage to occur. Indoor plumbing is probably the most critical area to consider when preparing a home for winter, although other systems should not be ignored.

Friday, January 27, 2017

10 Easy Ways to Save Money & Energy in Your Home

Most people don’t know how easy it is to make their homes run on less energy, and here at INSPECT IT ALL, we want to change that.

Drastic reductions in heating, cooling and electricity costs can be accomplished through very simple changes, most of which homeowners can do themselves. Of course, for homeowners who want to take advantage of the most up-to-date knowledge and systems in home energy efficiency, INSPECT IT ALL energy auditors can perform in-depth testing to find the best energy solutions for your particular home.

Why make your home more energy efficient? Here are a few good reasons:

  • Federal, provincial, utility and local financial incentives, such as tax breaks, are very advantageous for homeowners in most parts of Canada 
  • It saves money. It costs less to power a home that has been converted to be more energy-efficient. 
  • It increases the comfort level indoors. 
  • It reduces our impact on climate change. Many scientists now believe that excessive energy consumption contributes significantly to global warming. 
  • It reduces pollution. Conventional power production introduces pollutants that find their way into the air, soil and water supplies. 
1. Find better ways to heat and cool your house

As much as half of the energy used in homes goes toward heating and cooling. The following are a few ways that energy bills can be reduced through adjustments to the heating and cooling systems:

  • Install a ceiling fan. Ceiling fans can be used in place of air conditioners, which require a large amount of energy. 
  • Periodically replace air filters in air conditioners and heaters. 
  • Set thermostats to an appropriate temperature. Specifically, they should be turned down at night and when no one is home. In most homes, about 2% of the heating bill will be saved for each degree that the thermostat is lowered for at least eight hours each day. Turning down the thermostat from 75° F to 70° F, for example, saves about 10% on heating costs. 
  • Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat saves money by allowing heating and cooling appliances to be automatically turned down during times that no one is home and at night. Programmable thermostats contain no mercury and, in some climate zones, can save up to $150 per year in energy costs. 
  • Install a wood stove or a pellet stove. These are more efficient sources of heat than furnaces. 
  • At night, curtains drawn over windows will better insulate the room. 

2. Install a tankless water heater

Demand-type water heaters (tankless or instantaneous) provide hot water only as it is needed. They don't produce the standby energy losses associated with traditional storage water heaters, which will save on energy costs. Tankless water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. A gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, demand water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. You don't need to wait for a storage tank to fill up with enough hot water.


3. Replace incandescent lights

The average household dedicates 11% of its energy budget to lighting. Traditional incandescent lights convert approximately only 10% of the energy they consume into light, while the rest becomes heat. The use of new lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), can reduce the energy use required by lighting by 50% to 75%. Advances in lighting controls offer further energy savings by reducing the amount of time that lights are on but not being used. Here are some facts about CFLs and LEDs:

  • CFLs use 75% less energy and last about 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. 
  • LEDs last even longer than CFLs and consume less energy. 
  • LEDs have no moving parts and, unlike CFLs, they contain no mercury. 
4. Seal and insulate your home

Sealing and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy-efficient, and you can do it yourself. A tightly sealed home can improve comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility bills. INSPECT IT ALL can assess the leakage in the building envelope and recommend fixes that will dramatically increase comfort and energy savings.

The following are some common places where leakage may occur:

  • electrical receptacles/outlets; 
  • mail slots; 
  • around pipes and wires; 
  • wall- or window-mounted air conditioners; 
  • attic hatches; 
  • fireplace dampers; 
  • inadequate weather stripping around doors; 
  • baseboards; 
  • window frames; and 
  • switch plates. 
Because hot air rises, air leaks are most likely to occur in the attic. Homeowners can perform a variety of repairs and maintenance to their attics that save them money on cooling and heating, such as:
  • Plug the large holes. Locations in the attic where leakage is most likely to be the greatest are where walls meet the attic floor, behind and under attic knee walls, and in dropped-ceiling areas. 
  • Seal the small holes. You can easily do this by looking for areas where the insulation is darkened. Darkened insulation is a result of dusty interior air being filtered by insulation before leaking through small holes in the building envelope. In cold weather, you may see frosty areas in the insulation caused by warm, moist air condensing and then freezing as it hits the cold attic air. In warmer weather, you’ll find water staining in these same areas. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the openings around plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires. Cover the areas with insulation after the caulk is dry. 
  • Seal up the attic access panel with weather stripping. You can cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid foam board insulation in the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic access panel. If you have pull-down attic stairs or an attic door, these should be sealed in a similar manner. 
5. Install efficient shower heads and toilets

The following systems can be installed to conserve water usage in homes:
  • Low-flow shower heads. They are available in different flow rates, and some have a pause button which shuts off the water while the bather lathers up; 
  • Low-flow toilets. Toilets consume 30% to 40% of the total water used in homes, making them the biggest water users. Replacing an older 3.5-gallon toilet with a modern, low-flow 1.6-gallon toilet can reduce usage an average of 2 gallons-per-flush (GPF), saving 12,000 gallons of water per year. Low-flow toilets usually have "1.6 GPF" marked on the bowl behind the seat or inside the tank; 
  • Vacuum-assist toilets. This type of toilet has a vacuum chamber that uses a siphon action to suck air from the trap beneath the bowl, allowing it to quickly fill with water to clear waste. Vacuum-assist toilets are relatively quiet; and 
  • Dual-flush toilets. Dual-flush toilets have been used in Europe and Australia for years and are now gaining in popularity in the Canada. Dual-flush toilets let you choose between a 1-gallon (or less) flush for liquid waste, and a 1.6-gallon flush for solid waste. Dual-flush 1.6-GPF toilets reduce water consumption by an additional 30%
6. Use appliances and electronics responsibly

Appliances and electronics account for about 20% of household energy bills in a typical Canadian home. The following are tips that will reduce the required energy of electronics and appliances:
  • Refrigerators and freezers should not be located near the stove, dishwasher or heat vents, or exposed to direct sunlight. Exposure to warm areas will force them to use more energy to remain cool. 
  • Computers should be shut off when not in use. If unattended computers must be left on, their monitors should be shut off. According to some studies, computers account for approximately 3% of all energy consumption in the United States. 
  • Use efficient ENERGY STAR-rated appliances and electronics. These devices, approved by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Program, include TVs, home theater systems, DVD players, CD players, receivers, speakers, and more. According to the EPA, if just 10% of homes used energy-efficient appliances, it would reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of 1.7 million acres of trees. 
  • Chargers, such as those used for laptops and cell phones, consume energy when they are plugged in. When they are not connected to electronics, chargers should be unplugged. 
  • Laptop computers consume considerably less electricity than desktop computers. 
7. Install day lighting as an alternative to electrical lighting
Day lighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate the home's interior. It can be achieved using the following approaches: 

  • Skylights. It’s important that they be double-pane or they may not be cost-effective. Flashing skylights correctly is key to avoiding leaks; 
  • Light shelves. Light shelves are passive devices designed to bounce light deep into a building. They may be interior or exterior. Light shelves can introduce light into a space up to 2½ times the distance from the floor to the top of the window, and advanced light shelves may introduce four times that amount; 
  • Clerestory windows. Clerestory windows are short, wide windows set high on the wall. Protected from the summer sun by the roof overhang, they allow winter sun to shine through for natural lighting and warmth; and 
  • Light tubes. Light tubes use a special lens designed to amplify low-level light and reduce light intensity from the midday sun. Sunlight is channeled through a tube coated with a highly reflective material, and then enters the living space through a diffuser designed to distribute light evenly. 
8. Insulate windows and doors

About one-third of the home's total heat loss usually occurs through windows and doors. The following are ways to reduce energy lost through windows and doors:

  • Seal all window edges and cracks with rope caulk. This is the cheapest and simplest option.  
  • Windows can be weather stripped with a special lining that is inserted between the window and the frame. For doors, apply weather stripping around the whole perimeter to ensure a tight seal when they're closed. Install quality door sweeps on the bottom of the doors, if they aren't already in place. 
  • Install storm windows at windows with only single panes. A removable glass frame can be installed over an existing window. 
  • If existing windows have rotted or damaged wood, cracked glass, missing putty, poorly fitting sashes, or locks that don't work, they should be repaired or replaced. 
9. Cook smart

An enormous amount of energy is wasted while cooking. The following recommendations and statistics illustrate less wasteful ways of cooking:
  • Convection ovens are more efficient that conventional ovens. They use fans to force hot air to circulate more evenly, thereby allowing food to be cooked at a lower temperature. Convection ovens use approximately 20% less electricity than conventional ovens. 
  • Microwave ovens consume approximately 80% less energy than conventional ovens. 
  • Pans should be placed on the matching size heating element or flame. 
  • Using lids on pots and pans will heat food more quickly than cooking in uncovered pots and pans. 
  • Pressure cookers reduce cooking time dramatically. 
  • When using conventional ovens, food should be placed on the top rack. The top rack is hotter and will cook food faster. 
10. Change the way you do laundry

  • Do not use the medium setting on your washer. Wait until you have a full load of clothes, as the medium setting saves less than half of the water and energy used for a full load. 
  • Avoid using high-temperature settings when clothes are not very soiled. Water that is 140° F uses far more energy than 103° F for the warm-water setting, but 140° F isn’t that much more effective for getting clothes clean. 
  • Clean the lint trap every time before you use the dryer. Not only is excess lint a fire hazard, but it will prolong the amount of time required for your clothes to dry. 
  • If possible, air-dry your clothes on lines and racks. 
  • Spin-dry or wring clothes out before putting them into a dryer. 
  • Homeowners who take the initiative to make these changes usually discover that the energy savings are more than worth the effort.