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Energy Audits

This weeks blog is about energy audits. I am not going to bore you with the formulas used to calculate how your kilowatts used is billed by the electrical company. I am going to excite you to explain how to save money on your electric bill and certain ideas to keep a few pennies in your pocket. So lets begin.

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On a recent inspection in Webster Florida we had a client asking about how to lower the electric bill. The first way is to check the insulation in your attic as heat loss and cold air will be a big factor. But she went on and stated that the insulation was not the problem. What she was referring to was that from one year ago til that day she knew she used less electric as certain appliances and devices weren’t being energized but got the same bill. This is what brought about this blog and how we assisted her to find out what was going on in the home.

There are several types of ways to perform an energy audit. You have the blower door type, you can have assessment from the electrical company to analayize your electric bill then you have what we did. We did an assessment of her kilowatts used in the past 12 months. They usage was about the same per month. However, our client insisted that certain devices and appliances were not being used as she was traveling and turned off certain ones. This is what really brought “the raised eyebrow” If you are being billed a similar amount but using less electric yes the bill should be lower. So here is what we did.

First thing we did was to make sure that the panel box had no double taps. Maybe a neighbor had tapped into their electric box. (Could happen since they are on the exterior.) Then we turned on the appliances. The dishwasher, heat-pump, let hot water in the shower run for 20 minutes so the elements on the new hot-water heater were energized and the well pump was pumping water.  We turned on the oven and stove to assimilate we were cooking. (we did make coffee)  Then had all the lights on with ceiling fans going. And finally lowered the temperatures on the refrigerator and chest freezer to engage the compressors to turn on. Now keep in mind we did check the windows to make sure there was no heat loss. The windows were energy efficient and installed correctly. We even used an infrared camera to determine if there was any difference in temperatures. And for the most part they were fine. So, what is causing this issue.

As the appliances were in full energized mode we went to each one and checked electrical connections, insulation, and checked any electrical components. So first we checked the hot-water tank. That was performing perfectly. Then went down the list of the above mentioned appliances. And here is where it got interesting.

When we checked the loads and amps being used we found 3 aging appliances. We found that the chess freezer was over 12 years old. The gasket on the door was in its bonus life. This could affect the appliance to work more as it is loosing cold air. Then moving forward we checked the fans, the heat-pump and the oven. All working perfectly. So as we are nearing the end of the audit the last appliance we tested was the well pump, faucets and hose bibs. And here is where we found the culprit making the electrical bill high. The hose bibs on the side of the home were dripping. Just enough for the well pump to engage. Then checking the load on the well pump we found that the motor was engaging high amperage. To the point that the breaker did not trip as it was an incorrect breaker installed. The wingdings in the motor were winding faster and drawing more amperage then recommended. And with the incorrect breaker the breaker did not trip. And this would make the electric bill high.

So, in closing we found that that freezer gasket needed to be replaced as this could allow cold air to escape and which would engage the compressor to come on more then it should. The hose bibs were leaking enough for the well pump to engage and the well pump motor using more amperage then it should. Now keep in mind the home owners were traveling so alot of the devices were not energized but the major components were being worked more and defective. This audit assisted the home owner to know how to get the correct repairs and safety devices replaced.

If you feel that your energy bill maybe high let us perform an energy audit on your home. For a minor fee it could save you more then you realize. We perform this type of service in Hernando, Clearwater, Lakeland and Land O Lakes Florida all the time and have helped home owners save on their electric bill. For more information feel free to call us anytime at 352-322-2700 or look us up at http://www.emeraldinspectionservice.com  Thank You.

Double Taps On Breakers

This weeks blog is about “double taps”. During the inspection process we inspect all electrical panels. There are several reasons why this process is done. And in this blog I am going to share about electrical inspections and electrical safety. So lets begin.

During the inspection process part of the electrical inspection is to inspect the panel box and sub-panel boxes. In Florida, we have with new construction a main breaker at the meter then that feeds to the panel box that maybe in the garage or bedroom. This is nice when a technician has to work on the panel. So while inspecting we check both. A lot of times the main disconnect may have a breaker for outside lighting or the pool equipment. With some homes, they almost use it as the main panel to feed the shed and/or other equipment. However, we also have the double tap as well.

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Some non-experienced workers will run a feed for an exterior circuit to the main electric feeds. Or if there is a small amp circuit for an additional receptacle they will tap off a 20 amp breaker because the panel box is full. Neither are appropriate and are not safe. The entire purpose of the breakers are in-case the amperage is to high the breaker will trip. Imagine operating heavy mechanical equipment that require 30 amps in your bedroom from the circuit that is only 15 amps. The circuit will trip every time and then the eventually cause damage to the main. As so this is true double tapping any other breaker or main. If the panel is full then either a sub-panel is needed or a complete upgrade. Yes it can be costly but it is safer. Now I have seen also where people will install an exterior receptacle and tap it to an appliance breaker. This is not good either. The starting amps for an appliance is going to be within 10% of the breaker allowed amperage. So if there is a tap to the heat-pump for that circuit and the unit comes on as you start up a weed wacker again you could trip the breaker or cause more damage then known.

So whats the solution. When adding additional circuits there is a proper process. Yes you can look on the internet but if you do not know electrical math to gain the resistance and amperage of a said circuit you could really do damage to the homes wiring. When we find these deficiencies we immediately tag the circuit. If the circuit is not energizing any food appliances we suggest to the home owner or agent that we would like to shut off the breaker as it is unsafe.  This deficiency is marked in the report and we usually have to do a return visit to inspect the deficiency being corrected.  By no means is this a deal killer for a transaction but it needs to be attended too.

For more information about electrical inspections and double taps, feel free to call us anytime. 352-322-2700. Or look us up at, www.brandonhomeinspectors.com or www.emeraldinspectionservice.com We perform this type of inspection solely or with a 4 point inspection and general inspection in the Tampa, Hudson, Hernando, and Clermont Florida areas.

Permits

As we are now into the new year, I hope everyone had a great holiday season. This weeks blog is about Permits. Not about home inspectors needing permits, however home inspectors searching for permits on the property they are inspecting. So, lets begin.

Just about every scenario we do, we are always in contact with the local building departments for building permits. At the end of the year a repeat client of ours was purchasing another property. They wanted to know about any open permits since the home had been just recently renovated. So, in our search we found 2 open permits.  Which brings us to this blog.

The work for the permits had been performed correctly. The building department was in error because they did not close the permit. It happens. Now what about other scenarios. For example, there maybe new electrical panel box and no permit. This is always noted on our reports. Or new garage door and opener but no permit. This happens too. So why permits?

A permit is to protect the home owner and government. For example, if the current home owner applies for a permit for finishing a garage area then their is multiple trades involved. Additionally, it protects government because they have a record on the property. If there is ever a bad error then the work can be pointed back to the contractor on record or the building department. Also, if no permit then their maybe repercussions when closing and a property appraiser sees new work that was not properly recorded.  The worst case scenario is a home is about to close and no permit was applied for upgrades and the county records office catches that a new kitchen was installed prior to closing. This will definitely raise a red flag.

So, when you are about to purchase a property or change insurance companies and need an insurance inspection, ask your inspector about permits. It is easy to obtain and we provide this service at no cost to our clients. For more information contact us anytime at 352-322-2700 or www.emeraldinspectionservice.com  Our inspections usually range from Clearwater to Odessa and from Zephyrhills to Hudson Florida areas.

 

Appliances

This weeks blog is about appliances. A lot of us are thinking wow, Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays are near. Some of us will travel to friends and family and some will cook for those who visit. (I am cooking). So this weeks blog is about checking the appliances, making sure they are working properly, performing the routine maintenance and if needed scheduling the technician to service. So lets begin.

When we have appliances we take for grant it that we just turn them on and they operate the way they should. We may clean the oven or change the exhaust filter occasionally. But there is a bit more. Below is some items to think about and maybe some preventive maintenance items.

In the kitchen area, for the range/stove top. If you have gas you want to make sure the burners are working properly and all ignited. A lot of times food products and liquids will spill on to them and cause them not to be fully ignited. This could slow cooking time down. Additionally, before cooking that turkey or ham, clean the oven and use a thermometer to check to make sure the cooking temperature is the same as the thermostat. (Keep in mind an allowance of +/- 10 degrees is acceptable) Range hood fans absorb a lot of grease. Clean the range hood including the fan and housing area. Change the filter with a good charcoal filter and not one that is at the dollar store. The dishwasher is also a biggy. Its a good practice to run the dishwasher on a full load cycle with heat dry. Don’t place any dishes in there. And see how the operation is. This also will flush a lot of small items out in the drain. The garbage disposal, is one that once a week, I place old fruit like lemons or oranges in to clean the disposal out. It also makes the sink smell cleaner too.

Now you may think ok, the kitchen I need to attend too. And above is just a few ideas to make sure the appliances are working properly. But now lets think about the other appliances. In home inspection an appliance can be the hot water tank, the washer and dryer or garage door openers. These items need attention too. Depending on the type of item listed above there are some simple maintenance items to help prolong the life of that appliances.

So lets take the hot water heater. The hot water heater if its electric or gas should be cleaned out once a year. In the tank you get calcium deposits from the water source. And they attached to the anode rod or dip tube. (see picture below) Some tanks you may not be able to clean. But you can always drain the tank and flush out the tank with the water supply for a few minutes. (Now if you not comfortable with this, please call a plumber) When doing this, think about the aerators on the faucet. Change them. They are few dollars and it will remove any of those calcium deposits. If you have any type of purification systems check the manufacture for maintenance and changing filters. For example I change the filter on the ice maker on the refrigerator every November.

And lastly the washer and dryer is one that nobody likes to worry about. But did you know that simple monthly maintenance can make the operation life extended into many years. A lot of washer tubs should be wiped out as this is to remove the residue on the tub. Also, occasionally use bleach on a large load selection and just run. This cleans out the filters and pumps. Your dryer will always hold lint. Lint will hold moisture from your clothes. Cleaning the lint filter is one thing. However, cleaning the dryer is another. I recommend at least 2 times a year cleaning the vent out with a vacuum. As this will help with the operation.

So in closing, as you can see this could be an appliance inspection. It is. There are more appliances in your home as well that should be inspected and maintained. We go could go on forever about this but we wanted to give you an idea of a few.  A lot of maintenance items are easy for the home owner. However, we perform these all the time especially for warranty companies and rental properties. We perform these type of inspections in Lutz, Winter Haven, Ocala and Zephyrhills for example. Of course always around the Greater Tampa Florida area. For more information about appliance inspections, call us at 352-322-2700 or look us up at; www.emeraldinspectionservice.com

Lastly, check out our other websites too. http://www.tampahomeinspectors.net and http://www.brandonhomeinspectors.com

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Electrical Inspections

This weeks blog is about inspecting the electrical systems in the home. Now when I mention about this remember you have low voltage systems as some home still have outside lighting or be apart of the intercom, alarm panel and security systems, and then the main electric panel and circuits. So lets begin about our process and why this is a main entity in any inspection and has been a stand alone service as well. So lets begin.

Lets talk about the electric panel and circuits first. Every home is going to have a service entry cable coming from the pole. Some newer homes are underground buried in conduit that is connected to the meter on the side of the home. This is becoming more common now especially with wind and heavy rain storms. It is a lot safer and in time more economical for utility companies. However, you do have the overhead type as well. This goes to a mass head that is fed to the meter from the roof or side of the home. The biggest part of this is that their is enough clearance and a rain loop on the wires so water does not drip on the wires going into the conduit. Also you do not want tree branches near the service cable either. Now in the panel box newer systems are using copper multi-stranded wire instead of aluminum. Aluminum is fine as long as its not used for the branch circuits. Additionally, an oxidizing agent needs to be applied to the wires to maintain them so rust does not appear on the wires over time.

The branch circuits in the home start at the panel box. You have a breaker that will control usually up to 6-8 receptacles and or switches. For example you may have one breaker that controls receptacles in the living room but will control the bedroom adjacent to it. Normally circuits in each room there is one light or device on another circuit so the room does not go completely dark if the breaker trips. Alot of times when we are inspecting the circuits, some will have an AFCI breaker and we usually test them with our tester. This is a different type of tester then GFCI. We also test them in the kitchen and bathrooms. When we are inspecting we find alot of open grounds, reverse polarity or my favorite the hot and neutral are reversed. This is not an alarm to kill a deal. It just means an electrician needs to repair it properly. Also, another of my favorite is the ground slot usually is broken on the receptacle. This comes from pulling the plug from a device. This should be replaced too.

So, lets touch base on the low voltage systems. These have been becoming more popular in newer homes. Alot of homes are being pre-wired for internet, cable, intercom, sprinkler and some for outside lighting. All of these have a transformer. Even the thermostat on the wall has low voltage. Alot of inspectors do not inspect these. We do. We need to know in advance but we do. Here is why. Lets say the outside lighting is not working properly. The receptacle on that branch circuit is ok. But if the transformer is bad or bad wiring to these lights its just as much as a hazard as it is for an open ground on the branch circuits in the home. Same with the sprinkler system. Again, low voltage but you want to make sure the sprinkler heads are installed in proper place as to not rust out the housing on an ac unit or cause damage to windows.

So in closing when we are performing these type of inspections we give a complete, prompt, and accurate report. Not just a one line item. We have performed #electrical and #low voltage system inspections from #Largo to #Lakeland, from #Hudson to #Howey In The Hills Florida. Additionally this is part of the 4 point inspection process as well. For more information about electrical inspections and other services Emerald Inspection Service can provide, please call us anytime at 352-322-2700 or visit our website; www.emeraldinspectionservice.com

Working With The Realtor

Good Morning Everyone. Its been a bit since our last blog. But with vacation and family issues back north, I had to put off the blog for a bit. So this weeks blog is about working with the Realtor. Its important that the buyer, seller, home inspector, finance company, title company, pest contractor, and all other parties have a working relationship that helps the sale go smoothly. So lets begin.

Normally, the buyer agent will be a key person in the real estate transaction. That person will be managing appointments with several individuals. The process literally starts from the time the offer is accepted to the buyers being qualified. I know for a fact alot of Realtors will not even talk to you unless its a cash sale or you are already qualified by a lender. The term pre-qualified is really not qualified. They just look over your tax records and make sure you can afford a certain bracket.  Anyway, the home inspection, pest inspection and certain testing should be done all coordinated at one time. Certain home inspection companies can coordinate this. For example on our inspections we work closely with a pest company. We perform the pool inspection. We also can perform the well testing, radon monitoring and insurance inspections.

The seller agent also will take notice of how the transaction can go smoothly. For example, if they are alot of issues with the transaction, the seller may pull out of the deal. Mainly because the agent will know the house can be sold just not to that person. Also, agents are now looking for a one stop shop. If a home inspection company can take care of alot of the process instead of multiple people, this eases the stress on all parties.

So the next time somebody is about to purchase a home. Look at the steps that it takes from qualifying to closing. If you can combine the process in some of them, this will make it easier for everybody. We perform this style of inspections in Wesley Chapel, Tampa, Clearwater, and Hernando Florida all the time. For more information, visit our website: www.emeraldinspectionservice.com or call us anytime, 352-322-2700. Thank You.

4 Point Inspections

This weeks blog is about 4 point inspections. The purpose of 4 point inspections and some tricky sales gimmicks of other companies that inflate the inspection process. So lets begin.

A “Four-Point Inspection” is an inspection catered to the insurance companies. With this type of inspection an insurance carrier does not want to go thru 50 plus pages of a home inspection report. There is a lot of software out there and all is different reporting styles when it comes to the actual 4 points.

The 4 Points inspected are: Roof, Electrical, Plumbing, and HVAC. So for example, the roof is inspected to make sure no leaks, no turn shingles and also no condensation in the attic. The electrical has to be in good working order. This means the panel box has no double taps, no over heated breakers and that if aluminum multi-strand wire, the wire has an oxidizing agent applied to the wire. When the plumbing is inspected there can not be any leaks under sinks, hot water heater is in good working order, no corrosion on pipes and if a well is on premise the well pump and filtration system is in good working order.

Lastly, is the HVAC system. Here in Florida, a lot of times we will see heat pumps. This is your a/c and heat. The air handler unit is usually in the garage or the attic. We check to make sure the system is performing properly. No burnt wires inside the housing, the coils are cleaned on the units, drip pans are not clogged, the disconnects to the units work properly and the thermostat is working properly. I usually check the ambient temperature to compare to the outside. Keep in mind that the a/c can not be checked if the outside temperature is below 60 degrees. This may cause damage to the compressor and other components of the system.

So above is the inspection points of the Four Point Inspection. The inspector also, has to check with the local government building department for permits on the home, for the 4 Points.

Now lets briefly discuss why insurance companies require them. First of all, any home over 25 years old the systems may start to enter the bonus life of the system. For example, if a hot water heater is over 15years of age. Its time to replace or really start to budget for that item. So the insurance carrier wants to see if there are any updates been done to the home. The 4 Point Inspection is not to be considered a full general inspection, nor is it never to be. The reporting for the 4 Point is on insurance dedicated forms. For example, “Citizens Insurance”, ” Tower Hill” or “State Farm” insurance.

In closing a lot of home inspection companies will offer this service as an ancillary service with the home inspection, only. We offer this service as a full service for our clients. And you may here from time to time catch phrases during the inspection process of 7 points, 21 points, etc. Pay no attention to them. At Emerald Inspection Service, you have your 4 Point Inspection, our self generated 5 Point Inspection which is for mobile homes and investors only, and the General Inspection. We perform these type of inspections from Sebring to Hernando. From Saint Petersburg to Sumterville Florida within a 24-36 hour time frame. For more information about #4PointInspections  go to our website: https://www.emeraldinspectionservice.com/4-point-inspections.html

Or call us anytime, 352-322-2700 or 844 RADON 40.

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