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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Energy Saving Tips for the Home

(ARA) - Looking for ways to save money? According to The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), a good place to start is in the kitchen. Replacing older, inefficient appliances with more modern appliances is a leading way for consumers to reap tremendous energy savings.
That's great advice considering the fact that the amount of energy consumed by home appliances has dropped sharply since 2000. Refrigerators, dishwashers and clothes washers combined account for a 43 percent decrease in energy consumption since 2000, and decreasing energy consumption in turn drops cost.
Replacing an 8- year-old refrigerator, dishwasher and clothes washer with new appliances of average efficiency will save consumers about $95 per year in energy bills. Replacing an 8- year-old clothes washer will save more than $60 in electricity costs and nearly 5,000 gallons of water per year.
Consumers can attain additional savings by purchasing Energy Star designated appliances. Here are some more energy savings tips:
* If you are replacing your refrigerator, do not use the old refrigerator as a second refrigerator. This will not yield energy savings. Properly recycle the appliance. To find recycling options in your area, call (800) YES-1-CAN.
* Allow hot foods to cool before placing them in the refrigerator; and always cover foods that may release moisture in the refrigerator.
* Limit opening the refrigerator and freezer doors. Label foods or use clear food storage bags to easily identify foods.
* Scrape, but do not pre-rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Dishwashers do a great job of cleaning soiled dishes.
* Take advantage of your dishwasher's "eco" option that reduces water use, or use a no-heat air dry feature.
* Use load size settings on your washing machine. If you are washing a small load of clothing, be sure to change the load setting; and use cold water settings whenever possible.
* Don't over-dry clothes. This causes shrinkage, generates static electricity, and shortens fabric life. If your dryer has a setting for auto-dry, use it instead of a timer to avoid wasting energy.
* Always clean the lint filter on the clothes dryer after each use. A clogged filter will reduce dryer performance.
For more information on energy savings and to purchase AHAM's historical Energy Efficiency and Consumption Trends, log on to http://www.aham.org/.
Courtesy of ARAcontent

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Emergency Shut offs-What every family should know

A basic safety plan can protect your home and family and is simple to set up. What is probably most important is to ensure that each and every member of your family is also familiar with the plan and are trained on how to operate the controls.
Your plan should include such things as locating and tagging emergency shut off’s, maintaining a list of emergency phone numbers, a fire evacuation plan and a schedule for maintaining smoke detectors and Carbon Monoxide monitors.

  • Safety first
    If you are unsure about any of the following procedures, ask an expert for help and advice. Do not touch any electrical panel when water is present around the panel or the basement is flooded.
  • Emergency Phone Numbers
    Maintain a list of emergency phone numbers and post it in a convenient location.
    Police, Fire, Ambulance, Doctors, Utility companies, Plumber, Electrician, etc. Don’t forget your own work numbers and cell numbers.
  • Evacuation Plan
    Prepare an emergency evacuation plan in case of fire, CO alarm etc. Make sure children know what to do and have a planned meeting place outside the home. Practice! Seek advice from the local fire department for additional information.
  • Main electrical disconnect
    In newer homes this will usually be located on the main electric distribution panel in the garage or basement. The main breaker usually is marked 100, 125 or 200 amp and turns off all power to the home. It is operated just like a light switch.
    In older homes there may be one main switch or fuse block which must be pulled out to turn off power. The fuse block should be held by the handle and pulled sharply outwards. Once the fuse block is pulled do not touch anything inside the panel.
  • Main water valve
    If you have a city water supply, the valve will be located in the basement near the water meter. This valve will be on the incoming pipe just before the meter. Typically there are two types. One with a straight handle requires only a quarter turn to shut off. The other with a round handle requires turning the handle clockwise to close. This valve should be operated occasionally as part as routine maintenance. If it is old, worn or rusty it may require replacement.
    If you home is supplied from a well then the shut off valve will be located on the outlet side of the pressure tank. Electrical power to the pump should also be shut off to stop pump operation.
  • Natural gas Main
    The gas meter outside your home has a built in valve on the piping. This valve requires a wrench to operate. Turning the valve one quarter turn stops gas flow to the home. When the handle is in line with the pipe the valve is open.
  • Appliance gas Valves
    Each gas appliance in the home will also have its own valve shutting down gas flow to each appliance. Locate these valves and tag them. They also close with a quarter turn.
  • Furnace switch
    Typically power is fed to the furnace controls through a light switch located on or close to the furnace. Locate and tag this switch. Turning this switch off turns off the power to the heating system components.
  • A/C disconnect
    This 240 volt switch is located next to the condenser portion of the A/C on the outside of the home. Turning off this switch shuts off power to the A/C.
  • Smoke Detectors and CO Monitors.
    Test detectors monthly. Set a schedule for replacing batteries if they are required. Make sure children know what the alarms sound like and know what to do if they go off.
  • Fire Extinguishers
    Install fire extinguishers where they can be easily accessed. Important areas would be kitchen, garage and basement. Check the pressure regularly and make sure everyone knows how to use them.

    Review your plan and revise it periodically as required. Make sure your children understand the procedure and who to call in case of emergency.
    For more detailed information, contact your local Police, Fire or Utilities Company.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Is your Home making you ill?

Clean air is essential to good health and this is especially true when it comes to indoor air.
It is estimated that North Americans spend close to 90% of our time indoors. With the advent of energy conservation and the trend towards tighter, draught free homes, the concentration of indoor air pollution can far exceed outdoor levels.
Some simple steps can control the quality of your indoor air.

Since moisture promotes mould growth, dampness is one of the most common causes of poor indoor air in homes. Minimize moisture by:
· Measure indoor humidity levels (use a hygrometer available from hardware stores) and maintain levels of around 50% in Summer and 30% in Winter. If necessary use a dehumidifier.
· Make sure that clothes dryers are properly connected and vented outside.
· Repair basement, roof and pipe leaks as soon as you notice them. Clean up after any water damage and dry the area within 48 hours.
· Discard clutter and excess stored materials. Mould can grow on fabrics, paper, wood, carpets etc whenever moisture is present.
· Always use kitchen and bathroom fans to remove moist air at the source. Run bathroom fans for at least 20 minutes after you have finished showering. Check that fans vent outside and not into the attic.
· Open windows when weather permits to provide circulation. Remember though that damp outside air will not dry the air inside.
· Don’t overwater plants and watch for mold growth in containers.
· Vacuum regularly. Central vacuum systems that vent to the outside or vacuums with HEPA filters are preferable.

The most effective way to remove chemical contaminants is to eliminate them at the source. Those that you bring into the house are easier to remove than those that originate from the materials used to build the house.
· Do not smoke or allow visitors to smoke indoors.
· Do not burn candles, liquid fuel or incense. Soot, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and other hydrocarbons are byproducts of combustion.
· Use non chemical pest control methods such as baits, traps or fly swatters instead of pesticides.
· Do not allow any fungicide or biocide to be applied in the ducting system of your house.
· Avoid plug in or aerosol deodorizers or air fresheners. Instead deal with the causes of odours.
· Use unscented biodegradable detergents.
· Avoid the use of bleach and other strong household detergents and cleansers. Replace with greener alternatives.
· Avoid perfumed fabric softeners which leave residual chemical odours.

Building Materials
When possible select low emission materials, paints, sealants and carpets.
· Minimize the use of furniture made of particle board, MDF or plywood, which are potential sources of formaldehyde.
· Run ventilation fans (usually the bathroom fan) for a couple of hours every day to dilute indoor air with fresh air from outside.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Carbon Monoxide: Protecting your family.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colourless and odourless gas which is a common by-product of the combustion of fossil fuels. The burning of natural gas, propane, oil, wood, kerosene and coal produce CO. Exhaust from your car or gas mower also produce this potentially dangerous gas.

Because you can’t see, taste or smell it carbon dioxide cannot easily be detected. It can cause serious health problems ranging from flu like symptoms with mild exposure to unconsciousness and death with extreme exposure. Even low levels of CO can be harmful because it accumulates in the blood and depletes the ability of blood to carry oxygen.

The risk of CO poisoning can be minimized by installing at least one CO detector in your home. Select a unit that is stamped with the Canadian Standard Association (CSA) label. Detectors are available either battery operated or plug in units that plug into an electrical outlet. Care must be taken to replace batteries on a regular basis and plug in devices should not be connected to an outlet controlled by a wall switch. Detectors should be replaced at least every five years.

Most manufacturers specify where you should locate their CO detector. In general, the best place is close to the sleeping areas where you will hear it while sleeping. Follow the manufacturers instructions and install a detector on each floor containing a sleeping area. Test the units regularly to confirm they are operational.

Reducing the risk of CO entering the home is the best defense. To reduce risk:

Have a qualified technician service fuel burning appliances yearly
Have a qualified technician inspect chimneys, dampers and vents for cracks, blockages, corrosion or holes.
Ensure adequate air supply to furnace and hot water appliance rooms, particularly when powerful kitchen fans are used. A qualified technician can check that fumes are not pulled back down the chimney.
Do not start a vehicle or lawnmower in a closed garage. Open the door first and pull the car out immediately. Shut the door to prevent exhaust fumes from being drawn into the house.
Avoid the use of kerosene space heaters.
Maintain the seals around entry doors from the garage to the house and install an automatic closer on the door.
Seal all wall penetrations between an attached garage and the house.
Never operate a barbeque indoors or in an attached garage.

If your detector sounds an alarm, evacuate the house immediately including pets. Notify your neighbours if you live in a duplex, row house or apartment and call your gas utility, heating contractor or fire department.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Maintaining your Heat Recovery Ventilator

Your heat recovery ventilator (HRV) can help make your house a clean, healthy living environment. It improves air quality by removing stale indoor air and continuously replacing it with preheated outdoor air.

An HRV can give many years of trouble free service. All it takes is a little bit of time to keep it running smoothly. The following maintenance schedule is easy to do and takes only a few minutes.

Before performing any maintenance always turn off the HRV and unplug it.

1. Clean or Replace Air Filters: Dirty or clogged filters reduce air flow and ventilation efficiency and should be cleaned about every two months. Open up the front panel and remove the filters. Clean with a vacuum cleaner then wash with mild soap and water before replacing. Older units may have replaceable filters.

2. Check Outdoor Intake and Exhaust Hoods: Check that the outside vents of your HRV are not blocked. Remove leaves, waste paper etc. During winter, clear any snow or frost buildup blocking outside vents.

3. Inspect the Condensate drain: The condensate drain is usually a pipe or plastic tube coming out of the bottom of the HRV. Slowly pour about two liters of warm, clean water in the drain inside the HRV and watch to see that it is flowing freely. If there is a backup, clean the drain.

4. Clean the Heat Exchange Core : Check your HRV owner’s manual for removing and cleaning the heat exchange core. Vacuum and clean with mild soap and water.

5. Clean Grilles and inspect the ductwork: Once a year, remove and inspect the grilles covering the ends of the ducts leading to and from the HRV. Vacuum if necessary.

6. Service the Fans: Make sure the unit is unplugged. Gently brush and remove dirt that has accumulated on the fan blades. Check your manual to see if lubrication is recommended. Older models may require a few drops of lubricating oil whereas newer models are designed to run continuously without lubrication.

7. Arrange for Annual Servicing: Your HRV should be serviced annually by a qualified technician accredited by the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI)

Turn your HRV off in April or May by either turning the dehumidistat control to HIGH setting or OFF
Turn your HRV back on in September or October and reset dehumidistat to 40% to 80%

Sunday, April 6, 2008

New codes for furnace and hot water vents

In Ontario, beginning on August 2007, the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) has adopted new national code requirements regarding the installation of plastic venting systems for gas burning appliances such as water heaters, boilers and furnaces.
PVC, CPVC or ABS piping has been used for many years but there have been reported cases of failure due to cracking, melting etc. causing potential unsafe conditions as a result of carbon monoxide leaking into the home. To address this situation the national installation code for natural gas and propane appliances has been revised. The new code stipulates that only plastic piping certified as gas vent (standard ULC S636) can be used for all installations of new and replacement natural gas and propane appliances.
Existing applications will not be affected unless there is a safety issue or the existing vent has deteriorated.

What this means to home owners is that the replacement of any furnace, water heater or boiler whether owned or rented will require upgrading of the plastic venting system. The existing vent will not be permitted to be reused. The cost of replacement and any work necessary to access the piping will be the responsibility of the homeowner.
In special circumstances, customers may apply to the TSSA for a variance, however note that this process will also require additional fees for testing and ongoing inspection in order to qualify. Additional information is available directly from TSSA at http://www.tssa.org/

Orange labels on pipe and fittings are required by
ULC S636 And clearly distinguish a certified gas
venting system from everyday uncertified pipe

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Welcome to Inspection Matters. The purpose of this Blog is to present technical information related to the field of Home Inspection. Please note that all information provided relates to the Province of Ontario, Canada and may not be relevant or current for other areas. Local By-Laws and Codes may vary.
I hope that you will find something of interest or an answer to your questions.
You can also check out my Library at www.welcomehomeinspections.ca