10 Easy Ways to Save Energy in Your Home

by Nick Gromicko, Ben Gromicko, Rob London and Kenton Shepard 

Most people don’t know how easy it is to make their homes run on less energy, and here at InterNACHI, 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, InterNACHI 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, state, utility and local jurisdictions’ financial incentives, such as tax breaks, are very advantageous for homeowners in most parts of the U.S.
  • 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. An InterNACHI energy auditor can assess  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 weatherstripping 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 weatherstripping. You can cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid foamboard 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 showerheads and toilets.

The following systems can be installed to conserve water usage in homes:

  • low-flow showerheads. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 daylighting as an alternative to electrical lighting.

Daylighting 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 weatherstripped with a special lining that is inserted between the window and the frame. For doors, apply weatherstripping 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.

From 10 Easy Ways to Save Energy in Your Home – InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/increasing-home-energy-efficiency-client.htm#ixzz2Anh6vGxc

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Spring Maintinance Checklist for the Home

Interior

* Replace your furnace filter
* Clean the kitchen exhaust hood and air filter
* Check your home’s electrical system
* Always have a multi-purpose fire extinguisher accessible and in working condition
* Make sure the light bulbs in all your fixtures are the correct wattage
* Protect all your electrical appliances from power surges and lightning
* Have a professional air conditioning contractor inspect and maintain your system as recommended by the manufacturer
* Protect your home from sewer or drain back-up losses
* Check your water heater for leaks
* Check the shutoff valve at each plumbing fixture to make sure they function
* Clean clothes dryer exhaust duct, damper, and space under the dryer
* Replace all extension cords that have become brittle, worn or damaged
* Inspect all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure they are working properly. Clean and dust the covers.
* Review your fire escape plan with your family
* Run through a severe weather drill with your family

Exterior

* Consider installing a lightning protection system on your home
* Check for damage to your roof
* Repair all cracked, broken, or uneven driveways and walks to help provide a level walking surface
* Check all fascia and trim for deterioration

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10 Do It Youself Home Maintenance and Repair Tips

by Gerald Warren

The following article is about 10 very common maintenance or repair problems that are encountered by a residential home owner. I would venture to say that even if you’re just a little bit handy, all ten items can be handled by the average homeowner and will save thousands of dollars.

  1. Main water valve location and identification
  2. Repair doors that stick
  3. Tub and shower caulking
  4. Washing machine hose leaks
  5. Concrete front step crack problems
  6. Hot water heater problems
  7. Gutter and downspout water control
  8. Cloths dryer vent duct cleaning
  9. Water flood alarm for 10 dollars
  10. Door bell replacement, made easy


MAIN WATER VALVE

Main water valve location and identification – One of the most important things to know about your house is where to shut off the water when there is a water problem. Every member of the household should know where the main valve is and how to shut it off in case of an emergency. Another important point is that the valve should turn easily so that even a very young person could turn the water off. It is also recommended that a tag be put on the main valve so that it is easily recognized as such. Many times people know where the valve is located but, when a water problem develops, they don’t remember which valve is the main valve. The tag will identify the valve and could save thousands of dollars by keeping water damage to a minimum.

REPAIR DOORS THAT STICK

Repair doors that stick and/or rub – Doors that rub against the door frame often cause the door to stick. Many interior doors and door frames swell with humidity and start to rub and stick. This is different from a door that is completely out of square due to a structural problem. Most rubbing and sticking problems come from one of two causes:

One – The hinges are loose and need to be tightened to pull the door back into the proper position.

Two – The door and frame swell in the summer and close perfectly in the winter.

A simple door sticking situation is repaired as follows:

(1) Check the hinges to make sure they are tight and supporting the door properly. If the hinges are loose most likely the hinges are the reason why the door is rubbing and sticking. If this is the case, tighten the screws. If the screws won’t tighten, try an old time carpenter’s trick to tighten loose screws. First, support the door and take off the loose hinge screws. Next insert toothpicks into the screw hole or holes with a dab of glue. Allow 20 minutes for the glue to dry and then reinsert the screws. You’ll be amazed at how tight the toothpicks have made the screws.

(2) If the hinges are tight but the door is rubbing, the door needs to be trimmed. An inexpensive tool can be bought to do the job. The tool is called a block planer hand rasp. The cost is probably under $10 and can be purchased in Lowe’s, or Home Depot, or a local hardware store. It looks like a small hand held flat cheese grater. This quick repair is done with the door in place. There is no need to remove the door. Mark the door with a pencil where the door is rubbing the frame. Now that the spot is marked, you can proceed to plane the area on the side of the door that is sticking until the door closes properly. This type of repair usually only takes a few minutes and very little material has to be removed from the area that sticks. If you have to remove a lot of material to make the door close, it would probably be better to have a professional carpenter evaluate the door problem.

TUB AND SHOWER CAULKING

Caulking around tub and shower – One job every home owner should learn to do is to caulk around the tub and shower. It’s a job that has to be done every couple of years and it’s a job that is a must to avoid water damage. Whether you are caulking a tub or shower the hardest part of the whole job is cleaning out the old caulk. For the purpose of this article, the following steps are a good guide as to how to caulk that tub or shower and have it look like a professional job.

(1) Remove the old caulk with a scrapper or razor blade and then clean the area with any good household cleaner. It is very important to have the caulking area squeaky clean. The caulk won’t adhere to a dirty surface.

(2) Now wipe down the squeaky clean area with denatured alcohol before applying the new caulk. The alcohol does a good job of removing any soap or chemical residue allowing the caulk to really adhere to the surface and seal it.

(3) The type of caulk used is important. It should be “a water clean up caulk.” Look for caulk that reads Water Clean-up for Bathrooms. There are 2 types and either will do the job: the squeeze tube caulk or the caulk that has to be used with a three dollar sealant application gun.

(4) The secret of having the job look like a professional installation is in the way excess caulk is removed. After the caulk is applied and it is still wet, use a small wet sponge to wipe down the caulk. Rinse the sponge frequently in a bucket of warm water. The sponge will push the caulk into any small cracks and spaces and the finish bead will look great.

(5) Let the caulk dry for 24 hours before using the tub or shower and then call all your friends to come over and see the great job you did. Be sure to take pictures!

WASHING MACHINE HOSES

Leaks from washing machine hoses – One of the leading causes of residential water damage is the failure of a washing machine rubber hose. Typically a standard rubber hose has a life expectance of 3 to 5 years. However, there are some very good upgrade hoses that will minimize or eliminate any water damage caused by worn rubber hoses. The installation of the hose is easy and the job could be done in just a few minutes. The most common replacement hose which is much safer than the rubber hose is the stainless steel braided hose. This type of hose can be purchased at any large hardware store and is stronger and safer than a rubber hose against a sudden hose rupture. Another hose that is very reliable is the Floodchek hose which comes with a 20 year guarantee. The braided hoses are about $30 and the Floodchek hose costs about $50. The upgrade of washing machine hoses is well worth the effort to avoid water problems and have peace of mind. More information about the Floodchek washing machine hose can be found on the Internet.

CONCRETE FRONT STEP CRACK PROBLEMS

Crack problems in concrete front steps – Concrete and stone steps are notorious for cracking where the handrail is mounted into the step. It appears as if the hole where the hand rail is mounted into the steps is not filled with concrete to the top of the step. This allows water to get into the hole. When the cold weather arrives, the water freezes in the hole and the step cracks. Additional water then gets into that crack, the water freezes, and the entire corner of the step breaks off. As a maintenance precaution against getting a cracked step, we suggest filling any unfilled holes around a handrail mounting with Vinyl Concrete Patcher, made by Quikrete. You can also use this product to fill in cracks that may already be in the step and hopefully avoid further damage. This is an easy product to use, just add water, mix, and apply with a putty knife.

HOT WATER HEATER PROBLEMS

Aging hot water heaters – Most water heaters last 10 to 12 years. Wet spots on the floor or a rusted tank may signal a problem. Other signs that the hot water heater is at the end of life is when the water smells like rotten eggs or, when the heater is creating hot water, it sounds like there are marbles rolling around inside the tank. When any of these signs are noted, the tank is usually between 10 and 15 years old and ready for replacement. It is best to replace a heater before it leaks and avoid any water damage. We have two other suggestions about hot water tanks:

One – If you are not in a financial position to buy a new tank, buy a “watchdog water alarm” and place it at the base of the heater to warn you if a leak develops. When the alarm sounds as a warning signal, hopefully the water can be turned off in time to minimize any water damage. The alarm is very inexpensive at a cost of about $10 in Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Two – If you are installing a new heater install a catch pan under the heater, if possible, with a drain line to the exterior of the house. If a leak develops and you have a catch pan and drain, the water will be diverted and discharged to the exterior. Plastic drain pans cost about $10.

GUTTER AND DOWNSPOUT WATER CONTROL

Gutter down spout extensions – The number one culprit for causing water penetration into the basement of a house is rain gutter downspouts discharging rain water right alongside the foundation. All downspouts should discharge the water at least five feet or more from the foundation. If a downspout is discharging water right alongside the foundation, we recommend installing downspout extensions. That is an easy job that most people can do themselves. Getting the water away from the foundation will help to avoid water penetration into the basement. Close-to-the-house downspout discharge is not the problem of all water problems in the basement, but it is certainly one of the major ones. If a water penetration problem develops in the basement, before you call in a waterproofing contractor, check the downspout discharge area. As already mentioned the correction may be as simple as installing extensions on the downspouts and discharging the water away from the house. One other tip on water penetration and downspout discharge, if your downspout discharges to an under ground discharge pipe and you are getting water penetration in the downspout area, you may have a damaged underground discharge pipe. That pipe may be discharging water right alongside the foundation causing the water intrusion. To determine whether or not the in-ground pipe is damaged and causing the problem, disconnect the downspout from the in-ground pipe and put a five foot extension on the downspout. This will allow the water discharge to occur above the ground. If the water penetration into the basement stops, is will be evident that the broken in-ground pipe line is the problem. If that’s the case, you can either dig up and repair the pipe or just stay with the above ground discharge extension.

CLOTHES DRYER VENT MAINTENANCE

Maintaining clothes dryer vents – Most clothes dryer vent ducts are of short length and can be cleaned by the home owner. However, there are some long runs of twenty feet or more that may run in crawl spaces or in non-floored attics. It is recommended that these type ducts be cleaned by a professional with special duct cleaning equipment.

Tell-tale signs that the vent needs cleaning:Clothes are still damp at the end of a normal cycle.

  •  Clothes are hotter than usual at the end of the cycle.
  •  Clothes have a musty smell after drying.
  •  There is a great deal of lint escaping from the back of the dryer.
  •  The flapper on the vent exhaust hood doesn’t open when the dryer is running or there is a lot of lint covering the vent exhaust hood.

Dryer operation and maintenance tips:

  • Clean the lint filter before and after every drying cycle.
  •  Replace a vinyl duct with a ridge or flexible metal duct. The metal duct creates less lint buildup at the bends and is a safer duct.
  •  For safety reasons, never leave the dryer running when you leave the house or go to bed.

Cleaning the vent duct if you have a short length duct – A short length duct is one which goes from the back of the dryer directly through the wall of the house to the exterior. The hardest part of the cleaning job is pulling the dryer out from the wall to disconnect the duct.

Note – Always turn off the gas valve before working on the dryer. Be careful not to damage the flexible gas line when pulling the dryer out from the wall. Sometimes it may be necessary to turn off the gas by using the small valve at the dryer gas line. Then you can disconnect the gas line and pull the dryer away from the wall safely to disconnect the vent duct. Once the duct is disconnected, we recommend taking the duct outside so lint is not spread all over. To clean the duct, use a shop vacuum or a regular house vacuum and vacuum the duct out from each end. If you don’t have a vacuum, tie a toilet brush to a rope and pull it through the vent. This method is called “the handy-man special,” and does a pretty good job. Next check the back section of the dryer for lint buildup and check the vent discharge cap and flapper for lint buildup and blockage. The vent doesn’t have to be squeaky clean, just clean enough for good air flow. After the dryer is back in place and functional, you can announce “We just saved a hundred dollars by cleaning the dryer vent ourselves.”

TEN DOLLAR WATER ALARM

Watchdog water alarm – If you have a water problem in certain areas, a ten dollar water alarm in the area can avoid a serious water damage problem by giving an early warning. Areas such as washing machines, hot water heaters, sump pumps or any other areas that are prone to develop water problems are perfect for these little gadgets. These little alarms are great and can be purchased at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

REPLACE DOORBELL

Replacing the doorbell – There are two easy fixes if you have a doorbell that is missing or destroyed, or you’re just plain tired of fixing the doorbell. The first door bell solution is to install a door knocker and be done with the doorbell. The second solution is to install a wireless doorbell that is run by battery. Both solutions are “Do-it-yourself solutions.”

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From your friends at Bobs Home Inspections

Foundation PictureProper foundation care is an often overlooked part of home maintenance. I’d like to remind everyone of the importance of the foundation to the longevity of your home and the prevention of costly repairs. Inspect the foundation around your home regularly, especially during hot and dry periods. Look next to the concrete at ground level, where the soil meets the concrete. If you see a separation there, you need to irrigate your foundation. The most economical way to achieve this is to place soaker hoses around your foundation, 12” to 16” away from the foundation and water 2 or 3 times a week for about 30 minutes. This should allow the soil to gradually expand back to the concrete. This will keep the water from getting to the grade beams and eroding the support for them, which could cause major problems. This easy and economical step could save you a major headache down the road. Stay Cool!

Bob

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Myths and Facts about Home Inspections

From Networx.com

It’s high season for home sales and with it comes the demand for home inspections — an indispensable tool that can help buyers make an informed decision about a property and aid them in negotiating purchase price.

Home inspections offer valuable information about the general condition of a home, outlining areas requiring minor and major repairs and pinpointing deficiencies in building structure. The complex task of assessing a home is more difficult because of the prevalence of myths attached to the process of home inspection. For the real facts on what you can expect here’s a few of the worst misconceptions, along with expert advice from Marvin Goldstein, president of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI):

MYTH: Everything I need to know will be included in the inspection report.

FACT: “This is one of the biggest misunderstandings,” says Goldstein, adding, “you pay good money for an inspection report, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to go along.”

The report will give you excellent information and will point out weaknesses about smoke detectors, heating systems, etc. but a homeowner can also get more out of an inspection if they tag along. “Inspectors are usually generous in giving homeowners maintenance tips and advice in almost all the areas of a home, and by attending the inspection, it will clarify things in writing, eliminating future misunderstanding. It’s a real learning experience and a good way for a homeowner to get familiar with the property.”

MYTH: An appraisal is just as comprehensive as a home inspection; or, if I have a really good appraisal, it won’t be necessary to have a home inspection.

FACT: Home inspections and home appraisals are NOT the same. As ridiculous as it sounds, some homeowners end up assuming a comprehensive appraisal has covered all the bases. But Goldstein says, “ASHI’s general accountability office conducted a survey and found a vast majority of people — more than 20 percent — were under the impression they had a house inspection when, in fact, all they had was an appraisal.”

Sometimes they get this impression from real estate agents. Even if your real estate agent recommends a home inspection, Goldstein warns consumers to seek an independent assessment because of the conflict of interest. “Real estate agents, even buyer’s agents, are obligated to cater to the interests of the seller.”

MYTH: A home inspector should be able to tell me everything that can potentially go wrong with the home I’d like to purchase.

FACT: A home inspector is required to report the things that are not functioning properly, especially if they’re unsafe. They will also inform you when certain components and systems are at the end of their service life such as worn-out heating, plumbing or electrical systems.

They cannot predict with accuracy, however, when things will go wrong because they can account only for variables present at the time of inspection. For example, you may buy a home with a roof that’s seen better days. The home inspector reports there is no sign of water damage and in the first winter you experience major leaks from ice dams. It isn’t due to faulty inspection services even if the inspector agreed you could probably put off getting a new roof for a few more years. The inspector will report wear and tear only on the existing roof and provide you with recommendations for the lack of improper attic insulation — the cause of the formation of ice dams in the first place.

To put expectations in perspective, Goldstein reminds consumers to keep in mind, “A home inspector doesn’t have X-ray vision and can’t see through walls and floors. A home inspection is not an exhaustive engineering analysis, nor will your inspector take apart components for inspection. It’s a snapshot — a professional observation of existing conditions by someone with a trained eye.”

He also recommends reading the inspection contract, as some may not include inspection for pests such as termites, well/water conditions or septic tank failure. These may be optional extras not included as part of the standard contract. Controlling termites in Southern climates like Dallas can be difficult, so it is worth the extra cost to invest in these optional extras, especially if you live in a region where the houses are prone to these issues.

MYTH: All home inspectors are licensed and my inspector says he’s certified — so I’m safe.

FACT: Only 30 states require licensing, but even licensed inspectors will vary in their qualifications. Many inspectors receive training and certification through various programs, but it isn’t always a guarantee of competency. Goldstein is acutely aware of the discrepancies putting the consumer at risk. “Anybody can say they’re certified, but by who? Some inspectors get all their training online and never complete a field test or take a comprehensive examination.”

To set the standard of performance high, ASHI has varying levels of certification, with full certification achieved only after an inspector has been able to pass a proctored exam and completed a minimum of 250 inspections. Have a detailed discussion with any home inspector you want to hire and find out their qualifications including training and experience. Ask for an example of a complete home inspection report prior to cutting that check so you can see how comprehensive (or not) the report will be.

The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) is the largest and most respected professional association for home inspectors in North America, with more than 6,000 members and 80-plus chapters. For more information and answers to frequently asked questions about home inspection or to locate an ASHI inspector in your area, visit: ashi.org/customers/faq.asp.

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