10 Easy Ways to Save Money & Energy in Your Home
by Nick Gromicko, Ben Gromicko, 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:
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:
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:
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:
The following systems can be installed to conserve water usage in homes:
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:
Daylighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate the home's interior. It can be achieved using the following approaches:
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:
An enormous amount of energy is wasted while cooking. The following recommendations and statistics illustrate less wasteful ways of cooking:
There’s a common misconception that if your home has older windows that are in less-than-perfect condition, you must replace them with new windows. But as long as the window is structurally sound, you can fix most problems and extend the window’s service life by many years.
Of course, there are instances when a window is so badly damaged that it’s beyond repair, such as when the entire frame is rotted, or if there’s extensive termite damage. Then, it’s time for a new set of windows. However, some of the most common window problems can be fixed with minimal time and money.
Listed below are five window repairs that any DIY-er can handle. All you need are some basic carpentry skills, a few simple tools, and a free afternoon.
1. Block out drafts.
Caulk around window frames to block out drafts and wind-driven rain.
The number one problem with older windows is that they don’t seal very tightly, which allows cold air to blow in during the winter and cooled air to escape during the summer.
To fix the seals, start by caulking around the exterior window frame to block the flow of air from the outside. Look for gaps between the perimeter of the frame and the house siding or exterior trim boards.
Use a stiff-bristle brush and putty knife to clean the gaps of all dust, dirt and debris. Then, overfill the gaps slightly with acrylic-latex silconized caulk. Smooth out the caulk bead with a wet finger.
Next, seal around the inside of the window with weatherstripping. Choose window weatherstripping that’s large enough to fill the gaps around the sash but still flexible enough to allow the window to operate. Install the weatherstripping along the two side jambs, the sill, and at the meeting rail where the two sash come together.
2. Repair rotted wood.
Carve away rotted wood from the sash and sill, and then apply epoxy wood filler.
The exterior frames of wood windows are susceptible to rot caused by moisture, as well as damage from birds and insects. If you don’t repair the frame in a timely manner, you’ll eventually have to replace the entire window. Fortunately, most wood rot can be fixed in a matter of minutes.
Start by using a sharp chisel to cut and carve away the rotted wood. It’s imperative that you remove all the rot and expose the solid, sound wood underneath. If you leave behind any decayed wood, the rot will continue to spread.
Next, buy two-part epoxy wood filler and mix it according to the manufacturer’s directions. Use a flexible-blade putty knife to spread the filler over the damaged section. If the repair is more than an inch deep, fill it halfway, then wait for the filler to harden. Then, apply a second coat, overfilling the area slightly.
Allow the epoxy to cure for about an hour, then sand it smooth either by hand with 80-grit sandpaper, or with an orbital finishing sander. Wipe away the sanding dust with a damp cloth, then apply a coat of primer. Finish with two applications of a topcoat of paint.
3. Unstick stubborn sash.
The sash on older double-hung and single-hung windows are notorious for becoming stuck and difficult to open. A stuck sash is far less of a problem on crank-out casement windows.
Sash typically become stuck either because the counterbalance mechanism breaks or because the sash is painted shut. It’s important to note that if you do have a stuck sash, you should resist the temptation to pound on it with a hammer or hit it with your hand. You’ll only damage the sash or hurt yourself.
The counterbalance mechanism is installed against the side jambs and attached to the sash. It’s spring-loaded and designed to offset the weight of the sash, making it easier to open and close and window. However, if the mechanism seizes up or snaps, it’ll be very difficult to budge the sash.
New counterbalances are available directly from the window manufacturer, as well as from window replacement parts companies found online. The proper way to install new counterbalances differs slightly from one window manufacturer to the next but, typically, you must remove the sash, pry out the old counterbalances, and fasten the new counterbalances to the side jambs. Then, attach the spring-loaded mechanism to the sash and reinstall the sash.
If the window is painted shut, take a sharp utility knife to slice through the paint seal along the interior stops. Then, cut through the paint along the sill and at the meeting rail where the two sash meet.
Once you’ve sliced through the paint-sealed joints, push a stiff-blade putty knife into the joints all around the perimeter of the sash. Then, try lifting the sash with two hands. Position each hand near the upper outer corners of the sash, not in the middle.
If the sash doesn’t open, don’t force it. Instead, cut through the paint seal alongside each of the interior window stops, then use a thin pry bar to carefully pry off the stops. Gently tug the sash loose. Reinstall the old stops, or cut and install new stops against the sash.
4. Refinish the exterior.
Scrape away loose, blistered paint, then prime and repaint the surfaces.
To shield wood window frames from the elements, it’s important to maintain a protective coat of paint on all exterior surfaces. Once the paint starts to crack, blister and peel, water can soak into the wood and begin to rot the window frame, sill and sash.
Use a tungsten-carbide paint scraper and wire brush to remove loose, blistered paint. Be careful not to gouge the wood. Next, lightly sand all surfaces with 100-grit sandpaper. You can use a hand-sanding block or orbital finishing sander.
As you sand, try to “feather” the existing paint coat to blend smoothly into any bare wood spots. Also, be sure to sand over the old paint coat, which will roughen the surface and help the new paint coat to adhere.
Patch any cracks, holes and depressions with two-part epoxy wood filler or auto-body filler. Overfill the patches, then sand them smooth with 80-grit sandpaper.
Wipe off all sanding dust with a damp cloth, then apply one coat of exterior-grade primer, followed by two coats of house paint.
It’s good to inspect the paint finish on your windows annually. You should pay particular attention to south-facing windows, which are exposed to the most amount of sunlight and can fade more easily.
5. Fix busted sash cords.
Before there were mechanical counterbalances, windows were fitted with a system of sash weights, pulleys and cords that offset the weight of the sash. This simple system works surprisingly well—until the sash cords break. When that happens, the weights drop down inside the wall, making it virtually impossible to open the window.
Here are the basic steps to fixing busted sash cords:
Before you replace your drafty, stuck, or partially rotted windows, try out any of these five tips. If you still find yourself at a loss, then it may be time to install new windows.
by Joseph Truini for The Home Depot
Speed up your home sale by preparing your home ahead of time using the following tips. Your home inspection will go smoother, with fewer concerns to delay closing.
A building's central air-conditioning system must be periodically inspected and maintained in order to function properly. While an annual inspection performed by a trained professional is recommended, homeowners can do a lot of the work themselves by following the tips offered in this guide.
Clean the Exterior Condenser Unit and Components
The exterior condenser unit is the large box located on the side of the building that is designed to push heat from the inside of the building to the outdoors. Inside of the box are coils of pipe that are surrounded by thousands of thin metal "fins" that allow the coils more surface area to exchange heat. Follow these tips when cleaning the exterior condenser unit and its inner components -- after turning off power to the unit!
Condensate drain lines collect condensed water and drain it away from the unit. They are located on the side of the inside fan unit. Sometimes there are two drain lines—a primary drain line that’s built into the unit, and a secondary drain line that can drain if the first line becomes blocked. Homeowners can inspect the drain line by using the following tips, which take very little time and require no specialized tools:
Clean the Air Filter
Air filters remove pollen, dust and other particles that would otherwise circulate indoors. Most filters are typically rectangular in shape and about 20 inches by 16 inches, and about 1 inch thick. They slide into the main ductwork near the inside fan unit. The filter should be periodically washed or replaced, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions. A dirty air filter will not only degrade indoor air quality, but it will also strain the motor to work harder to move air through it, increasing energy costs and reducing energy efficiency. The filter should be replaced monthly during heavy use during the cooling seasons. You may need to change the filter more often if the air conditioner is in constant use, if building occupants have respiratory problems,if you have pets with fur, or if dusty conditions are present.
Cover the Exterior Unit
When the cooling season is over, you should cover the exterior condenser unit in preparation for winter. If it isn’t being used, why expose it to the elements? This measure will prevent ice, leaves and dirt from entering the unit, which can harm components and require additional maintenance in the spring. A cover can be purchased, or you can make one yourself by taping together plastic trash bags. Be sure to turn the unit off before covering it.
Close the Air-Distribution Registers
Air-distribution registers are duct openings in ceilings, walls and floors where cold air enters the room. They should be closed after the cooling season ends in order to keep warm air from back-flowing out of the room during the warming season. Pests and dust will also be unable to enter the ducts during the winter if the registers are closed. These vents typically can be opened or closed with an adjacent lever or wheel. Remember to open the registers in the spring before the cooling season starts. Also, make sure they are not blocked by drapes, carpeting or furniture.
In addition, homeowners should practice the following strategies in order to keep their central air conditioning systems running properly:
In summary, any homeowner can perform periodic inspections and maintenance to their home's central air-conditioning system.
Below is a great article outlining what you can expect from your home inspection report and inspector.
by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard
Influenced by the changes in the economic and legal environments over the past 30 years, home inspection reports have changed to accommodate increased consumer expectations, and to provide more extensive information and protection to both inspectors and their clients.
Development of Standards
Prior to the mid-1970s, inspection reports followed no standard guidelines and, for the most part, there was little or no oversight or licensure. As might be imagined, without minimum standards to follow, the quality of inspection reports varied widely, and the home inspection industry was viewed with some suspicion.
With the founding of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) in 1976, home inspection guidelines governing inspection report content became available in the form of a Standards of Practice. Over time, a second, larger trade association, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), came into existence, and developed its own standards.
InterNACHI has grown to dominate the inspection industry and, in addition to its Residential Standards of Practice, it has developed a comprehensive Standards of Practice for the Inspection of Commercial Properties. Today, most types of inspections from mold to fire door inspections are performed in accordance with one of InterNACHI's Standards of Practice.
As a consumer, you should take the time to examine the Standards of Practice followed by your inspector. If he is unaffiliated with any professional inspection organization, and his reports follow no particular standards, find another inspector.
Generally speaking, reports should describe the major home systems, their crucial components, and their operability, especially the ones in which failure can result in dangerous or expensive-to-correct conditions. Defects should be adequately described, and the report should include recommendations.
Reports should also disclaim portions of the home not inspected. Since home inspections are visual inspections, the parts of the home hidden behind floor, wall and ceiling coverings should be disclaimed.
Home inspectors are not experts in every system of the home, but are trained to recognize conditions that require a specialist inspection.
Home inspections are not technically exhaustive, so the inspector will not disassemble a furnace to examine the heat exchanger closely, for example.
Standards of Practice are designed to identify both the requirements of a home inspection and the limitations of an inspection.
Checklist and Narrative Reports
In the early years of the home inspection industry, home inspection reports consisted of a simple checklist, or a one- or two-page narrative report.
Checklist reports are just that; very little is actually written. The report is a series of boxes with short descriptions after them. Descriptions are often abbreviated, and might consist of only two or three words, such as “peeling paint.” The entire checklist might only be four or five pages long. Today, some inspection legal agreements are almost that long!
Because of the lack of detailed information, checklist reports leave a lot open to interpretation, so that buyers, sellers, agents, contractors, attorneys and judges may each interpret the information differently, depending on their motives.
In the inspection business, phrases that describe conditions found during an inspection are called "narratives." Narrative reports use reporting language that more completely describes each condition. Descriptions are not abbreviated.
Both checklist and narrative reports are still in use today, although many jurisdictions are now beginning to ban checklist reports because the limited information they offer has resulted in legal problems.
From the standpoint of liability, narrative reports are widely considered safer, since they provide more information and state it more clearly.
Many liability issues and problems with the inspection process are due to misunderstandings about what was to be included in the report, or about what the report says.
For example, in 2002, an investor bought a 14-unit hotel in California. The six-page narrative report mentioned that flashing where the second-story concrete walkway met the building was improperly installed, and the condition could result in wood decay. Four years later, the investor paid out almost $100,000 to demolish and replace the entire upper walkway. In some places, it was possible to push a pencil through support beams.
Although the inspector's report had mentioned the problem, it hadn't made clear the seriousness of the condition, or the possible consequences of ignoring it. Today, a six-page report would be considered short for a small house.
Development of Reporting Software
Years ago, when computers were expensive to buy and difficult to operate, inspection reports were written by hand. As computers became simpler to operate and more affordable, inspection software began to appear on the market.
Today, using this software, an inspector can chose from a large number of organized boilerplate narratives that s/he can edit or add to in order to accommodate local conditions, since inspectors in a hot, humid city like Tampa Bay, Florida, are likely to find types of problems different from those found by inspectors in a cold, dry climate, like Salt Lake City, Utah.
Using narrative software and checking boxes in categories that represent the home systems, an inspector can produce a very detailed report in a relatively short time.
For example, using a checklist report, an inspector finding a number of inoperable lights in a home would check a box in the "INTERIOR" section labeled something like “some lights inoperable,” and that would be the limit of the information passed on to the client.
Using inspection software, in the "INTERIOR" section of the program, an inspector might check a box labeled “some lights inoperable.” This would cause the following narrative to appear in the "INTERIOR" section of the inspection report:
“Some light fixtures in the home appeared to be inoperable. The bulbs may be burned out, or a problem may exist with the fixtures, wiring or switches.
If after the bulbs are replaced, these lights still fail to respond to the switch, this condition may represent a potential fire hazard, and the Inspector recommends that an evaluation and any necessary repairs be performed by a qualified electrical contractor.”Standard disclaimers and other information can be pre-checked to automatically appear in each report.
Narratives typically consists of three parts:
Inspection reports often begin with an informational section which gives general information about the home, such as the client’s name, the square footage, and the year the home was built.
Other information often listed outside the main body of the report, either near the beginning or near the end, are disclaimers, and sometimes a copy of the inspection agreement, and sometimes a copy of the Standards of Practice. A page showing the inspector’s professional credentials, designations, affiliations and memberships is also often included. And it is a good idea to include InterNACHI's Now That You've Had a Home Inspection book.
Inspection reports often include a summary report listing major problems to ensure that important issues are not missed by the reader. It's important that the reader be aware of safety issues or conditions which will be expensive to correct. With this in mind, some inspectors color-code report narratives, although many feel that color-coding exposes them to increased liability and don't do this.
Software often gives inspectors the choice of including photographs in the main body of the report, near the narrative that describes them, or photographs may be grouped together toward the beginning or end of the report.
A table of contents is usually provided.
The main body of the report may be broken down into sections according to home systems, such as "ELECTRICAL," "PLUMBING," "HEATING," etc., or it may be broken down by area of the home: "EXTERIOR," "INTERIOR," "KITCHEN," "BEDROOMS," etc.
It often depends on how the inspector likes to work.
Many inspectors have websites which include sample inspection reports for prospective clients to view. Take the time to look at them. Also often included is a page explaining the scope of the inspection. The inspection contract is usually included on the website, and it should give you a good idea of what will be included in the report.
In conclusion, for consumers to have realistic expectations about what information will be included in the home inspection report, follow these tips:
Infrared Imaging is an extremely valuable tool we have to take our home inspections we perform to the next level. We are certified through NACHI (National Association of Certified Home Inspectors) to be able to conduct an infrared imaging inspection and all of our inspectors have received special training in this area. The technology behind this, is the use of an infrared camera which translates the heat signatures of objects into colors on a gradient scale, with higher temperatures appearing as lighter colors, and lower temperatures and wet areas appearing as darker colors. Also known as thermal imaging and thermography, IR technology captures the light that exists just outside the visible spectrum. Thermal images show surface-heat variations, which is why an IR camera is such a diverse tool for commercial and home inspectors that can be used for a variety of applications. Abnormally hot electrical components and connections can be viewed during an electrical inspection. Areas of moisture that may lead to leaks and structural damage can be located based on apparent temperature differences. Heat loss and air leakage in a building envelope, and even areas of insufficient insulation, can be pinpointed quickly and accurately during an energy audit.