Cleaning Exhaust Fans

Cleaning Exhaust Fans
Article by Home Inspectors of Middle Tennessee LLC, January 2016 Monthly Tip

Cleaning the bathroom exhaust fan is not only a good idea, it’s good for you! How so? When the bathroom fan is clean and functioning most efficiently, it will help remove more moisture from the air, which helps prevent the growth of mold and mildew. It’s not difficult – it just takes the determination to get it done.

CleaningVents-1One way to make the job less messy is to vacuum the cover before removing it. Much of the accumulated dust will be removed rather than raining down on everything and anyone within range. In fact, vacuuming the cover every few months will go a long way towards keeping it functioning properly.

But if the job has been neglected for years, it’s time to pull the fan cover off. This can only be done once the power to the bathroom has been disconnected. The cover may come off with a gentle tug or a few screws may need to be removed first.

The exposed portion of the fan can be wiped down using a cloth or mild soap. Dry everything thoroughly. The fan should be treated gently, however, because it can be damaged by over-zealous cleaning or handling. The cover can be wiped down or set to soak for a few minutes before drying it and putting the cover back on.

CleaningVents-2While the cleaning supplies are still within reach, it might be a good time to look into cleaning the kitchen exhaust fan as well. There is often grease build-up in and around the fan and filter, and a good cleaning will reduce any potential fire hazard as well as make the fan sparkle.

Once again the power to the fan needs to be turned off and the filters removed from the hood. If the cover is removable, it can be taken down gently and set to soak in warm, sudsy water. If not, it can be wiped down with a rag or sponge. Any filters that are removable should be taken out and similarly placed in soapy water.

The fan can be removed and placed on some newspaper to allow access to the blades. The blades can be wiped down with a sponge, some ammonia and some TLC. The motor should not be exposed to water, however, and the fan should be dried when the job is finished. Once all parts are clean and dry, the fan can be reassembled and power turned back on.

CleaningVents-3Thousands of fires are sparked each year by clogged dryer ventilation and an estimated 35 million dollars in damages are caused every year by dryer fires. The dryer venting system should be cleaned regularly to prevent property damage or worse, catastrophe.

There are special brushes that are made particularly for the job. While a vacuum attachment can be used initially, all parts of the dryer vent system should also be cleaned with a special brush. These brushes work better than a vacuum attachment alone because as the brush is turned and rotated, it will separate the lint from the sides of the vents and ducts where it can be removed. Be sure to detach and clean the flexible or rigid ductwork that connects the dryer to the outdoors.

Source: John Swygert, Home Inspectors of Middle Tennessee, LLC,; January 2016 monthly eblast tip

Kenneth Bargers, REALTOR® | Pilkerton Realtors
(615) 512-9836 cellular (615) 371-2474 office email web blog
2 Cadillac Drive, Brentwood Tennessee address

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The New Night-Light

The New Night-Light
Article by John Swygert, Home Inspectors of Middle Tennessee
eblast March 2015, Home Tip of the Month

SnapRays-Image-3Who says all the good ideas have already been invented? One bright winner at the 2015 International Builders Show has developed a night-light within and electrical outlet cover plate.

The SnapRays Guidelight is an energy-efficient night-light and serves double-duty as a night-light replacement as well as a standard electrical outlet cover plate. The Guidelight is equipped with LEDs (light emitting diodes) to provide illumination in the dark, without taking up either outlet space. The diodes illuminate the area directly under the outlet. A light sensor automatically turns the LEDs on and off according to the available light in the area.

SnapRays-Image-2The SnapRays work, according to the company’s website, by snapping into place directly over a standard electrical outlet and attaching the plate cover to the outlet with a screw. Two projecting tabs on the back of the SnapRays contact the electrical terminals on the outlet and draw power from it to light the LEDs, so there’s no need for any wiring or batteries, and it leaves both outlets free for other uses.

The SnapRays Guidelight looks like any other wall outlet and comes in several different colors and styles. The company is currently taking orders via their website,, but the product may soon appear at retail stores across the country.

SnapRays-Image-1A few of the advantages of the product include the use of hidden LED technology instead of conventional night-lights – making the product safer for children and adults (there is nothing projecting into the room to be played with, knocked out or removed). Because it only draws five milliamps of power and turns on only when light levels are low, the Guidelights cost only pennies a year to operate and should last for 25+ years before the LEDs begin to dim.

To install a Guidelight, the power must first be turned off to the electrical outlet. The existing cover-plate needs to be removed and the SnapRays Guidelight needs to be snapped on and screwed in. The power to the electrical outlet can be turned back on and the night-lights will illuminate the area.

The Guidelight is not compatible with GFCI outlets. At this time, the SnapRays Guidelight is not compatible with light switches, but that design may be introduced in the future.

Source: John Swygert, Home Inspectors of Middle Tennessee, Home Tip of the Month, March 2015; Photos courtesy of


How and Why to Clean Your Hot Water Heater

How and Why to Clean Your Hot Water Heater
Courtesy of John Swygert, Home Inspectors of Middle Tennessee LLC
December 2014, monthly tip e-blast distribution

WaterHeaterDec2014There are millions of traditional gas and electric hot water heaters in residential homes and there are regular maintenance tasks that can be performed that will help prolong the life and lower the energy costs associated with water heaters.

Water heaters should be flushed periodically to eliminate mineral deposits that can accumulate on the bottom of the tank. One symptom of mineral sediment in the bottom of standard gas water heaters is the sound given off by the overheating of water that is trapped in sediment. The overheated water will flash to steam bubbles that are released into the cooler water and they rapidly collapse as the steam condenses, creating the noise. Electric elements in electric water heaters also signal the presence of mineral buildup by making a hissing or sizzling sound. In each case, removing the mineral buildup will quiet the tank.

Flush sediment from water heaters every six months, or according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If a lot of sediment is seen during the flushing, increase the frequency. If little or no sediment is seen, decrease the frequency of flushing. (Some manufacturers recommend that a few quarts of water be drained from the water heater’s tank every month to clean the tank of deposits.)

Flushing is performed by first turning off the power or gas to the water heater. If the water heater is electric, turn off power at the electrical panel. If the water heater uses gas, turn the thermostat to the “pilot” setting.

Connect a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater. Place the other end of the garden hose to drain somewhere suitable for the hot water that will come out of it when you open the drain valve, such as a driveway. Keep in mind that the water being drained will be very hot, so take appropriate precautions.

Open the drain valve only after shutting off the cold water supply to the water heater and opening a hot-water faucet at a sink or tub inside the home. Opening a hot-water faucet will prevent a vacuum from forming in the lines.

Draining the tank flushes minerals in the bottom of the tank out through the hose. But before flushing the tank, refer to the manual on the tank to read specific instructions for your particular unit.

Once the water stops flowing out of the far end of the hose, turn the water supply back on for a minute or so to flush out any remaining sediment. When the water runs clear from the end of the hose, close the drain valve and turn off the hot-water faucet in the sink or the tub.

Some tanks may need to be completely full in order to turn the water heater back on. Always read the warnings and instructions on the tank label and in the owner’s manual.

Simply lowering the water heater temperature can lower your utility bill. For each ten degree temperature reduction, homeowners can save three to five percent in operating costs. A temperature of 120 degrees in generally considered optimal and safe.

Source: John Swygert, Home Inspectors of Middle Tennessee; monthly tip for December 2014


Keep “FOGG” Out of Sewer Pipes

Keep ‘FOGG” Out of Sewer Pipes

Courtesy of John Swygert, Home Inspectors of Middle Tennessee
June 2014, Home Tip of the Month

FOGG-Image-2How can homeowners protect themselves against costly repairs to water and sewer lines? There are a number of ways, including taking deliberate steps to safeguard these critical home components.

And there are good reasons to do so. Even though problems with water and sewer lines are infrequent, they do occur. Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t realize that in general, they are responsible for the condition of water and sewer lines connecting the home to the public water and sewage systems. A city or town’s liability for the system typically ends at the street.

The cost of physically repairing or replacing a broken water or sewage line can start at $1,000 and is often around the $2,000 range. But depending on the problem, the costs can go much higher. And there are additional costs to fixing the problem – such as repair of driveways, sidewalks and landscaping after the pipes are repaired or replaced.

Many companies offer water and sewer line protection insurance, and this type of insurance does bear some consideration. There are exceptions which affect these policies, however, such as “pre-existing conditions” that can make claims adjustments difficult to navigate. These policies also typically have recovery caps. Depending on the benefits offered, policy prices start at around $15 per month.

There are things homeowners can do to keep water and sewer pipes flowing smoothly, however. First, water and sewer lines inside the home can be inspected regularly for any signs of leaks. And homeowners should always check with water and utility companies before doing and deep digging in the yard.

Sewer utility companies also recommend keeping pipes clear of FOGG (fat, oil, grease and grit). These substances do not dissolve in water, but stick to pipes, creating layers of build-up that restrict waste-water flow. Frequent pipe-cleaning can lead to pipe damage, and eventually lead to the necessity of replacing pipes.

To keep such problems to a minimum, fat, oil, grease, and grit should never be poured down the drain, but rather stored in a container, such as an empty glass jar or coffee can. Keep the container in the refrigerator to solidify the contents and when taking out the trash, the contents can be scraped out into the garbage bag.

Other substances that should never be allowed to wash into sewer system pipes include construction debris such as ground-up cement, plaster, shingles, plastic or wood. These items get into manholes and lines either accidentally, or at times by being dumped intentionally and illegally.

Source: John Swygert, Home Inspectors of Middle Tennessee

KENNETH BARGERS, REALTOR® | Bargers Solutions real estate|marketing
a proud member of Pilkerton Realtors

(615) 512-9836 cellular | (615) 371-2474 office email | web blog | web

2 Cadillac Drive, Brentwood TN 37027 address

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Caulk and Paint Prevent Wood Rot

Caulk and Paint Prevent Wood Rot
Article by John Swygert, April 2014 Home Tip of the Month; 042014

SwygertApril2014TipWood rot isn’t something you typically think about unless you see it. Homeowners may discover that wood used in windows, doors and even decks has begun to deteriorate. This deterioration occurs as different fungi feast on wood. The fungi need a combination of water and wood to live.

Builders point out that many of the hybridized wood products available for purchase contain large quantities of spring wood. Spring wood (also called early wood) refers to the lighter-colored bands of wood visible when you look at the end of a piece of lumber. Spring wood is characterized by large, thin-walled cells that are softer and readily absorb water. (By comparison, hard wood is the harder, less porous portion of an annual ring of wood that develops as a tree matures.) If lumber containing large portions of spring wood are used in building projects, they will be more porous, and therefore more prone to wood rot.

To prevent wood rot, the answer is simple. Wood sills and trim need to be kept caulked and painted. Inspection and maintenance of wood should be done at least yearly, to catch wood rot problems when they are small and manageable.

Another way to help prevent wood rot is to keep bushes and shrubs around the perimeter of the home trimmed back away from the home at least eighteen inches.

Screens can be removed from windows that are never opened for ventilation. This prevents the metal on the screen from allowing water to pond on the window sill. As paint ages and cracks on the window sills, water can seep into the sill and rot the wood. Storm windows can also be culprits because if “weep” (drainage) holes in storm windows are blocked, water puddles will add to the problem.

Source: John Swygert, Home Inspectors of Middle Tennessee

KENNETH BARGERS, REALTOR® | Bargers Solutions real estate|marketing
a proud member of Pilkerton Realtors

(615) 512-9836 cellular | (615) 371-2474 office email | web blog | web

2 Cadillac Drive, Brentwood TN 37027 address

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Clear the Way for Proper Drainage

Article by John Swygert; Home Inspectors of Middle Tennessee, LLC
March 2014 Monthly Tips Eblast Distribution 032014

MarchDrain-2A clogged drain can be annoying, but it is usually not too difficult to clear. Chemical drain cleaners should be used as a last resort, rather than the first. Always use caution with chemical cleaners and be sure to read the labels carefully, because some can be used safely and others may destroy pipes or septic systems. If you are unable to clear a clog after a few attempts, it’s time to turn the job over to a professional. Exerting too much force can permanently damage a fixture or pipe.

If the clog is in the bathroom sink or bathtub, a plunger and wet rag should suffice. Place the rag on top of the overflow drain (or stuff the rag into the overflow hole) to create suction needed to clear the pipe with the plunger. Partially fill the sink basin with water. Vigorously work the plunger up and down repeatedly before quickly removing it from the drain opening. The same process can be used for kitchen sinks, but if it’s a double-bowl sink, stuff a wet rag into one drain opening while you plunge the other side.

MarchDrain-1If plunging doesn’t work, a cable auger can be used. Remove the sink trap under the sink with a pipe wrench or by hand. Empty the water from the trap into a bucket and inspect it to see if the clog is in the trap. If the trap is empty, remove the horizontal trap arm that extends out from the stub-out until you can feel resistance. Pull out 18 inches more cable, tighten the lock screw and crank the handle clockwise and push forward, feeding the cable further into the pipe. Repeat the process until you break through the blockage. Turn the crank counterclockwise to retrieve the cable.

Reassemble the drain pipe. (It might be helpful to grab your cell phone and take a photo or two of the assembly before you remove the sink pipes). Turn on the hot water to see if the sink drains. Some debris from the dislodged clog may settle into a loose blockage, requiring the plunger step to be repeated.

For shower drains, a clog typically builds up slowly over time and water begins to drain slowly. Remove the drain covering. Using a flashpoint and a bent wire, scoop out any buildup of hair or soap scum you can see. The drain may operate properly again with just the one step. If not, move on to the plunger, and then the auger if needed. For bathtub clogs, try the previous steps and if the cable auger is needed, unscrew the overflow plate from the end of the tub and remove it (the stopper linkage will come out with it). Feed about 30 inches of cable down the overflow tube and push forward while turning the crank. You’ll soon feel resistance, but keep going until the cable passes through the P-trap that is under the tub. After retrieving the cable, run several gallons of hot water down the drain.

To clear a toilet clog, a plunger can usually provide enough force to clear the clog. If it doesn’t, a toilet auger (different from a cable auger) can be used. Place the end of the auger into the bowl. Hold the shaft of the tool steady as you crank. Continue cranking until there is no more cable to fed into the toilet – about 3 feet. If you feel you’ve grabbled something, gently pull to remove it. Never force the auger or you will risk cracking the toilet.

Retrieve the cable, and flush the toilet to clear the drainpipe. If needed, the plunger can be used again or the auger can be fed into the toilet again to the right side of the drain opening, and again on the left.

John Swygert | Home Inspectors of Middle Tennessee, LLC

Source: Home Inspectors of Middle Tennessee LLC; eblast 032014 | Blog, In The News, distribution provided by Kenneth Bargers and Bargers Solutions, member of Pilkerton Realtors, residential real estate services located in Nashville, Tennessee

10220_1158837183099_6930637_nKENNETH BARGERS, REALTOR® | Bargers Solutions real estate : marketing
a proud member of Pilkerton Realtors

(615) 512-9836 cellular | (615) 371-2474 office email | web blog | web

2 Cadillac Drive, Brentwood TN 37027 address

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