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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Ideas: Staying Cool for Less this Summer

Ideas: Staying Cool for Less this Summer
Articles courtesy of HouseLogic; National Association of REALTORS®

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Visual Inspections Key to Garage Door Safety

Visual Inspections Key to Garage Door Safety
Courtesy of Nashville Home Inspections | June 2015 Monthly Tip

Garage-3As long as garage doors go up and down… and do so in a reasonably quiet fashion… most homeowners don’t give this important entryway much thought. But get locked out of the front door, or have the garage door freeze in place (up and down) and it will loom front and center on everyone’s mind. Not only are ingress and egress blocked, but cars, bikes, lawn mowers and other equipment may be inaccessible.

Experts make several suggestions when it comes to garage door maintenance. The first and easiest one is a visual inspection that can be carried out monthly or bimonthly by standing inside the garage with the door closed. A visual examination of the garage door springs, cables, rollers, pulleys and mounting hardware may reveal signs of wear or damage. Things to notice in particular are cable wear or fraying, loose hardware anything that doesn’t look – or sound right. At this point, closer inspection by a professional may be warranted.

Garage-1It is easy today to take the operation of an automatic garage door for granted. In fact, automatic doors were a rarity fifty years ago, and when first included in new construction, not always installed with safety in mind. A federal law, enacted in 1992, changed that, requiring all doors manufactured after January 1, 1993, to be equipped with a reversing mechanism and a sensor to prevent entrapment. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) prompted the law to reduce the number of deaths to children who become entrapped under garage doors with automatic openers.

If an automatic door does not include these features, it is recommended that the system be replaced for safety reasons. Doors that are equipped with pressure sensors can be tested by placing a 2 x 4 on the ground underneath the closing door. This will allow the door to press against an unyielding object. If the door does not automatically reverse direction, the door should be immediately serviced by a trained technician. Testing the force it takes to reverse the door can be done by holding the bottom of the door with hands outstretched and firm. If the door continues to close, the sensor could be set too high and there may be an issue.

To test the photo eye sensor, if that is the system in the garage door, waving an object such as a broomstick in front of one of the door’s photo eyes should cause the door to reverse direction. If the door continues downward, and cleaning the eye with a cloth does not help, a technician should be enlisted.

Depending on the age of the garage door, it may come with self-lubricated or plastic parts that need no oil. In an older door, that may not be the case. After using a leaf blower to remove any debris trapped in the door tracks (this can also be done using a rag or brush), a small amount of spray lubricant applied to door hinges, rollers and tracks may keep the mechanism sliding smoothly.

The rubber seal on the bottom of the garage door is an important line of defense against rodents and other pests, as well as dirt, debris or moisture. If the rubber seal has hardened or chipped, the seal should be replaced. This can be done for under $100.

Although it’s easy to forget, it never hurts to clean and inspect the interior door leading into the house in an attached garage. This should be done at least every other year, if not every year. To keep energy from escaping into and out of the garage, this door should be properly weather-stripped with a threshold seal that fits snugly against the bottom of the door.

Most building codes require this door to be fire-rated and self-closing. If the door is damaged or put in place before more stringent fire codes were enacted, a new fire-rated door can be purchased and installed. Check with your local municipality for exact building codes.

Source: John Watkins, Nashville Home Inspection; June 2015 Monthly Tip eblast distribution


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


Big Cost for Wasted Energy

Big Cost for Wasted Energy
Article by Nashville Home Inspection
Eblast Distribution – Monthly Tip for September 2014 092014

The approximately 113 million residences in America today use an estimated 22% of the country’s energy. Unfortunately, much of that energy escapes out the back door, the front door, the attic or through the inefficiencies of heating and cooling systems. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, 25 to 40 percent of the energy used for heating and cooling a typical home is wasted due to air leakage.

Energy-Blog-1Yet whether the energy is absorbed or wasted, everyone pays. The typical family spends more than $2,000 a year on home utility bills. There is a way to lower these bills. There is a way to lower these bills, however. (And any improvements will help. The EPA estimates that energy costs are going to continue to go up at a pace of two to three percent through 2040).

To get a handle on energy costs, an analysis of energy consumption shows that heating and cooling accounts for 54% of energy usage in the home, water heating accounts for an additional 18%. Lighting and refrigeration account for about 5% each. Electronics and appliances of all kinds use the remaining 18%.

Since cooling and heating comprises the bulk of energy usage, checking the home for air leaks is a first step. On a windy or cool day, air leaks are easy to track down (by touch) around windows, under and around doors, and from attics or exterior walls.

Sealing air leaks and adding insulation is one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to reduce energy waste and save energy dollars. If leaks are detected around windows or doors, use caulk and weather stripping to eliminate leaks.

Energy-Blog-2Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring comes through the walls, floors, ceilings, and soffits over cabinets. Install foam gaskets behind outlet switch plates on walls. Using safe work practices, low-expansion polyurethane foam in a can is good for plugging openings ¼-inch to three inches wide, such as those around plumbing pipes and vents.

It may be time to add insulation if a home is uncomfortably hot or cold at any time or if energy bills are higher than might be expected. Be sure to seal any air leaks before you insulate, because insulating materials won’t block leaks.

To cut down on hot water bills, families can use the shower rather than the tub, buy a more energy-efficient hot water heater, turn down the thermostat on the heater and better insulate the tank, but be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. In addition, the first 6 feet of the hot and cold water pipes connected to the water heater can also benefit from insulation.

Energy-Blog-3Changing out light bulbs can also make a difference. One of today’s most energy-efficient technologies, ENERGY STAR light-emitting diodes diodes (LEDs) use only 20% to 25% of the energy and last up to 25 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs they replace.

While LEDs are more expensive, they still save money because they last a long time and have very low energy use.

Finally, we plug in many more devices per household than in years past, including computers, TVs, phone chargers and gaming consoles, and most devices continue consuming energy when not in use. It’s time to unplug. The transformers in AC adapters draw power continuously, even when the device, such as a laptop, is not plugged into the adapter. Devices that are used only on occasion can remain unplugged until needed.

Source: John Watkins, Nashville Home Inspection, September 2014 Month Tip 092014

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

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2 Cadillac Drive, Brentwood TN 37027 address

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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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