WHY ARE MY WINDOWS SWEATING
If you are having trouble with water collecting on the inside of your windows during cold weather, you are not alone. This can cause water stains, wood damage, mildew and even mold. If you are looking for a way to stop this water problem, we need to understand what is causing the water to form in the first place.
When air warms, it expands which allows it to hold more moisture. As it cools down, it contracts until it reaches the saturation point and releases this excess water in the form of condensation.
Everyday activities in your home, such as; cooking, showering, using unvented gas heat, and even breathing add moisture to the air. When this warm humid air comes in contact with cold window glass, it cools and condenses. To reduce this problem, you need to reduce the amount of moisture in the air. The homes moisture level is measured by humidity gauge. Below are some suggestions that will help:
For most people, the purchase of a home is the largest investment you will ever make. Getting an independent, expert opinion on the condition of the structure is vital. But not all home inspectors have the same training, experience, or certifications. There are currently no federal or Iowa state regulations governing home inspectors. So how do you make sure you’ve hired the right person for the job?
When shopping for a home inspector, it’s vital that you do your homework and select your inspector based on the guide below.
The thought of adding a solar panel system to your home is appealing. After all, who does not want lower utility bills and protecting our environment. If the installation is done right, these systems are advertised to last 30 – 40 years. It sounds good, but you will want to see the cost payback, right. Absolutely, but is this all there is to it, the installation cost versus the payback.
What happens when you need a new roof? I have owned my own home for the last 40 years. In this time, I have not had an asphalt shingle roof that has lasted more than 8 years. My roofs have needed replacing due to bad shingles from the manufacturer, hail damage, wind damage, or poor shingle installation. Today’s technology will require the solar system to disassembled to replace the roof and then reassembled. This cost has been estimated to cost between $1,000 - $2,000? Should a person budget this cost every 8 – 10 years?
Another cost to consider is the annual maintenance cost. Solar systems need direct sunshine to work efficiently and these panel surfaces get dirty and block some of the suns energy. The panels will need routine cleaning to remain efficient. The other part of the annual maintenance will be to prevent any shading over the panels from trees, antennas and power lines. It would be simple to manage your own trees, but what happens when a neighbor’s trees start shading your panels?
The last item to consider is whether a solar roof panel system will help or hurt the resell value of your home. This depends on the buyer. Consider the case of a person selling a home with a swimming pool. Most homebuyers do not want a home with a pool due to the associated work and cost of maintaining a pool. It greatly limits the number of prospective buyers who will consider a home with a pool. I believe the same thing would apply to a home with a solar panel, especially when the solar system has a monthly cost associated with it, such as, a monthly lease payment or a buyer assuming a long-term contract.
Capturing the free energy provided by the sun appears to be the right thing to do for our environment, but the total cost is not making the decision simple. It costs money to convert light energy to electricity. Today’s technology and costs make the proposition close to breakeven endeavor.
It is that time of year again and we need to winterize our homes. One of the tasks should be to disconnect any hoses and splitters attached to the outside faucets. By removing all connections from the faucet, all of the water in the pipe can drain to prevent it from freezing and damaging the faucet and water pipes.
Most homes that will see freezing weather have a freeze proof faucet installed. These faucets are designed to drain water from any external part of the faucet. Water is actually shutoff inside the home where the temperature is warmer to prevent freezing. If you are not familiar with the difference between the two types of faucets, look at the photos below. The Lower left photo shows a freeze proof faucet. The handle turns a long straight stem to shutoff water at the end of the pipe. The lower right photo shows a non-freeze proof faucet and notice the angle of the knob. It is not horizontal does not have a pipe attached. The lower right photo shows a non-freeze proof and notice the handle is at an angle and NOT horizontal. This is the quickest way to identify the type of faucet you have. If you do not have a freeze proof type, you will need to shut-off the water to the faucet from inside the home.
The copper pipe, in the photo to the right, shows an enlarged crack inside the home (arrow). A water hose was left connected to a freeze proof faucet all winter and did not allow the faucet to drain the water away. The water in the faucet and the copper froze and burst the pipe. In the spring, when the faucet will be used again, water will flow through the burst copper pipe and into the home.
If you are like me, every time I think of applying salt or an ice melt product on my concrete driveway, I ask myself if it will hurt the concrete. After some research and years of experience, my answer to this question is not an easy yes or no. It depends on the age of the concrete, the quality of the concrete, the installation of the concrete, the ice melt used, and whether the driveway has been sealed. Concrete is naturally very porous and readily absorbs water. When water soaks into the concrete and it freezes, it expands and tries to expand and crack the concrete. When the concrete is of a low quality and has a low amount of cement, the surface can crack and pop off. Also, some of the ice melts are more harsh than others on concrete. Some ice melting chemicals, over time, will break the bond between the cement, sand, and gravel. Without going into all of the detail and chemistry for each ice melt, I will provide my recommendation on using ice melts.
To start, prevent as much moisture as possible from soaking into your concrete surface by applying a good quality concrete sealer. This has to be done when the temperature of the concrete is 65F or above. Sealers are sold at local hardware stores. A concrete sealer will prevent much of the water and ice melt chemical from soaking into your driveway/walk. The best overall ice melt product to use is calcium chloride. It melts ice well, is less harmful to plant life, and is less corrosive to concrete. Try to use the calcium chloride as sparingly as possible and still get the job done. Ice melts are intended to break the bond between the ice and the concrete surface so it can be removed easily. It is not meant to be applied and reapplied to melt and dry the surface all by itself. Calcium chloride is more expensive than most of the other products, but when you think of the cost to replace a concrete driveway, ice melt is very cheap.
Tankless water heater manufacturers advertise instantaneous hot water, endless showers, and energy savings. Are these advertisements accurate? Not 100%. Before making the decision to switch to the tankless design, consider the following points:
A tankless water heater actually takes 10-15 seconds longer to get hot water to a faucet, no matter how far the faucet is from the unit. After water starts flowing through a tankless unit, the unit senses water flow, starts the combustion process, and then begins heating the water. In contrast, a tank water heater stores hot water continuously and provides hot water immediately when water starts flowing.
A tankless unit may prevent you from running out of hot water if they are sized properly. It all depends on how much water will be used at the same time. These units are sized by flow rate (gallons per minute). If the flow rate is calculated correctly, it will provide your demand.
According to the Department of Energy, a tankless water heater can cost $100 less per year to operate compared to a conventional gas 40-gallon tank heater. Most of the savings come from not having to maintain hot water in a tank. With a projected service life of 20-years, the savings over the 20-year period are expected to total $2,000.
The replacement installation cost for a gas 40-gallon conventional water heater averages $900 according to Angie’s List. A tankless unit costs approximately $3,000 ($2,100 more) due to the high energy requirements of the units. These unit need approximately 160,000 BTUs versus 40,000 BTUs for a conventional tank water heater. Tankless units have to heat the water in a very short period of time and need the high heat requirement. This means your gas piping and probably your exhaust line may need to be upgraded. Tank water heaters last between 10-15 years and tankless units are expected to last 20-years if maintained properly. This is an estimate since they are fairly new in the U.S. They also require more maintenance to operate well.
In summary, the bottom line on replacing a conventional water heater with a tankless model are:
Radon is a radioactive gas or vapor that enters a home by seeping up from the ground. Radon gas comes from naturally decaying soil and is present everywhere. The reason radon in a home is a hazard is due to the concentration level. Outside, radon mixes with air and dissipates and is diluted to very low levels. In the home, it is not diluted with air and wind and can get concentrated to high levels. Radon levels in a home are highest where the house meets the ground, such as in a basement. Because it’s a gas, it is constantly in motion, pooling in different areas in the house and in greater or smaller quantities depending on seasonality, ventilation and a variety of other factors.
Many clients often ask me how long their water heater should last. There are several ways to answer this question. First, the average life expectancy of a water heater is 10-12 years for a gas fired unit and slightly longer for an electric one. Some brands seem to last longer than others. Recent design changes to optimize efficiencies has shortened the life of the water heater. They started thinning the steel of the tank and the glass liner. When a water heater goes bad they start leaking water or start making gurgling noises due to hard water buildup on the bottom of the tank.
Manufacturers say you can increase the life of the unit by draining a cup of water every month from the tank drain. The drain is located on the bottom of the tank and usually has a water hose connection on it. Remember, the water is about 120°F and will burn you, so be careful. Draining a little water helps remove hard water minerals that settle at the bottom of the tank. I have found from inspecting homes that when a home has a working water softener, the water lasts much longer.
I suggest when a water heater gets older than its tank warranty and you have not been draining water as per the recommendations above and you do not have a water softener, you should watch it closely. Be proactive and replace it before it finally does reach the end of its useful life or you may get water where you do NOT want it. The Photo below is of a 20-year old gas fired water heater still working. The water softener probably helped extend the life.
Chuck retired from an engineering management career to start a home inspection business