Thermostats have come a long way since the days of the standard round mechanical devices that used to be hanging on everyone’s wall. Here are some thoughts to help you select the right thermostat for your home or apartment.
1. Identify the type of heating and cooling system(s) you have in your home. Your new thermostat must be compatible with your heating and cooling systems. In general, your choices may include:
Many people have spent $275 or more on the learning thermostats. Results are mixed whether they are worth the extra money. Many people I have talked to have bought the learning version only to turn that feature off after a few months. How is it smarter than you.
There are many manufacturers, and each one offers its own features, benefits and prices. Once you’ve identified your needs, consider price, function and reputation to narrow your search down to the thermostat that will give you years of comfortable and cost-effective living.
I personally selected a smart thermostat without the learning feature and enjoy seeing the energy usage reports and having mobile phone access. I can make temporary changes as needed anytime, anywhere, especially when we are traveling.
No One Works Harder For Their Clients!
Corley Home Inspections - Cedar Falls, IA 50613
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.
According to a 2006 report from the United States Fire Administration, approximately 67,800 fires occur annually due to problems in a home's electrical system, resulting in approximately 485 deaths, more than 2,300 injuries, and more than $868 million in residential property loss.
Conventional circuit breakers only respond to overloads and short circuits; so they do not protect against arcing conditions. The newer Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) is a type of circuit breaker (or electrical outlet) that breaks the circuit when it detects a dangerous electrical arc in order to prevent electrical fires. An AFCI can determine the difference between a harmless arc that occurs incidental to normal operation of switches & motors, and an undesirable arc that can occur. An example of a arc that may start a fire is when the electrical wire supplying a lamp breaks and it arcs between the broken wires or something else.
AFCI breakers have been become common in bedrooms in new homes built since about 2010. The reduction in fires has improved the usage to spread to more outlets all over the home. Once an unwanted arcing condition is detected, the AFCI opens its internal contacts, thus de-energizing the circuit and reducing the potential for a fire to occur.
Many free standing appliances, especially ranges/ovens, are set in place, plugged in and forgotten about. Since 1991, appliance companies furnish special tip-over brackets to prevent injuries, but many brackets never get installed. From 1980 through 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is aware of 38 fatalities associated with range tip-overs. Twenty (or 53 percent) of these range tip-over fatalities involved children aged one year to five years old. From January 1, 1980 through December 31, 2006, the CPSC is aware of 84 injuries. The majority of injuries, regardless of age, were burns suffered when hot liquids spilled from the pots or pans that tipped when the range tilted. I am aware of this exact accident occurring within my family and luckily without serious injury.
The tip-over brackets are normally attached to a rear leg of the range or screwed into the wall behind the range, and are included in all installation kits. A unit that is not equipped with these devices may tip over if enough weight is applied to its open door, such as that from a large Thanksgiving turkey, or even a small child. A falling range can crush, scald, or burn anyone caught beneath. You can confirm the presence of anti-tip brackets through the following method:
Mold is a health hazard and negatively affects Indoor Air Quality. Microorganisms are everywhere and spread rapidly wherever water is available. Dust and dirt normally present in most indoor spaces provide sufficient nutrients to support microbial growth. While mold can grow on all materials, some materials can prevent dirt accumulation, moisture penetration and mold growth.
The Iowa Department of Public Health does NOT recommend testing for the presence of mold for several reasons:
It is not necessary to use bleach on mold, unless your intention is to disinfect the surface. If you choose to use bleach to disinfect an area or to remove mold stains, follow these guidelines:
1. Clean the surface first and remove all debris.
2. Provide ventilation with a fan, open window, or door.
3. Prepare the bleach solution according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep the surface wet for 15 minutes before wiping it down.
4. Never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleaners.
5. Rinse the area with clean water.
All of us use at least one nightlights in our homes. Nightlights can provide a safety benefit by providing just enough light to prevent falls at night. They can make children feel safer in dark rooms when they fear the dark. They provide a useful purpose.
Would you believe over 90 million are sold annually in the U.S. and 600,000 are recalled for safety reasons? I never hear of these recalls. Nightlights can become excessively hot, causing them to melt and pose a risk of fire if they come in contact with flammable materials, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC receives roughly 10 reports annually of fires that were caused when nightlights ignited toilet paper, pillows, bedspreads and other flammable materials. In many of these cases, the nightlight was installed so close to the bed that falling blankets or pillows made contact with the nightlight and started a fire. For this reason, nightlights should not be plugged in next to bed coverings, curtains, and other potentially flammable objects and materials. Nightlights should not be covered with tape, cardboard or any other material that might cause them to overheat.
Homeowners may consider using nightlights equipped with mini neon bulbs instead of higher-wattage bulbs. Never let children handle nightlights. If you have small children, avoid purchasing or installing a nightlight decorated with cute or funny figures to which they may be attracted and that may be easy for them to reach.
Smoke alarms/detectors are incredible safety devices needed in every home and are widely accepted. But, we have a growing problem most homeowners are not aware of. The smoke sensors in smoke detectors only work properly for 7 to 10 years, depending on the manufacturer. The sensors are not serviceable and the smoke detector should be replaced according to the manufacturer's label.
Smoke detectors have been good at sensing either a smoldering fire or flaming fires, such as paper, but not both. Most homeowners don't know the difference or which is technology is better and advertising has not helped. The solution is finding alarms/detectors with both technologies. I have recently found these new combination devices available at many stores. For example, First Alert has introduced two new combination devices: "OneLink SCO501CN" and "OneLink CO511B". These two units were the top recommendations by "Consumers Reports" (top independent testing company).
There are smoke alarms that have been combined with carbon monoxide detectors and seem like a great idea. But, according to "Consumers Reports", the new combination smoke alarm & carbon monoxide alarms don't function as well as the best individual units. The best solution, in my opinion, is to replace your old alarms before they reach 7-years old with the combination sensor technology smoke alarms and buy a separate carbon monoxide detector.
Clothes dryers account for more than 15,000 home fires every year. Clothes dryers generate a lot of heat and moisture while drying clothes. Lint and other debris can build up in your dryer vent, reducing air flow to the dryer, backing up dryer exhaust gases, creating a fire hazard. Clothes dryers are an appliance that make our lives easier, but we often take them for granted. Most people never think about the exhaust vent needing cleaning. After all, out of sight, out of mind.
The first sign that you might experience a clogged vent is when your dryer stops drying your clothes in one cycle. Dryers are designed to exhaust the heat and the moisture while it's drying. If that heat and moisture cannot get out of the dryer, then the dryer just sits there and keeps working itself but doesn’t dry the clothes well. The dryer actually works harder and heat builds up and that is what can lead to a dryer vent fire. Dryer exhaust ducts should never exceed 25 foot in length and less when bends are used routing the vent outside. Homes with longer vents are more susceptible to fire.
Here are some of the signs that it's time to clean your vent:
• Clothes do not dry completely after a normal drying cycle.
• Clothing seems unusually hot to the touch after a complete drying cycle.
• Excessive heat is noticed within the room in which the dryer is being operated.
• Large amounts of lint accumulate in the lint trap for the dryer during operation.
• A visible sign of lint and debris is noticed around the lint filter for the dryer.
If your clothes dryer vent has any turns or is a long, I recommend you leave the dryer vent cleaning to professionals who have the proper tools and knowledge to do the cleaning right. There are many DIY videos on the internet that show how to clean the exhaust vent and are WRONG.
Chuck retired from an engineering management career to start a home inspection business