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    Diving Into Electric Furnaces- Its elementary!             Wenatchee and Chelan Home Inspection Services

     

    I am amazed how often I find electric furnaces with an element or two not working. Quite often the home occupant does not even know because warm air is still blowing out of the registers.

     

                                                                         Heating Elements (10kw)

     

    The beauty of electric furnaces is that they are pretty straight forward. During a home inspection I can test the element leads to see if they are coming on using a clamp on amp meter. Typically I will see around 20 amps per element.

     

    By using the clamp on meter I will check to see if each element is energizing which they should after a minute or two. After running the furnace for a little while with the meter I can evaluate whether a specific element energizes and starts to heat up or never comes on.



    element not energizing



    One of the main culprits for an element not energizing is the sequencer. The sequencers for the electric furnace are designed to turn on and off the heating elements in a series of delays so they all do not come on at the same time causing a surge of current that could trip the breaker.


                                                             

    typical sequencer

     

                                                                                        Sequencer Function

     

    Typically a sequencer depending on model will come on in a few seconds to about a minute and a half. These sequencers rely on a heat relay which is a heater coil and a bimetal switch. The coil heats the bimetal which causes it to flex and create a contact and allow power to the elements. Most modern sequencers are 24v, though you may have an older furnace with 120 or 240 volts but those are not that common anymore, at least here.



     

     

     

    The other big issue I find during the inspection is burned up wires which I see these quite often. This is most commonly caused by a poor connections but corrosion, vibration and that thing that never stops... Age, can also show their ill effects on the wiring. Sometimes repairs have been made and the wrong wire was used, these wires are high temperature rated to handle the environment they are in.

     

     

     

     

           



    Another possible problem is that the heating element has failed or has the high temperature limit switch or fuse has failed. Often this failure will be related to the air filter, not changing the air filter which will reduce airflow and cause the elements to overheat. Repeated overheating will cause these switches to fail.





    The furnace air filter is one of the most important maintenance item in your forced air system. If the filter becomes clogged, the entire system has to work harder and run longer to deliver heat. You should replace or clean your air filter monthly during the heating season.



    By doing this simple test during a home inspection I am able to give my clients a little more information about this system and is a good reminder that annual servicing should be performed.

     

    “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

     

    Benjamin Franklin



    NCW Home Inspections, LLC is a Licensed Washington State Home Inspection service located in Wenatchee Washington serving Chelan County, Douglas County, Kittitas County, Okanogan County and Grant County Washington and the cities of Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Cashmere, Oroville, Cle Elum, East Wenatchee, Quincy and many more…  

     

    Your Wenatchee and Chelan Professional Real Estate, Home and Structural Pest Inspection Service

     

    Instructor- Fundamentals of Home Inspection-  Bellingham Technical College



    www.ncwhomeinspections.com                                                  509-670-9572



    You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and on my website Blog.

     


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    When Men were Men and Sparkies played by the sparks.     Chelan Home Inspections

     

    As a home inspector I get to see a lot oddities out there. Some are just very interesting. I also am a bit of a geek and history buff so that has lead me to collecting old code books ,especially the National Electrical Code (NEC).

     

    Old fuse panel

     

    From the National Electrical Manufacturers Association- NEMA - Here is a little history of electrical codes-

     

    “National Bureau of Standards Circular No. 49—1914

     

    “The 1st  Edition of Bureau of Standards Circular No. 49—Safety Rules to be Observed in the Operation and Maintenance of  Electrical Equipment and Lines was issued after a year of examination of appropriate requirements for electrical workers and electrical employees. This edition only covered work rules; it did not address clearances, grounding, or the strength of supporting line structures. It was issued primarily for discussion and was apparently not adopted by any states at the time, although it did result in changes in the work rules of some utilities.”

     

    NEC Code Books 1959 to 1947

     

    National Bureau of Standards Circular No. 49, 2nd Edition—1915   

     

    “The 2nd Edition of National Bureau of Standards Circular No. 49 carried the same title as the first edition (Safety Rules to be Observed in the Operation and Maintenance of Electrical Equipment and Lines) with the addition of Being Part 4 of the Proposed National Electrical Safety Code (2nd Edition). By then it was  clear that work rules alone would not solve all the issues. Not only did additional issues of grounding,  clearances, and strengths of structures and wires need to be addressed, but addressing those issues  would best be done by grouping the discussions by categories in a new proposed national code. Work  rules would be addressed in Part 4 of that code. “

     

    NEC Code Books 1999 to 2011

     

    Well my collection does not go back quite this far but I have all the NEC code cycles from 1947 forward and electronic version of the 1920, 1933, 1935,1937, 1940 ELectrical codes.



       

    NEC books 1962 - 1996

     

    Then there were guidebooks published by authors other than National Bureau of  Fire Underwriters (NBFU)/NFPA



    The following is an excerpt from The American Electricians Handbook of 1942. “A Reference Book for Practical Electrical Workers”.

     

    “Electricians often test circuits for the presence of voltage touching the conductors with the fingers. This method is safe where the voltage does not exceed 250 and is often very convenient for locating a blown-out fuse or for ascertaining whether or not a circuit is alive. Some men can endure the electric shock that results without discomfort whereas others cannot. Therefore, the method is not feasible in some cases. Which are the outside wires and which is the neutral wire of a 115/230 volt three wire system can be determined in this way by noting the intensity of the shock that results by touching different pairs of wires with the fingers. Use the method with caution and be certain that the voltage of the circuit does not exceed 250 before touching the conductors.“

     

    Now thats what I call manly but it gets better.



    For all the Einstein's

     

    The following  paragraphs was taken from the “American Electricians Handbook” of 1914

     

    “91. The presence of low voltages can be determined by “tasting.” The method is feasible only where the pressure is but a few volts and hence is used only in bell and signal work. Where the voltages is very low, the bared ends of the conductors constituting the two sides of the circuit are held a short distance apart in the tongue. If voltage is present a peculiar mild burning sensation results which will never be forgotten after one has experienced it. The ‘taste” is due to the electrolytic decomposition of the liquids on the tongue which produces a salt having a taste. With relatively high voltages, possibly 4 or 5 volts, due to as many cells of battery, it is best to first test for the presence of voltage by holding one of the bared conductors in the hand and touching the other to the tongue. Where a terminal of a battery  is grounded, often a taste can be detected by standing on moist ground and touching a conductor from the other battery terminal to the tongue. Care should be exercised to prevent the two conductors ends from touching each other at the tongue, for if they do a spark can result that may burn.



    Well...now the next time a sparky comes to your home you tell them how a real test should be performed.

     

    “Electricity is really just organized lightning”

    George Carlin




    NCW Home Inspections, LLC is a Licensed Washington State Home Inspection service located in Wenatchee Washington serving Chelan County, Douglas County, Kittitas County, Okanogan County and Grant County Washington and the cities of Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Cashmere, Oroville, Cle Elum, East Wenatchee, Quincy and many more…  

     

    Your Wenatchee and Chelan Professional Real Estate, Home and Structural Pest Inspection Service

     

    Instructor- Fundamentals of Home Inspection-  Bellingham Technical College



    www.ncwhomeinspections.com                                                  509-670-9572



    You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and on my website Blog.


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    This is for the Women… Size Matters.

    A little history on Baluster spacing.

    East Wenatchee Home Inspections

     

    Now I say this because of the Woman's maternal instinct and child safety  concerns, now I know many males have this instinct also but it is more dominant in females.

     

    Baluster spacing requirements as we have it now is designed for child safety and per Washington State HI SOP’s we are required to report baluster spacing more than 4 inches.






    Washington State Home Inspectors standards of practice reporting requirements:

    (Bold and underline is mine)

     

    The inspector will:

    (a) Verify

    That steps, handrails, guardrails, stairways and landings are installed wherever necessary and report when they are missing or in need of repair and report when baluster spacing exceeds four inches.






    Now as a home inspector we often find baluster spacing that exceeds 4 inches. So I did a little research and found some of the requirements from years past. This is no way exhaustive and I found finding much of this information was convoluted and difficult to find.






    First, from the ICC (International Code Council)-

    “History-  The International Code Council (ICC) was established in 1994 as a non-profit organization dedicated to developing a single set of comprehensive and coordinated national model construction codes. The founders of the ICC are Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA), International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO), and Southern Building Code Congress International, Inc. (SBCCI). Since the early part of the last century, these non-profit organizations developed three separate sets of model codes used throughout the United States. Although regional code development has been effective and responsive to our country’s needs, the time came for a single set of codes. The nation’s three model code groups responded by creating the International Code Council and by developing codes without regional limitations; the International Codes.”

    Prior to 2000, BOCA, SBCCI and ICBO each had their own model codes. These codes were regionally applied. In 1999, these three organizations started working  together to prepare a unified code under the sponsorship of the ICC. The first set of “I Codes” were published in 2000 and included the International Residential Code (IRC) and the International Building Code (IBC). The IRC and IBC model codes have since been widely adopted by states and  municipalities throughout the country in some version, often with local amendments. The I Codes are published every three years – the most recent publication is the  2012 version.






    So lets start with some definitions of some of the code groups-

     

    Uniform Building Code (UBC)

    Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA)

    The Council of American Building Officials (CABO)




    From some digging around baluster spacing requirements by year;

     

    Uniform Building Code (UBC)

    1961/1976 UBC 9 inches

    1982/1988 UBC 6 inches

    1991 UBC 4 inches

     

    Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA)

    1975 BOCA- horizontal rails not over 10" apart, balusters not over 6" apart.

    1978 BOCA 6 inches for both rails and balusters

    1987 BOCA 6 inches

    1990 BOCA 4 inches

     

    The Council of American Building Officials (CABO)

    1992 CABO 6 inches

    1995 CABO 4 inches

     

    So you can see by the 1990’s the 4 inch rule was pretty well in established.

     

    I had a customer once say to me when I pointed out the baluster spacing  “well didn’t that meet code when it was built?” I replied, “yes, but a child’s head does not care what code cycle you built it to”.

     

    “Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.”

    Will Durant






    NCW Home Inspections, LLC is a Licensed Washington State Home Inspection service located in Wenatchee Washington serving Chelan County, Douglas County, Kittitas County, Okanogan County and Grant County Washington and the cities of Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Cashmere, Oroville, Cle Elum, East Wenatchee, Quincy and many more…  

     

    Your Wenatchee and Chelan Professional Real Estate, Home and Structural Pest Inspection Service

     

    Instructor- Fundamentals of Home Inspection-  Bellingham Technical College



    www.ncwhomeinspections.com                                                  509-670-9572



    You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and on my website Blog.

     


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    Bambi goes Bye Bye - Proper bonding is a life safety issue, even for animals.

     

    As a home inspector one of  my greatest concerns to the well being of my clients is to ensure the electrical system is as safe as possible. Simple mistakes can have deadly consequences.

     

    I often discuss with my clients the importance of proper bonding of systems that could become energized. Most really do not see or grasp what can actually happen.

     

    This photo was from Washington State L&I May’s Electrical Currents.



     

    The victims were two deer,  but this easily could be a person.

     

    NEC® 250.4(A)(5) – Electrical equipment and wiring and other electrically conductive material likely to become energized shall be installed in a manner that creates a low-impedance circuit facilitating the operation of the overcurrent device or ground detector for high-impedance grounded systems. It shall be capable of safely carrying the maximum ground-fault  current likely to be imposed on it from any point on the wiring system where a ground fault may occur to the electrical  supply source. The earth shall not be considered as an effective ground-fault current path.

    Consequences of using the  earth as a ground-fault current path as shown in May’s “month’s ugly picture”.

     

    “Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.”  

    Muhammad Ali

     

    NCW Home Inspections, LLC is a Licensed Washington State Home Inspection service located in Wenatchee Washington serving Chelan County, Douglas County, Kittitas County, Okanogan County and Grant County Washington and the cities of Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Cashmere, Oroville, Cle Elum, East Wenatchee, Quincy and many more…  

     

    Your Wenatchee and Chelan Professional Real Estate, Home and Structural Pest Inspection Service

     

    Instructor- Fundamentals of Home Inspection-  Bellingham Technical College



    www.ncwhomeinspections.com                                                  509-670-9572



    You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and on my website Blog.


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    The confluence- a flowing together of ducts                     East Wenatchee Home Inspection



    Lets start with some definitions and concepts-

     

    Confluence:

    1. a coming or flowing together, meeting, or gathering at one point

    2. the flowing together of two or more streams

     

    Fluid:

     

    1. a substance, as a liquid or gas, that is capable of flowing and that changes its shape at a steady rate when acted upon by a force tending to change its shape.

    First, most people do not think of air in this way but air is a fluid. Liquids are fluids, but liquids are not the only fluids. Fluids are a subset of the phases of matter which include liquids, gases, and plasmas.

     

    Now what we have here is the confluence of the dryer duct and the bathroom exhaust.



     

    (We also have separation of the duct)

     

    These duct systems should never be commingled and can cause issues with these exhausts systems. This can lead to accumulation of lint and moisture reintroduced into the home. Dryer ducts cause several thousand fires a year and any compromise of this systems is just not a good thing.

     

     

    From the United States Fire Administration

    “There are approximately 15,600 structure fires, 400 injuries, and 15 deaths reported annually as a result of dryer fires. Every year clothes dryer fires account for over $100 million in losses. “



    Dryer exhaust must be independent of other systems and this clearly violates that.

     


    So now the geeky stuff from the 2012 IRC (Residential Code)

     

    M1502.2 Independent exhaust systems.

    Dryer exhaust systems shall be independent of all other systems and shall convey the moisture to the outdoors.

     

    Exception: This section shall not apply to listed and labeled condensing (ductless) clothes dryers.

     

    M1502.4.1 Material and size.

     

    Exhaust ducts shall have a smooth interior finish and be constructed of metal having a minimum thickness of 0.0157 inches (0.3950 mm) (No. 28 gage). The duct shall be 4 inches (102 mm) nominal in diameter.





    “The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.”


    Michio Kaku



    NCW Home Inspections, LLC is a Licensed Washington State Home Inspection service located in Wenatchee Washington serving Chelan County, Douglas County, Kittitas County, Okanogan County and Grant County Washington and the cities of Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Cashmere, Oroville, Cle Elum, East Wenatchee, Quincy and many more…  

     

    Your Wenatchee and Chelan Professional Real Estate, Home and Structural Pest Inspection Service

     

    Instructor- Fundamentals of Home Inspection-  Bellingham Technical College



    www.ncwhomeinspections.com                                                  509-670-9572



    You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and on my website Blog.


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    World’s most expensive sheetrock.                         Wenatchee Home Inspections



    What do you think is the average price for ½ sheetrock? About $10 to $12 for a 4x8 sheet you would be very close.

    Then factor what the typical cost of installation the cost of materials and installation is around let say around $1.75 a square foot to install.

     

    That sheetrock installation cost is going to radically change when you have to go back and install it when you have a very large obstacle in the way. Case in point.

     

    This is how it looked from the ground

     

    During a recent home inspection I was doing the garage inspection when I noticed that they had not sheetrocked behind the suspended Air Handler and ducting. Well this is not good because the wall in the garage is what is considered a "fire separation" between the garage and the home (dwelling).

     

     

    The requirements are spelled out in “SECTION R302- FIRE-RESISTANT CONSTRUCTION”

    Article R302.6 Dwelling/garage fire separation. Which states that “Not less than 1/2-inch gypsum board or equivalent applied to the garage side” from the residence and attics.

     

    Yep we must have a proper separation there, and it was missed.

     

    OSB behind duct

     

    Typically what I see during construction is that the drywall company will come in and put up a few sheets of sheetrock where equipment such as the HVAC handler will be so the HVAC contractor can get on their way and later the drywall contractor can finish the job. Well in this case that did not happen.

     

    Drywall installed before HVAC Air Handler

     

     


    Now a lot of head scratching went on and I was getting a few phone calls on how they were to address this when I suggested that maybe you drop the HVAC air handler and rock behind it, though this was not what anyone wanted to hear. Yet in the end that actually became the final solution.

    So the cost of dropping the HVAC handler was around $1000. Then you have the cost of the Drywaller to come in and install the rock at a much higher rate because he is doing such a small area. With the installation cost of the drywall now being about $6 a square foot, then add the cost of the HVAC move you are at about $22 a square foot total to correct this… ouch. Now that is some expensive sheetrock.

     

    Again, as often is the case, it is much cheaper to do it correctly in the first place.

     

    “The learning and knowledge that we have, is, at the most, but little compared with that of which we are ignorant.”

    Plato




    NCW Home Inspections, LLC is a Licensed Washington State Home Inspection service located in Wenatchee Washington serving Chelan County, Douglas County, Kittitas County, Okanogan County and Grant County Washington and the cities of Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Cashmere, Oroville, Cle Elum, East Wenatchee, Quincy and many more…  

     

    Your Wenatchee and Chelan Professional Real Estate, Home and Structural Pest Inspection Service

     

    Instructor- Fundamentals of Home Inspection-  Bellingham Technical College



    www.ncwhomeinspections.com                                                  509-670-9572



    You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and on my website Blog.

     


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