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Cooling Equipment, HEATING, VENTILATION AND AIR CONDITIONING SYSTEMS

HVAC Condensation Drain Line Routing

During a Professional Home Inspection performed by Blue Star Real Estate Inspections, one of the items checked is the HVAC condensate drain.  Your HVAC System can produce up to 80 gallons of condensate per day.  Condensation is produced by your HVAC system as it removes humidity from the air as it is conditioned.  The best place for this condensation to go is the city sewer system.  PVC piping is the most common material, but cast iron, galvanized steel, copper, polybutylene, polyethylene, ABS, and CPVC piping can also be used.  Whichever piping material is used, it should be no less than 3/4″ Nominal Pipe Size, and should not change size throughout the length of the pipe.  The piping should be sloped to allow gravity to drain the condensate from the pipe, unless a condensate pump is used.

The discharge location should ideally be tied into an existing bathroom or kitchen drain.  Condensate should never drain into any vent stack.  The illustration below shows acceptable condensate drain tie in locations.

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Acceptable condensate drain locations

On one home inspection that I performed, I came across a condensate drain line that discharged onto the ground directly outside the wall.  The condensate pooled up at the foundation of the house.  While keeping your foundation moist is a good idea, you do not want isolated water pools at any time.  Serious foundation damage could occur.

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Picture shows condensate drain discharging to the exterior of the house and pooling water

The property in question above was on a septic system rather than city sewer.  Routing condensate lines to the septic tank is acceptable.  More than likely the owner wanted to avoid excessive septic cleaning/pumping.

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Appliances, Ranges, Cooktops, and Ovens

Range/Oven Temperature

During a home inspection performed by Blue Star Real Estate Inspections, one of the appliances inspected is your range.  One of the first things you’ll see me do upon arriving is open the stove to ensure nothing is inside and turn it on.  I’ll set the temperature to Bake at 350° and let it heat up for 20 minutes.  Then I use my laser thermometer similar to the one pictured below to check the temperature.  Current standards require the stove temperature to be ±25° from the setting of 350° (between 325° and 375°).  The laser thermometer has a setting that will tell me the average.

laser gun
I use a laser thermometer similar to this one.

Adjusting the temperature of your oven is simple.  If you have an older knob type temperature setting, there are two types: the first has a screw in the shaft of the knob; the second has an adjustment dial on the back of the knob.  You’ll first have to remove the knob by pulling it off.  For the screw in shaft type, the temperature can be adjusted by turning the screw in the shaft with a screwdriver. Turn it clockwise to lower the temperature; turn it counterclockwise to raise the temperature.

With the dial on back type of knob adjust the temperature by turning the dial on the back of the knob. (This dial is held in place with a screw or a clip that will need to be removed.)  Lower the temperature setting by turning the dial clockwise and raise it by turning the dial counterclockwise.

If you have a digital type of temperature setting for your oven, you can consult the owner’s manual for easy directions on how to adjust the oven’s temperature.

As always, Blue Star Real Estate Inspection Services is here to help you.  Call 361-462-9018 to schedule your inspection today.

Doors (Interior and Exterior)

Garage Entry Door to House

This article is about the pedestrian door between the garage and the house, not the garage door that you drive your car through.

When an attached garage is present, there are a few things I look for when doing an inspection.  One of them is the entryway between the garage and the house.  Since dangerous fumes are produced by your vehicle’s exhaust, there should never be a door from the garage directly into sleeping rooms or bedrooms.  Carbon monoxide from your vehicle’s exhaust can be deadly.  To prevent fumes from entering the residence, a self closing device should be installed on the door which will automatically close the door after you have walked through.  The door should seal tightly and be weather proofed, and no “doggie doors” should be installed.  There should also be a minimum of 6 inches step-up between the garage and the living area of the house.  This is to help prevent dangerous fumes which gather near the floor from entering the house.

The chances that a fire starts in the garage are higher than any other area of your house.  For this reason, the door must be fireproofed.  This is accomplished by using a solid wood door that is a minimum of 1 3/8″ thick, a solid or honeycomb core steel door that is a minimum of 1 3/8″ thick, or a door labeled for 20 minute fire protection.

man-door-attached-garage

Here at Blue Star Real Estate Inspection Services we have the knowledge and expertise to inform you of the conditions that you need to know about.  There are a lot of potential dangers out there, and we are here to help you identify them.  Call 361-462-9018 today to schedule an inspection.

 

Electrical Systems, Service Entrance and Panels

Double Tapped Circuit Breakers

A double tapped circuit breaker occurs when two conductors are found connected to one circuit breaker lug that is designed for only one conductor.  The problem with double tapped breakers is that one or both of the wires could eventually come loose.  The chances that a conductor works itself loose is even greater when two different sized conductors are attached to the same breaker lug.  When this happens, arcing occurs.  Arcing is the discharge of an electrical spark between two conductors that is caused by an electrical discharge into the air.  Arcing can cause heat, sparks, or even fire, and creates a very dangerous situation.

Electrical-Double-Tapped-Circuit-Breaker1
The picture above shows a double tapped circuit breaker.

Not all breakers with two conductors connected are a deficiency.  Some models of breakers are designed to receive two conductors.  In these cases, the breaker should be labeled as such.

double breaker
The picture above shows a circuit breaker designed to receive two conductors.

Reasons why someone would double tap a circuit breaker include such things as; there was not enough room to add a new breaker in the panel, the homeowner did the addition himself and didn’t know any better, or just plain laziness.  Correcting this deficiency is fairly easy.  Acceptable methods include adding another breaker to the panel, adding a subpanel, or upgrading to a larger service panel that has enough space for the additional breaker.  As always, never attempt to do any electrical repairs yourself.  All electrical work should be done by a licensed electrical contractor to avoid electric shock, burns, or death by electrocution.

At Blue Star Real Estate Inspections  we always have your best interests in mind.  You can trust that we will give you the information you need to make an informed decision on your home purchase.  Call 361-462-9018 to schedule an inspection today.

Grading and Drainage

Proper Grading & Drainage

One of the most important systems regarding your house is the foundation.  In order to keep rainwater away from your foundation, the area around your house should be properly graded for the correct drainage.  In order to allow proper drainage, it is recommended that grading be provided at a 6 inch constant, gradual elevation decrease in the first 10 feet of horizontal distance away from the foundation.  This slope allows for rainwater to properly drain away from your foundation.  Grading should never be sloped towards the foundation.

flooding
The picture above shows flooding due to improper grading.

Sometimes, it is impossible to get the proper slope of 6 inches in the first 10 feet, because there is simply not enough room between houses.  In this case, a swale can be used.  A swale is just a lower elevation landscaping feature that acts as a valley or trough to manage rainwater runoff.  Swales are often used in between properties to direct water towards the street, where most storm water drains are located.

swale
The diagram above illustrates how swales direct water away from a house.

At Blue Star Real Estate Inspection Services, we have the knowledge to determine if the grading around your house is properly sloped.  Grading and Drainage is just one of the many things that we investigate to ensure that your home’s systems are functioning as they should be.  Call 361-462-9018 to schedule an inspection today.

 

Walls Interior and Exterior

Vegetation in Contact With Structure

A common occurrence that I see when doing inspections is trees, shrubs, or bushes in close proximity to the exterior walls of the structure.  I always recommend that vegetation be pruned back to a minimum of 18 inches from the structure.  If not, several problems can result.

vegetation on walls
The picture above shows vegetation in contact with the exterior wall.

On a windy day, trees can cause mechanical damage to the exterior of your house by wind-blown tree branches.  This damage can go undetected, because the tree is blocking your normal view of the house behind it.  Even if only the paint is removed, significant damage can occur over time due to water intrusion.

A house will not keep a large tree branch from growing into, around, or engulfing the structure.  Large tree branches can cause significant damage to a house if not kept in check.  Trees have been known to engulf nearby objects over time if left unattended.  While this is an extreme example, it shows the power of nature.  Plus, a large tree branch falling on your house will cause serious damage.

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The picture above shows a tree which has engulfed an iron fence.  Imagine if a tree did this to your house!

In addition to the mechanical damage which can be done, there are other items to consider.  Tree leaves can clog your gutter system rendering them ineffective.  Bushes and shrubs can retain moisture and trap it against your home’s exterior causing significant damage.  They are also nice areas for insects, spiders, rodents, reptiles, and small mammals to hang out.  Remember, you should always clear any vegetation to a minimum of 18 inches from the structure.

When you call on Blue Star Real Estate Inspection Services to inspect your house, you can trust that we will have your best interests in mind.  Call today to schedule your inspection.  361-462-9018.

 

Plumbing Supply and Distribution, Water Heating Equipment

Water Heater Physical Protection

Water heaters installed in garages are very rarely properly protected from physical damage.  There should be some means of protecting a water heater from damage any time its location is subject to physical damage from a vehicle.  Unless the water heater is installed at an elevation above the height of the vehicle, protection from physical damage in the form of bollards or curbs should be installed.

water heater protection
The image above shows a bollard which keeps a car from damaging the water heater when parking in the garage.

These protection requirements hold true for both gas and electrically sourced water heaters.  However, gas water heaters pose an extra danger.  If the gas supply line is damaged, you now have gas leaking into your garage at a high rate.  You also have an ignition source (your vehicle) nearby.  If you happen to damage your gas water heater, you should shut your vehicle off immediately and leave the area.  Find the main gas supply shut off, and turn the gas off.  Your inspection report from Blue Star Real Estate Inspection Services will let you know exactly where your gas supply shut-off valve is located.  Leave the garage door open, call the fire department, and vacate the area.

This requirement seems like common sense when you think about why, but you would be surprised at how often I run across water heaters installed in garages without physical protection.  Adding a bollard or curb to protect your water heater is much less expensive than having to replace your water heater if you have an accidental collision with your water heater.  Blue Star Real Estate Inspection Services will be here to help you make the right decision regarding the purchase of a home.  Call 361-462-9018 today to schedule your inspection.