Branch Circuits, Connected Devices, and Fixtures, Electrical Systems

Open Ground on a Receptacle

When performing an inspection, I will use a receptacle tester similar to the one pictured.  The tester is used to test a representative number of receptacles for specific deficiencies.  The most common deficiency found is an open ground.

The purpose of an electrical ground is to provide an exit path for electricity so if there is a malfunction with your electrical outlet or appliance, the electricity will enter the earth, instead of people or equipment that are in contact with the malfunctioning outlet. An open ground prevents this from happening, causing a dangerous situation.

An open ground is usually caused by a loose, broken, or damaged ground wire.  If the wiring is in good shape and properly installed, an open ground reading on the tester could also be caused by a bad receptacle.  In this case, the receptacle should be replaced immediately.IMG_1055

At Blue Star Real Estate Inspection Services you can rest assured that you will be getting a quality home inspection, and that you will have the information you need to make your next step in the home buying process.  Call 361-462-9018 today to schedule your home inspection.

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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.

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.

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.

tree
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, Plumbing Supply, Distribution System and Fixtures

Anti-Siphon Devices

Very few older houses that I inspect have anti-siphon devices or vacuum breakers installed on any of the exterior hose bibs.  Anti-siphon devices are a simple, yet important gadget that you can pick up at your local hardware or plumbing store for $2 to $3.

anti-siphon device

The picture above shows a anti-siphon device for a hose bib.

Anti-siphon devices have been proven effective to prevent contamination of your potable water supply.  For example, let’s say its a hot summer day, and your kids are in the back yard playing in an inflatable swimming pool – water hose running in the pool.  A problem with the city’s water supply causes a loss of water pressure to your neighborhood.  Without an anti-siphon device, it is possible for the pressure drop to cause water to be siphoned from the kid’s swimming pool back up through the hose, hose spigot, and into your water supply and distribution piping.  A properly functioning anti-siphon device will effectively prevent this from happening.

anti siphon diagram

The diagram above illustrates how back-siphoning can occur.

These anti-siphon devices are essentially one-way valves designed to stop the flow of potentially contaminated water back into the drinkable (potable) water supply.  Installation is simple, and requires only screwing the piece on to the hose bib like you would connect your water hose.  Your water hose can then connect to the male end of the anti-siphon device.  Some anti-siphon devices have a setscrew that you can tighten, which prevents the device from accidentally loosening when you are disconnecting the water hose.

anti siphon installation

The picture above shows how to install an anti-siphon device.

Missing anti-siphon devices is one of the more common deficiencies that we find here at Blue Star Real Estate Inspection Services.  When you choose us to perform your home inspection, you can trust that when we are done, you will be thoroughly informed about the condition of the house you plan to buy.  Call Blue Star Inspections today to schedule your home inspection.  361-462-9018.