Home Inspector Questions and Answers

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Q. The second story of my house is much warmer in the summer months than the lower level. Why is this, and what can I do to reduce the temperature difference between the upstairs and downstairs?

A. Cooling the upstairs of a home can be difficult — especially if the HVAC air handler system is in the basement, or if no basement is present, on the first floor. Typically, hot air rises and cold air falls, so in some aspects the air handler has to work harder to pump cold air up through the ductwork systems in order to keep the upstairs of a two-story house as comfortable as the downstairs.

There certainly are alternatives available to help keep air temperatures in balance. One simple solution is to close off some of the dampers (registers) on the first floor, which will force more air upstairs and create a stronger flow of air on the second story. The first floor may not be as cool as before, but this could produce a more balanced temperature difference between the two floors.

The other alternative would be to install a secondary cooling system in the attic, if there is room, resulting in more comfortable air. The downside of this would be more of an expense for installing and maintaining two systems. Also, one system could be installed in the attic and you could install a zoning system in the ductwork. A zoned system is controlled by electronic motors on dampers within the ductwork system, which can be controlled to distribute more air to certain parts of the house depending on your comfort needs.

Be Advised


Tips for Indoor Lighting

Indoor lighting serves both functional and ambient purposes. Some people prefer bright, overhead lighting while others are more at home in dimmer, lamp-lit settings. Regardless of your preference, you can certainly save money on your monthly electric bills by changing the way you light your home. Here, we offer several tips that will keep your home lit and inviting, as well as reduce energy use and costs:

  • Turn off the lights when you’re not in a room, or consider installing occupancy sensors to reduce the amount of time your lights are on.
  • Instead of those bright, overhead lights, use task lighting — focus the light where you need it by using lamps and under – cabinet lights.
  • Three-way lamps and bulbs allow you to set light bright when you need and save energy by setting the bulb for less light when you don’t need it.
  • Replace conventional light fixtures with 4-foot fluorescent fixtures in your garage, workshop, unfinished basement and laundry area.
  • Switch from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) in all of your light fixtures and lamps. If you dislike the harshness of fluorescent light, look for CFLs marked “soft white.”
  • Maximize the sun’s light by choosing window coverings that allow light inside. Consider blinds that open and close, and try using light — colored, loose — weave curtains.
  • Compact fluorescent torchieres use 60 to 80 percent less energy than halogen torchieres. They also can produce more light and the bulbs stay cooler than halogen.
  • When you purchase light fixtures and lamps, look for theENERGY STAR® label.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?


In this photo, the home owner has disconnected the humidifier pipe from the return air duct to the humidifier to the supply air side on the plenum. Which of the following statements is true?

  1. Using traditional duct tape (as pictured) is preferable and increases the efficiency of an HVAC system.
  2. Foil or metallic-type duct tape would be a better choice than traditional duct tape.
  3. You should use duct tape and cardboard to fix holes in the plenum or ductwork of an HVAC system.
  4. The humidifier works better when it is installed this way.

Correct Answer B. Foil or metallic-type duct tape should be used rather than traditional duct tape.

Noteworthy News


LED Light Bulbs: A Bright Idea

According to the 2015 annual Socket Survey from North American lighting leader Osram Sylvania, 65 percent of Americans surveyed have purchased LEDs for use in their homes. In fact, the number of Americans purchasing LED bulbs has doubled from just two years ago.

Recent surveys reveal the reason for the boon in LED popularity is that more consumers are looking for light bulbs with the best brightness and longest life, and LEDs have been shown to outperform CFLs in both areas. Furthermore, the cost of LED bulbs has come down in the last couple of years, making them more affordable. So, while CFLs are still the leader in light bulb choice, LED popularity is gaining fast, and they are poised to become the new leader in lighting.

Maintenance Matters

Focus on Your Fridge

Today, the average refrigerator lasts between 14 and 17 years, but the replacement cost can range from $900 to $8,000, so you’ll definitely want to keep your fridge working efficiently as long as possible. Here are a few fridge tips to maximize the appliance’s life:

  • Check and clean door seals twice a year. To see whether your fridge seals are sealing properly, close a dollar bill in the door; if it slips out easily, have the seals checked by a professional.
  • Clean the condenser coils twice a year. Coils covered in dust and pet hair keep a fridge from running efficiently. To clean the coils, unplug the fridge, pull it away from the wall and vacuum the coils with the brush attachment.
  • Clean the condenser fan. While you have the fridge unplugged and pulled out from the wall, to clean the coils, remove the lower back cover with a screwdriver and then brush and vacuum the fan.
  • Keep the fridge full. A fridge needs thermal mass to maintain low temperatures, so if you don’t keep a full fridge all the time, store a few jugs of water inside.

Did You Know?

What’s the Life Expectancy for Your Appliances?

You might not think much about your appliances — after all, they are just part of your everyday life — but when it comes time to replace one or more of them, you’ll want to be prepared. Wondering about the average life expectancy and cost of common household appliances? We have some answers:

Sources: AngiesList.com, ThisOldHouse.com, Energy.gov, HomeAdvisor.com

From Our Blog

Diving Into Summer Safety

Playing outside is a great way for kids to exercise and have fun. However, backyards can be full of potential dangers. Almost all tragic accidents that occur during summer fun with family and friends are a result of unsafe property conditions and lack of adult supervision. Nothing harms a relationship more than an injury or death while enjoying the festivities at your property. This article is intended to help identify unsafe conditions and equipment failure, and improve the overall safety of your guests.

As I am certain you have already guessed, swimming pools are a common safety risk that attracts kids like a magnet. According to the National Safety Council, drowning is the leading cause of death and injury of children under 5 years of age. So, if you or somebody you know has a swimming pool, follow some “quick safety tips” to prevent unintentional injuries.

Inspection and home maintenance activities may involve some risk. Suggestions in this newsletter are meant to be informational only. If you have any doubt about your safety or your ability to perform a task, do not attempt it. Instead, contact a professional contractor. 

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