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Luxury Homes Versus Modest Homes

Inspecting large luxury homes and estates versus more modest homes

Large luxury homes and estates are typically much more complex and time-consuming to inspect than more modest homes. Smaller homes typically have one electrical panel, one heating system, one air conditioner unit etc. Larger luxury homes and estates may have 10 or more electrical panels, several heating systems, several air-conditioning units, several attics, etc.

Larger homes and estates may take a single inspector more than a full day to inspect. It can be overwhelming, which may cause the inspector to get tired and gloss over important items. Whereas smaller homes can typically be inspected in a few hours by one inspector.

We at Safe Harbor inspections Inc. feel that large homes and estates should be inspected by a team of inspectors, each focusing on a different aspect of the home. We typically bring three or four inspectors to a large home or estate. The inspection can be done efficiently and completed within a few hours. Buyers, sellers, and agents all appreciate the faster and more efficient inspection. And believe me, the inspectors appreciate it too!

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

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Point of Demarcation

During our inspections, we are often asked “is that the utility company’s responsibility or mine?” The answer is, between the street and the structure, there is a “Point of Demarcation”. Typically, for electricity, it’s where the wires connect to the Structure, and for gas, it’s where the gas line connects to the gas meter. For water, it’s at the water meter.

So, from the Point of Demarcation out to the street, it’s the utility company’s responsibility. From the Point of Demarcation into the structure, it’s the owner’s responsibility. So, PSE&G has a responsibility for the power lines up to the point where it connects to the structure.  And the gas and water companies, have responsibility from the street all the way up to the meter.

So, for example, if the wires are damaged in the owner’s yard, it’s the responsibility of the utility company. If there is a problem between the gas/water meter and the street, it is the utility company’s responsibility. From the meters into the structure, it is the owner’s responsibility. The Points of Demarcation can vary depending on the location, but what I said above, is typical.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

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Stainless steel electrical circuit box open with circuits named by hand in basement on rough concrete block wall with conduit and ceiling and other pipes overhead painted black with dust on them

How many AMPS do I need?

Many houses built before 1950 originally had less than 100 Amps, which by today’s standards would be considered too low.  Fortunately, most of those electrical systems have been updated to 100 Amps or more.  Today, 100 Amps is considered okay for a smaller house, unless there are large electrical draw appliances, such as air conditioning systems, swimming pools, hot tubs, electric dryers, and electric stoves.  Often, 100 Amp electrical services get updated to 150 or 200 Amps.  If the electrical service is too low for the structure, the main circuit breaker may trip and become a nuisance and possibly an electrical hazard.

Most main electrical panels have one large circuit breaker labeled 100, 150 or 200.  Those numbers represent Amps, which means the amount of electricity the system can deliver (the total amperage should be confirmed by an electrician because it can be a bit tricky).  200 Amps provides plenty of power for small and medium sized homes.  Larger homes often have more than 200 A.

By the way, updating the system to more power provides a secondary benefit of having a brand-new electrical panel along with brand-new circuit breakers.  These new components provide a substantial benefit to the electrical system of the home.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

https://safeharborinspections.com/blog/

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Installing a flexible steel flue liner into a chimney during a wood burning stove installation, UK

Metal Chimney Liner for Gas Conversion

When a home is converted from oil to gas as a fuel for heating, a new metal liner is required in the chimney.

Why?  Oil burners produce relatively dry gases that exit the home through the chimney.  Clay liners hold up very well with an oil burner.  However, if you convert to gas, warm moist air is produced which can become acidic and condense inside the chimney, which in turn, can deteriorate the clay liner.  That’s why metal inserts are required upon a conversion from oil to gas.  Without the metal chimney liner, the clay can deteriorate and create blockages in the chimney.  Although it’s rare, blockages in the chimney can cause carbon monoxide and possibly, even a fire in the home.

During our home inspections, we often see a conversion to gas without a metal liner having been installed.  We always make the recommendation to have a chimney contractor install a metal liner in the chimney for safety reasons.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

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Water Heater

Do I need to remove that old oil tank in my crawlspace?

On occasion during our home inspections on Long Island, we see old, abandoned oil tanks in crawl spaces. We always recommend removal of an abandoned tank in the crawlspace because sooner or later it will rust out and start to leak residual oil and sludge. In fact, it may be oozing out of the tank already. If the crawlspace happens to have a dirt floor, long term leakage could lead to an environmental concern. In addition, it could cause a fuel oil odor.

Typically, crawlspace oil tanks need to be cut up before they can be removed, and properly discarded. This work should be done by an oil tank specialist.

Make sure that the old fill pipe and vent are removed from the side of the house to avoid an oil flood caused by an inadvertent mistake on the part of oil tank delivery technician with a wrong address. It happens, every once in a while, oil is pumped into the basement or crawlspace because they never removed the pipes after they removed the tank. Now you’ve got a real problem!

So, yes, it makes sense to remove an old tank in the crawlspace to avoid potential problems in the future. We hope this was helpful.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

https://safeharborinspections.com/blog/

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Carpenter Bees

Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees are large black insects that look like a bumblebee only they are larger.  They can sting if provoked.  As you probably know, Carpenter bees can do some serious damage over time.  Especially with the help of woodpeckers.  Carpenter bees drill holes that look like an actual power tool did it because it’s perfectly round.  About 3/8 of an inch in diameter.  They continue drilling and then make a 90° turn and a tunnel about 4 to 8 inches long.  Then they lay their eggs.

Of course, woodpeckers are smart, and they know there is a nice meal waiting for them in the wood.  So, they peck away and open up the tunnel to access the eggs.  Over a few years, the damage can get quite excessive, and the wood can get to the point where it needs replacement/repairs.

If there is exposed wood anywhere on the exterior of the structure, the chances are rather good that there is some Carpenter bee damage. Fortunately, exterminators can control infestations using various methods.  If you hire an exterminator, make sure you are getting a knowledgeable technician that knows how to deal with them properly.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

https://safeharborinspections.com/blog/

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Radiant Heat

Radiant floor heat is awesome!

If you’ve ever experienced radiant floor heating, you know that it is very comfortable and a very pleasant way to distribute heat. Not only is it pleasant, but it has other advantages too:

  • Radiant floor heat systems don’t create air movement, therefore there are fewer dust and allergen particles in the air as opposed to hot air systems.
  • Traditional baseboard, and hot water radiators heat the perimeter of the room. And of course, heat rises and warms the layer of air near the ceiling. So, there is a tendency to crank up the thermostat to make it more comfortable. With radiant floor heat, the entire room warms up evenly, including the furniture. So, when you are sitting in a chair, you, and everything around you, is warm. As a result of these factors, radiant heat may be more efficient and cost-effective because you can be comfortable at a lower temperature.
  • You can walk on warm radiant floors with bare feet in the middle of the winter and be very comfortable. With radiant heat, your feet don’t get cold!
  • Radiant heat doesn’t turn on and off like classical hot water radiators or hot air systems. So, radiant heat is more consistent.

So, how does it work? Warm water radiant heating systems consist of a series of water pipes installed as part of the flooring system. When the thermostat calls for heat, it turns on a pump which sends warm water (between 100 and 120°F) through the pipes and warms the floor. The entire floor becomes a radiator. This installation works very nicely for large rooms or an entire house.

There are also electric radiant floors. These are typically used in small areas like bathrooms. They cost more to operate than hot water systems but work well for small areas.

Radiant floor heat can be installed as a retrofit in existing homes or as part of new construction. Of course, the initial installation of radiant heat is more expensive than other forms of heat, however, over time, radiant heating systems may save money because of their higher efficiency and the ability to be comfortable at a lower thermostat setting.

If you ever have a choice between heating systems, I recommend you seriously consider installing radiant heat.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

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Do you have the responsibility for the sidewalks along your street?

During our inspections we often see tripping hazards on the sidewalk along the street. Usually, these tripping hazards are caused by tree roots lifting up sections of the sidewalk. We mention it during our inspections and often get asked “whose responsibility is it”?  The answer is it depends on the particular municipality. Many municipalities make it the responsibility of the property owner, and some municipalities take on the responsibility themselves. If you happen to be in a jurisdiction where the property owner is responsible for the sidewalk, and then someone trips and falls, the property owner may have liability and not even be aware of it.

So, if the sidewalk in front of your home or commercial property has tripping hazards, we recommend checking with your local jurisdiction to find out who is responsible. Obviously, regardless of who is responsible, it should be repaired anyway, for safety’s sake.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

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Are LED lightbulbs worth it?

If you’re like most people, you’ve asked yourself if it’s worth converting all of your regular lights to LEDs? In a word, YES. They are a little more expensive, but they pay off as an investment.

  • A 20 Watt LED puts out about as much light as a 100-Watt conventional lightbulb.
  • LEDs don’t put out much heat, so they make it cheaper to operate your air conditioner in the summer.
  • LEDs last much longer. Many LEDs have a rated life of up to 50,000 hours. This is approximately 50 times longer than a typical incandescent.
  • These days, LED bulbs can screw directly into most table lamps. And there are hi-hat conversion kits which make the installation easier.
  • LEDs are dimmable (you may have to change the dimmer switch).
  • They come in different colors, including warm and cool white.
  • LEDs come in different forms, including “tape” which works great underneath kitchen cabinets.
  • They also come in a style looking like florescent tube fixtures but they’re actually LED’s (great for garages/basements/workshops).

So yes, in my opinion, it does make sense to convert.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

https://safeharborinspections.com/blog/

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GFCI’s can cause problems.

GFCI’s (the outlets with trip and reset buttons) are great safety devices, but they can cause a lot of havoc!

  • If you have a GFCI powering up your garage freezer, it could trip and shut off the power to the freezer without you knowing it. Everything in your freezer could go bad. That could be a costly mistake.
  • Likewise, if you have a GFCI powering up your basement bathroom sewage ejection pump, it could trip and cause an overflow wastewater in your bathroom.
  • If you have basement sump pump connected to a GFCI it could trip and stop pumping the water out of your basement and cause a flood.

So, we recommend checking your important appliances to see if they are vulnerable to nuisance tripping. If they are, contact an electrician to deal with it correctly.

If you are interested, all our previous newsletters are available on our website blog. Click on the following link and it will take you right to it.

https://safeharborinspections.com/blog/

 

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