Close up 18 volt recharge Li-ion battery for electric cordless tool,saw,rotary hammer,drill,jigsaw,wrench on white.Blurred screwdriver,screws on gray-painted boards behind.Selective focus, copy space.

RECHARGABLE BATTERIES

NEW BATTERY TECHNOLOGIES BEGINNING TO POWER UP HOMES

Battery technology has improved quite substantially over the last 10 years. Tesla has developed a technology whereby batteries can now be charged by solar power from rooftop panels and then used at night or when it’s cloudy to power up a home. Batteries can be very successfully used to power up lawnmowers and leaf blowers, not to mention cars. Drills. circular saws, chainsaws, jigsaws, nail guns, and all manner of other equipment that has traditionally used electric power cords or gasoline can now be powered by rechargeable batteries. We can thank Elon Musk for driving much of this technology forward.

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Ontario, Canada - September 2, 2021:  House under construction, with the main frame nearing completion.

What is TYVEK?

Everybody has seen Tyvek house wrap on the sides of homes and commercial buildings during construction. What’s it for? Well, Tyvek blocks air movement and sheds water but allows moisture to travel through it. Houses build up quite a bit of moisture from cooking, breathing, washing, and bathing. And houses need to “breathe” (which means moisture needs to be able to exit the building so that it doesn’t cause wood rot or mold inside the walls.) It comes in rolls and gets applied to the outside of the structure between the plywood sheathing and the siding.

Tyvek is made of olefin, (which is very lite) and was patented by DuPont in 1956. Its use has been growing ever since. It’s very functional and easy to install.

So now, when you drive by new construction and see Tyvek house wrap, you’ll know what it’s all about!

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Is Spray Foam Insulation any good?

When it comes to saving money associated with heating and cooling, air movement, between the outside and inside the structure is the source of most energy loss. Stopping air movement is critical and is the “low hanging fruit on the energy savings tree”.

Most homes we inspect use fiberglass or cellulose insulation bats on the floor of the attic. This type of construction requires attic venting which provides a free flow of air from the attic to the outside. Making matters worse, bat insulation is not good at stopping air flow at penetrations in the attic floor where electrical, plumbing and HVAC lines are going through the attic floor to the living space below. So there’s a flow of conditioned air from the living space, through the attic, and then to the exterior of the home through the attic venting system. Therefore, there is a substantial heating/cooling loss from inside your home through the attic and to the exterior of the home. And obviously, we all pay dearly for energy to keep the house warm or cool depending on the season.

These days, many homes utilize spray foam as an insulation material which is typically applied directly to the underside of the roof and doesn’t require attic vents. All the nooks and crannies are sealed with the spray foam and as result, air movement, from inside the home to the outside is pretty much stopped, providing a substantial savings.

Some people have inquired about the impact of spray foam insulation and the possibility of indoor air quality issues due to a lack of fresh air. It’s an excellent question!

Spray foam insulation provides such a good “air block” that if the entire house is insulated with spray foam it could cause a problem with indoor air quality (IAQ), and mechanical ventilation may be needed due to a lack of fresh air. There are lots of different systems that can introduce fresh air, some of them are energy efficient. Energy recovery ventilator (ERV) systems provide a controllable amount of fresh air in the structure and are energy efficient. In an older house there is probably enough air leakage through the walls, windows, doors, and other openings that more than likely there’s enough natural ventilation in the structure without adding a mechanical ventilation system even if the attic is insulated with spray foam.

So, in our opinion, spray foam insulation applied to the underside of the roof is the best way to go with insulation. And by the way, while you’re at it, it pays to seal any air gaps in the basement perimeter walls especially at the top of the foundation where it meets the wood framing. If you decide to explore the installation of spray foam, keep indoor air quality in mind. A good AC contractor or spray foam installer should be able to help guide you with this concern.

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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Closeup view on air filter. Filtration concept.

Changing Your Air Filter

Proper operation of your air conditioning unit requires a clean air filter. If the air filter gets clogged, it can cause the air conditioning unit to freeze up and stop working or at least degrade its functionality.

We’re not at the end of the cooling season yet. People often forget to change the filter this time of year. But it’s easy and it’s cheap, and it’s a good idea to change it every 3 months. By the way, there are good filters and there are cheap filters. We recommend a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Absorbing filter). HEPA filters are substantially better than the cheap ones. If you want to go to the next level, talk to your air conditioning service company about electrostatic filtration which utilizes electricity and HEPA filters to remove about 99% of particulates including many strains of mold, bacteria, and viruses. By the way, all these suggestions apply to hot air heating systems. In the winter, the air in your home is often very dry which leads to more particulates in the air which makes it even more important to have a good filtration system.

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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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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Does your clothes dryer take too long?

The single most important thing you can do to improve your clothes dryer’s efficiency is to make sure the dryer vent is working correctly.

  1. Every time the dryer is operated, you should clean the lint filter.
  2. Keep the vent pipe clean. If the dryer’s discharge pipe is restricted, its ability to remove moisture is restricted.  It is a bit of a chore, but you can purchase brushes specifically designed to clean dryer vent pipes.
  3. The length of a vent is important. Here’s the formula: start out with a maximum of 35 feet from the dryer to the end of the vent. Then deduct 5 feet for each 90° angle in the vent pipe. So, if you have two 90° angles you deduct 10 feet leaving you with 25 feet maximum for the vent pipe. Then deduct 2 ½ feet for each 45° angle. The bottom line is, the shorter the better!
  4. Plastic dryer vents should be avoided because they are a fire hazard.  Sheet metal vent pipes are the best and less prone to clogging. Try to avoid metal flex ducts because they clog up easily.
  5. Dryer vents are one of the most common sources of house fires. Lint is extremely flammable. Boy Scouts use lint to start camping fires!

Believe it or not, there are professional dryer vent service companies. It is not a bad idea to have a dryer vent company check it for proper installation, operation, and safety.

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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Getting a new air conditioning unit? Pay attention to the SEER rating.

When it comes time for you to buy a new central air conditioner unit, make sure your contractor addresses its SEER rating (energy efficiency). Why? Because a SEER rating of 10 cost twice as much to operate as a SEER rating of 20. Also, the higher the seer rating, the more comfortable your home will be during the air-conditioning season (less humid and more even temperatures). Old AC units can have a SEER rating of under 10 and newer units can go up as high as 25. By the way, SEER stands for “SEASONAL ENERGY EFFICIENCY RATING”.

So, why doesn’t everybody buy the highest SEER rating possible? Because it costs much more, of course! Homes farther south (like Florida) use their air-conditioners much more than people in New York. So higher energy efficiency pays off faster in Florida than it does in New York. There is a SEER “sweet spot” for both economics and comfort.

Most AC contractors recommend a SEER of 16 or so. But you might want to get a more efficient unit to improve your general comfort during the air-conditioning season and reduce your operating expenses.

So, make sure you discuss the SEER rating options with your HVAC contractor before you make your purchase.

Here’s a link to a nice tool for figuring out Seer ratings and savings:

https://www.pickhvac.com/central-air-conditioner/seer-calculator/

 

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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Insulation

Which side should the Vapor Barrier or Insulation face?

During our inspections we very often see insulation installed improperly in the attic. Insulation has a vapor barrier which is intended to avoid moisture and mold buildup and stop airflow
through the insulation. If the vapor barrier is facing the living space the moisture is stopped before it gets to the insulation. If the vapor barrier is installed upside down (not towards the living area) often it deteriorates the insulation and the vapor barrier and makes the insulation less efficient.

If the house is occupied, there is a substantial amount of moisture in the air from cooking, bathing, washing, and even breathing. So, we want to keep that moisture in the living area of the house rather than having it go through the ceiling, through the insulation and then hitting the vapor barrier where it can condense and build up moisture, causing the issues as explained above.

So, the moral of the story is, install the insulation with the vapor barrier facing the living space of the house.

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