New Website Launch 2015

CMI Instructor SealWe are doing a lot of changes for 2015. The first is to add more services and to rebuild the website to be more user friendly, more informative.

New for Nspectr Services is Radon Testing, Mold Testing, Infrared Thermal Imaging and more to come.

We are still looking for new students and inspectors for mentoring for the coming year. Spaces will be limited so contact us now.

Quinte Home Sales

Due to number of higher end sales, the figures for the month have been greatly impacted, including the average residential sale price for February, coming in at $291,837 which is a 30% increase from the same time last year.

Residential sales in units came in with 299 units in February 2017, up from 175 units in 2016. Active residential listings continue to be down, currently 47.3% lower than a year ago, with 563 listings compared to 1,069 in 2016.

Stats Courtesy of CREA
http://creastats.crea.ca/quin/

Advantages of Solar Energy

Solar energy offers considerable advantages over conventional energy systems by nullifying flaws in those systems long considered to be unchangeable. Solar power for home energy production has its flaws, too, which are outlined in another article, but they’re dwarfed by the advantages listed below.
Solar energy is a great choice
The following are advantages of solar energy:
  • Raw materials are renewable and unlimited. The amount of available solar energy is staggering — roughly 10,000 times that currently required by humans — and it’s constantly replaced. A mere 0.02% of incoming sunlight, if captured correctly, would be sufficient to replace every other fuel source currently used.

Granted, the Earth does need much of this solar energy to drive its weather, so let’s look only at the unused portion of sunlight that is reflected back into space, known as the albedo. Earth’s average albedo is around 30%, meaning that roughly 52 petawatts of energy is reflected by the Earth and lost into space every year. Compare this number with global energy-consumption statistics.  Annually, the energy lost to space is the combined equivalent of 400 hurricanes, 1 million Hoover Dams, Great Britain’s energy requirement for 250,000 years, worldwide oil, gas and coal production for 387 years, 75 million cars, and 50 million 747s running perpetually for one year (not to mention 1 million fictional DeLorean time machines!).

  • Solar power is low-emission. Solar panels produce no pollution, although they impose environmental costs through manufacture and construction. These environmental tolls are negligible, however, when compared with the damage inflicted by conventional energy sources:  the burning of fossil fuels releases roughly 21.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.
  • Solar power is suitable for remote areas that are not connected to energy grids. It may come as a surprise to city-dwellers but, according to Home Power Magazine, as of 2006, 180,000 houses in the United States were off-grid, and that figure is likely considerably higher today. California, Colorado, Maine, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have long been refuges for such energy rebels, though people live off the grid in every state. While many of these people shun the grid on principle, owing to politics and environmental concerns, few of the world’s 1.8 billion off-the-gridders have any choice in the matter. Solar energy can drastically improve the quality of life for millions of people who live in the dark, especially in places such as Sub-Saharan Africa, where as many as 90% of the rural population lacks access to electricity. People in these areas must rely on fuel-based lighting, which inflicts significant social and environmental costs, from jeopardized health through Rural, off-grid homes are excellent applications for solar powercontamination of indoor air, to limited overall productivity.
  • Solar power provides green jobs. Production of solar panels for domestic use is becoming a growing source of employment in research, manufacture, sales and installation.
  • Solar panels contain no moving parts and thus produce no noise. Wind turbines, by contrast, require noisy gearboxes and blades.
  • In the long run, solar power is economical. Solar panels and installation involve high initial expenses, but this cost is soon offset by savings on energy bills.  Eventually, they may even produce a profit on their use.
  • Solar power takes advantage of net metering, which is the practice of crediting homeowners for electricity they produce and return to the power grid. As part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, public electric utilities are required to make available, upon request, net metering to their Manhattan, and much of the northeast USA, goes dark in August, 2003customers. This practice offers an advantage for homeowners who use solar panels (or wind turbines or fuel cells) that may, at times, produce more energy than their homes require. If net metering is not an option, excess energy may be stored in batteries.
  • Solar power can mean government tax credits. U.S. federal subsidies credit up to 30% of system costs, and each state offers its own incentives. California, blessed with abundant sunshine and plagued by high electric rates and an over-taxed grid, was the first state to offer generous renewable-energy incentives for homes and businesses.
  • Solar power is reliable. Many homeowners favor solar energy because it is virtually immune to potential failings of utility companies, mainly in the form of political or economic turmoil, terrorism, natural disasters, or brownouts due to overuse. The Northeast Blackout of 2003 unplugged 55 million people across two countries, while rolling blackouts are a part of regular life in some South Asian countries, and occasionally in California and Texas.
  • Solar power conserves foreign energy expenditures. In many countries, a large percentage of earnings is used to pay for imported oil for power generation. The United States alone spends $13 million per hour on oil, much of which comes from Persian Gulf nations. As oil supplies dwindle and prices rise in this politically unstable region, these problems continue to catalyze the expansion of solar power and other alternative-energy systems.
In summary, solar energy offers advantages to conventional fossil fuels and other renewable energy systems.
by Nick Gromicko

Radon Gas Alert!

Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas.
You cannot see, smell or taste radon. But it still may be a problem in your home. When you breathe air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General of the United States has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

You should test for radon.

Testing is the only way to find out your home’s radon levels. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.
You can fix a radon problem.

If you find that you have high radon levels, there are ways to fix a radon problem. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.
If You are Selling a Home…

The EPA recommends that you test your home before putting it on the market and, if necessary, lower your radon levels. Save the test results and all information you have about steps that were taken to fix any problems. This could be a positive selling point.
If You are Buying a Home…

The EPA recommends that you know what the indoor radon level is in any home you are considering buying. Ask the seller for their radon test results. If the home has a radon-reduction system, ask the seller for information they have about the system.

If the home has not yet been tested, you should have the house tested.

If you are having a new home built, there are features that can be incorporated into your home during construction to reduce radon levels.

These radon testing guidelines have been developed specifically to deal with the time-sensitive nature of home purchases and sales, and the potential for radon device interference. These guidelines are slightly different from the guidelines in other EPA publications which provide radon testing and reduction information for non-real estate situations.

This guide recommends three short-term testing options for real estate transactions. The EPA also recommends testing a home in the lowest level which is currently suitable for occupancy, since a buyer may choose to live in a lower area of the home than that used by the seller.
1. Why do you need to test for radon?
a. radon foundRadon has been found in homes all over the U.S.

Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in homes all over the United States. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water, and gets into the air you breathe. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above, and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Radon can also enter your home through well water. Your home can trap radon inside.

Any home can have a radon problem, including new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. In fact, you and your family are most likely to get your greatest radiation exposure at home. That is where you spend most of your time.

Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the United States is estimated to have an elevated radon level (4 pCi/L or more). Elevated levels of radon gas have been found in homes in your state.

b. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend that you test your home.

Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.

fixedYou cannot predict radon levels based on state, local, or neighborhood radon measurements. Do not rely on radon test results taken in other homes in the neighborhood to estimate the radon level in your home. Homes which are next to each other can have different radon levels. Testing is the only way to find out what your home’s radon level is.

In some areas, companies may offer different types of radon service agreements. Some agreements let you pay a one-time fee that covers both testing and radon mitigation, if needed.
U.S. Surgeon General’s
Health Advisory

“Indoor radon gas is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, and breathing it over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk to families all over the country. It’s important to know that this threat is completely preventable. Radon can be detected with a simple test, and fixed through well-established venting techniques.”
January 2005

2. I’m selling a home. What should I do?
for salea. If your home has already been tested for radon…

If you are thinking of selling your home and you have already tested your home for radon, review the Radon Testing Checklist to make sure that the test was done correctly. If so, provide your test results to the buyer.

No matter what kind of test you took, a potential buyer may ask for a new test, especially if:

the Radon Testing Checklist items were not met;
the last test is not recent, (e.g., within two years);
tou have renovated or altered your home since you tested; or
the buyer plans to live in a lower level of the house than was tested, such as a basement suitable for occupancy but not currently lived in.
A buyer may also ask for a new test if your state or local government requires disclosure of radon information to buyers.

b. If your home has not yet been tested for radon…

Have a test taken as soon as possible. If you can, test your home before putting it on the market. You should test in the lowest level of the home which is suitable for occupancy. This means testing in the lowest level that you currently live in or a lower level not currently used, but which a buyer could use for living space without renovations.

tested for radon The radon test result is important information about your home’s radon level. Some states require radon measurement testers to follow a specific testing protocol. If you do the test yourself, you should carefully follow the testing protocol for your area or the EPA’s Radon Testing Checklist. If you hire a contractor to test your residence, protect yourself by hiring a qualified individual or company.

You can determine a service provider’s qualifications to perform radon measurements or to mitigate your home in several ways. Many states require radon professionals to be licensed, certified or registered. Most states can provide you with a list of knowledgeable radon service providers doing business in your state. In states that don’t regulate radon services, ask the contractor if they hold a professional proficiency or certification credential. Such programs usually provide members with a photo-ID card which indicates their qualification(s) and its expiration date. If in doubt, you should check with their credentialing organization. Alternatively, ask the contractor if they’ve successfully completed formal training appropriate for testing or mitigation, e.g., a course in radon measurement or radon mitigation.

3. I’m buying a home. What should I do?

a. If the home has already been tested for radon…
If you are thinking of buying a home, you may decide to accept an earlier test result from the seller, or ask the seller for a new test to be conducted by a qualified radon tester. Before you accept the seller’s test, you should determine the results of previous testing by finding out:
who conducted the previous test (the homeowner, a radon professional, or some other person);
where in the home the previous test was taken, especially if you may plan to live in a lower level of the home. For example, the test may have been taken on the first floor. However, if you want to use the basement as living space, test there, too;
what, if any, structural changes, alterations, or changes in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system have been made to the house since the test was done. Such changes may affect radon levels.
If you accept the seller’s test, make sure that the test followed the Radon Testing Checklist.

If you decide that a new test is needed, discuss it with the seller as soon as possible.

b. If the home has not yet been tested for radon…

Make sure that a radon test is done as soon as possible. Consider including provisions in the contract specifying:
where the test will be located;
who should conduct the test;
what type of test to do;
when to do the test;
how the seller and the buyer will share the test results and test costs (if necessary); and
when radon mitigation measures will be taken, and who will pay for them.

Make sure that the test is done in the lowest level of the home suitable for occupancy. This means the lowest level that you are going to use as living space which is finished or does not require renovations prior to use. A state or local radon official or qualified radon tester can help you make some of these decisions. If you decide to finish or renovate an unfinished area of the home in the future, a radon test should be taken before starting the project, and after the project is finished. Generally, it is less expensive to install a radon-reduction system before (or during) renovations rather than afterward.
4. I’m buying or building a new home. How can I protect my family?

a. Why should I buy a radon-resistant home?

Radon-resistant techniques work. When installed properly and completely, these simple and inexpensive passive techniques can help to reduce radon levels. In addition, installing them at the time of construction makes it easier to reduce radon levels further if the passive techniques don’t reduce radon levels below 4 pCi/L. Radon-resistant techniques may also help to lower moisture levels and those of other soil-gases. Radon-resistant techniques:

make upgrading easy: Even if built to be radon-resistant, every new home should be tested for radon after occupancy. If you have a test result of 4 pCi/L or more, a vent fan can easily be added to the passive system to make it an active system, and further reduce radon levels.
are cost-effective: Building radon-resistant features into the house during construction is easier and cheaper than fixing a radon problem from scratch later. Let your builder know that radon-resistant features are easy to install using common building materials.
save money: When installed properly and completely, radon-resistant techniques can also make your home more energy-efficient and help you save on your energy costs.

In a new home, the cost to install passive radon-resistant features during construction is usually between $350 to $500. In some areas, the cost may be as low as $100. A qualified mitigator will charge about $300 to add a vent fan to a passive system, making it an active system and further reducing radon levels. In an existing home, it usually costs between $800 to $2,500 to install a radon mitigation system.
b. What are radon-resistant features?

Radon-resistant features may vary for different foundations and site requirements. If you’re having a house built, you can learn about the EPA’s Model Standards (and architectural drawings) and explain the techniques to your builder. If your new house was built (or will be built) to be radon-resistant, it will include these basic elements:
gas-permeable layer: This layer is placed beneath the slab or flooring system to allow the soil gas to move freely underneath the house. In many cases, the material used is a 4-inch layer of clean gravel. This gas-permeable layer is used only in homes with basement and slab-on-grade foundations; it is not used in homes with crawlspace foundations.

plastic sheeting: Plastic sheeting is placed on top of the gas-permeable layer and under the slab to help prevent the soil gas from entering the home. In crawlspaces, the sheeting (with seams sealed) is placed directly over the crawlspace floor.

sealing and caulking: All below-grade openings in the foundation and walls are sealed to reduce soil-gas entry into the home.

vent pipe: A 3- or 4-inch PVC pipe (or other gas-tight pipe) runs from the gas-permeable layer through the house to the roof to safely vent radon and other soil gases to the outside.

junction boxes: An electrical junction box is included in the attic to make the wiring and installation of a vent fan easier, if, for example, you decide to activate the passive system if your test results show an elevated radon level (4 pCi/L or more). A separate junction box is placed in the living space to power the vent-fan alarm. An alarm is installed along with the vent fan to indicate when the vent fan is not operating properly.

radon cutaway
5. How can I get reliable radon test results?
Radon testing is easy and the only way to find out if you have a radon problem in your home.
a. Types of Radon Devices

Since you cannot see or smell radon, special equipment is needed to detect it. When you’re ready to test your home, you can order a radon test kit by mail from a qualified radon measurement service provider or laboratory. You can also hire a qualified radon tester, very often a home inspector, who will use the radon device(s) suitable to your situation. If you hire a home inspector, make sure you hire a qualified InterNACHI member — specifically, an IAC2 certified air-quality professional. The most common types of radon testing devices are listed below.

Passive Devices

Passive radon-testing devices do not need power to function. These include charcoal canisters, alpha-track detectors, charcoal liquid scintillation devices, and electret ion chamber detectors, which are available in hardware, drugstores, and other stores; they can also be ordered by mail or phone. These devices are exposed to the air in the home for a specified period of time, and then sent to a laboratory for analysis. Both short-term and long-term passive devices are generally inexpensive. Some of these devices may have features that offer more resistance to test interference or disturbance than other passive devices. Qualified radon testers may use any of these devices to measure the home’s radon level.

Active Devices

Active radon-testing devices require power to function. These include continuous radon monitors and continuous working-level monitors. They continuously measure and record the amount of radon and its decay products in the air. Many of these devices provide a report of this information, which can reveal any unusual or abnormal swings in the radon level during the test period. A qualified tester can explain this report to you. In addition, some of these devices are specifically designed to deter and detect test interference. Some technically advanced active devices offer anti-interference features. Although these tests may cost more, they may ensure a more reliable result.
b. General Information for All Devices

A state or local radon official can explain the differences between devices, and recommend the ones which are most appropriate for your needs and expected testing conditions.

Make sure to use a radon measurement device from a qualified laboratory. Certain precautions should be followed to avoid interference during the test period. See the Radon Testing Checklist for more information on how to get a reliable test result.

Radon Test Device Placement

The EPA recommends that testing device(s) be placed in the lowest level of the home suitable for occupancy. This means testing in the lowest level (such as a basement) which a buyer could use for living space without renovations. The test should be conducted in a room to be used regularly (such as a family room, living room, play room, den or bedroom); do not test in a kitchen, bathroom, laundry room or hallway. Usually, the buyer decides where to locate the radon test, based on their expected use of the home. A buyer and seller should explicitly discuss and agree on the test location to avoid any misunderstanding. Their decision should be clearly communicated to the person performing the test.

c. Preventing or Detecting Test Interference

There is a potential for test interference in real estate transactions. There are several ways to prevent or detect test interference:

Use a test device that frequently records radon or decay-product levels to detect unusual swings.
Employ a motion detector to determine whether the test device has been moved or if testing conditions have changed.
Use a proximity detector to reveal the presence of people in the room, which may correlate to possible changes in radon levels during the test.
Record the barometric pressure to identify weather conditions which may have affected the test.
Record the temperature to help assess whether doors and windows have been opened during the test.
Apply tamper-proof seals to windows to ensure closed-house conditions.
Have the seller/occupant sign a non-interference agreement.
Home buyers and sellers should consult a qualified radon test provider about the use of these precautions.
d. Length of Time to Test

There are two general ways to test your home for radon:

Because radon levels vary from day to day and from season to season, a short-term test is less likely than a long-term test to tell you your year-round average radon level. However, if you need results quickly, a short-term test may be used to decide whether to fix the home.

Short-Term Testing:
The quickest way to test is with short-term tests. Short-term tests remain in your home from two days to 90 days, depending on the device. There are two groups of devices which are more commonly used for short-term testing. The passive-device group includes alpha-track detectors, charcoal canisters, charcoal liquid scintillation detectors, and electret ion chambers. The active device group consists of different types of continuous monitors.
Whether you test for radon yourself, or hire a state-certified tester or a privately certified tester, all radon tests should be taken for a minimum of 48 hours. A longer period of testing is required for some devices.
Long-Term Testing:
Long-term tests remain in your home for more than 90 days. Alpha-track and electret ion chamber detectors are commonly used for this type of testing. A long-term test will give you a reading that is more likely to tell you your home’s year-round average radon level than a short-term test. If time permits, long-term tests (more than 90 days) can be used to confirm initial short-term results. When long-term test results are 4 pCi/L or higher, the EPA recommends mitigating the home.
e. Doing a Short-Term Test…

If you are testing in a real estate transaction and you need results quickly, any of the following three options for short-term tests are acceptable in determining whether the home should be fixed. Any real estate test for radon should include steps to prevent or detect interference with the testing device.
When Choosing a Short-Term Testing Option…

There are trade-offs among the short-term testing options. Two tests taken at the same time (simultaneous) would improve the precision of this radon test. One test followed by another test (sequential) would most likely give a better representation of the seasonal average. Both active and passive devices may have features which help to prevent test interference. Your state radon office can help you decide which option is best.

Short-Term Testing Options What to Do Next
Passive:
Take two short-term tests at the same time in the same location for at least 48 hours.

or
Take an initial short-term test for at least 48 hours. Immediately upon completing the first test, do a second test using an identical device in the same location as the first test.

Fix the home if the average of two tests is 4 pCi/L or more.

Fix the home if the average of the two tests is 4 pCi/L or more.
Active:
Test the home with a continuous monitor for at least 48 hours.

Fix the home if the average radon level is 4 pCi/L or more.
f. Using testing devices properly for reliable results.

If you do the test yourself:

using test devices properlyWhen you are taking a short-term test, close windows and doors and keep them closed, except for normal entry and exit. If you are taking a short-term test lasting less than four days, be sure to:

Close your windows and outside doors at least 12 hours before beginning the test.
Do not conduct short-term tests lasting less than four days during severe storms or periods of high winds.
Follow the testing instructions and record the start time and date.
Place the test device at least 20 inches above the floor in a location where it will not be disturbed and where it will be away from drafts, high heat, high humidity, and exterior walls.
Leave the test kit in place for as long as the test instructions say.
Once you have finished the test, record the stop time and date, re-seal the package, and return it immediately to the lab specified on the package for analysis.
You should receive your test results within a few weeks. If you need results quickly, you should find out how long results will take and, if necessary, request expedited service.
If you hire a qualified radon tester:
In many cases, home buyers and sellers may decide to have the radon test done by a qualified radon tester who knows the proper conditions, test devices, and guidelines for obtaining a reliable radon test result. They can also:

evaluate the home and recommend a testing approach designed to make sure you get reliable results;
explain how proper conditions can be maintained during the radon test;
emphasize to occupants of a home that a reliable test result depends on their cooperation. Interference with, or disturbance of, the test or closed-house conditions will invalidate the test result;
analyze the data and report measurement results; and
provide an independent test.
g. Interpreting Radon Test Results

The average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L; roughly 0.4 pCi/L of radon is normally found in the outside air. The U.S. Congress has set a long-term goal that indoor radon levels be no more than outdoor levels. While this goal is not yet technologically achievable for all homes, radon levels in many homes can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below.
Radon Test Results Reported in Two Ways

Your radon test results may be reported in either picoCuries per liter of air (pCi/L) or working levels (WL). If your test result is in pCi/L, the EPA recommends you fix your home if your radon level is 4 pCi/L or higher. If the test result is in WL, the EPA recommends you fix the home if the working level is 0.02 WL or higher. Some states require WL results to be converted to pCi/L to minimize confusion.

Sometimes, short-term tests are less definitive about whether the home is at or above 4 pCi/L, particularly when the results are close to 4 pCi/L. For example, if the average of two short-term tests is 4.1 pCi/L, there is about a 50% chance that the year-round average is somewhat below 4 pCi/L.

However, the EPA believes that any radon exposure carries some risk; no level of radon is safe. Even radon levels below 4 pCi/L pose some risk. You can reduce your risk of lung cancer by lowering your radon level.

As with other environmental pollutants, there is some uncertainty about the magnitude of radon health risks. However, we know more about radon risks than risks from most other cancer-causing substances. This is because estimates of radon risks are based on data from human studies on underground miners. Additional studies on more typical populations are underway.

Your radon measurement will give you an idea of your risk of getting lung cancer from radon. Your chances of getting lung cancer from radon depend mostly on:

tour home’s radon level;
the amount of time you spend in your home; and
whether you are a smoker or have ever smoked.
Smoking combined with radon is an especially serious health risk. If you smoke or are a former smoker, the presence of radon greatly increases your risk of lung cancer. If you stop smoking now and lower the radon level in your house, you will reduce your lung cancer risk.

Based on information contained in the National Academy of Sciences’ 1998 report, The Health Effects of Exposure to Indoor Radon, your radon risk may be somewhat higher than shown, especially if you have never smoked. It’s never too late to reduce your risk to lung cancer. Don’t wait to test and fix a radon problem. If you are a smoker, stop smoking.
Go to the Radon Risk Comparison Charts

radon checklistRadon Testing Checklist
For reliable test results, follow this Radon Testing Checklist carefully. Testing for radon is not complicated. Improper testing may yield inaccurate results and require another test. Disturbing or interfering with the test device or with closed-house conditions may invalidate the test results, and is actually illegal in some states. If the seller or qualified tester cannot confirm that all items have been completed, take another test.
Before conducting a radon test:
Notify the occupants of the importance of proper testing conditions. Give the occupants written instructions or a copy of this Guide and explain the directions carefully.
Conduct the radon test for a minimum of 48 hours; some test devices have a minimum exposure time greater than 48 hours.
When doing a short-term test ranging from two to four days, it is important to maintain closed-house conditions for at least 12 hours before the beginning of the test and during the entire test period.
When doing a short-term test ranging from four to seven days, the EPA recommends that closed-house conditions be maintained.
If you conduct the test yourself, use a qualified radon measurement device and follow the laboratory’s instructions. Your state may be able to provide you with a list of do-it-yourself test devices available from qualified laboratories.
If you hire someone to do the test, hire only a qualified individual. Some states issue photo identification (ID) cards; ask to see it. The tester’s ID number, if available, should be included or noted in the test report.
The test should include method(s) to prevent or detect interference with testing conditions, or with the testing device itself.
If the house has an active radon-reduction system, make sure the vent fan is operating properly. If the fan is not operating properly, have it (or ask to have it) repaired and then test it.
“Closed-house conditions” mean keeping all windows closed, keeping doors closed except for normal entry and exit, and not operating fans or other machines which bring in air from outside. Fans that are part of a radon-reduction system or small exhaust fans operating for only short periods of time may run during the test.

During a radon test:
Maintain closed-house conditions during the entire time of a short-term test, especially for tests shorter than one week.
Operate the home’s heating and cooling systems normally during the test. For tests lasting less than one week, operate only air-conditioning units which re-circulate interior air.
Do not disturb the test device at any time during the test.
If a radon-reduction system is in place, make sure the system is working properly and will be in operation during the entire radon test.
After a radon test:
If you conduct the test yourself, be sure to promptly return the test device to the laboratory. Be sure to complete the required information, including start and stop times, test location, etc.
If an elevated level is found, fix the home. Contact a qualified radon-reduction contractor about lowering the radon level. The EPA recommends that you fix the home when the radon level is 4 pCi/L or more.
Be sure that you or the radon tester can demonstrate or provide information to ensure that the testing conditions were not violated during the testing period.
6. What should I do if the radon level is high?
a. High radon levels can be reduced.

The EPA recommends that you take action to reduce your home’s indoor radon levels if your radon test result is 4 pCi/L or higher. It is better to correct a radon problem before placing your home on the market because then you will have more time to address a radon problem.

If elevated levels are found during the real estate transaction, the buyer and seller should discuss the timing and costs of the radon reduction. The cost of making repairs to reduce radon levels depends on how your home was built and other factors. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs, such as painting or having a new hot water heater installed. The average cost for a contractor to lower radon levels in a home can range from $800 to about $2,500.
house cutawayb. How To Lower The Radon Level In Your Home

A variety of methods can be used to reduce radon in homes. Sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation is a basic part of most approaches to radon reduction. The EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone to limit radon entry. Sealing alone has not been shown to lower radon levels significantly or consistently.

In most cases, a system with a vent pipe and fan is used to reduce radon. These “sub-slab depressurization” systems do not require major changes to your home. Similar systems can also be installed in homes with crawlspaces. These systems prevent radon gas from entering the home from below the concrete floor and from outside the foundation. Radon mitigation contractors may use other methods that may also work in your home. The right system depends on the design of your home and other factors.
Radon and Home Renovations

If you are planning any major renovations, such as converting an unfinished basement area into living space, it is especially important to test the area for radon before you begin.

If your test results indicate an elevated radon level, radon-resistant techniques can be inexpensively included as part of the renovation. Major renovations can change the level of radon in any home. Test again after the work is completed.

You should also test your home again after it is fixed to be sure that radon levels have been reduced. If your living patterns change and you begin occupying a lower level of your home (such as a basement) you should re-test your home on that level. In addition, it is a good idea to re-test your home sometime in the future to be sure radon levels remain low.
selecting a radon mitigatorc. Selecting a Radon-Reduction (Mitigation) Contractor

Select a qualified radon-reduction contractor to reduce the radon levels in your home. Any mitigation measures taken or system installed in your home must conform to your state’s regulations.

The EPA recommends that the mitigation contractor review the radon measurement results before beginning any radon-reduction work. Test again after the radon mitigation work has been completed to confirm that previous elevated levels have been reduced.
d. What can a qualified radon-reduction contractor do for you?

A qualified radon-reduction (mitigation) contractor should be able to:

review testing guidelines and measurement results, and determine if additional measurements are needed;
evaluate the radon problem, and provide you with a detailed, written proposal on how radon levels will be lowered;
design a radon-reduction system;
install the system according to EPA standards, or state or local codes; and
make sure the finished system effectively reduces radon levels to acceptable levels.
Choose a radon-mitigation contractor to fix your radon problem just as you would for any other home repair. You may want to get more than one estimate. Ask for and check their references. Make sure the person you hire is qualified to install a mitigation system. Some states regulate or certify radon-mitigation services providers.

Be aware that a potential conflict of interest exists if the same person or firm performs the testing and installs the mitigation system. Some states may require the homeowner to sign a waiver, in such cases. Contact your state radon office for more information.
e. Radon in Water

The radon in your home’s indoor air can come from two sources: the soil and your water supply. Compared to radon entering your home through water, radon entering your home through soil is a much larger risk. If you’ve tested for radon in air and have elevated radon levels, and your water comes from a private well, have your water tested. The devices and procedures for testing your home’s water supply are different from those used for measuring radon in air.

The radon in your water supply poses an inhalation risk and an ingestion risk. Research has shown that your risk of lung cancer from breathing radon in the air is much larger than your risk of stomach cancer from swallowing water with radon in it. Most of your risk from radon in water comes from radon released into the air when water is used for showering and other household purposes.

Radon in your home’s water is not usually a problem when its source is surface water. Radon in water is more likely when its source is ground water, e.g., a private well or a public water supply system that uses ground water. Some public water systems treat their water to reduce radon levels before it is delivered to your home. If you are concerned that radon may be entering your home through the water, and your water comes from a public water supply, contact your water supplier.

radon in waterIf you’ve tested your private well and have radon in your water supply, it can be treated in one of two ways. Point-of-entry treatment can effectively remove radon from the water before it enters your home. Point-of-entry treatment usually employs either granular activated-carbon (GAC) filters, or aeration devices. While GAC filters usually cost less than aeration devices, filters can collect radioactivity and may require a special method of disposal. Point-of-use treatment devices remove radon from your water at the tap, but only treat a small portion of the water you use, e.g., the water you drink. Point-of-use devices are not effective in reducing the risk of breathing radon released into the air from all water used in the home.

Three Deadly Mistakes Every Home Buyer Should Avoid

Deadly Mistake #1: Thinking you can’t afford it.

Many people who thought that buying the home they wanted was simply out of their reach are now enjoying a new lifestyle in their very own homes.

Buying a home is the smartest financial decision you will ever make. In fact, most homeowners would be broke at retirement if it wasn’t for one saving grace — the equity in their homes. Furthermore, tax allowances favor home ownership.

Real estate values have always risen steadily. Of course, there are peaks and valleys, but the long-term trend is a consistent increase. This means that every month when you make a mortgage payment, the amount that you owe on the home goes down and the value typically increases. This “owe less, worth more” situation is called equity build-up and is the reason you can’t afford not to buy.

Even if you have little money for a down payment or credit problems, chances are that you can still buy that new home. It just comes down to knowing the right strategies, and working with the right people. See below.

Deadly Mistake #2: Not hiring a buyer’s agent to represent you.

Buying property is a complex and stressful task. In fact, it is often the biggest, single investment you will make in your lifetime. At the same time, real estate transactions have become increasingly complicated. New technology, laws, procedures, and competition from other buyers require buyer agents to perform at an ever-increasing level of competence and professionalism. In addition, making the wrong decisions can end up costing you thousands of dollars. It doesn’t have to be this way!

Work with a buyer’s agent who has a keen understanding of the real estate business and the local market. A buyer’s agent has a fiduciary duty to you. That means that he or she is loyal only to you and is obligated to look out for your best interests. A buyer’s agent can help you find the best home, the best lender, and the best home inspector in your area. That inspector should be an InterNACHI-certified home inspector because InterNACHI inspectors are the most qualified and best-trained inspectors in the world.

Trying to buy a home without an agent or a qualified inspector is, well… unthinkable.

Deadly Mistake #3: Getting a cheap inspection.

Buying a home is probably the most expensive purchase you will ever make. This is no time to shop for a cheap inspection. The cost of a home inspection is small relative to the value of the home being inspected. The additional cost of hiring a certified inspector is almost insignificant by comparison. As a home buyer, you have recently been crunching the numbers, negotiating offers, adding up closing costs, shopping for mortgages, and trying to get the best deals. Don’t stop now! Don’t let your real estate agent, a “patty-cake” inspector, or anyone else talk you into skimping here.

InterNACHI front-ends its membership requirements. InterNACHI turns down more than half the inspectors who want to join because they can’t fulfill the membership requirements.

InterNACHI-certified inspectors perform the best inspections, by far. InterNACHI-certified inspectors earn their fees many times over. They do more, they deserve more and — yes — they generally charge a little more. Do yourself a favor…and pay a little more for the quality inspection you deserve.

Homebuyer alert:

The WETT inspection may be a disaster in the making for you!

If that home, cottage, or commercial property you are looking to buy has a wood stove or other type of wood burning appliance in it, your insurance company, your realtor and maybe even the home inspector you called all say you should have a WETT inspection. The home inspector you contacted may have even indicated they can perform the WETT inspection at the same time as the home inspection saving you money and making the WETT inspection cheap or even free. Should you? My answer is most emphatically NO! The reasons I give to my home inspection clients I will now share with you as I believe, as do many others, a WETT inspection could be a disaster in the making for any homebuyer.

Wood Energy Technology Transfer Inc. (WETT Inc.) is a non-profit training and educational association. Through professional training and public education, WETT Inc. promotes the safe and efficient use of wood-burning systems in Canada. How could anyone argue that this is the wrong thing for a homebuyer to have . The WETT inspection that insurance companies require, realators recommend, and many home inspectors offer in conjunction to the home inspection service is a level 1 insurance inspection. This is a very basic inspection that any WETT certified member is trained to perform in the course of a four day training program. But, don’t you believe that it offers any peace of mind with regard to your family’s safety.

The level 1 inspection consists of a general overview of the readily accessible parts of a woodburning system to determine if the system meets current regulations. In other words, Does the stove have a data plate? Is it installed to meet the critera on the data plate? Or, if the appliance data plate is hidden, given the installation guidelines in the four day training program, is this woodburning appliance installed correctly as far as you can see. If the answer is yes the inspector gives you a “pass”.

But wait. What haven’t we done during this basic inspection? We have not inspected the fire box or the chimney. These are the parts that contain and guide smoke, flames, and sparks away from the firebox and safety out of the home. Inspection of fireboxes, dampers, the smoke shelf, and the chimney is not required for the insurance required WETT inspection. When home inspectors Firemen and many others who perform WETT inspections , inspect wood burning appliances they normally exclude the chimney and burning area and provide what is deemed a ‘Level 1’ insurance inspection. So they take measurements inside but do not inspect the interior of the firebox for cracks or splits, they do not check chimney or dampers. They do not check automatic thermostat controls on wood/oil furnaces, nor do they check the rain caps and spark arrestor screens on chimneys. Even if a dedicated home inspector did look, the items are normally covered in soot and creasote deposits so what could they see anyway?

Frankly, that type of inspection is a disaster waiting to happen to you the homebuyer! Any masonry chimney can have loose mortar joints or even be missing pieces that cannot be seen until the chimney is cleaned properly. An earlier chimney fire may have gone unnoticed by an owner when it went out through lack of fuel while still overheating the mortar, mine did. If missing mortar leads to a space in the wall cavity, guess where the sparks can get to. I know, and any fireman will tell you it happens all the time. Metal prefab chimneys can and have failed dramatically on the inside but seemed whole and in good condition to all outside appearances. The “Square D chimneys” are a notorious example but there are many examples each year of the inside seams opening up. Seams can open up through overheating from chimney fires, and through the insulation inside getting wet through a poorly sealed joint. The insulation can freeze and pop the seam open. Any place that open seam allows heat to touch the outside skin will get extremely hot, hot enough to start a fire if it is against any combustible like the side of the home.

As both a home inspector and a person who has been through a home fire I always tell my home, cottage, and commercial, inspection clients in Orillia, Gravenhurst and all of Muskoka Ontario: Do not get a WETT inspection alone. You must, for safety sake, have a certified sweep clean and inspect the entire chimney and the firebox prior to using any woodburning appliance. After a proper cleaning and inspection the sweep can issue the WETT certificate the insurance company requires but you will have the added assurance the rest of the system is in good condition and safe to use. Just like Smokey told you when you were a kid ‘Only you can prevent forest fires”, when it comes to fire safety in the home, as a homebuyer Only you can order the proper inspection to prevent home fires, and it is not the standard level 1 WETT inspection.

The WETT article is thanks to Bruce Grant

Done Right Home Inspections Orillia, ON

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

Energy-Star-Logo

10 Steps to Save Energy in Your House

Sealing and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy efficient—and you can do it yourself.

In this chapter, you will learn how to find and seal hidden attic and basement air leaks; determine if your attic insulation is adequate and learn how to add more; make sure your improvements are done safely; and reduce energy bills and help protect the environment.

You will notice your home’s air leaks in the winter more than any other time of year. Most people call these air leaks “drafts.” You may feel these drafts around windows and doors and think these leaks are your major source of wasted energy. In most homes, however, the most significant air leaks are hidden in the attic and basement. These are the leaks that significantly raise your energy bill and make your house uncomfortable.

In cold weather, warm air rises in your house, just like it does in a chimney. This air, which you have paid to heat, is just wasted as it rises up into your attic and sucks cold air in all around your home—around windows, doors, and through holes into the basement. Locating these leaks can be difficult because they are often hidden under your insulation. This chapter will help you find these leaks and seal them with appropriate materials.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

STEP #1 Getting started

Sealing attic air leaks will enhance the performance of your insulation and make for a much more comfortable home.

Attic air sealing and adding insulation are do-it-yourself projects if your attic is accessible and not too difficult to move around in. The projects in this chapter can usually be completed in two days and will provide rewards for years to come.

If you find any major problems in the attic space such as roof leaks, mold, unsafe working conditions, inadequate flooring, inadequate ventilation, knob-and-tube wiring, recessed “can” lights, we recommend hiring a contractor to help you and/or correct these problems before proceeding.

Look around your house for any dropped-ceiling areas, dropped soffits over kitchen cabinets, slanted ceilings over stairways, and where walls (interior and exterior) meet the ceiling. These areas may have open spaces that could be huge sources of air leaks.

STEP #2 Working in the Attic

Be sure to use a work light to make sure that your work area is lit adequately.

Use personal protective equipment. To work in an attic, you need kneepads, coveralls, gloves and a hat to keep itchy and irritating insulation off your skin. Use an OSHA-approved particulate respirator or a high-quality dust mask.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

Be safe. Do not work in the attic area if you feel that it is dangerous in any way. It’s not worth risking life or property. Simply hire a qualified contractor to perform the work you need to get done. If you work in a hot attic, drink plenty of water.

Watch your step. Walk on joists or truss chords. Watch your head – there will be sharp nails and things sticking out above you and all around your head.

STEP #3 What You Will Need

  • Reflective foil insulation or other blocking material such as drywall or pieces of rigid foam insulation to cover soffits, open walls, and larger holes
  • Unfaced fiberglass insulation and large garbage bags
  • Silicone or acrylic latex caulk for sealing small holes (1/4 inch or less)
  • Expanding spray foam insulation for filling larger gaps (1/4 inch to 3 inches)
  • Special high-temperature (heat-resistant) caulk to seal around flues andchimneys
  • Roll of aluminum flashing to keep insulation away from the flue pipe
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife and sheet metal scissors
  • Staple gun (or hammer and nails) to hold covering materials in place
  • Plastic garbage bagSTEP #4 Plug the Large HolesThe biggest savings will come from sealing the large holes. Locate the areas from the attic where leakage is likely to be greatest: where walls (interior and exterior) meet the attic floor; dropped soffits (dropped-ceiling areas) and; behind or under attic knee walls. Look for dirty insulation. Dirty insulation (black/brown stains on the underside of the insulation) indicates that air is moving through it. Push back the insulation or pull it out of the soffits. You will place this insulation back over the soffit once the stud cavities have been plugged and the soffits covered.Dropped soffit. After removing insulation from a dropped soffit, cut a length of reflective foil or other blocking material (rigid foam board works well). Apply a bead of caulk or adhesive around the opening. Seal the foil to the frame with the caulk/adhesive and staple or nail it in place, if needed.Under a wall. Cut a 24-inch long piece from a batt of fiberglass insulation and place it at the bottom of a 13-gallon plastic garbage bag. Fold the bag over and stuff it into the

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

open joist spaces under the wall (a piece of rigid foam board sealed with spray foam also works well for covering open joist cavities). Cover with insulation when you’re done.

Finished rooms built into attics often have open cavities in the floor framing under the sidewalls or knee walls. Even though insulation may be piled against or stuffed into these spaces, they can still leak air. Again, look for signs of dirty insulation to indicate air is moving through. You need to plug these cavities in order to stop air from traveling under the floor of the finished space.

Flue. The opening around the flue or chimney of a furnace or water heater can be a major source of warm air moving in the attic. Because the pipe gets hot, building codes usually require 1-inch of clearance from metal flues (2 inches from masonry chimneys) to any combustible material, including insulation. This gap can be sealed with lightweight aluminum flashing and special high-temperature (heat-resistant) caulk. Before you push the insulation back into place, build a barrier out of the metal aluminum to keep the insulation away from the pipe.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

STEP #5 Seal the Small Holes

Look for areas where the insulation is darkened. This is the result of dusty air coming from the house interior, and moving into and being filtered by the insulation. In cold weather, you may also see frosty areas in the insulation caused by warm, moist air condensing and then freezing as it hits the cold attic air. In warmer weather, you’ll find water staining in these same areas. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the openings around plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires. When the foam or caulk is dry, cover the area again with insulation. After sealing the areas, just push the insulation back into place. If you have blown insulation, a small hand tool can be helpful to level it back into place.

STEP #6 Attic Access

Seal up the attic access panel with weather stripping. Cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid foam board insulation the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic access panel.

If you have pull-down attic stairs or an attic door, these should be sealed in a similar manner using weather stripping and insulating the back of the door. Treat the attic door like an exterior door to the outside.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

STEP #7 Ducts

Sealing and insulating your ducts can increase the efficiency of your HVAC system. Leaky ducts waste an incredible amount of energy. Check the duct connections for leaks – seal the joints with mastic or foil tape (household duct tape should not be used). Pay special attention to all the duct penetrations going through the attic floor. Seal these with foam.

HVAC ducts should also be insulated—if your ducts are uninsulated or poorly insulated, seal them first, then add insulation. Use duct insulation material rated at least R-6. Duct sealant, also known as duct mastic, is a paste, which is more durable than foil duct tape. It is available at home improvement centers.

STEP #8 “Can” Lights

Recessed “can” lights (also called high-hats or recessed lights) can make your home less energy-efficient. These recessed lights can create open holes that allow unwanted airflow from conditioned spaces to unconditioned spaces. In cold climates, the heat from the airflow can melt snow on the roof and cause the development of ice dams. Recessed “can” lights in bathrooms also cause problems when warm, moist air leaks into the attic and causes moisture damage.

Warning: You can create a fire hazard if the “can” light is not insulated or sealed properly. It may be best to consult a professional before sealing “can” lights or coming in contact with any electrical components.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

STEP #9 Stack Effect

Like a chimney. Outside air drawn in through open holes and gaps in the basement is drawn in by a chimney stack effect created by air leaks in the attic. As hot air generated by the furnace rises up through the house and into the attic through open holes, cold outside air gets drawn in through open holes in the basement to replace the displaced air. This makes a home feel drafty and contributes to higher energy bills. After sealing attic air leaks, complete the job by sealing basement leaks, to stop the stack effect.

Basement air leaks. Along the top of the basement wall where floor system meets the top of the foundation wall is a good area to look for open holes and gaps. Since the top of the wall is above ground, outside air can be drawn in through cracks and gaps where the house framing sits on top of the foundation.

Sealant or caulk is best for sealing gaps or cracks that are 1/4 inch or less. Use spray foam to fill gaps from 1/4 inch to about 3 inches. We also recommend you seal penetrations that go through the basement ceiling to the floor above. These are holes for wires, water supply pipes, water drainpipes, the plumbing vent stack, and the furnace flue.

Attic and basement air sealing will go a long way to improve your comfort because your house will no longer act like an open chimney.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

STEP #10 Attic Insulation Thickness

Look. One quick way to determine if you need more insulation on the floor of your attic is to simply look across the floor of your attic. If the insulation is level with or below your floor joists, more insulation is needed. If the insulation is well above the joists, you may have enough. There should be no low spots.

R-Value. Insulation levels are specified by R-Value. R-Value is a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R-Value, the better the thermal performance of the insulation. The recommended level for most attic floors is R-38 or about 10 to 14 inches (depending on the type of insulation and your climate).

When adding insulation, you do not have to use the same type of insulation that currently exists in your attic. You can add loose fill on top of fiberglass batts or blankets, and vice-versa. If you use fiberglass over loose fill, make sure the fiberglass batt has no paper or foil vapor barrier. The insulation needs to be “unfaced.”

Laying out or spreading fiberglass rolls is easy. If you have any type of insulation between the rafters, install the second layer over and perpendicular to the first. This will help cover the tops of the joists and reduce heat loss or gain through the frame.

NEVER! Never lay insulation over recessed light fixtures or soffit vents. Keep all insulation at least 3 inches away from “can” lights, unless they are rated IC (Insulated Ceiling). If you are using loose fill insulation, use sheet metal to create barriers around the openings. If using fiberglass, wire mesh can be used to create a barrier.

Rafter vent trays. To completely cover your attic floor with insulation out to the eaves you need to install rafter vents or trays (also called insulation baffles). Rafter vents

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

ensure the soffit vents are clear and there is a clear opening for outside air to move into the attic at the soffits and out through the gable or ridge vent for proper ventilation.

Additional Information

For additional information on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues related to homes such as combustion safety, indoor air contaminants, and proper ventilation, visit: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-front.html.

ENERGY STAR is a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. To learn more about the wide variety of energy-efficient ENERGY STAR products and processes visit http://www.energystar.gov.

Window Bars

Window bars (also called safety bars and security bars) are metal bars that are barsinstalled to prevent intruders from entering a building. As an unintended consequence, window bars can slow or prevent egress during an emergency.

Facts

  • Roughly 25 people die or are injured annually in fires where escape is hindered by window bars.
  • According to the National Fire Protection Agency, the number of deaths caused by fire related to security bars is on the rise.
  • The fear of burglary, theft and/or physical attack presents a greater perceived risk than the threat of fire.
  • Seventy people died in a hotel fire on August 18, 2001 in the Philippines. The victims were trapped inside the six-story hotel by window bars.

Advantages of Window Bars

  • They are a deterrent to potential burglars. They are mostly used in ground-floor windows, which are most vulnerable to intrusion.
  • They provide a sense of security to building occupants.
  • They can prevent children from falling out of the window.

Disadvantages of Window Bars

  • They can block the exit for occupants during an emergency, such as a fire. The occupants may feel secure from burglary, but they have severely limited their avenues of egress. Ironically, it is possible for occupants to become trapped behind window bars while trying to escape from an intruder who has managed to enter the building.
  • They can potentially block the entry point for firefighters.
  • Houses equipped with window bars can potentially decrease the home’s property value. Window bars can make a neighborhood appear insecure to potential home buyers.
Requirements for a Quick-Release Mechanism
According to the 2006 International Residential Code (IRC), basements and sleeping rooms should have at least one operable emergency escape and rescue opening. Windows that are equipped with bars and which are intended for emergency egress should have a quick-release mechanism installed. If a room’s egress requirements are already satisfied by another window or door, it is still helpful for window bars to be equipped with a quick-release mechanism. Where window bars are installed in windows that are part of a building’s means of egress, the IRC requires that they be equipped with a quick-release mechanism that complies with the following requirements:
  • It should be accessible from the inside of the house. Although not addressed by the IRC, the device should not be accessible from outside the house if the window were to be broken.
  • It should not require a key or combination. Likely reasons for this requirement are as follows:
    • During an emergency, occupants may become too panicked or confused to remember the combination or where they put the key.
    • Fire and smoke may prevent access to the key or obscure view of the lock.
    • Occupants may not know the combination or know where the key was placed.
  • It should not require any special tools, such as a screwdriver.
  • The mechanism should be able to be operated with relatively little force. Children and the elderly should be strong enough to operate the release mechanism.
  • Operation of the mechanism should not require special knowledge.

Although beyond the scope of InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice, inspectors may want to test release mechanisms to make sure that they comply with the IRC’s requirements. Even if the mechanism appears functional, it is possible that its ability to operate has become compromised by rust, paint, or some other factor. Inspectors should call out any hindrances to the release mechanism’s functionality as a safety defect.

In summary, window bars are valuable anti-burglary features in residences, but they should be able to be easily disengaged so occupants are not trapped during an emergency.