It's the middle of the heating season - how well is your furnace "breathing" through the filter? Have you been changing the filter regularly? If not, January is a great month to start a regular maintenance cycle. Furnace filters should be changed every 3 months for optimal performance of the furnace. A clean filter allows better air flow and a furnace that doesn't have to work as hard to meet the heating demands of your house.
Check out these other posts from Jovag Home Inspection for further information on furnace systems and maintenance.
Plan ahead for 2018 - get a great deal on furnace filters from Global Filters. If you follow my advice of changing your furnace filters every three months, January is a great time to start. I really like the quality of the filters from Global Filter Source and the prices on their site are much cheaper than buying filters from Home Depot or Lowes.
Take a look at the website - the best deal is on the MERV 11 filters. All you need is your filter size and you can get enough filters to cover all your needs for the year. You can use the coupon below for an additional 10% off your order.
One of the most common sources of drafts and cold air in a home is a leaking attic entry hatch. They are often out of sight and out of mind but can lead to a lot of chilly nights and increased heating costs.
As with any drafty situation, the first thing to look for is a source of air leakage. When air can move from one area to another it takes heat with it. This is a good thing for hot air blowing out of a heating duct register but not ideal when that same heated air is moving in to the attic or outdoors.
From the thermal images and with visual inspection of this attic hatch it appears that the weatherstripping is inadequate. There is pretty good insulation over the center of the hatch but there is obvious air movement around the perimeter. Warm air from the house is leaking in to the attic which increases heating costs and decreases comfort in the home.
One of the cool tools that I use during inspections is a FLIR Thermal Imaging camera. This allows me to take measurements of temperature differentials of various surfaces and objects during an inspection. Useful for finding areas of air leakage and hidden insulation problems.
I took a picture of my sleeping dog Magoo this morning to show what the camera is capable of doing. The image on the left is the regular digital camera image while the picture on the left is a blended thermal image. Relative cool areas are darker, warmer areas are brighter. Magoo is working hard at sleeping and is significantly warmer than the floor he is laying on.
Thermal imaging works best when there is a large temperature differential between the inside and outside of the house. The images above show a front door from the inside on a cold morning. You can see a big temperature drop at the bottom of the sidelight window on the left and the bottom of the door. Looks like there is some air leakage on the bottom of the door - the weather stripping likely needs to be replaced.
Harbor Freight ads are very tempting. Cheap prices for tools that don't look too bad on the glossy paper of the circular. Get up close and reality is often a bit different than the marketing.
When I first started collecting tools for projects, Harbor Freight was a cheap and easy option. For the price of one decent screwdriver I could get a whole blister pack of various size screwdrivers. Unfortunately, this is definitely a case of you get what you pay for. There is a reason that a set of 12 screwdrivers or pliers can be bought that cheaply. Poor fit and finish, poorly ground tool ends and cheap plastic are the hallmark. None of these tools ever performed like they were supposed to and ended up causing more frustration than results.
While Harbor Freight can be a great source for a special purpose tool that you only need for one step of a project and don't need to last, it is not a good source for tools that you are going to use every day.
I still use Harbor Freight to find some tools that I need to use only once or twice. These picture are from a trip I took to get a 22 mm socket (only $3.99) that I need for a specific fill plug on my truck's transfer case. I am not expecting much out of the socket, just need to use it a few times in the life of my vehicle so I'm OK with the tradeoff of quality for price. For other tools that I will use regularly I have learned my lesson from previous purchases. It's much cheaper in the long run to buy quality once rather than cheaper tools multiple times.
Looking for a gift idea for that someone who takes care of your home improvement needs? One of the best tool sets that I have ever used for general home improvement tasks is the Bosch 12 Volt Drill and Impact Driver set. These are small and compact tools that are powered by a rechargeable lithium battery. Though they are only 12 Volt batteries these tools are more than adequate for most home improvement projects.
The combo set includes both a 3/8 inch drill (Bosch PS 31) and an impact driver (Bosch 41), two batteries and a charger. Highly recommended.
Amazon Link: Bosch PS 31 and PS 41 Combo Kit.
Something is going on with this ceiling. The homeowner noticed a growing stain on the ceiling that seemed to get worse every time it rained. This corner of the ceiling is under a low area of the roof and located directly under a roof valley (junction of two sloping areas of a roof). This stain is a good indication that the roof is leaking.
There was a previous leak in this same area, you can see the square area where a previous repair has been completed. Obviously the leak wasn't repaired adequately or a new leak has formed in the same area.
Common areas of roof leaks are roof valleys, junctions where a vertical surface abuts the roof or penetrations from pipes through the roof. The homeowners had a roofing company inspect the roof and they found an improperly installed valley flashing. The roofers repaired the flashing and made the roof water tight again.
Once the leak has been repaired, it's time to open up the ceiling and assess the damage. The drywall needs to be cut from this section of the ceiling and any wet insulation needs to be removed. Inspect the attic area and try to find all the remaining water on the joists and wooden components. The repair area needs to be left open to dry before completing any repairs.
Brick and mortar chimneys exposed to water over time will deteriorate. Though bricks are more or less indestructible the mortar holding them together is prone to damage and eventual failure. Once the mortar between the bricks cracks and begins to fall out the bricks and structural integrity of the chimney are sure to follow.
These pictures show some typical long term water damage to the mortar between bricks on a above roof chimney. Someone noticed this problem before and attempted to fix the failing mortar with silicone caulking. This is not the correct repair technique - caulking is not going to do anything to stabilize the brick.
This chimney needs repair - the bricks need to be "re-pointed". Re-pointing is the process of removing the old mortar joints and replacing with fresh mortar. This is within the realm of ability of most homeowners but it is a tedious job and depending on location could pose some safety concerns. If this project doesn't appeal to you or you are not comfortable being on your roof, look for a masonry repair specialist to do the job.
The following is a link to a nice overview of repointing-brick on the This Old House website.
It's starting to rain in the Pacific Northwest and time to perform some simple maintenance on your gutters and downspouts. Downspouts are often connected to gutters with an elbow fitting. Because of the bends in the elbow, these are prone to clogs from pine needles, leaves and other debris. It is important to make sure your gutters and downspouts can actually drain the roof before the rainy season starts. Follow the steps below to make sure your downspouts are ready for the next few months of work.
•Gloves (sharp edges on the downspout sheet metal)
•Screwdriver - typically slotted or a nut driver - usually 1/4 inch or 5/16 inch
•Clog Removal Device - I'm using a stick I found on the ground
•Colorful Language (optional, but satisfying)
Brian Jovag, owner of Jovag Home Inspection.