Ceiling Fans

Ceiling Fan Inspection

by Nick Gromicko

A fan attached to a room’s ceiling is known as a ceiling fan. Like other  fans, they are used to provide comfort for building occupants by circulating air  within a room.

Fun Facts About Ceiling FansMost household ceiling fans have four or five blades.

  • An adult human cannot be decapitated by a ceiling fan, according to the TV  show “MythBusters.” A powerful, industrial-strength fan might be able to damage  a skull or slice a person’s neck, however.
  • Ceiling fans were first used in the United States in the 1860s. They were  powered by a system of belts driven by a stream of running water.
  • Unlike air conditioners, fans do not actually cool the air, which is why  they merely waste electricity when they circulate air in an unoccupied  room.

Ceiling Fan Components

  • electric motor:  varies with the size of the fan and its application;
  • blades:  typically, two to six spinning, precision-weighted blades  made from metal, wood or plastic; industrial fans typically have three blades,  while residential models have four or five;
  • blade irons:  connect the blades to the motor;
  • safety cable: on heavy fans, these are required to hold the fan in place in  case the support housing fails;
  • flywheel:  connects the blade irons to the motor;
  • ceiling mount:  designs include ball-in-socket and J-hook;
  • downrod:  used where ceiling fans are suspended from high ceilings;
  • motor housing:  protects the fan motor from dust and its surroundings;  may also be decorative; and
  • lamps: may be installed above, below or inside the motor housing.

Common Fan Defects

  • The fan falls. A ceiling fan that breaks free from its ceiling mount can be  deadly. Fans must be supported by an electrical junction box listed for that  use, according to the National Electric Code, and a fan brace box will need to  be installed. While a particular junction box might support a fully assembled  fan, during operation, it will exert additional forces (notably, torsion)  that can cause the support to fail. Homeowners often overlook this distinction  by carelessly replacing light fixtures with ceiling fans without upgrading the  junction box, which should clearly state whether it’s rated to hold a ceiling  fan.
  • The fan wobbles. This is a common and distracting defect that is usually  caused when fan blades are misaligned from one another. Specific problems stem  from minute differences in the size or weight of individual blades, warping,  bent blade irons, or blades or blade irons that are not screwed in  tightly enough. The ceiling mount may also be loose. Wobbling is not caused by  the ceiling or the particular way that the fan was mounted. Wobbling will not  cause the fan to fall, and there have been no such reports. Wobbling  can, however, cause light fixture covers or shades to loosen and potentially  fall. These items should be securely attached, with all screws tightly set  in place. An easy way to tell if the blades are not on the same plane  is to hold a yardstick or ruler against the ceiling and measure the distance  that the tip of each blade is from the ceiling by manually pushing the  blades. A homeowner can carefully bend the misaligned blade back into place.  Blades can also be corrected in this way if measurement reveals that they are  not equidistant from one another.
  • There is inadequate floor-to-ceiling blade clearance. No part of the fan  blades may be closer than 7 feet from the floor in order to prevent  inadvertent contact with the blades. Downward air movement is maximized when the  fan blades are around 8 or 9 feet from the floor. For high ceilings,  the fan may be hung to a desired height. Low-profile fan models are available  for ceilings that are lower than 8 feet from the floor. Also, fan blades  should be at least 18 inches from walls.
  • Blades are turning in the wrong direction. In the winter months, the leading  edge of the fan blades should be lower than the trailing edge to produce a  gentle updraft, which forces warm air near the ceiling down into the  occupied space below. In the summer, the leading edge of the fans blades should  be higher as the fan spins counter-clockwise to cool occupants with a wind-chill  effect. On most models, fan direction can be reversed with an electric switch  located on the outside of the metal housing, but the same effect can be achieved  on other models by unscrewing and remounting the fan blades.
  • An indoor fan is not designed for exterior use. Ordinary indoor ceiling fans  are unsafe to use outdoors or in humid environments, such as bathrooms.   They will wear out quickly. Fans that are rated “damp” are safe for humid  environments, but they, too, should never be used where they might come into  contact with liquid water. Only fans that are rated “wet” are safe for such use,  as they incorporate features such as all-weather, UV-resistant blades, sealed  motors, rust-resistant housing, and stainless steel hardware.
In summary, properly installed and maintained ceiling fans can  inexpensively cool or warm building occupants.

From  Ceiling Fan Inspection – InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/ceiling-fan-inspection.htm#ixzz2eVItwC00

Attic Pull Down Ladders

Attic Pull Down LadderAttic Pull-Down Ladders

by Nick Gromicko
Attic pull-down ladders, also called attic pull-down stairways, are collapsible ladders that are permanently attached to the attic floor. Occupants can use these ladders to access their attics without being required to carry a portable ladder.
 
Common Defects
 

Homeowners, not professional carpenters, usually install attic pull-down ladders. Evidence of this distinction can be observed in consistently shoddy and dangerous work that rarely meets safety standards. Some of the more common defective conditions observed by inspectors include:

  • cut bottom cord of structural truss. Often, homeowners will cut through a structural member in the field while installing a pull-down ladder, unknowingly weakening the structure. Structural members should not be modified in the field without an engineer’s approval;
  • fastened with improper nails or screws. Homeowners often use drywall or deck screws rather than the standard 16d penny nails or ¼” x 3” lag screws. Nails and screws that are intended for other purposes may have reduced shear strength and they may not support pull-down ladders;
  • fastened with an insufficient number of nails or screws. Manufacturers provide a certain number of nails with instructions that they all be used, and they probably do this for a good reason. Inspectors should be wary of “place nail here” notices that are nowhere near any nails;
  • lack of insulation. Hatches in many houses (especially older ones) are not likely to be weather-stripped and/or insulated. An uninsulated attic hatch allows air from the attic to flow freely into the home, which may cause the heating or cooling system to run overtime. An attic hatch cover box can be installed to increase energy savings;
  • loose mounting bolts. This condition is more often caused by age rather than installation, although improper installation will hasten the loosening process;
  • attic pull-down ladders are cut too short. Stairs should reach the floor;
  • attic pull-down ladders are cut too long. This causes pressure at the folding hinge, which can cause breakage;
  • improper or missing fasteners;
  • compromised fire barrier when installed in the garage;
  • attic ladder frame is not properly secured to the ceiling opening;
  • closed ladder is covered with debris, such as blown insulation or roofing material shed during roof work. Inspectors can place a sheet on the floor beneath the ladder to catch whatever debris may fall onto the floor; and
  • cracked steps. This defect is a problem with wooden ladders.
  • In sliding pull-down ladders, there is a potential for the ladder to slide down quickly without notice. Always pull the ladder down slowly and cautiously.

Safety tip for inspectors: Place an “InterNACHI Inspector at work!” stop sign nearby while mounting the ladder.

Relevant Codes The 2009 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) and the 2006 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) offer guidelines regarding attic access, although not specifically pull-down ladders. Still, the information might be of some interest to inspectors.

2009 IBC (Commercial Construction): 1209.2 Attic Spaces. An opening not less than 20 inches by 30 inches (559 mm by 762 mm) shall be provided to any attic area having a clear height of over 30 inches (762 mm). A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum clear headroom in the attic space shall be provided at or above the access opening. 2006 IRC (Residential Construction): R807.1 Attic Access. Buildings with combustible ceiling or roof construction shall have an attic access opening to attic areas that exceed 30 square feet (2.8m squared) and have a vertical height of 30 inches (762 mm) or more. The rough-framed opening shall not be less than 22 inches by 30 inches, and shall be located in a hallway or readily accessible location. A 30-inch (762 mm) minimum unobstructed headroom in the attic space shall be provided at some point above the access opening.

Tips that inspectors can pass on to their clients:

  • Do not allow children to enter the attic through an attic access. The lanyard attached to the attic stairs should be short enough that children cannot reach it. Parents can also lock the attic ladder so that a key or combination is required to access it.
  • If possible, avoid carrying large loads into the attic. While properly installed stairways may safely support an adult man, they might fail if he is carrying, for instance, a bag full of bowling balls. Such trips can be split up to reduce the weight load.
  • Replace an old, rickety wooden ladder with a new one. Newer aluminum models are often lightweight, sturdy and easy to install.

In summary, attic pull-down ladders are prone to a number of defects, most of which are due to improper installation.

From Attic Pull-Down Ladders – InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/attic-ladders.htm#ixzz2qsawi6Xo

Attached Garage Fire Hazards

Attached Garage Fire Hazards

by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard
The purpose of this article is twofold. First, at InterNACHI, we’d like you to take measures to keep your garage free from fire. Fortunately, there are ways this can be done, some of which are described below. Secondly, garage fires do happen, and we’d like you to make sure that a fire cannot not easily spread to the rest of your house. While you can perform many of the recommendations in this article yourself, it is a good idea to hire an InterNACHI inspector to make sure your home is safe from a garage fire.

Why do many garages pose a fire hazard?

  • Where are you most likely to do any welding, or any work on your car? These activities require working with all sorts of flammable materials.
  • Water heaters and boilers are usually stored in garages, and they can create sparks that may ignite fumes or fluids. Car batteries, too, will spark under certain conditions.
  • Oil and gasoline can drip from cars. These fluids may collect unnoticed and eventually ignite, given the proper conditions.
  • Flammable liquids, such as gasoline, motor oil and paint are commonly stored in garages. Some other examples are brake fluid, varnish, paint thinner and lighter fluid.

The following tips can help prevent garage fires and their spread:

  • If the garage allows access to the attic, make sure a hatch covers this access.
  • The walls and ceiling should be fire-rated. Unfortunately, it will be difficult for untrained homeowners to tell if their walls are Type X fire-rated gypsum. An InterNACHI inspector can examine the walls and ceiling to make sure they are adequate fire barriers.
  • The floor should be clear of clutter. Loose papers, matches, oily rags, and other potentially  flammable items are extremely dangerous if they are strewn about the garage floor.
  • Use light bulbs with the proper wattage, and do not overload electrical outlets.
  • Tape down all cords and wires so they are not twisted or accidentally yanked.

If there is a door that connects the garage to the living area, consider the following:

  • Do not install a pet door in the door! Flames can more easily spread into the living area through a pet door, especially if it’s made of plastic.
  • Does the door have a window? An InterNACHI inspector can inspect the window to tell if it’s fire-rated.
  • The door should be self-closing. While it may be inconvenient, especially while carrying groceries into the house from the car, doors should be self-closing. You never know when a fire will happen, and it would be unfortunate to accidentally leave the door open while a fire is starting in the garage.
  • Check the joints and open spaces around the door. Are they tightly sealed? Any openings at all can allow dangerous fumes, such as carbon monoxide or gasoline vapor, to enter the living area. An InterNACHI inspector can recommend ways to seal the door so that fumes cannot enter the living area.

Concerning items placed on the floor, you should check for the following:

  • Store your flammable liquids in clearly labeled, self-closing containers, and only in small amounts. Keep them away from heaters, appliances, pilot lights and other sources of heat or flame.
  • Never store propane tanks indoors. If they catch fire, they can explode. Propane tanks are sturdy enough to be stored outdoors.
In summary, there are plenty of things that you can do to prevent garage fires from spreading to the rest of the house, or to keep them from starting in the first place. However, it is highly recommended that you have your garage periodically examined by an InterNACHI inspector.

From Attached Garage Fire Hazards – InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/garage-fires-client.htm#ixzz2qsYQupUg

Asbestos

Asbestos

What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that can be positively identified only with a special type of microscope. There are several types of asbestos fibers. In the past, asbestos was added to a variety of products to strengthen them and to provide heat insulation and fire resistance. InterNACHI inspectors can supplement their knowledge with the information offered in this guide.
How Can Asbestos Affect My Health?
From studies of people who were exposed to asbestos in factories and shipyards, we know that breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer in the forms of mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lining of the chest and the abdominal cavity, and asbestosis, in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue.

The risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma increase with the number of fibers inhaled. The risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibers is also greater if you smoke. People who get asbestosis have usually been exposed to high levels of asbestos for a long time. The symptoms of these diseases do not usually appear until about 20 to 30 years after the first exposure to asbestos.

Most people exposed to small amounts of asbestos, as we all are in our daily lives, do not develop these health problems. However, if disturbed, asbestos material may release asbestos fibers, which can be inhaled into the lungs. The fibers can remain there for a long time, increasing the risk of disease. Asbestos material that would crumble easily if handled, or that has been sawed, scraped, or sanded into a powder, is more likely to create a health hazard.

Where Can I Find Asbestos and When Can it Be a Problem?
Most products made today do not contain asbestos. Those few products made which still contain asbestos that could be inhaled are required to be labeled as such. However, until the 1970s, many types of building products and insulation materials used in homes contained asbestos. Common products that might have contained asbestos in the past, and conditions which may release fibers, include:
  • steam pipes, boilers and furnace ducts insulated with an asbestos blanket or asbestos paper tape. These materials may release asbestos fibers if damaged, repaired, or removed improperly;
  • resilient floor tiles (vinyl asbestos, asphalt and rubber), the backing on vinyl sheet flooring, and adhesives used for installing floor tile. Sanding tiles can release fibers, and so may scraping or sanding the backing of sheet flooring during removal;
  • cement sheet, millboard and paper used as insulation around furnaces and wood-burning stoves. Repairing or removing appliances may release asbestos fibers, and so may cutting, tearing, sanding, drilling, or sawing insulation;
  • door gaskets in furnaces, wood stoves and coal stoves. Worn seals can release asbestos fibers during use;
  • soundproofing or decorative material sprayed on walls and ceilings. Loose, crumbly or water-damaged material may release fibers, and so will sanding, drilling or scraping the material;
  • patching and joint compounds for walls and ceilings, and textured paints. Sanding, scraping, or drilling these surfaces may release asbestos fibers;
  • asbestos cement roofing, shingles and siding. These products are not likely to release asbestos fibers unless sawed, dilled or cut;
  • artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces, and other older household products, such as fireproof gloves, stove-top pads, ironing board covers and certain hairdryers; and
  • automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings and gaskets.
Where Asbestos Hazards May Be Found in the Home
  • Some roofing and siding shingles are made of asbestos cement.
  • Houses built between 1930 and 1950 may have asbestos as insulation.
  • Asbestos may be present in textured paint and in patching compounds used on wall and ceiling joints. Their use was banned in 1977.
  • Artificial ashes and embers sold for use in gas-fired fireplaces may contain asbestos.
  • Older products, such as stove-top pads, may have some asbestos compounds.
  • Walls and floors around wood-burning stoves may be protected with asbestos paper, millboard or cement sheets.
  • Asbestos is found in some vinyl floor tiles and the backing on vinyl sheet flooring and adhesives.
  • Hot water and steam pipes in older houses may be coated with an asbestos material or covered with an asbestos blanket or tape.
  • Oil and coal furnaces and door gaskets may have asbestos insulation.

What Should Be Done About Asbestos in the Home?

If you think asbestos may be in your home, don’t panic.  Usually, the best thing to do is to leave asbestos material that is in good condition alone. Generally, material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers. There is no danger unless the asbestos is disturbed and fibers are released and then inhaled into the lungs. Check material regularly if you suspect it may contain asbestos. Don’t touch it, but look for signs of wear or damage, such as tears, abrasions or water damage. Damaged material may release asbestos fibers. This is particularly true if you often disturb it by hitting, rubbing or handling it, or if it is exposed to extreme vibration or air flow. Sometimes, the best way to deal with slightly damaged material is to limit access to the area and not touch or disturb it. Discard damaged or worn asbestos gloves, stove-top pads and ironing board covers. Check with local health, environmental or other appropriate agencies to find out proper handling and disposal procedures. If asbestos material is more than slightly damaged, or if you are going to make changes in your home that might disturb it, repair or removal by a professional is needed. Before you have your house remodeled, find out whether asbestos materials are present.
How to Identify Materials that Contain Asbestos
You can’t tell whether a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it, unless it is labeled. If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos, or have it sampled and analyzed by a qualified professional. A professional should take samples for analysis, since a professional knows what to look for, and because there may be an increased health risk if fibers are released. In fact, if done incorrectly, sampling can be more hazardous than leaving the material alone. Taking samples yourself is not recommended. If you nevertheless choose to take the samples yourself, take care not to release asbestos fibers into the air or onto yourself. Material that is in good condition and will not be disturbed (by remodeling, for example) should be left alone. Only material that is damaged or will be disturbed should be sampled. Anyone who samples asbestos-containing materials should have as much information as possible on the handling of asbestos before sampling and, at a minimum, should observe the following procedures:
  • Make sure no one else is in the room when sampling is done.
  • Wear disposable gloves or wash hands after sampling.
  • Shut down any heating or cooling systems to minimize the spread of any released fibers.
  • Do not disturb the material any more than is needed to take a small sample.
  • Place a plastic sheet on the floor below the area to be sampled.
  • Wet the material using a fine mist of water containing a few drops of detergent before taking the sample. The water/detergent mist will reduce the release of asbestos fibers.
  • Carefully cut a piece from the entire depth of the material using a small knife, corer or other sharp object. Place the small piece into a clean container (a 35-mm film canister, small glass or plastic vial, or high-quality resealable plastic bag).
  • Tightly seal the container after the sample is in it.
  • Carefully dispose of the plastic sheet. Use a damp paper towel to clean up any material on the outside of the container or around the area sampled. Dispose of asbestos materials according to state and local procedures.
  • Label the container with an identification number and clearly state when and where the sample was taken.
  • Patch the sampled area with the smallest possible piece of duct tape to prevent fiber release.
  • Send the sample to an asbestos analysis laboratory accredited by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Your state or local health department may also be able to help.
How to Manage an Asbestos Problem
 
If the asbestos material is in good shape and will not be disturbed, do nothing! If it is a problem, there are two types of corrections: repair and removal. Repair usually involves either sealing or covering asbestos material. Sealing (encapsulation) involves treating the material with a sealant that either binds the asbestos fibers together or coats the material so that fibers are not released. Pipe, furnace and boiler insulation can sometimes be repaired this way. This should be done only by a professional trained to handle asbestos safely. Covering (enclosure) involves placing something over or around the material that contains asbestos to prevent the release of fibers. Exposed insulated piping may be covered with a protective wrap or jacket. With any type of repair, the asbestos remains in place. Repair is usually cheaper than removal, but it may make removal of asbestos later (if found to be necessary) more difficult and costly. Repairs can either be major or minor. Major repairs must be done only by a professional trained in methods for safely handling asbestos. Minor repairs should also be done by professionals, since there is always a risk of exposure to fibers when asbestos is disturbed.
Repairs 
 
Doing minor repairs yourself is not recommended, since improper handling of asbestos materials can create a hazard where none existed. If you nevertheless choose to do minor repairs, you should have as much information as possible on the handling of asbestos before doing anything. Contact your state or local health department or regional EPA office for information about asbestos training programs in your area. Your local school district may also have information about asbestos professionals and training programs for school buildings. Even if you have completed a training program, do not try anything more than minor repairs. Before undertaking minor repairs, carefully examine the area around the damage to make sure it is stable. As a general rule, any damaged area which is bigger than the size of your hand is not considered a minor repair.

Before undertaking minor repairs, be sure to follow all the precautions described previously for sampling asbestos material. Always wet the asbestos material using a fine mist of water containing a few drops of detergent. Commercial products designed to fill holes and seal damaged areas are available. Small areas of material, such as pipe insulation, can be covered by wrapping a special fabric, such as re-wettable glass cloth, around it. These products are available from stores (listed in the telephone directory under “Safety Equipment and Clothing”) which specialize in asbestos materials and safety items.

Removal is usually the most expensive method and, unless required by state or local regulations, should be the last option considered in most situations. This is because removal poses the greatest risk of fiber release. However, removal may be required when remodeling or making major changes to your home that will disturb asbestos material. Also, removal may be called for if asbestos material is damaged extensively and cannot be otherwise repaired. Removal is complex and must be done only by a contractor with special training. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family.
Asbestos Professionals: Who Are They and What Can They Do?
Asbestos professionals are trained in handling asbestos material. The type of professional will depend on the type of product and what needs to be done to correct the problem. You may hire a general asbestos contractor or, in some cases, a professional trained to handle specific products containing asbestos.
Asbestos professionals can conduct inspections, take samples of suspected material, assess its condition, and advise on the corrections that are needed, as well as who is qualified to make these corrections. Once again, material in good condition need not be sampled unless it is likely to be disturbed. Professional correction or abatement contractors repair and remove asbestos materials.
Some firms offer combinations of testing, assessment and correction. A professional hired to assess the need for corrective action should not be connected with an asbestos-correction firm. It is better to use two different firms so that there is no conflict of interest. Services vary from one area to another around the country.
The federal government offers training courses for asbestos professionals around the country. Some state and local governments also offer or require training or certification courses. Ask asbestos professionals to document their completion of federal or state-approved training. Each person performing work in your home should provide proof of training and licensing in asbestos work, such as completion of EPA-approved training. State and local health departments or EPA regional offices may have listings of licensed professionals in your area.

If you have a problem that requires the services of asbestos professionals, check their credentials carefully. Hire professionals who are trained, experienced, reputable and accredited — especially if accreditation is required by state or local laws. Before hiring a professional, ask for references from previous clients. Find out if they were satisfied. Ask whether the professional has handled similar situations. Get cost estimates from several professionals, as the charges for these services can vary.

Though private homes are usually not covered by the asbestos regulations that apply to schools and public buildings, professionals should still use procedures described in federal or state-approved training. Homeowners should be alert to the chance of misleading claims by asbestos consultants and contractors. There have been reports of firms incorrectly claiming that asbestos materials in homes must be replaced. In other cases, firms have encouraged unnecessary removal or performed it improperly. Unnecessary removal is a waste of money. Improper removal may actually increase the health risks to you and your family. To guard against this, know what services are available and what procedures and precautions are needed to do the job properly.

In addition to general asbestos contractors, you may select a roofing, flooring or plumbing contractor trained to handle asbestos when it is necessary to remove and replace roofing, flooring, siding or asbestos-cement pipe that is part of a water system. Normally, roofing and flooring contractors are exempt from state and local licensing requirements because they do not perform any other asbestos-correction work.

Asbestos-containing automobile brake pads and linings, clutch facings and gaskets should be repaired and replaced only by a professional using special protective equipment. Many of these products are now available without asbestos.
If you hire an InterNACHI inspector who is trained in asbestos inspection:
  • Make sure that the inspection will include a complete visual examination, and the careful collection and lab analysis of samples. If asbestos is present, the inspector should provide a written evaluation describing its location and extent of damage, and give recommendations for correction or prevention.
  • Make sure an inspecting firm makes frequent site visits if it is hired to assure that a contractor follows proper procedures and requirements. The inspector may recommend and perform checks after the correction to assure that the area has been properly cleaned.

If you hire a corrective-action contractor:

  • Check with your local air pollution control board, the local agency responsible for worker safety, and the Better Business Bureau. Ask if the firm has had any safety violations. Find out if there are legal actions filed against it.
  • Insist that the contractor use the proper equipment to do the job. The workers must wear approved respirators, gloves and other protective clothing.
  • Before work begins, get a written contract specifying the work plan, cleanup, and the applicable federal, state and local regulations which the contractor must follow (such as notification requirements and asbestos disposal procedures). Contact your state and local health departments, EPA regional office, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s regional office to find out what the regulations are. Be sure the contractor follows local asbestos removal and disposal laws. At the end of the job, get written assurance from the contractor that all procedures have been followed.
  • Assure that the contractor avoids spreading or tracking asbestos dust into other areas of your home. They should seal off the work area from the rest of the house using plastic sheeting and duct tape, and also turn off the heating and air conditioning system. For some repairs, such as pipe insulation removal, plastic bags may be adequate. They must be sealed with tape and properly disposed of when the job is complete.
  • Make sure the work site is clearly marked as a hazardous area. Do not allow household members or pets into the area until work is completed.
  • Insist that the contractor apply a wetting agent to the asbestos material with a hand sprayer that creates a fine mist before removal. Wet fibers do not float in the air as easily as dry fibers and will be easier to clean up.
  • Make sure the contractor does not break removed material into smaller pieces. This could release asbestos fibers into the air. Pipe insulation was usually installed in pre-formed blocks and should be removed in complete pieces.
  • Upon completion, assure that the contractor cleans the area well with wet mops, wet rags, sponges and/or HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) vacuum cleaners. A regular vacuum cleaner must never be used. Wetting helps reduce the chance of spreading asbestos fibers in the air. All asbestos materials and disposable equipment and clothing used in the job must be placed in sealed, leakproof, and labeled plastic bags. The work site should be visually free of dust and debris. Air monitoring (to make sure there is no increase of asbestos fibers in the air) may be necessary to assure that the contractor’s job is done properly. This should be done by someone not connected with the contractor.
Caution! 

Do not dust, sweep or vacuum debris that may contain asbestos. These actions will disturb tiny asbestos fibers and may release them into the air. Remove dust by wet-mopping or with a special HEPA vacuum cleaner used by trained asbestos contractors.

From Asbestos – Int’l Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) http://www.nachi.org/asbestos.htm#ixzz2qsVh6Z2f

Child-Proofing Your Home

Playing children clip art

Child-Proofing Your Home: 12 Safety Devices to Protect Your Children

About 2.5 million children are injured or killed by hazards in the home each year. The good news is that many of these incidents can be prevented by using simple child-safety devices on the market today. Any safety device you buy should be sturdy enough to prevent injury to your child, yet easy for you to use. It’s important to follow installation instructions carefully.
In addition, if you have older children in the house, be sure they re-secure safety devices. Remember, too, that no device is completely childproof; determined youngsters have been known to disable them. You can childproof your home for a fraction of what it would cost to have a professional do it. And safety devices are easy to find. You can buy them at hardware stores, baby equipment shops, supermarkets, drug stores, home and linen stores, and through online and mail-order catalogues.
InterNACHI inspectors, too, should know what to tell clients who are concerned about the safety of their children. Here are some child-safety devices that can help prevent many injuries to young children.
1.  Use safety latches and locks for cabinets and drawers in kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas to help prevent poisonings and other injuries. Safety latches and locks on cabinets and drawers can help prevent children from gaining access to medicines and household cleaners, as well as knives and other sharp objects.
Look for safety latches and locks that adults can easily install and use, but that are sturdy enough to withstand pulls and tugs from children. Safety latches are not a guarantee of protection, but they can make it more difficult for children to reach dangerous substances. Even products with child-resistant packaging should be locked away out of reach; this packaging is not childproof.
But, according to Colleen Driscoll, executive director of the International Association for Child Safety (IAFCS), “Installing an ineffective latch on a cabinet is not an answer for helping parents with safety.  It is important to understand parental habits and behavior.  While a latch that loops around cabinet knob covers is not expensive and easy to install, most parents do not consistently re-latch it.”
Parents should be sure to purchase and install safety products that they will actually adapt to and use.
2.  Use safety gates to help prevent falls down stairs and to keep children away from dangerous areas. Look for safety gates that children cannot dislodge easily, but that adults can open and close without difficulty. For the top of stairs, gates that screw into the wall are more secure than “pressure gates.”
New safety gates that meet safety standards display a certification seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). If you have an older safety gate, be sure it doesn’t have “V” shapes that are large enough for a child’s head and neck to fit into.
3.  Use door locks to help prevent children from entering rooms and other areas with possible dangers, including swimming pools.
To prevent access to swimming pools, door locks on safety gates should be placed high, out of reach of young children. Locks should be used in addition to fences and alarms. Sliding glass doors with locks that must be re-secured after each use are often not an effective barrier to pool access.
Door knob covers, while inexpensive and recommended by some, are generally not effective for children who are tall enough to reach the doorknob; a child’s ingenuity and persistence can usually trump the cover’s effectiveness.
4.  Use anti-scald devices for faucets and shower heads, and set your water heater temperature to 120° F to help prevent burns from hot water. A plumber may need to install these.
5.  Use smoke detectors on every level of your home and near bedrooms to alert you to fires. Smoke detectors are essential safety devices for protection against fire deaths and injuries. Check smoke detectors once a month to make sure they’re working. If detectors are battery-operated, change batteries at least once a year, or consider using 10-year batteries.
6.  Use window guards and safety netting to help prevent falls from windows, balconies, decks and landings. Window guards and safety netting for balconies and decks can help prevent serious falls.  Check these safety devices frequently to make sure they are secure and properly installed and maintained. There should be no more than 4 inches between the bars of the window guard. If you have window guards, be sure at least one window in each room can be easily used for escape in a fire. Window screens are not effective for preventing children from falling out of windows.
7.  Use corner and edge bumpers to help prevent injuries from falls against sharp edges of furniture and fireplaces. Corner and edge bumpers can be used with furniture and fireplace hearths to help prevent injuries from falls, and to soften falls against sharp and rough edges.
Be sure to look for bumpers that stay securely on furniture and hearth edges.
8.  Use receptacle or outlet covers and plates to help prevent children from electrical shock and possible electrocution.
Be sure the outlet protectors cannot be easily removed by children and are large enough so that children cannot choke on them.
9.  Use a carbon monoxide (CO) detector outside bedrooms to help prevent CO poisoning. Consumers should install CO detectors near sleeping areas in their homes. Households that should use CO detectors include those with gas or oil heat or with attached garages.
10.  Cut window blind cords to help prevent children from strangling in blind-cord loops. Window blind cord safety tassels on miniblinds and tension devices on vertical blinds and drapery cords can help prevent deaths and injuries from strangulation in the loops of cords. Inner cord stops can help prevent strangulation in the inner cords of window blinds.
However, the IAFCS’s Ms. Driscoll states, “Cordless is best.  Although not all families are able to replace all products, it is important that parents understand that any corded blind or window treatment can still be a hazard.  Unfortunately, children are still becoming entrapped in dangerous blind cords despite advances in safety in recent years.”
For older miniblinds, cut the cord loop, remove the buckle, and put safety tassels on each cord. Be sure that older vertical blinds and drapery cords have tension or tie-down devices to hold the cords tight. When buying new miniblinds, vertical blinds and draperies, ask for safety features to prevent child strangulation.
11.  Use door stops and door holders to help prevent injuries to fingers and hands. Door stops and door holders on doors and door hinges can help prevent small fingers and hands from being pinched or crushed in doors and door hinges.
Be sure any safety device for doors is easy to use and is not likely to break into small parts, which could be a choking hazard for young children.
12.  Use a cell or cordless phone to make it easier to continuously watch young children, especially when they’re in bathtubs, swimming pools, or other potentially dangerous areas. Cordless phones help you watch your child continuously without leaving the vicinity to answer a phone call. Cordless phones are especially helpful when children are in or near water, whether it’s the bathtub, the swimming pool, or the beach.
In summary, there are a number of different safety devices that can be purchased to ensure the safety of children in the home. Homeowners can ask an InterNACHI inspector about these and other safety measures during their next inspection.  Parents should be sure to do their own consumer research to find the most effective safety devices for their home that are age-appropriate for their children’s protection, as well as affordable and compatible with their household habits and lifestyles.

From Child-Proofing Your Home: 12 Safety Devices to Protect Your Children – InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/childsafety.htm#ixzz2lBxl3ZN4

Knob-and-Tube Wiring

Knob and Tube Wiring

Knob-and-Tube Wiring

by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard
Knob-and-tube (K&T) wiring was an early standardized method of electrical wiring in buildings, in common use in North America from about 1880 to the 1940s. The system is considered obsolete and can be a safety hazard, although some of the fear associated with it is undeserved.

InterNACHI inspectors should always disclaim knob-and-tube wiring during their inspections.

Facts About Knob-and-Tube Wiring:

  • It is not inherently dangerous. The dangers from this system arise from its age, improper modifications, and situations where building insulation envelops the wires.
  • It has no ground wire and thus cannot service any three-pronged appliances.
  • While it is considered obsolete, there is no code that requires its complete removal.
  • It is treated differently in different jurisdictions. In some areas, it must be removed at all accessible locations, while others merely require that it not be installed in new construction.
  • It is not permitted in any new construction.

How Knob-and-Tube Wiring Works:           

K&T wiring consists of insulated copper conductors passing through lumber framing drill-holes via protective porcelain insulating tubes. They are supported along their length by nailed-down porcelain knobs. Where wires enter a wiring device, such as a lamp or switch, or were pulled into a wall, they are protected by flexible cloth or rubber insulation called “loom.”

Advantages of Knob-and-Tube Wiring:

  • K&T wiring has a higher ampacity than wiring systems of the same gauge. The reason for this is that the hot and neutral wires are separated from one another, usually by 4 to 6 inches, which allows the wires to readily dissipate heat into free air.
  • K&T wires are less likely than Romex cables to be punctured by nails because K&T wires are held away from the framing.
  • The porcelain components have an almost unlimited lifespan.
  • The original installation of knob-and-tube wiring is often superior to that of modern Romex wiring. K&T wiring installation requires more skill to install than Romex and, for this reason, unskilled people rarely ever installed it.

Problems Associated with K&T Wiring:

  • Unsafe modifications are far more common with K&T wiring than they are with Romex and other modern wiring systems. Part of the reason for this is that K&T is so old that more opportunity has existed for improper modifications.
  • The insulation that envelopes the wiring is a fire hazard.
  • It tends to stretch and sag over time.
  • It lacks a grounding conductor. Grounding conductors reduce the chance of electrical fire and damage to sensitive equipment.
  • In older systems, wiring is insulated with varnish and fiber materials that are susceptible to deterioration.

Compared with modern wiring insulation, K&T wiring is less resistant to damage.  K&T wiring insulated with cambric and asbestos is not rated for moisture exposure. Older systems contained insulation with additives that may oxidize copper wire. Bending the wires may cause insulation to crack and peel away.

K&T wiring is often spliced with modern wiring incorrectly by amateurs. This is perhaps due to the ease by which K&T wiring is accessed.

Building Insulation:

K&T wiring is designed to dissipate heat into free air, and insulation will disturb this process. Insulation around K&T wires will cause heat to build up, and this creates a fire hazard. The 2008 National Electrical Code (NEC) requires that this wiring system not be covered by insulation. Specifically, it states that this wiring system should not be in…

hollow spaces of walls, ceilings and attics where such spaces are insulated by loose, rolled or foamed-in-place insulating material that envelops the conductors.

Local jurisdictions may or may not adopt the NEC’s requirement. The California Electrical Code, for instance, allows insulation to be in contact with knob-and-tube wiring, provided that certain conditions are met, such as, but not limited to, the following:

  • A licensed electrical contractor must certify that the system is safe.
  • The certification must be filed with the local building department.
  • Accessible areas where insulation covers the wiring must be posted with a warning sign. In some areas, this sign must be in Spanish and English.
  • The insulation must be non-combustible and non-conductive.
  • Normal requirements for insulation must be met.

Modifications:

When K&T wiring was first introduced, common household electrical appliances were limited to little more than toasters, tea kettles, coffee percolators and
clothes irons. The electrical requirements of mid- to late-20th century homes
could not have been foreseen during the late 18th century, a time during which electricity, to many, was seen as a passing fad. Existing K&T systems are notorious for modifications made in an attempt to match the increasing amperage loads required by televisions, refrigerators, and a plethora of other electric appliances. Many of these attempts were made by insufficiently trained handymen, rather than experienced electricians, whose work made the wiring system vulnerable to overloading.
  • Many homeowners adapted to the inadequate amperage of K&T wiring by installing fuses with resistances that were too high for the wiring. The result of this modification is that the fuses would not blow as often and the wiring would suffer heat damage due to excessive amperage loads.
  • It is not uncommon for inspectors to find connections wrapped with masking tape or Scotch tape instead of electrical tape.

K&T Wiring and Insurance:

Many insurance companies refuse to insure houses that have knob-and-tube wiring due to the risk of fire. Exceptions are sometimes made for houses where an electrical contractor has deemed the system to be safe.

Advice for those with K&T wiring:

  • Have the system evaluated by a qualified electrician. Only an expert can confirm that the system was installed and modified correctly.
  • Do not run an excessive amount of appliances in the home, as this can cause a fire.
  • Where the wiring is brittle or cracked, it should be replaced. Proper maintenance is crucial.
  • K&T wiring should not be used in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms or outdoors. Wiring must be grounded in order to be used safely in these locations.
  • Rewiring a house can take weeks and cost thousands of dollars, but unsafe wiring can cause fires, complicate estate transactions, and make insurers skittish.
  • Homeowners should carefully consider their options before deciding whether to rewire their house.
  • The homeowner or an electrician should carefully remove any insulation that is found surrounding K&T wires.
  • Prospective home buyers should get an estimate of the cost of replacing K&T wiring. They can use this amount to negotiate a cheaper price for the house.

In summary, knob-and-tube wiring is likely to be a safety hazard due to improper modifications and the addition of building insulation. Inspectors need to be wary of this old system and be prepared to inform their clients about its potential dangers.

From Knob-and-Tube Wiring – InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/knob-and-tube.htm#ixzz2lBpFwyBo

Chinese Drywall

Chinese Drywall

by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard
Amidst a wave of Chinese import scares, ranging from toxic toys to tainted  pet food, reports of contaminated drywall from that country have been popping up  across the American Southeast. Chinese companies use unrefined “fly ash,” a coal  residue found in smokestacks in coal-fired power plants in their manufacturing  process. Fly ash contains strontium sulfide, a toxic substance commonly found in  fireworks. In hot and wet environments, this substance can offgas into hydrogen  sulfide, carbon disulfide, and carbonyl sulfide and contaminate a home’s air  supply. 

The bulk of these incidents have been reported in Florida and other southern  states, likely due to the high levels of heat and humidity in that region. Most  of the affected homes were built during the housing boom between 2004 and 2007,  especially in the wake of Hurricane Katrina when domestic building materials  were in short supply. An estimated 250,000 tons of drywall were imported from  China during that time period because it was cheap and plentiful. This material  was used in the construction of approximately 100,000 homes in the United  States, and many believe this has lead to serious health and property  damage.
Although not believed to be life- threatening, exposure to high  levels of airborne hydrogen sulfide and other sulfur compounds from contaminated  drywall can result in the following physical ailments:

  • sore throat;
  • sinus irritation;
  • coughing;
  • wheezing;
  • headache;
  • dry or burning eyes; and/or
  • respiratory infections.
Due to this problem’s recent nature, there are currently no government or  industry standards for inspecting contaminated drywall in homes. Professionals  who have handled contaminated drywall in the past may know how to inspect for  sulfur compounds but there are no agencies that offer certification in this form  of inspection. Homeowners should beware of con artists attempting to make quick  money off of this widespread scare by claiming to be licensed or certified  drywall inspectors. InterNACHI has assembled the following tips that inspectors  can use to identify if a home’s drywall is contaminated:
  • The house has a strong sulfur smell reminiscent of rotten eggs.
  • Exposed copper wiring appears dark and corroded. Silver jewelry and  silverware can become similarly corroded and discolored after several months of  exposure.
  • A manufacturer’s label on the back of the drywall can be used to link it  with manufacturers that are known to have used contaminated materials. One way  to look for this is to enter the attic and remove some of the insulation.
  • Drywall samples can be sent to a lab to be tested for dangerous levels of  sulfur. This is the best testing method but also the most  expensive.
Contaminated Chinese drywall cannot be repaired. Affected homeowners are  being forced to either suffer bad health and failing appliances due to wire  corrosion or replace the drywall entirely, a procedure which can cost tens of  thousands of dollars. This contamination further reduces home values in a real  estate environment already plagued by crisis. Some insurance companies are  refusing to pay for drywall replacement and many of their clients are facing  financial ruin. Class-action lawsuits have been filed against homebuilders,  suppliers, and importers of contaminated Chinese drywall. Some large  manufacturers named in these lawsuits are Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, Knauf  Gips, and Taishan Gypsum.
The Florida Department of Health recently tested drywall from three  Chinese manufacturers and a domestic sample and published their findings. They  found “a distinct difference in drywall that was manufactured in the United  States and those that were manufactured in China.” The Chinese samples contained  traces of strontium sulfide and emitted a sulfur odor when exposed to moisture  and intense heat, while the American sample did not. The U.S. Consumer Safety  Commission is currently performing similar tests. Other tests performed by  Lennar, a builder that used Chinese drywall in 80 Florida homes, and Knauf  Plasterboard, a manufacturer of the drywall, came to different  conclusions than the Florida Department of Health. Both found safe levels  of sulfur compounds in the samples that they tested. There is currently no  scientific proof that Chinese drywall is responsible for the allegations against  it.
Regardless of its source, contamination of some sort is damaging property  and health in the southern U.S. The media, who have publicized the issue,  almost unanimously report that the blame lies with imported Chinese  drywall that contains corrosive sulfur compounds originating from ash produced  by Chinese coal-fired power plants. Homes affected by this contamination can  suffer serious damage to the metal parts of appliances and piping and lead,  potentially leading to considerable health issues. While no governing body  has issued regulations regarding contaminated drywall, it is advisable that home  inspectors be aware of the danger it poses and learn how to identify it.

From  Chinese Drywall – Int’l Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) http://www.nachi.org/chinese-drywall.htm#ixzz2eVWCDr00

Central Air-Conditioning System Inspection

Central Air-Conditioning System  Inspection

by Nick Gromicko
A building’s central air-conditioning system must be periodically inspected  and maintained in order to function properly. While an annual inspection  performed by a trained professional is recommended, homeowners can do a lot of  the work themselves by following the tips offered in this guide.Exterior Condenser Unit
Clean the Exterior Condenser Unit and Components
The exterior condenser unit is the large box located on the side of the  building that is designed to push heat from the inside of the building to the  outdoors. Inside of the box are coils of pipe that are surrounded by thousands  of thin metal “fins” that allow the coils more surface area to exchange heat.  Follow these tips when cleaning the exterior condenser unit and its inner  components — after turning off power to the unit!
  • Remove any leaves, spider webs and other debris from the unit’s  exterior. Trim foliage back several feet from the unit to ensure proper air  flow.
  • Remove the cover grille to clean any debris from the unit’s interior. A  garden hose can be helpful for this task.
  • Straighten any bent fins with a tool called a fin comb.
  • Add lubricating oil to the motor. Check your owner’s manual for specific  instructions.
  • Clean the evaporator coil and condenser coil at least once a  year.  When they collect dirt, they may not function properly.
Inspect the Condensate Drain Line
Condensate drain lines collect condensed water and drain it away from the  unit.  They are located on the side of the inside fan unit. Sometimes there  are two drain lines—a primary drain line that’s built into the unit, and a  secondary drain line that can drain if the first line becomes blocked.  Homeowners can inspect the drain line by using the following tips, which take  very little time and require no specialized tools:
  • Inspect the drain line for obstructions, such as algae and debris. If  the line becomes blocked, water will back up into the drain pan and overflow,  potentially causing a safety hazard or water damage to your home.
  • Make sure the hoses are secured and fit properly.
Clean the Air Filter
The air filter slides out for easy replacement
Air filters remove pollen, dust and other particles that would otherwise  circulate indoors. Most filters are typically rectangular in shape and  about 20 inches by 16 inches, and about 1 inch thick. They slide into the main  ductwork near the inside fan unit. The filter should be periodically washed or  replaced, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions. A dirty air filter will  not only degrade indoor air quality, but it will also strain the motor to work  harder to move air through it, increasing energy costs and reducing energy  efficiency. The filter should be replaced monthly during heavy use  during the cooling seasons. You may need to change the filter more often if  the air conditioner is in constant use, if building occupants have respiratory  problems,if  you have pets with fur, or if dusty conditions are  present.
 
Cover the Exterior Unit

When the cooling season is over, you should cover the exterior condenser unit  in preparation for winter. If it isn’t being used, why expose it to the  elements? This measure will prevent ice, leaves and dirt from entering the unit,  which can harm components and require additional maintenance in the spring. A  cover can be purchased, or you can make one yourself by taping together plastic  trash bags. Be sure to turn the unit off before covering it.

Close the Air-Distribution Registers
Air-distribution registers are duct openings in ceilings, walls and floors  where cold air enters the room. They should be closed after the cooling season  ends in order to keep warm air from back-flowing out of the room during the  warming season. Pests and dust will also be unable to enter the ducts during the  winter if the registers are closed. These vents typically can be opened or  closed with an adjacent lever or wheel.  Remember to open the registers in  the spring before the cooling season starts.  Also, make sure they are not  blocked by drapes, carpeting or furniture.
In addition, homeowners should practice the following strategies in order  to keep their central air conditioning systems running properly:
  • Have the air-conditioning system inspected by a professional each year  before the start of the cooling season.
  • Reduce stress on the air conditioning system by enhancing your home’s energy  efficiency. Switch from incandescent lights to compact fluorescents, for  instance, which produce less heat.
In summary, any homeowner can perform periodic inspections and maintenance  to their home’s central air-conditioning system.

From  Central Air-Conditioning System Inspection – InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/central-air-conditioning-system-inspection.htm#ixzz2eVU4WeKc

Electrical Service Panels

Electrical Service Panels

by Nick Gromicko
Electrical panels are boxes that house circuit breakers, which are are  safety devices that stop the electrical current if it exceeds the safe level for  some portion of the home electrical system.
  An unfortunate snake entered this serice panel and was electrocuted. The resulting mess may make the components defective.
Safety 

Many people, even experienced electricians, have been killed or  seriously injured while opening electrical panels. In 1991, an Atlanta  electrician was killed while attempting to inspect a panel that had a faulty  spring-loaded bus-bar assembly. Apparently, the bus-bar was moved while the  electrician was opening the panel, causing an arc and a lethal electrical  explosion. Generally, two factors contribute to these situations:   defective components and complacency.

Inspectors must be aware that all forms of electrical inspections,  especially electrical panel inspections, are inherently dangerous. Practice  calm, steady movements and learn to avoid distractions. A sudden flash, shout or  movement could cause an inspector to lunge and touch an electrically live and  dangerous component. Advise your client that they should never remove an  electrical panel cover themselves, as they should leave this duty to InterNACHI  inspectors or qualified electricians. Before touching the electrical panel,  inspectors should ask themselves the following questions:
  • Do I have an escape path? Make sure that you know where you can safely turn  or step if you must safely escape a dangerous surprise, such as bees or sparks.  An unfortunately placed shovel or extension cord, for instance, can turn a quick  jerk into a dangerous fall.
  • Are the floors wet? Never touch any electrical equipment while standing on a  wet surface!
  • Does the panel appear to be wet? Check overhead for dripping water that has  condensed on a cold water pipe. Moisture can arrive in more ways than you can  imagine.
  • Is the panel rusty? Rust is an indication of previous wet conditions that  may still exist.

As an optional safety measure, use a voltage ticker to make sure the box is  safe to touch. If the alarm sounds on the device, have the box examined by a  qualified electrician. Also, safety glasses and other personal protective  equipment may be used to protect against burns and electric shock.

While removing the panel cover, inspectors should:

  • Stand a little back while removing the cover, which makes it easier to  remain in a blocking position.
  • Stand so as to block your client from touching the panel and its  components.
  • inform the client that opening the panel is a dangerous step, and that if  sparks fly, the client should not touch the inspector.

Service Panel Inspection

Inspectors can check for the following defective conditions during an  electrical panel inspection:

  • insufficient clearance. According to the 2008 National Electrical  Code, most residential electrical panels require at least a 3-foot  clearance or working space in front, 30 inches of width, and a minimum  headroom clearance of 6 feet, or the height of the equipment, Zinsco panels are believed by many experts to be defectivewhichever  is greater. If obstacles would make it unsafe for you to inspect the service  panel, you have the right to disclaim it.
  • aluminum branch wiring.
  • sharp-tipped panel box screws or wires damaged by these screws. Panel box  cover screws must have blunt ends so they do not pierce the wires inside the  box. Look for wires that pass too closely to the screw openings inside the  electrical panel.
  • circuit breakers that are not properly sized.
  • oxidation or corrosion to any of the parts. Oxidized or corroded wires will  increase the resistance of conductors and create the potential for arcing.
  • damage caused by rodents. Rodents have been known to chew through wire  insulation in electrical panels (and other areas), creating an unsafe condition.  Rodents have been electrocuted this way, leaving an unsightly mess inside the  panel.
  • evidence of electrical failures, such as burned or overheated components.
  • evidence of water entry inside the electrical panel. Moisture can  corrode circuit breakers so that they won’t trip, make connections less  reliable, and make the equipment unsafe to touch.
  • evidence of missing or improper bonding.  This may indicate  improper wiring, damaged equipment or unsafe conditions.
  • the physical contact points of the overcurrent protection device to the  contact point of the buss are not making good contact. The sounds of arcing (a  cracking or popping sound) may indicate this condition.
  • panel manufactured by Zinsco or Federal Pacific Electric (FPE). These panels  have a reputation for being problematic and further evaluation by a qualified  electrician is recommended. Zinsco panels can generally be identified by  a blue and silver “Zinsco” label inside the panel, and an embossed  “Magnetrip” label at the top of the panel face. FPE panels should include, if  they were not removed, one of the following identifying labels:
    • Federal Electric
    • Federal Pacific Electric
    • Federal NOARC
    • Federal Pioneer
    • FPE
    • FPE-Stab-Lok
    • Stab-Lok
In summary, electrical panels are potentially dangerous and should be  inspected with care.

From  Electrical Service Panels – InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/electrical-service-panels.htm#ixzz2eVRebgdj

Electrical Safety

Electrical Safety

Electricity is an essential part of our lives. However, it has the  potential to cause great harm. Electrical systems will function almost  indefinitely, if properly installed and not overloaded or physically abused.  Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 485 Americans each year and  injure 2,305 more. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures  and appliance defects, but many more are caused by the misuse and poor  maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and  overloaded circuits and extension cords.  Some safety tips to  remember:
  • Never use anything but the proper fuse to protect a circuit.
  • Find and correct overloaded circuits.
  • Never place extension cords under rugs.
  • Outlets near water should be GFCI-type outlets.
  • Don’t allow trees near power lines to be climbed.
  • Keep ladders, kites, equipment and anything else away from overhead power  lines.

 

Electrical Panels

Electricity enters the home through a control panel and a main switch where  one can shut off all the power in an emergency. These panels are usually  located in the basement. Control panels use either fuses or circuit  breakers. Install the correct fuses for the panel. Never use a higher-numbered  fuse or a metallic item, such as a penny. If fuses are used and there is a  stoppage in power, look for the broken metal strip in the top of a blown fuse.  Replace the fuse with a new one marked with the correct amperage. Reset circuit  breakers from “off” to “on.” Be sure to investigate why the fuse or circuit  blew. Possible causes include frayed wires, overloaded outlets, or  defective appliances. Never overload a circuit with high-wattage appliances.  Check the wattage on appliance labels. If there is frayed insulation or a broken  wire, a dangerous short circuit may result and cause a fire. If power stoppages  continue or if a frayed or broken wire is found, contact an electrician.
Outlets and Extension Cords
Make sure all electrical receptacles or outlets are three-hole,  grounded outlets. If there is water in the area, there should be a GFCI or  ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet. All outdoor outlets should be  GFCIs. There should be ample electrical capacity to run equipment without  tripping circuit breakers or blowing fuses. Minimize extension cord use. Never  place them under rugs. Use extension cords sparingly and check them  periodically. Use the proper electrical cord for the job, and put safety plugs  in unused outlets.
Electrical Appliances
Appliances need to be treated with respect and care. They need room to  breathe. Avoid enclosing them in a cabinet without proper openings, and do not  store papers around them. Level appliances so they do not tip. Washers and  dryers should be checked often. Their movement can put undue stress on  electrical connections. If any appliance or device gives off a tingling shock,  turn it off, unplug it, and have a qualified person correct the problem. Shocks  can be fatal. Never insert metal objects into appliances without unplugging  them. Check appliances periodically to spot worn or cracked insulation, loose  terminals, corroded wires, defective parts and any other components that might  not work correctly. Replace these appliances or have them repaired by a person  qualified to do so.
Electrical Heating Equipment
Portable electrical heating equipment may be used in the home as a  supplement to the home heating system. Caution must be taken when using these  heating supplements. Keep them away from combustibles, and make sure they cannot  be tipped over. Keep electrical heating equipment in good working condition. Do  not use them in bathrooms because of the risk of contact with water and  electrocution. Many people use electric blankets in their homes. They will work  well if they are kept in good condition. Look for cracks and breaks in the  wiring, plugs and connectors. Look for charred spots on both sides. Many things  can cause electric blankets to overheat. They include other bedding placed on  top of them, pets sleeping on top of them, and putting things on top of the  blanket when it is in use. Folding the blankets can also bend the coils and  cause overheating.
 
Children
Electricity is important to the workings of the home,  but can be dangerous, especially to children. Electrical safety needs to be  taught to children early on. Safety plugs should be inserted in unused outlets  when toddlers are in the home. Make sure all outlets in the home have face  plates. Teach children not to put things into electrical outlets and not to chew  on electrical cords. Keep electrical wiring boxes locked. Do not allow children  to come in contact with power lines outside. Never allow them to climb trees  near power lines, utility poles or high tension towers.
 
Electricity and Water
A body can act like a lightning rod and carry the current to the  ground. People are good conductors of electricity, particularly when standing in  water or on a damp floor. Never use any electrical appliance in the tub or  shower. Never touch an electric cord or appliance with wet hands. Do not use  electrical appliances in damp areas or while standing on damp floors. In areas  where water is present, use outlets with GFCIs. Shocks can be fatal.
Animal Hazards
Mice and other rodents can chew on electrical wires and damage them.  If rodents are suspected or known to be in the home, be aware of the damage they  may cause, and take measures to get rid of them.
Outside Hazards

 

There are several electrical hazards outside the home. Be aware of  overhead and underground power lines. People have been electrocuted when an  object they are moving has come in contact with the overhead power lines. Keep  ladders, antennae, kites and poles away from power lines leading to the house  and other buildings. Do not plant trees, shrubs or bushes under power lines or  near underground power lines. Never build a swimming pool or other structure  under the power line leading to your house. Before digging, learn the location  of underground power lines.
Do not climb power poles or transmission towers. Never let anyone  shoot or throw stones at insulators. If you have an animal trapped in a tree or  on the roof near electric lines, phone your utility company. Do not take a  chance of electrocuting yourself. Be aware of weather conditions when installing  and working with electrical appliances. Never use electrical power tools or  appliances with rain overhead or water underfoot. Use only outdoor lights,  fixtures and extension cords. Plug into outlets with a GFCI. Downed power lines  are extremely dangerous. If you see a downed power line, call the electric  company, and warn others to stay away. If a power line hits your car while  you are in it, stay inside unless the car catches fire. If the car catches fire,  jump clear without touching metal and the ground at the same time.
MORE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS :
  • Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.
  • Hire an InterNACHI inspector. InterNACHI inspectors must pass rigorous  safety training and are knowledgeable in the ways to reduce the likelihood of  electrocution.
  • Frayed wires can cause  fires. Replace all worn, old and damaged appliance cords immediately.
  • Use electrical extension cords wisely and don’t overload them.
  • Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special  care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Don’t allow children to play with or around electrical appliances, such  as space heaters, irons and hair dryers.
  • Keep clothes, curtains and other potentially combustible items at  least 3 feet from all heaters.
  • If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet.  Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
  • Never overload extension cords or wall sockets. Immediately shut off, then  professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch, as well  as lights that flicker. Use safety closures to childproof electrical  outlets.
  • Check your electrical tools regularly for signs of wear. If the cords are  frayed or cracked, replace them. Replace any tool if it causes even small  electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.
In summary, household electrocution can be prevented by following the tips  offered in this guide and by hiring an InterNACHI inspector.

From  Electrical Safety – Int’l Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) http://www.nachi.org/electric.htm#ixzz2eVNAOdF9