While our home is our sanctuary, its main function is to protect us from the outdoors. But, it’s a symbiotic relationship. Our home depends on us to care for and maintain it. One maintenance item is INDOOR AIR QUALITY (I.A.Q.).
Most modern homes are sealed so tight against outdoor elements that they prevent indoor air pollutants within our home from escaping. As a growing concern worldwide, we are beginning to recognize the critical role indoor air quality plays in our health and wellness. Understanding indoor air quality and the interplay between indoor pollutants and our bodies is the first step in improving and optimizing your air.
EPA’s Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) House Virtual Tour
Get a quick glimpse of some of the most important ways to protect the air in your home by touring the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) House. Room-by-room, you’ll learn about the key pollutants and how to address them:
TYPES OF INDOOR AIR POLLUTANTS
We’ve compiled a list of some of the EPA’s top Indoor Air Pollutants. Click on each for a link to EPA Website. This will help you understand what each is, what their indicators are, health risks associated with each, and what actions you can take to improving I.A.Q.
The federal government recommends that you measure the level of radon in your home. Without measurements there is no way to tell whether radon is present. Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas. Contact us today (540-860-0744) to schedule your test.
Molds are part of the natural environment. They can be found everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Mold is not usually a problem, unless it begins growing indoors. The best way to control mold growth is to control moisture. The EPA website (LINK) provides guidance about mold and moisture for homes.
DANDER, DUST MITES, & OTHER BIOLOGICAL CONTAMINANTS
By controlling the relative humidity level in a home, the growth of some sources of biologicals can be minimized. A relative humidity of 30-50 percent is generally recommended for homes. Click on the above link to learn more.
Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is a colorless, odorless gas that is naturally abundant within the atmosphere. Outside, carbon dioxide accounts for just 0.033 percent of Earth’s atmospheric gases. But within the home, this level can increase. At low levels, carbon dioxide is harmless to humans. But elevated values can lead to a range of health problems, including headaches, fatigue and breathing difficulties. There are several causes of elevated carbon dioxide levels in homes. Learn More at:
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person. Factors such as age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure. Follow this LINK to the EPA website to learn more.
VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals. Some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. Check out the EPA web site (LINK) for more information.
INDOOR PARTICULATE MATTER
Particulate matter is a form of air pollution created by other ambient pollutants. For instance ozone, nitrogen oxides, or directly through both outdoor and indoor combustion. For example, items such as stoves, heaters, fireplaces, chimneys, candles, etc.
The government created a web site, www.AirNow.gov to help you keep an eye out for local AQI readings to protect your and your loved ones from particle pollution. These tiny particles can sneak into our homes through windows, doors, and walls.
Build a Team to find your Dream
Buying a home is a very rewarding & exciting time, but it is also a very vulnerable time. That’s why it’s important to build a team made up of professionals whose primary focus & goal is to aid clients in making one of the largest decisions in their lives.
Being part of a home-buyers “Real Estate Procurement Team” (made up of the Realtor, Lender, Home Inspector, Insurer, Title/Settlement Company, etc.) has been an honor throughout my career. First as a builder, then a Home Inspector, & most recently as a HUD Renovation Consultant. But, I’ve also been on the other side of the table as the home buyer, & more recently as the father of a home buyer, & have experienced the emotional spectrum (follow thislinkto a funny article about that) our clients & their families are going through.
While there are stresses found in every aspect of real estate, from start to finish, there are also many joys. When I ask lenders, realtors, settlement clerks, insurance agents, appraisers, (etc.) what they find most rewarding about being in real estate, the answer more often than not is “helping people accomplish their dreams“. From my own experience as a Superintendent with Camberley Homes, as a HUD Consultant, & as a Home Inspector – I couldn’t agree more.
In my previous life as a Senior Builder / Superintendent with Camberley Homes, I always looked forward to the New Home Orientation / Homeowner Walk Through. As the superintendent, I was there with the clients as they created their selection sheets and a 2D representation of their future home was put together. After months of construction & working together through the stresses of building a new home, the project was finally complete, & we could breath. The N.H.O. is the day that I got to showcase all of the efforts of the building team to create the clients dream home.
Increase your appliances efficiency while eliminating a potential fire hazard.
As a Home Inspector, I see a lot of dirty dryer vents – some completely clogged with lint and even birds’ nests. It’s something that too often gets overlooked by even the most conscientious of homeowners. Possibly because most of us think that if we clean the lint trap before each load, we’re doing good. Unfortunately, that’s not the case as lint also bypasses the internal filter, getting into not only the vent house, but also inside the dryer. Which is why my number one reason for bringing this to the attention of my clients is that according to FEMA, failure to clean accounted for thirty four percent (34%) of ALL clothes dryer fires in residential buildings” (TFRS Volume 13, Issue 7).
According to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) research, between 2010-2014 U.S. municipal fire departments responded to an estimated 15,970 home fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines each year. These fires resulted in annual losses estimated at:
13 civilian deaths;
440 civilian injuries; and,
$238 million in direct property damage.
The NFPA also found that between 2010-2014, the leading items first ignited in clothes dryer fires were dust, fiber, or lint (27%) and clothing (26%). In washing machine fires, the leading items first ignited were electrical wire or cable insulation (26%) and appliance housing and casing (24%). It’s to be noted that in most of these home fires involved clothes dryers (92%), with the leading cause (31%) of home clothes dryer and washer fires was failure to clean.
Another reason that I bring this to the attention of my clients is Energy Efficiency. In a study between a clogged vent and a clean vent, it was found that there was a substantial time, energy, and financial savings between the two:
While you could hire a professional to clear out the vent for you, this is also job that you can do yourself. The NFPA has released this educational video with some safety tips to help prevent clothes dryer fire, and you can find additional information at http://www.nfpa.org/safetytips
FAULTY WIRING WARNING SIGNS
Recently we met a Richmond family who, thankfully, had only lost their home from a house fire. Our hearts in our throat’s as we listened to their story of almost losing their son due to faulty wiring in the kitchen, we couldn’t help but admire their focus on what was most important – that they all survived.
Sadly, according to the National Fire Protection Association (Link), on average, seven (7) people die in a home fire every day, with nineteen percent (19%) of those deaths resulting from electrical distribution and lighting. The report also analyzed the origination of the fires, estimating that sixteen percent (16%) of fires between 2012-2016 started in the kitchen (Full Report Link).
While my husband (the home inspector), automatically recognizes visible warning signs in the homes he inspects, it made me wonder what were some things that I, as a homeowner, should recognize as potential issues. Here are some of his and others suggestions:
Water + Electricity =Danger – While you definitely want to have a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlet or line with a GFCI Circuit breaker used for areas close to water, it’s also a good idea to have these same protective measures on lines that will have heavy usage. Follow this LINK to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s GFCI Fact Sheet to learn more.
Frequently blown fuses or tripped breakers – when we first moved into our house, my daughter and I could never use our hair dryers at the same time without tripping one of the breakers. While I found it tedious to have to go down to the basement to flip the switch back on, Tom recognized it as something that needed to be fixed living with two females. He warns that had the fuse blown by only one of us using our hair dryer at a time, that he would have prevented us from using that outlet, concerned that the circuit was being overloaded. If this happens to you, contact a professional to see if either an upgrade to the circuit is needed or adding a new line might be the best solution.
The Nose Knows!!! – If you’re smelling fishy smells, rotten egg / sulfur, urine-like, or burnt plastic smells near outlets, switches or walls, you need to immediately turn off the power and contact an electrician. While the rotten egg / sulfur and urine-like smells could be indicative of sewer leaks or a dead animal in the walls, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Spooky Flickering Lights – If your lights are dimming or flickering, and their NOT those specialty lights designed to do so, this could be a sign that there’s a power drain on that line as light fixtures typically draw a small amount of power. This is another example of needing to possibly reroute switches or have a new line installed – so get that electrician on the phone.
Buzzing? – We don’t typically associate sound with our household wiring – that’s because typically the electricity is smoothly and quietly flowing between connections. Current jumping causes a buzzing sound and could indicate that there are loose prongs, outlets, or faulty wiring.
Heat & Sparks – While sparks might be an obvious red flag for improper wiring, we don’t always go around touching our outlets or switch plates for heat.
One thing we do suggest when hiring an Electrical Contractor is to check the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation’s License Database (LINK).
Financing Residential Radon Mitigation Costs
Using the HUD 203(k) Mortgage Insurance Program to Reduce the Risk of Lung Cancer in People
The Section 203(k) mortgage financing program is the Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) primary tool for rehabilitating and improving single family homes. The program allows home buyers to finance the purchase and repair or improvement of a home using a single mortgage loan.
Reducing radon levels in a home is an improvement that can be financed through a 203(k) mortgage loan. Part of the 203(k) mortgage proceeds must be used to pay the costs of rehabilitating or improving a residential property.
To qualify, the total cost of the eligible repairs or improvements, including fixes to reduce radon levels, must be at least $5,000.
The 203(k) program is an important tool for expanding home ownership, revitalizing homes, neighborhoods and communities and for making homes healthier and safer for those who occupy them.
Homes eligible for 203(k) financing include:
one to four-family dwellings that have been completed for at least one year;
dwellings that have been demolished, provided some of the existing foundation system remains; and,
converting a one-family dwelling into a two, three, or four-family dwelling; or, alternatively, converting an existing multi-unit dwelling into a one to four-family unit.
The 203(k) program has been used successfully by many lenders to rehabilitate properties through partnerships with state and local housing agencies and with non-profit organizations. To further help borrowers buy homes, lenders have found innovative ways to combine the 203(k) program with other financial resources like HUD’s HOPE and Community Development Block Grant Programs.
Contact an FHA-approved lender in your area for more information about HUD’s 203(k) program, or if you are interested in getting a 203(k) insured mortgage loan. To find a lender, please use HUD’s Lender List (LINK).
The National Association of Realtors – a Great Resource for Home-buyers
Home-buyers need every tool at their disposal to understand the labyrinth of Residential Real Estate. One tool we gain a lot of information from is the National Association of Realtors “Realtor Magazine”. Have a Question? Use their search bar to locate informative articles or just review their “Daily News Articles” where you will find articles such as these:
Realtors & their associations are advocates for the right to own, use, & transfer real property. Meaning, they are YOURadvocates for home-ownership.
Home Inspection & Radon Testing Contingency
DON’T SHOP PRICE, SHOP EXPERIENCE!!!!
You’ve finally found the home of your dreams & can see a light at the end of the tunnel. But now you find out that you have a 7 Day Home Inspection & Radon Testing Contingency period & need to hire an inspector ASAP!!!!
One of the BIGGEST MISTAKES you could make when choosing an inspector is to focus in on the cost of the inspection. Don’t just assume that all home inspectors are equal!! There are a lot of moving parts to purchasing a home. It can be timely, costly, and frustrating – BUT, remember this is one of the largest purchases of your life, so it’s to be expected. Take advantage of the Home Inspection & Radon Testing Contingency as not only a negotiation tool to ask for repairs or credits, but as an introduction to your new home.
So, before you start making those phone calls to choose your inspector, we wanted to give you two examples of phone calls we receive:
Realize that during this process, you’ve actually been assembling a Home Purchasing Team that can help you navigate through the labyrinth.