3 03, 2017

EMFs effects in your home

2017-03-03T19:04:31-05:00March 3rd, 2017|

EMFs In Your Home

Electromagnetic Fields

Are you sensitive to EMFs (Electromagnetic Fields). Many people are.

Home EMFCould EMFs (electric and magnetic fields),  to which people are routinely exposed cause health effects? What are sources of Electromagnetic Fields, and when are they dangerous?
An “electromagnetic field” is a broad term which includes electric fields generated by charged particles in motion, and radiated fields, such as computers, electronics, TVs, radios, hair dryers & microwave ovens. These fields are measured in units of volts per meter, or V/m. Magnetic fields are measured in milli-Gauss, or mG. The field is always strongest near the source and diminishes as you move away from the source. These energies have the ability to influence particles at great distances. For example, the radiation from a radio tower influences the atoms within a distant radio antenna, allowing it to pick up the signal. Despite the many wonderful conveniences of electrical technology, the effects of Electromagnetic Fields on biological tissue remains the most controversial aspect of the EMF issue, with virtually all scientists agreeing that more research is necessary to determine safe or dangerous levels.
Dominon Power EMF testing in Richmond VAResearch since the mid-1970s has provided extensive information on biological responses to power-frequency electric and magnetic fields. The Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) Research and Public Information Dissemination (RAPID) Program was charged with the goal of determining if electric and magnetic fields associated with the generation, transmission and use of electrical energy pose a risk to human health. The fact that 20 years of research have not answered that question is clear evidence that health effects of EMF are not obvious and that risk relationships, if risk is identified, are not simple. Because epidemiologic studies have raised concerns regarding the connection between certain serious human health effects and exposure to electric and magnetic fields, the program adopts the hypothesis that exposure to electric or magnetic fields under some conditions may lead to unacceptable risk to human health. The focus of the program is not only to test (as far as possible within the statutory time limits) that hypothesis for those serious health effects already identified, but to identify, as far as possible, the special conditions that lead to elevated risk, and to recommend measures to manage risk.
Body effects EMFElectromagnetic hypersensitivity (ES) is a physiological disorder characterized by symptoms directly brought on by exposure to electromagnetic fields. It produces neurological and allergic-type symptoms. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to, headache, eye irritation, dizziness, nausea, skin rash, facial swelling, weakness, fatigue, pain in joints and/or muscles, buzzing/ringing in the ears, skin numbness, abdominal pressure and pain, breathing difficulty, and irregular heartbeat. Those affected persons may experience an abrupt onset of symptoms following exposure to a new EMF, such as fields associated with a new computer or with new fluorescent lights, or a new home or work environment. Onset of ES has also been reported following chemical exposure. A concerted effort to provide scientifically valid research on which to base decisions about EMF exposures is underway, and results are expected in the next several years. Meanwhile, some authorities recommend taking simple precautionary steps, such as the following:
  • Increase the distance between yourself and the EMF source – sit at arm’s length from your computer terminal.
  • Avoid unnecessary proximity to high EMF sources – don’t let children play directly under power lines or on top of power transformers for underground lines.
  • Reduce time spent in the field – turn off your computer monitor and other electrical appliances when you aren’t using them.
EMF chartThe Office of Technology Assessment of the Congress of the United States recommends a policy of “prudent avoidance” with respect to EMF.  “Prudent avoidance” means to measure fields, determine the sources, and act to reduce exposure.
  1. Detect EMFs in your home and work environment. It is good to know where the sources of EMFs are in your everyday world and how strong these sources are. Is there wiring in the wall behind your bed that you don’t even know about? Is the vaporizer emitting strong fields in the baby’s room? How much EMFs are you and your family getting from the power lines in the street? Even hair dryers emit EMFs. Home inspectors often have meters to measure EMFs, or they can be purchased and shared with friends.EMF tester

  2. Diminish your exposure to the EMFs you find. Determine how far you must stay away from the EMF emitters in your home and work environment to achieve less than 2.5 mG of exposure — the microwave oven, the alarm clock, the computer, and so on. Rearrange your furniture (especially the beds, desks, and couches where you spend the most time) away from heaters, wiring, fluorescent lights, electric doorbells, and other EMF “hot spots.” Where practical, replace electrical appliances with non-electric devices. Have an electrician correct faulty high EMF wiring and help you eliminate dangerous stray ground currents. Central Virginia Home Inspection con provide EMF testing in the Richmond VA metro area.

  3. Shield yourself. Use shielding devices on your computer screen and cellular phone. Add shielding to your household wiring, circuit box and transformers.
EMF testing levelsMagnetic fields are not blocked by most materials. Magnetic fields encountered in homes vary greatly. Magnetic fields rapidly become weaker with distance from the source.
  • EMFs in the home, on average, range from 0 to 10 volts per meter. They can be hundreds, thousands, or even millions of times weaker than those encountered outdoors near power lines.
  • EMFs directly beneath power lines may vary from a few volts per meter for some overhead distribution lines to several thousands of volts per meter for extra-high voltage power lines.
  • EMFs from high voltage power lines rapidly become weaker with distance and can be greatly reduced by walls and roofs of buildings
17 01, 2017

House Design Styles

2017-01-17T10:09:47-05:00January 17th, 2017|

Ever wonder what each home style is called ? Real estate listings love to use specific design terminology like “traditional ranch,” or “craftsman.” If you have no idea what those mean, Part Select put together an infographic that runs you through the basics.

 The chart helps define each common housing types in the United States, then talks about specific features like siding style, roof type, window type, and more. For example, a mid-century modern is often characterized by a flat or gabled roof, oversized windows, open spaces inside, and a double-wide entry door. Meanwhile, a cottage style home takes a different approach with a steep overhanging roof, cross gables, window boxes, and smaller panes.
8 10, 2016

Lintel Rusted Corroded

2016-10-19T19:20:35-04:00October 8th, 2016|

Lintels Rusted or Corroded – What are theyBrick Lintel

Most homeowners, probably don’t know what a lintel is, let alone that they should be maintained and not rusted or corroded.

A lintel is a beam supporting masonry above an opening in a wall, such as a window or door opening. Lintels may be made of wood, masonry or steel. Lots of homes in our area that have brick or stone walls have steel lintels.

The Brick Institute of America (BIA), steel lintels will require maintenance to avoid corrosion.5
Corrosion, also known as rust when the term is applied to steel lintels, causes the lintel to expand or bloom. The expanding lintel exerts pressure on the surrounding brick or stone work, resulting in cracks and movement. I see this a lot, even in homes that are otherwise very well maintained.
That’s why maintaining steel lintels are essential in a proper maintained home.

It has become a fairly common practice to cap the lintels with aluminum and seal them with caulk. Looks good, but this practice may do more harm than good. By trapping moisture within the wall assembly, we promote rather than inhibit rust. Again we turn to the BIA for guidance. They advise that proper consideration must always be given to moisture control wherever there are openings in masonry walls. There must always be a mechanism to channel the flow of water, present in the wall, to the outside. A lack of flashing and weep holes in the original construction may limit the flow of water to the outside. Capping and caulking may make matters worse.

The BIA does not provide specifics on how to maintain steel lintels. So, what’s a responsible homeowner to do?

When I find evidence of rusty metal lintels, I generally recommend that they be cleaned, primed and painted to reduce the risk of further deterioration that could require costly repair. Use high quality paint specifically formulated for use on exterior metal surfaces. Expose any metal lintels that are capped in aluminum or are similarly concealed. Repair any damage to the surrounding masonry.

By the way, painting the lintels with the same paint used for the exterior wood trim won’t get the job done. Often the rust will bleed right through the paint.  Lintel

If the lintels are allowed to continue to rust and deteriorate, they will eventually need to be replaced – a process much more costly than paint. If the lintel is sagging noticeably or if damage to the lintel or the surrounding masonry is severe or if problems recur despite maintenance efforts, the lintel may need to be replaced. In that case, the use of galvanized steel lintels and/or improved flashing techniques may serve to extend the life of the new lintel. Discuss these options with your masonry contractor.

During a professional home inspection, Central Virginia Home Inspections will inspect the readily accessible, visually observable components of the wall structure and cladding. If evidence of rusty metal lintels, it will be noted in the home inspection report.


20 05, 2016

Drip Edge Flashing

2018-03-01T12:19:22-05:00May 20th, 2016|

Should your roof have drip edge flashing ?

roofing6Almost all shingle roof manufacturers require drip edge flashing and show it on their installation instructions and the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association “Residential Asphalt Roofing Manual” shows it in its recommended application procedures. The International One-and-Two-Family Dwelling Code’s Chapter 9, “Roof Coverings,” states that “Asphalt shingles shall be applied according to the manufacturer’s printed instructions…”

 So why do residential roof installations lack metal drip edges? For one reason, the metal edging is the first item to get omitted from a quote whenever a price is given to install a shingle roof, whether on a new roof or a reroof. Unless the requested quote expressly makes it a requirement, this item will be omitted in both the quote response and the installation.

One contractor actually tried to justify the absence of drip edge material on a project by saying that he had been putting on shingles for almost 15 years and did not think drip edge was necessary-whether it was called for or not, this is old-school thinking. The mindset was that if you extend the shingles far enough over the edge of the deck into the gutters, you shouldn’t need any edge metal.

Critical Drip Edge Flashing Location

Obviously, the most critical location for drip metal is exactly at the location of the majority of the drips the eaves! Rake edges should also get metal edging, but it is simply not as critical. And the installation sequence of the edge metal with the felt underlayment is optional in most manufacturers’ printed instructions. You can install the felt either on top of or below the edge metal. And since water travels somewhat parallel to the rakes, this does minimize the need for coverage.

However, the edge receiving the most water on a steep-sloped roof needs the best protection affordable. If the shingles are extended much more than 3/4-1-inch over the edge, they tend to bend, eventually fracturing along the edge of the roof deck below. If the metal edging is left off, this decreases the chance for all of the water cascading over the eaves to make it into the gutters, if indeed there are any. Otherwise, shingles breaking along the line of the roof deck allow the possibility of water getting into the substrate by turning back up under the bottom of the shingle. The deleterious effects of this condition are exacerbated when the underlayment is not fully extending over the edge and/or if the fascia board is not flush with the lower edge of the wood roof deck.

Many times the roof deck is installed early on in the project and covered with felt in order to dry the house in and speed up the interior work below. Roofers will hurriedly run a cutter along the edge of the wood deck, but rarely do it in a straight line. This leaves the edge of the felt somewhat short of the edge, thereby failing to overhang the roof deck. It only gets worse when the (usually 3/4-1″ thick) fascia board is added later when the finish work is being done. This makes the felt edge that much farther from the true drip edge.

Water Under Shingles is Damaging

ar132572446158864 If water now gets under the shingles, it can possibly cause short-term staining and long-term deterioration of the lowest edge of the roof deck and along the top of the fascia board. Prolonged existence of this condition can also affect the ends of the roof joists or trusses used to attach the fascia board.

This should point out to contractors to specify, install, and insist on adequate metal drip edge to give residential clients the most value for a relatively low-cost item. It is ironic that contractors who leave out the metal drip edge in an effort to save money lessen the long-term value of a home. It is an issue whose absence and consequential side effects may take years to discover. But, in all fairness to the consumer, it is an item that should be included to proved a quality installation.

2012 International Residential Code – IRC Code

R905.2.8.5 Drip edge. 

A drip edge shall be provided at eaves and gables of shingle roofs. Adjacent pieces of drip edge shall be overlapped a minimum of 2 inches (51 mm). Drip edges shall extend a minimum of 0.25 inch (6.4 mm) below the roof sheathing and extend up the roof deck a minimum of 2 inches (51 mm). Drip edges shall be mechanically fastened to the roof deck at a maximum of 12 inches (305 mm) o.c. with fasteners as specified in Section R905.2.5. Underlayment shall be installed over the drip edge along eaves and under the underlayment on gables. Unless specified differently by the shingle manufacturer, shingles are permitted to be flush with the drip edge.
27 03, 2016


2016-10-19T19:20:36-04:00March 27th, 2016|

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18 03, 2016

Double Tapped Breakers

2016-10-19T19:20:36-04:00March 18th, 2016|

What is a Double Tapped Circuit Breakers

Double Tapped BreakersDouble tapped circuit breakers are very common electrical defects that are found during a home inspection in Richmond Va.

Definition: ‘double tap’, is industry slang that home inspectors use when referring to when two conductors are connected under one screw or terminal within a electrical panel. Sometimes this refers to two conductors at one circuit breaker, other times it refers to two conductors connected under one screw at the neutral bar.

Double Tapped Breakers Defect or No Defect?

When it is NOT a defect:

Double tapped wiring is ok if the manufacture of the circuit breaker has designed it for two conductors. and it will say so right on the circuit breaker, and the circuit breaker terminal will be designed to hold two conductors in place. 

When it is a defect:

Electrical-Double-Tapped-Circuit-Breaker1-700x525This is a defect when the circuit breaker isn’t designed for two conductors; most aren’t.  It doesn’t matter if it’s just a simple doorbell transformer wire that’s added on to the circuit breaker – the issue isn’t about the load imposed on the circuit, it’s about the physical connection.

Why it is a problem: If the circuit breaker was not designed to hold two conductors, the conductors could come loose at some point in the future, even if they feel very tight today.  Loose conductors can lead to overheating, arcing, and possibly a fire.

How to fix:


PigTailThis is a common repair.




Add a new Circuit Breaker:

Breaker add in panel

If the panel has room for an additional breaker in the panel, another circuit breaker can be added, and the conductors split off to the two different circuit breakers.

 Other Options:

Check with your licensed professional for other options.

Note: I don’t recommend that anyone try to fix this issue on their own, you should have a licensed professional perform the evaluation and remediation. Don’t do any of this work if you’re not qualified.  You could get electrocuted or start a fire.

Richmond Home Inspections

14 03, 2016

Double Tapped Neutrals

2016-10-19T19:20:36-04:00March 14th, 2016|

Double Tapped Neutrals: This Isn’t New!

Double Tapped NeutralsThe problem I’m highlighting today is double tapped neutral lugs in electric panels.  A ‘double tapped neutral’ is a slang term for saying that one of the screws on the neutral bus bar in the panel board has more than one neutral wire feeding to it.  This is wrong, and has been for a long time.

One reason that two neutral wires can’t be connected to a single terminal in a panel board is so that the circuit can be isolated if it needs to be worked on.  There is a very informative  explanation at this link Schneider-Electric.

The other reason two neutral wires can’t be connected under a single lug is because the connections might come loose, which could lead to a fire.


Richmond Home InspectionWhile panel manufacturers will allow for up to three ground conductors under a single lug, they only allow one neutral wire.  The grounding lugs aren’t going to normally carry current for extended periods of time, so they have a very small possibility of coming loose.  This isn’t the case with the neutral conductors.

Despite what many seem to think, this didn’t become a new requirement in 2002.  This has been a requirement of UL 67 for a long time, but was spelled out in the NEC in 2002.


6 03, 2016

Richmond Aerial Photography

2016-10-19T19:20:36-04:00March 6th, 2016|

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5 03, 2016

TPR Valves and Discharge Piping

2016-10-19T19:20:36-04:00March 5th, 2016|

TPR Valves and Discharge Piping

Temperature/pressure-relief or TPR valves are safety devices installed on water heating appliances, such as boilers and domestic water supply heaters. TPRs are designed to automatically release water in the event that pressure or temperature in the water tank exceeds safe levels.
If temperature sensors and safety devices such as TPRs malfunction, water in the system may become superheated (exceed the boiling point). Once the tank ruptures and water is exposed to the atmosphere, it will expand into steam almost instantly and occupy approximately 1,600 times its original volume. This process can propel a heating tank like a rocket through multiple floors, causing personal injury and extensive property damage.
Water-heating appliance explosions are rare due to the fact that they require a simultaneous combination of unusual conditions and failure of redundant safety components. These conditions only result from extreme negligence and the use of outdated or malfunctioning equipment.
The TPR valve will activate if either water temperature (measured in degrees Fahrenheit) or pressure (measured in pounds per square inch
[PSI]) exceed safe levels. The valve should be connected to a discharge pipe (also called a drain line) that runs down the length of the water heater tank. This pipe is responsible for routing hot water released from the TPR to a proper discharge location.
It is critical that discharge pipes meet the following requirements, which can be found in InterNACHI’s Water Heater Discharge Piping mini-course, at www.nachi.org/education. A discharge pipe should: TPR Valves and Discharge Piping
  1. be constructed of an approved material, such as CPVC, copper, polyethylene, galvanized steel, polypropylene, or stainless steel. PVC and other non-approved plastics should not be used since they can easily melt.
  2. not be smaller than the diameter of the outlet of the valve it serves (usually no smaller than 3/4″).
  3. not reduce in size from the valve to the air gap (point of discharge).
  4. be as short and as straight as possible so as to avoid undue stress on the valve.
  5. be installed so as to drain by flow of gravity.
  6. not be trapped, since standing water may become contaminated and backflow into the potable water.
  7. discharge to a floor drain, to an indirect waste receptor, or to the outdoors.
  8. not be directly connected to the drainage system to prevent backflow of potentially contaminating the potable water.
  9. discharge through a visible air gap in the same room as the water-heating appliance.
  10. be first piped to an indirect waste receptor such as a bucket through an air gap located in a heated area when discharging to the outdoors in areas subject to freezing, since freezing water could block the pipe.
  11. not terminate more than 6 inches (152 mm) above the floor or waste receptor.
  12. discharge in a manner that could not cause scalding.
  13. discharge in a manner that could not cause structural or property damage.
  14. discharge to a termination point that is readily observable by occupants, because discharge indicates that something is wrong, and to prevent unobserved termination capping.
  15. be piped independently of other equipment drains, water heater pans, or relief valve discharge piping to the point of discharge.
  16. not have valves anywhere.
  17. not have tee fittings.
  18. not have a threaded connection at the end of the pipe so as to avoid capping.
Leakage and Activation
A properly functioning TPR valve will eject a powerful jet of hot water from the discharge pipe when fully activated, not a gentle leak. A leaky TPR valve is an indication that it needs to be replaced. In the rare case that the TPR valve does activate, the homeowner should immediately shut off the water and contact a qualified plumber for assistance and repair.
Inspectors should recommend that homeowners test TPR valves monthly, although inspectors should never do this themselves. The inspector should demonstrate to the homeowner how the main water supply can be shut off, and explain that it can be located at the home’s main water supply valve, or at the water supply shut-off for the appliance on which the TPR is mounted.
TPR Data Plate Information
  • The pressure at which a TPR valve will activate is printed on a data plate located beneath the test lever. This amount should not exceed the working pressure limit marked on the data plate of the water-heating appliance it serves.
  • The BTU/HR rating marked on the water-heating appliance data plate should not exceed that of the TPR, which is marked on the TPR data plate.
  • TPR valves with missing data plates should be replaced.

Although a TPR valve might never become activated, it is an essential safety component on boilers and domestic water heaters. Guidelines concerning these valves and their discharge pipes reflect real hazards that every homeowner and home inspector should take seriously. More information about this subject can be found in InterNACHI’s Water Heater Discharge Piping mini-course, InterNACHI’s Plumbing Inspection course or by contacting a qualified plumber.

by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard

4 03, 2016

Furnace Short Cycle

2016-10-19T19:20:36-04:00March 4th, 2016|

My Furnace Keeps Turning On and Off (Furnace Short Cycle)

furnace-repair-serviceWhen your furnace is working properly, it automatically cycles on when it senses that the air is too cold. When the temperature in your Richmond, Va home or business is comfortable, the heating system shuts itself off in response. The process is so automatic that you probably don’t give it much thought. However, it could indicate a serious problem when your furnace keeps turning on and off randomly throughout the day. Fortunately, there are some troubleshooting tips you can try on your own before placing a call for Heating & Air Conditioning for repairs.

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 7.43.41 PM
Diagnosing the Problem

When a furnace keeps turning on and off, it is usually due to short cycling. This is the term used to describe problems originating from within the heating system. If short cycling is not promptly diagnosed and corrected, it could cause permanent damage to your heating unit and higher utility bills. The average heating system cycles on and off three to six times every hour. To diagnose a problem with short cycling, technicians run a test cycle of your heating unit and count how many times it stops and restarts over 60 minutes.

Pay Attention to Your Air Filters

One of the most common causes of short cycling is also the easiest to fix. If you don’t make a habit to regularly clean or change your heating system’s air filter, it could have a major impact on its efficiency. Warm air can’t pass through the filter and it backs up within the unit. This sends the incorrect message to the heating system that your home is already warm enough. The unit subsequently shuts itself off and your home becomes cold, signaling the system to start up again. To avoid this problem, make sure that you change the air filter at the start of each new season and check it monthly.

Check Your Thermostat

Sometimes the problem of short cycling is caused by a faulty thermostat and not by the unit itself. You should ensure that your thermostat is turned on and set to the accurate settings before assuming that your heating unit needs to be repaired. The placement of your thermostat also makes a difference. If it is too close to another heat source, such as direct sunlight or a heat register, it could sense that the temperature in your home is too warm. Your heating system will turn off when this happens.

Other Possible Causes of Short Cycling

If you’ve ruled out a dirty air filter or a malfunctioning thermostat, the problem may be caused by one of the following:

Corroded flame sensor
Improperly sized heating system
Foreign objects lodged in the chimney or air vents
If you suspect any one of these issues, schedule an appointment with an experienced HVAC professional.