Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Orlando Fireplaces, Furnaces and Heater Home Safety

It is approaching that time of year again when we will be firing up our heaters, fire places and furnaces.  Have you had your annual maintenance checkup or your fireplace chimney inspected and cleaned?  These are important things to consider, but did you forget to check your batteries in your smoke and CO alarms.  Most homes have smoke alarms (detectors); more than 33 percent of these homes are not protected because the smoke alarms don’t work.  When a smoke alarm fails to work, it is frequently because the batteries are missing. People often remove or disconnect batteries to prevent nuisance activation caused by bathroom steam or cooking vapors.  Was your smoke alarm on a recall list?

Smoke and Fire

Most fire deaths occur in the middle of the night.   No smoke alarms were present or they did not operate in nearly 75% of residences where a fire fatality occurred, according to FEMA statistics.  A smoke alarm is the most valuable life saving device you can have in your home.  An operable smoke alarm will reduce your chances of dying in a fire, nearly in half.  Smoke alarms are designed to detect and warn that silent, but deadly smoke is in the air. The early warning will wake you and your family, allowing time to escape your burning home.
At 40 percent, cooking is the leading cause of residential structure fires. Heating causes another 14 percent. These percentages (and those that follow) are adjusted, which proportionally spreads the unknown causes over the other 15 causes.
The two leading causes of residential fatal fires are smoking, at 18 percent, and other unintentional or careless actions, at 14 percent. The leading cause of residential fires that result in injuries is cooking (26 percent), followed by other unintentional or careless actions (11 percent) and open flame (also 11 percent). Cooking is, by far, the leading cause of fires with property loss, at 20 percent.1
1  U.S. Fire Administration/National Fire Data Center, Fire in the United States 2003-2007 Fifteenth Edition

Carbon Monoxide

People are at an increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning during the winter months. Well-insulated, airtight homes and malfunctioning heating equipment can produce dangerously high and potentially deadly concentrations of carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of incomplete combustion, any fuel-burning appliance, vehicle or tool that is inadequately vented or maintained can be a potential source of carbon monoxide gas.
Examples of fuel- burning equipment include: 
  • Fuel - furnaces and space heaters. 
  • Propane or Gas - fireplaces, (both vented and ventless), space heaters, ranges and ovens, clothes dryers, grills, smokers, and deep fryers.
  • Wood burning fireplaces and stoves 
  • Charcoal grills and smokers 
  • Gasoline – automobiles, lawnmowers and power tools
Gas fireplaces are gaining in popularity based on their low cost, convenience and relative ease of installation.  Ventless or vent free gas fireplaces are not vented to pipes or chimneys. The burned gases including carbon monoxide are put into the circulation of the air within your home.  Based upon the health risks associated with the use of ventless gas fireplaces, their installation is illegal in many areas of the country.
Prevent or minimize the potential for exposure to carbon monoxide gas. 
  • Have your home-heating systems, fuel-burning appliances, flues and chimneys inspected, cleaned or schedule an annual home checkup by a qualified home inspector. 
  • Make regular visual inspections of fuel-burning appliances such as your gas dryer and hot water heater. 
  • Do not burn charcoal inside a home, cabin or camper.
  • Do not operate gasoline-powered engines (generators, cutting saws) in confined areas such as garages or basements. 
  • Do not idle your car inside the garage. 
  • After a hurricane or storm, make sure vents for the gas dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of debris and intact. 
  • Never use gas ovens and ranges to heat your home!
Check your Smoke and CO alarms frequently.  Smoke alarms are set off by bathroom steam or cooking vapors. Rather than take the battery out of your alarm, do the following: 
  • Quiet the alarm by pushing the “HUSH” button, if equipped. 
  • Open windows and turn on vent fans to clear the air.
  • Consider relocating the alarm farther away from the cooking area or bathroom.
  • Consider installing a photoelectric or combination photoelectric/ ionization type alarm. The photoelectric and combination type alarms are less sensitive to cooking smoke.

Causes of Christmas Fires

Cooking, heating, and open flames are the major cause of Christmas fires, according to the US Fire Administration.  This is not surprising due to holiday cooking and the more prevalent use of home fireplaces, displays, and decorations involving candles.  The daily incidence of candle−started fires quadruples on Christmas Day.

Opinions of a Home Inspector

Christmas is the time to spend with your family and friends, not to worry and agonize if you will have a fire.  Every Christmas the sounds of fire engine sirens overpower my family’s holiday music.   We often worry if the sirens are for one of our friends or neighbors.  You should have all your heating and cooking equipment inspected and serviced before your family arrives.  Fireplaces should be inspected yearly and cleaned regularly.  Be aware of the placement of candles and decorations.  Make sure you give your live Christmas tree plenty of water and keep it away from candles and fire places.  May your Christmas be worry free and full of holiday cheer.

Frank Carr is the Owner / Inspector at First Choice Home Inspections in Deltona, FL serving Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Lake Counties.  Formerly in the building trades, Frank’s focus is a safe home and building FCHI. We believe that consumers have the right to expect the highest standards of thoroughness, fairness and effectiveness from their home inspector and that is exactly what we provide.


First Choice Home Inspections 
(386) 624-3893
Email:  home.inspections@aol.com
Website:  Http://1homeinspector.com

Friday, November 4, 2016

Orlando Fire Hazards from Clogged Dryer Vents

We started blogging about clogged goose neck dryer vents in 2011, today we still see just as many every day in the Orlando area during the home inspection process.  Because they are located on the roof, the homeowner does not see them and they are mostly overlooked until the dryer is not working or worse a fire happens.

As a home inspector, one of the biggest safety hazards I see daily is dryer vents.  Dryer fires are among the top ten reasons for home fires and cause more than 15,000 fires annually.  Dryer exhausting through the roof should duct to a special dryer roof vent without screen.   

The roof vent or louvered plenum must be equivalent to a 4 inch wall termination in regard to resistance to airflow and back-flow prevention, and should require little or no maintenance to prevent clogging.

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Home built in 2013 goose-neck looks shiny and new.

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2013 home inside of goose-neck vent.

There are many issues with this type of vent.  It must be a vent that has a back-flow prevention flap and it should not have a screen.  Many of the goose-neck type of vents come with screens and are unsuitable for dryer venting.  
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Goose neck vent with a screen

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Totally blocked dryer vent.

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Inoperable back-draft damper.

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Goose-neck with screen was clogged.  Improper duct type.
Lint exhausted into attic damaging roof decking.

  1. Dryer ducts must be at least 4 inches in diameter or at least the size of the dryer outlet. The exhaust duct must not extend into or through heating or air-conditioning ducts. The exhaust duct system should be supported and secured by mechanical fasteners. It should be insulated in non-conditioned spaces to prevent condensation.
  2. The maximum length for a clothes dryer exhaust duct should not exceed 25 feet. This length should be decreased by 2.5 feet for every 45-degree bend the duct makes, and 5 feet for every 90-degree bend the duct makes.
  3. The dryer exhaust ducts should be constructed of rigid metal (galvanized steel). The interior of the duct should be smooth surfaced with the joints running in the direction of the airflow. There should be no sheet-metal screws, rivets or any other fastener used to connect the duct joints. Fasteners that penetrate into the airway will catch lint and block airflow. 
  4. Foil duct tape (not plastic or vinyl) should be used to secure joints. Outside termination must be equipped with a back draft damper, which prevents air, moisture and rodents from entering. The termination must not have a screen covering the exhaust outlet.

I have seen all of these used for dryer roof vents.  Just because they are sold at the hardware store does not make them right.

 According to the IRC:
- M1502.3 Duct termination.
- - Exhaust ducts shall terminate on the outside of the building.  Exhaust duct terminations shall be in accordance with the dryer manufacturer’s installation instructions.  If the manufacturer’s instructions do not specify a termination location, the exhaust duct shall terminate not less than 3 feet (914 mm) in any direction from openings into buildings.  Exhaust duct terminations shall be equipped with a back draft damper.  Screens shall not be installed at the duct termination.

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In the opinion of this home inspector, the biggest problem I see with the roof vent is out of sight out of mind.  Each year many people die in home fires that start at the dryer.  Prevention is often easy and requires little effort.  Dryer vents should be cleaned annually but in the case of roof top vents I recommend semi-annually.  

licensed home inspector, owner of First Choice Home Inspections, home inspector, Florida, Orlando, Orange County, Longwood, Winter springs
Frank Carr is the Owner / Inspector at First Choice Home Inspections in Deltona, FL. Formerly in the building trades, Frank’s focus is a safe home and building FCHI. We believe that consumers have the right to expect the highest standards of thoroughness, fairness and effectiveness from their home inspector and that is exactly what we provide. Http://1homeinspector.com

First Choice Home Inspections 
(386) 624-3893
Email:  home.inspections@aol.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/FirstChoiceHomeInspectionsLlc