FAQ's Ask The Inspector- Major Systems
Top 3 Questions that Get Asked
Electrical CapacityHow do I determine the electrical capacity of my home? Will it handle my requirements?
The electrical service provided to a home is measured in amps, which is a measure of the “flow rate” of electricity through a wire. Today’s average home is constructed with electrical service of 100 amps, which means that the large main wires entering the home can safely handle 100 amps of current before there is a risk of overheating. Some homes, however, are built with 200 amp service, while homes built prior to the 1950s featured a 60 amp service. In order to determine the electrical capacity of the home, an inspector will check the size of the wires entering the home to verify they are compatible with the main electrical disconnect (breaker or fuse). Modern homes are equipped with breakers to detect if too much current is flowing through the wires. The breaker will shut off to prevent overheating of the wire, which is a potential safety hazard. A home’s electrical capacity is dependent on the demand within a home. The more electrical fixtures and appliances there are, the larger the service requirement. Appliances with the highest demands include stoves/ovens, dryers, and electrical water heaters. Saunas, spas and workshops also draw large quantities of electricity. If many of these appliances are operating at the same time, the electrical service may be inadequate, causing the main breaker or fuse to trip.
FurnaceI have an older forced-air gas furnace. How can I enhance its efficiency and keep it operating safely throughout the winter?
As the coldest months of the year fall upon us, a furnace may operate for up to 15 hours a day. In order to ensure its safe and efficient operation, proper care and maintenance is your best defense against unsafe conditions or non-performance. Follow the guidelines below to keep your furnace operating safely and efficiently.
Keeping CoolIs there anything I can do to reduce the temperature in my house during the summer if I don’t have an air conditioner?
Aside from typical solutions, such as installing a window-mounted air conditioner for cooling an unbearably hot room, there are several things you can do to reduce the temperature of a home.
PlumbingPlastic water distribution plumbing used in residential construction has received bad press in recent years. What’s the real story regarding plastic water pipes?
Plastic water distribution piping has been installed in thousands of homes across Canada since the mid-1970s. Several common types of plastic water distribution plumbing materials include: polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, chlorinated polyvinyl chloride and polybutylene. Polybutylene is a plastic plumbing material that is non-rigid and is usually grey or occasionally black in colour. This type of plumbing was primarily installed in Canadian homes during the 1980s. Polybutylene piping has received negative media attention over the past several years, due to concerns over problems with leakage and resultant property damage. Even though there have been concerns towards this type of piping, it is still approved for use today by many plumbing codes. Based on a review of literature and publications regarding the primary causes for leakage, reasons for the leaks are diverse and vary from inherent problems with the material to improper installation techniques. There are many potential causes that have been identified, however, several of the more common reasons for leaking include:
Septic SystemsI am thinking of buying a home that has a septic system. How do these systems work?
In a home that has a septic system, the indoor plumbing is virtually identical to the plumbing on a home connected to a city sewer system. The big difference is what happens to the wastewater once it leaves the house. There are two main steps in the on-site wastewater treatment process: the septic tank and the leaching field. The water and solid waste generated in the home enter an underground septic tank located at the exterior of the home (newer tanks usually have two compartments while older tanks will have one). It’s usually made of concrete, polyethylene or fiberglass. These tanks have an inlet opening (from the house) on the front side and an outlet opening (to the leaching field) on the rear side. They also have one or two hatches on the top to provide access for inspection and cleaning. When water enters the tank, the solids begin to settle to the bottom; grease or oil floats to the top, and the same volume of water that entered the tank, exits the tank. A baffle or T-connection is installed in front of the outlet opening to prevent solids or grease from exiting the septic tank and blocking the outlet pipe or the weeping tile in the leaching field. The leaching field consists of a series of horizontal plastic pipes (weeping tiles) installed below grade that distribute the “clarified” wastewater from the septic tank over a large area. Gravel and sandy soils are placed below the weeping tile to promote downward drainage, and to aid in further “cleaning” the water by filtration as it travels through the soil. A properly designed, installed and maintained septic system should typically last 20 to 25 years under normal operating conditions. Septic tanks should be pumped every 3-4 years, depending on the size of the tank, and the number of people living in the home, to remove the solids from the bottom of the tank. If the solids are allowed to accumulate in the tank for a long period of time, they may eventually block the tank inlet, outlet, or weeping tiles, preventing the home’s wastewater from leaving the house. In this case, the weeping tiles would have to be cleaned or even replaced, which can be very costly. Some older systems used steel for the septic tanks and, due to their advanced age and the potential for corrosion and associated breaches, will most likely require replacement if still in use.
Water HeatersI have recently noticed that there are a variety of different domestic water heating systems available on the market, as alternatives to conventional water heaters. What are the available types of water heaters, how do they work, and what are the advantages/disadvantages of the different systems?
Other than the conventional tank style water heaters that are found in most homes, there are tankless (or instantaneous) water heaters and solar water heaters. Most Canadians have a conventional tank style water heater in the form of a tall cylinder, with several water pipes attached to it. Both tankstyle and tankless water heaters can be electric or fuelled by oil, natural gas, propane and even wood. Solar water heaters are fuelled by the sun’s energy, but are typically used to supplement standard fuel-fired or electric water heaters, since it is difficult to obtain sufficient energy from the sun to heat water to necessary temperatures on an ongoing basis. Water heaters fuelled by wood are very inefficient and very rare. Tank-style water heaters not only heat the water, they also store the water once it has been heated. This is why they are so large. The capacity of a tank usually ranges from 150 to 230 litres, depending on the hot water requirements of a household. Non-electric, fuel-fired water heaters are equipped with a burner situated at the bottom of the tank. This allows the exhaust gases to travel through either the middle of the tank or around the outside of the tank to the exterior of the home. The exhaust gases may be vented through a chimney out the roof, or through a plastic or metal pipe out the side of the home. This style of water heater is not very efficient, when both operating and off-cycle losses (heat loss that occurs through the walls of the tank) are taken into consideration.
WoodburningWhat are some of the different types/features of wood burning systems that are available?
There are many different types of wood burning systems. Some of the more common types are summarized as follows:
What our clients say
"My wife and I were buying our first home and had absolutely no idea what to look for when making the purchase. The Inspector walked us around the house and gave us a detailed description and history of our future purchase. He explained possible problem areas, things needed to be fixed immediately, and things we should be aware of in the future. Not only did he explain these things verbally, he also left with us a report detailing all the things he had talked about and a summary of items he saw as potential problems. Best of all, during the entire inspection he spoke to us in layman's terms so we were able to understand all he told us."
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