Saturday, March 30, 2013

Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)

Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are special types of electrical receptacles or outlets and circuit breakers designed to detect and respond to potentially dangerous electrical arcs in home branch wiring.

How do they work?
AFCIs function by monitoring the electrical waveform and promptly opening (interrupting) the circuit they serve if they detect changes in the wave pattern that are characteristic of a dangerous arc. They also must be capable of distinguishing safe, normal arcs, such as those created when a switch is turned on or a plug is pulled from a receptacle, from arcs that can cause fires. An AFCI can detect, recognize, and respond to very small changes in wave pattern.

What is an arc?
When an electric current crosses an air gap from an energized component to a grounded component, it produces a glowing plasma discharge known as an arc. For example, a bolt of lightening is a very large, powerful arc that crosses an atmospheric gap from an electrically charged cloud to the ground or another cloud. Just as lightning can cause fires, arcs produced by domestic wiring are capable of producing high levels of heat that can ignite their surroundings and lead to structure fires.

According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Agency for the year 2005, electrical fires damaged approximately 20,900 homes, killed 500 people, and cost $862 million in property damage. Although short-circuits and overloads account for many of these fires, arcs are responsible for the majority and are undetectable by traditional (non-AFCI) circuit breakers.

Where are arcs likely to form?
Arcs can form where wires are improperly installed or when insulation becomes damaged. In older homes, wire insulation tends to crystallize as it ages, becoming brittle and prone to cracking and chipping. Damaged insulation exposes the current-carrying wire to its surroundings, increasing the chances that an arc may occur.

Situations in which arcs may be created:

  • electrical cords damaged by vacuum cleaners or trapped beneath furniture or doors.
  • damage to wire insulation from nails or screws driven through walls.
  • appliance cords damaged by heat, natural aging, kinking, impact or over-extension.
  • spillage of liquid.
  • loose connections in outlets, switches and light fixtures.
Where are AFCIs required?
Locations in which AFCIs are required depend on the building codes adopted by their jurisdiction. Inspectors are responsible for knowing what building codes are used in the areas in which they inspect.

The 2006 International Residential Code (IRC) requires that AFCIs be installed within bedrooms in the following manner:
E3802.12 Arc-Fault Protection of Bedroom Outlets. All branch circuits that supply120-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-amp outlets installed in bedrooms shall be protected by a combination-type or branch/feeder-type arc-fault circuit interrupter installed to provide protection of the entire branch circuit.
Exception: The location of the arc-fault circuit interrupter shall be permitted to be at other than the origination of the branch circuit, provided that:
  1. The arc-fault circuit interrupter is installed within 6 feet of the branch circuit overcurrent device as measured along the branch circuit conductors, and
  2. The circuit conductors between the branch circuit overcurrent device and the arc-fault circuit interrupter are installed in a metal raceway or a cable with metallic sheath.
The National Electrical Code (NEC) offers the following guidelines concerning AFCI placement within bedrooms:
Dwelling Units. All 120-volt, single phase, 15- and 20-ampere branch circuits supplying outlets installed in dwelling unit in family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, sun rooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, or similar rooms or areas shall be protected by a listed arc-fault circuit interrupter, combination-type installed to provide protection of the branch circuit.
Home inspectors should refrain from quoting exact code in their reports. A plaintiff's attorney might suggest that code quotation means that the inspector was performing a code inspection and is therefore responsible for identifying all code violations in the home.  Some jurisdictions do not yet require their implementation in locations where they can be helpful.

What types of AFCIs are available?
AFCIs are available as circuit breakers for installation in the electrical distribution panel.

Nuisance Tripping
An AFCI might activate in situations that are not dangerous and create needless power shortages. This can be particularly annoying when an AFCI stalls power to a freezer or refrigerator, allowing its contents to spoil. There are a few procedures an electrical contractor can perform in order to reduce potential “nuisance tripping," such as:
  • Check that the load power wire, panel neutral wire and load neutral wire are properly connected.
  • Check wiring to ensure that there are no shared neutral connections.
  • Check the junction box and fixture connections to ensure that the neutral conductor contacts a grounded conductor.
Arc Faults vs. Ground Faults
It is important to distinguish AFCI devices from Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) devices. GFCIs detect ground faults, which occur when current leaks from a hot (ungrounded) conductor to a grounded object as a result of a short-circuit. This situation can be hazardous when a person unintentionally becomes the current’s path to the ground. GFCIs function by constantly monitoring the current flow between hot and neutral (grounding) conductors, and activate when they sense a difference of 5 milliamps or more. Thus, GFCIs are intended to prevent personal injury due to electric shock, while AFCIs prevent personal injury and property damage due to structure fires.

In summary, AFCIs are designed to detect small arcs of electricity before they have a chance to lead to a structure fire.

By: Nick Grominko .and Kenton Shepard

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Aluminum Wiring

Between approximately 1965 and 1973, single-strand aluminum wiring was sometimes substituted for copper branch-circuit wiring in residential electrical systemsAluminum and copper wiring, with each metal clearly identifiable by its color due to the sudden escalating price of copper. After a decade of use by homeowners and electricians, inherent weaknesses were discovered in the metal that lead to its disuse as a branch wiring material. Although properly maintained aluminum wiring is acceptable, aluminum will generally become defective faster than copper due to certain qualities inherent in the metal. Neglected connections in outlets, switches and light fixtures containing aluminum wiring become increasingly dangerous over time. Poor connections cause wiring to overheat, creating a potential fire hazard. In addition, the presence of single-strand aluminum wiring may void a home’s insurance policies. Inspectors may instruct their clients to talk with their insurance agents about whether the presence of aluminum wiring in their home is a problem that requires changes to their policy language.

Facts and Figures
  • On April, 28, 1974, two people were killed in a house fire in Hampton Bays, New York. Fire officials determined that the fire was caused by a faulty aluminum wire connection at an outlet.
  • According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), "Homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before 1972 ['old technology' aluminum wire] are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach "Fire Hazard Conditions" than is a home wired with copper."
Aluminum as a Metal

Aluminum possesses certain qualities that, compared with copper, make it an undesirable material as an electrical conductor. These qualities all lead to loose connections, where fire hazards become likely. These qualities are as follows:
  • higher electrical resistance. Aluminum has a high resistance to electrical current flow, which means that, given the same amperage, aluminum conductors must be of a larger diameter than would be required by copper conductors.
  • less ductile. Aluminum will fatigue and break down more readily when subjected to bending and other forms of abuse than copper, which is more ductile. Fatigue will cause the wire to break down internally and will increasingly resist electrical current, leading to a buildup of excessive heat.
  • galvanic corrosion.  In the presence of moisture, aluminum will undergo galvanic corrosion when it comes into contact with certain dissimilar metals.
  • oxidation. Exposure to oxygen in the air causes deterioration to the outer surface of the wire. This process is called oxidation. Aluminum wire is more easily oxidized than copper wire, and the compound formed by this process – aluminum oxide – is less conductive than copper oxide. As time passes, oxidation can deteriorate connections and present a fire hazard.  
  • greater malleability. Aluminum is soft and malleable, meaning it is highly sensitive to compression. After a screw has been over-tightened on aluminum wiring, for instance, the wire will continue to deform or “flow” even after the tightening has ceased. This deformation will create a loose connection and increase electrical resistance in that location.
  • greater thermal expansion and contraction. Even more than copper, aluminum expands and contracts with changes in temperature. Over time, this process will cause connections between the wire and the device to degrade. For this reason, aluminum wires should never be inserted into the “stab,” “bayonet” or “push-in” type terminations found on the back of many light switches and outlets.
  • excessive vibration. Electrical current vibrates as it passes through wiring. This vibration is more extreme in aluminum than it is in copper, and, as time passes, it can cause connections to loosen.
Identifying Aluminum Wiring
  • Aluminum wires are the color of aluminum and are easily discernible from copper and other metals.
  • Since the early 1970s, wiring-device binding terminals for use with aluminum wire have been marked CO/ALR, which stands for “copper/aluminum revised."
  • Look for the word "aluminum" or the initials "AL" on the plastic wire jacket. Where wiring is visible, such as in the attic or electrical panel, inspectors can look for printed or embossed letters on the plastic wire jacket. Aluminum wire may have the word "aluminum," or a specific brand name, such as "Kaiser Aluminum," marked on the wire jacket. Where labels are hard to read, a light can be shined along the length of the wire.
  • When was the house built? Homes built or expanded between 1965 and 1973 are more likely to have aluminum wiring than houses built before or after those years.
Options for Correction
Aluminum wiring should be evaluated by a qualified electrician who is experienced in evaluating and correcting aluminum wiring problems. Not all licensed electricians are properly trained to deal with defective aluminum wiring. The CPSC recommends the following two methods for correction for aluminum wiring:
  • Rewire the home with copper wire. While this is the most effective method, rewiring is expensive and impractical, in most cases.
  • Use copalum crimps. The crimp connector repair consists of attaching a piece of copper wire to the existing aluminum wire branch circuit with a specially designed metal sleeve and powered crimping tool. This special connector can be properly installed only with the matching AMP tool. An insulating sleeve is placed around the crimp connector to complete the repair. Although effective, they are expensive (typically around $50 per outlet, switch or light fixture).
Although not recommended by the CPSC as methods of permanent repair for defective aluminum wiring, the following methods may be considered:
  • application of anti-oxidant paste. This method can be used for wires that are multi-stranded or wires that are too large to be effectively crimped.
  • pigtailing. This method involves attaching a short piece of copper wire to the aluminum wire with a twist-on connector. the copper wire is connected to the switch, wall outlet or other termination device. This method is only effective if the connections between the aluminum wires and the copper pigtails are extremely reliable. Pigtailing with some types of connectors, even though Underwriters Laboratories might presently list them for the application, can lead to increasing the hazard. Also, beware that pigtailing will increase the number of connections, all of which must be maintained. Aluminum Wiring Repair (AWR), Inc., of Aurora, Colorado, advises that pigtailing can be useful as a temporary repair or in isolated applications, such as the installation of a ceiling fan.
  • CO/ALR connections. According to the CPSC, these devices cannot be used for all parts of the wiring system, such as ceiling-mounted light fixtures or permanently wired appliances and, as such, CO/ALR connections cannot constitute a complete repair. Also, according to AWR, these connections often loosen over time.
  • alumiconn. Although AWR believes this method may be an effective temporary fix, they are wary that it has little history, and that they are larger than copper crimps and are often incorrectly applied. 
  • Replace certain failure-prone types of devices and connections with others that are more compatible with aluminum wire.
  • Remove the ignitable materials from the vicinity of the connections.
In summary, aluminum wiring can be a fire hazard due to inherent qualities of the metal. Inspectors should be capable of identifying this type of wiring.


 By: Nick Grominko .and Kenton Shepard

From Aluminum Wiring - Int'l Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) http://www.nachi.org/aluminum-wiring.htm#ixzz2OhUU26K5

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Barbeque Safety

With barbeque season already here, homeowners should heed the following safety precautions in order to keep their families and property safe.
  • Propane grills present an enormous fire hazard, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is aware of more than 500 fires that result annually from their misuse or malfunction. The following precautions are recommended specifically when using propane grills:
    • Store propane tanks outdoors and never near the grill or any other heat source. In addition, never store or transport them in your car’s trunk.
    • Make sure to completely turn off the gas after you have finished, or when you are changing the tank. Even a small gas leak can cause a deadly explosion. 
    • Check for damage to a tank before refilling it, and only buy propane from reputable suppliers.
    • Never use a propane barbecue grill on a terrace, balcony or roof, as this is dangerous and illegal.
    • No more than two 20-pound propane tanks are allowed on the property of a one- or two-family home.
    • To inspect for a leak, spray a soapy solution over the connections and watch for bubbles. If you see evidence of a leak, reconnect the components and try again. If bubbles persist, replace the leaking parts before using the grill.
    • Make sure connections are secure before turning on the gas, especially if the grill hasn’t been used in months. The most dangerous time to use a propane grill is at the beginning of the barbeque season.
    • Ignite a propane grill with the lid open, not closed. Propane can accumulate beneath a closed lid and explode.
    • When finished, turn off the gas first, and then the controls. This way, residual gas in the pipe will be used up.
  • Charcoal grills pose a serious poisoning threat due to the venting of carbon monoxide (CO). The CPSC estimates that 20 people die annually from accidentally ingesting CO from charcoal grills. These grills can also be a potential fire hazard. Follow these precautions when using charcoal grills:
    • Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even if the area is ventilated. CO is colorless and odorless, and you will not know you are in danger until it is too late.
    • Use only barbeque starter fluid to start the grill, and don’t add the fluid to an open flame. It is possible for the flame to follow the fluid’s path back to the container as you're holding it.
    • Let the fluid soak into the coals for a minute before igniting them to allow explosive vapors to dissipate.
    • Charcoal grills are permitted on terraces and balconies only if there is at least 10 feet of clearance from the building, and a water source immediately nearby, such as a hose (or 4 gallons of water).
    • Be careful not to spill any fluid on yourself, and stand back when igniting the grill. Keep the charcoal lighter fluid container at a safe distance from the grill.
    • When cleaning the grill, dispose of the ashes in a metal container with a tight lid, and add water. Do not remove the ashes until they have fully cooled.
    • Fill the base of the grill with charcoal to a depth of no more than 2 inches.
  • Electric grills are probably safer than propane and charcoal grills, but safety precautions need to be used with them as well. Follow these tips when using electric grills:
    • Do not use lighter fluid or any other combustible materials. 
    • When using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the amperage required by the grill. The cord should be unplugged when not in use, and out of a busy foot path to prevent tripping.
    • As always, follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Safety Recommendations for General Grill Use
  • Always make sure that the grill is used in a safe place, where kids and pets won't touch or bump into it. Keep in mind that the grill will still be hot after you finish cooking, and anyone coming into contact with it could be burned.
  • If you use a grill lighter, make sure you don't leave it lying around where children can reach it. They will quickly learn how to use it.
  • Never leave the grill unattended, as this is generally when accidents happen.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby.
  • Ensure that the grill is completely cooled before moving it or placing it back in storage.
  • Ensure that the grill is only used on a flat surface that cannot burn, and well away from any shed, trees or shrubs.
  • Clean out the grease and other debris in the grill periodically. Be sure to look for rust or other signs of deterioration.
  • Don't wear loose clothing that might catch fire while you're cooking.
  • Use long-handled barbecue tools and flame-resistant oven mitts.
  • Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill; they are flammable!
In summary, homeowners should exercise caution when using any kind of grill, as they can harm life and property in numerous ways. 
 
By: Nick Grominko

From Barbeque Safety - Int'l Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) http://www.nachi.org/barbeque-safety.htm#ixzz2OV8LmgN4

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Abrasive Blasting for Mold Remediation

Health concerns related to the growth of mold in the home have been featured heavily in the news.  Problems ranging from itchy eyes, coughing and sneezing to serious allergic reactions, asthma attacks, and even the possibility of permanent lung damage can all be caused by mold, which can be found growing in the home, given the right conditions.

All that is needed for mold to grow is moisture, oxygen, a food source, and a surface to grow on.  Mold spores are commonly found naturally in the air.  If spores land on a wet or damp spot indoors and begin growing, they will lead to problems.  Molds produce allergens, irritants and, in some cases, potentially toxic substances called mycotoxins.  Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.  Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis).  Allergic reactions to mold are common.  They can be immediate or delayed.  Molds can also trigger asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold.  In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people. 

As more is understood about the health issues related to mold growth in interior environments, new methods for mold assessment and remediation are being put into practice.  Mold assessment and mold remediation are techniques used in occupational health.  Mold assessment is the process of identifying the location and extent of the mold hazard in a structure.  Mold remediation is the process of cleanup and/or removal of mold from an indoor environment.  Mold remediation is usually conducted by a company with experience in construction, demolition, cleaning, airborne-particle containment-control, and the use of special equipment to protect workers and building occupants from contaminated or irritating dust and organic debris.  A new method that is gaining traction in this area is abrasive blasting.

Abrasive Blasting
The first step in combating mold growth is not to allow for an environment that is conducive to its growth in the first place.  Controlling moisture and assuring that standing water from leaks or floods is eliminated are the most important places to start.  If mold growth has already begun, the mold must be removed completely, and any affected surfaces must be cleaned or repaired.  Traditional methods for remediation have been slow and tedious, often involving copious amounts of hand-scrubbing and sanding.  Abrasive blasting is a new technique that is proving to be less tedious and time-consuming, while maintaining a high level of effectiveness.

Abrasive blasting is a process for cleaning or finishing objects by using an air-blast or centrifugal wheel that throws abrasive particles against the surface of the work pieces. Sand, dry ice and corncobs are just some of the different types of media used in blasting.  For the purposes of mold remediation, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and dry ice are the media commonly used.

Benefits of Abrasive Blasting
Abrasive (or “media”) blasting provides some distinct advantages over traditional techniques of mold remediation.  In addition to eliminating much of the tedious labor involved in scrubbing and sanding by hand, abrasive blasting is extremely useful for cleaning irregular and hard-to-reach surfaces.  Surfaces that have cross-bracing or bridging can be cleaned more easily, as well as areas such as the bottom of a deck, where nails may be protruding.  Areas that are difficult to access, such as attics and crawlspaces, can also be cleaned more easily with abrasive blasting than by traditional methods.  The time saved is also an advantage, and the typical timeframe for completion of a mold remediation project can often be greatly reduced by utilizing abrasive blasting. 

Soda-Blasting
Soda-blasting is a type of abrasive blasting that utilizes sodium bicarbonate as the medium propelled by compressed air.  One of the earliest and most widely publicized uses of soda-blasting was on the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. In May of 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Lee Iacocca to head up a private-sector effort for the project.  Fundraising began for the $87 million restoration under a public-private partnership between the National Park Service and The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.  After extensive work that included the use of soda-blasting, the restored monument re-opened to the public on July 5, 1986, during Liberty Weekend, which celebrated the statue's  centennial. 
The baking soda used in soda-blasting is soft but angular, appearing knife-like under a microscope.  The crystals are manufactured in state-of-the-art facilities to ensure that the right size and shape are consistently produced.  Baking soda is water-soluble, with a pH near neutral. Baking-soda abrasive blasting effectively removes mold while minimizing damage to the underlying surface (i.e., wood, PVC, modern wiring, ductwork, etc.).  When using the proper equipment setup (correct nozzles, media regulators, hoses, etc.) and technique (proper air flow, pressure, angle of attack, etc.), the process allows for fast and efficient removal of mold, with a minimum of damage, waste and cleanup.  By using a soda blaster with the correct-size nozzle, the amount of baking soda used is minimized. Minimal baking soda means better visibility while working, and less cleanup afterward.

Dry-Ice Blasting
Dry ice is solidified carbon dioxide that, at -78.5° C and ambient pressure, changes directly into a gas as it absorbs heat.  Dry ice pellets are made by taking liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) from a pressurized storage tank and expanding it at ambient pressure to produce snow.  The snow is then compressed through a die to make hard pellets.  The pellets are readily available from most dry ice suppliers nationwide.  For dry-ice blasting, the standard size used is 1/8-inch, high-density dry ice pellets.

The dry-ice blasting process includes three phases, the first of which is energy transfer.  Energy transfer works when dry ice pellets are propelled out of the blasting gun at supersonic speed and impact the surface. The energy transfer helps to knock mold off the surface being cleaned, with little or no damage.

The freezing effect of the dry ice pellets hitting the mold creates the second phase, which is micro-thermal shock, caused by the dry ice’s temperature of -79º C, between the mold and the contaminated surface.  This phase isn’t as much a factor in the removal of mold as it is for removing resins, oils, waxes, food particles, and other contaminants and debris.  For these types of substances, the thermal shock causes cracking and delaminating of the contaminant, furthering the elimination process.

The final phase is gas pressure, which happens when the dry ice pellets explode on impact.  As the pellets warm, they convert to CO2 gas, generating a volume expansion of 400 to 800 times.  The rapid gas expansion underneath the mold forces it off the surface. 

HEPA Vacuuming
A HEPA vacuum is a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (or HEPA) filter through which the contaminated air flows.  HEPA filters, as defined by the U.S. Department of Energy’s standard adopted by most American industries, remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles that are as small as 0.3 micrometers (µm) in diameter.  HEPA vacuuming is necessary in conjunction with blasting for complete mold removal. 

While abrasive blasting with either baking soda or dry ice is an effective technique, remediation will not be complete until HEPA filtering or vacuuming has been done.  Abrasive blasting removes mold from contaminated surfaces, but it also causes the mold spores to become airborne again.  The spores can cover the ground and the surfaces that have already been cleaned.  So, the mold spores need to be removed by HEPA filters.  Additionally, while some remediation companies claim that there will be no blasting media to remove after cleaning, especially with the dry-ice method, there will be at least a small amount of visible debris left by the blasting that must be removed before HEPA vacuuming can occur.  HEPA vacuuming removes all invisible contaminants from surfaces and the surrounding air.

When HEPA vacuuming is completed, samples at the previously contaminated areas should be re-tested to ensure that no mold or mold spores remain.

Abrasive blasting using dry ice or baking soda, combined with HEPA-filter vacuuming, is an effective method for mold remediation.  InterNACHI inspectors who offer ancillary mold inspection services should be aware of the benefits and applications of this technique adapted for remediating mold in homes.
 by Nick Gromicko and Ethan Ward

Friday, March 22, 2013

Carpet Mold: Identification, Prevention and Removal

The Dangers of Mold
Molds produce allergens, which are substances that can cause allergic reactions, as well as irritants and, in some cases, potentially toxic substances known as mycotoxins.  Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.  Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash (dermatitis).  Allergic reactions to mold are common.  They can be immediate or delayed.  Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold.  In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people.  Symptoms other than the allergic and irritant types are not commonly reported as a result of inhaling mold, but can also occur.

Carpet at Risk
Carpeting is an area of the home that can be at high risk for mold growth.  In order to grow, mold needs moisture, oxygen, a food source, and a surface to grow on.  Mold spores are commonly found naturally in the air.  If spores land on a wet or damp spot indoors that contains dust for them to feed on, mold growth will soon follow. Wall-to-wall carpeting, as well as area rugs, can provide an ample breeding ground for mold if conditions are right.  At especially high risk for mold growth are carpeting located below ground level in basements, carpet in commonly moist or damp climates, and carpet that has been wet for any period of time.

Identifying Mold in Carpeting
Just because mold is not immediately apparent or visible on a carpet's surface does not mean that mold growth is not in progress.  In fact, mold will probably only be visible on the surface of carpets in unusually severe cases of growth, such as carpet damaged in flooding that has remained wet for some time.  The following are some examples of identifiable instances where mold growth has occurred or is likely to occur:
  • visible mold growth:  As stated above, this can be a rare case, but sometimes it may be obvious from visual inspection that mold growth is occurring.  Carpet in this condition is most likely not salvageable and should be disposed of and replaced.  Often, even if mold growth is not visible on the top of carpeting, it may be occurring underneath the carpet where it can't be easily seen.  Carpet suspected of containing mold should always be examined on both sides.
  • carpet mildew:  Any discoloration or odor on carpeting that might be described as mildew is probably a case of mold.
  • wet or water-damaged carpet:  Any carpet that has been subjected to water damage from flooding or standing water will most likely need to be disposed of.  Conditions are ripe for mold growth, in this case.  Even if visibly apparent mold growth has not yet begun, it is highly likely to happen unless the carpet is completely removed, cleaned and dried within 24 to 48 hours.  Even then, removal and cleaning are not guaranteed to prevent mold growth.  It is more likely that the carpet will need to be replaced.
  • wet padding beneath carpet:  If padding beneath the carpet has become wet for any reason, or has become moist from condensation, the padding as well as the carpet on top are at risk for mold growth.  The padding may need to be replaced, as will the carpet, in some cases.
  • basement carpet:  Carpeting in basements below grade level is especially at risk in areas where humidity is high, or where wide temperature swings can produce condensation.
  • odors and stains:  There is a wide range of things that can cause odors and stains on carpets.  If mold is suspected, samples can be taken and sent for analysis to determine if mold growth has occurred.
Preventing Mold Growth in Carpeting
The best method for combating mold is to not allow mold growth in the first place.  The best way to do so is by ensuring that conditions conducive to growth do not exist.  Below are some ways to prevent mold growth in carpets.
  • Reduce indoor humidity.  The use of dehumidifiers will help control moisture in the air, depriving mold spores of the water they need to grow into mold.  A range of 30% to 60% humidity is acceptable for interiors.
  • Install intelligently.  Do not install carpeting in areas that are likely to be subject to frequent, high moisture.  Carpet in a bathroom, for example, will quickly turn to a breeding ground for mold growth due to the high humidity from constant water use in that area.
  • Choose high-quality carpet padding.  Solid, rubber-slab carpet padding with anti-microbial properties is available.  It is slightly more expensive than other types of padding but can be helpful for preventing the growth of mold, especially in climates prone to periods of high humidity.
  • Never allow standing water.  Carpet exposed to standing water will quickly be ruined.  If standing water ever occurs because of a leak or a spill, all carpeting exposed must be immediately cleaned and dried.  The top and bottom surfaces of the carpet, any padding, and the floor underneath must be cleaned and completely dried within a short period of time after exposure to standing water if the carpet is to be saved.  If a large flood has occurred, or if standing water has been present for any extended period of time, the carpet will probably need to be replaced.
  • Clean smart.  When carpeting needs to be cleaned, try to use a dry form of cleaning, when possible.  If any water, liquid, or other moisture has come in contact with the carpet during cleaning, be sure it is dried thoroughly afterward.
     
Removing Mold From Carpet
In many cases, if mold has grown on carpet, cleaning will not be possible.  If growth has occurred on more than one area of the carpet, or if there is a large area of growth, the carpet will probably need to be replaced. 

Small areas of growth that have been quickly identified can sometimes be dealt with.  Detergent and water used with a steam-cleaning machine may be enough to clean the carpet thoroughly.  It is then important to ensure that the carpet dries completely after cleaning to prevent the growth from recurring.  Stronger cleaning agents can be substituted if detergent does not work.  Anything stronger than detergent or common rug-cleaning products should first be tested on an inconspicuous area of the carpet to ensure that the rug will not be damaged during cleaning.  About 24 hours is a reasonable amount of time to wait after testing to be sure that wider cleaning will not discolor or damage the carpet.

Another option in instances where mold growth is not widespread is to remove the ruined section of the carpet.  If cleaning has been attempted unsuccessfully, the area of mold growth may be removed and replaced with a patch of similar carpet.  Of course, this will only work in situations where aesthetics are not a big concern, since exactly matching the patch to the original carpet may be difficult and the seam may be visible.  If mold has grown in more than one area of the carpet, or if the area of growth is larger than a couple of feet, this will probably not be an effective method of mold removal.

As with all areas of the interior at risk for mold growth, prevention is the best method of control for carpet mold.  Eliminating high-moisture conditions and preventing the risk of flooding or standing water will reduce the possibility of growth.  Inspectors will want to know where to look for and how to identify mold growth in carpeting.  It is also helpful to know how to determine if carpet should be replaced, or whether there is a possibility of cleaning and saving it.

by Nick Gromicko and Ethan Ward
InspectorSeek.com

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Aging in Place

"Aging in place" is the phenomenon describing senior citizens' ability to live independently in their homes for as long as possible. Those who age in place will not have to move from their present residence in order to secure necessary support services in response to their changing needs.

The Baby Boomers

As the baby boomers age, the 60+ population will spike from roughly 45 million in recent years to more than 70 million by 2020. Research shows that baby boomers’ expectations of how they will receive care differ from that of their parents’ generation.  Overwhelmingly, they will seek care in their own homes and will be less likely to move into congregate living settings.

Why do many senior citizens prefer to age in place?

Nursing homes, to many, represent a loss of freedom and a reduced quality of life. Here are a few good reasons why these fears are justified:

    In 2007, inspectors received 37,150 complaints about conditions in nursing homes. Roughly one-fifth of the complaints verified by federal and state authorities involved the abuse or neglect of patients. Specific problems included infected bedsores, medication mix-ups, poor nutrition, and other forms of neglect.
  •     The proportion of nursing homes cited for deficiencies ranged from 76% in Rhode Island to as high as 100% in Alaska, Idaho, Wyoming and Washington, D.C.
  •     Many cases have been exposed in which nursing homes billed Medicare and Medicaid for services that were not provided.
  •     A significant percentage of nursing homes had deficiencies that caused immediate jeopardy or actual harm to patients.
Aging-in-Place Inspections

Inspectors may recommend corrections and adaptations to the home to improve maneuverability, accessibility, and safety for elderly occupants. Some such alterations and recommendations for a home are as follows:

    Appliances:
  •         microwave oven in wall or on counter;
  •         refrigerator and freezer side by side;
  •         side-swing or wall oven;
  •         controls that  are easy to read;
  •         raised washing machine and dryer;
  •         front-loading washing machines;
  •         raised dishwasher with push-button controls;
  •         stoves having electric cooktops with level burners for safely transferring between the burners; front controls and downdraft feature to pull heat away from user; light to indicate when surface is hot; and
  •         replace old stoves with induction cooktops to help prevent burns.
    Bathroom:
  •         fold-down seat installed in the shower;
  •         adjustable showerheads with 6-foot hose;
  •         light in shower stall;
  •         wall support, and provision for adjustable and/or varied-height counters and removable base cabinets;
  •         contrasting color edge border at countertops;
  •         at least one wheelchair-maneuverable bath on main level;
  •         bracing in walls around tub, shower, shower seat and toilet for installation of grab bars;
  •         if stand-up shower is used in main bath, it is curbless and wide;
  •         low bathtub;
  •         toilet higher than standard toilet, or height-adjustable;
  •         design of the toilet paper holder allows rolls to be changed with one hand;
  •         wall-hung sink with knee space and panel to protect user from pipes; and
  •         slip-resistant flooring in bathroom and shower.
    Counters:
  •         base cabinet with roll-out trays;
  •         pull-down shelving;
  •         wall support, and provision for adjustable and/or varied-height counters and removable base cabinets;
  •         upper wall cabinetry lower than conventional height;
  •         accented stripes on edge of countertops to provide visual orientation to the workspace;
  •         counter space for dish landing adjacent to or opposite all appliances;
  •         glass-front cabinet doors; and
  •         open shelving for easy access to frequently used items.
    Exterior:
  •         low-maintenance exterior (vinyl, brick, etc); and
  •         low-maintenance shrubs and plants.
    Entry:
  •         sensor light at exterior no-step entry focusing on the front-door lock;
  •         non-slip flooring in foyer;
  •         accessible path of travel to the home;
  •         at least one no-step entry with a cover;
  •         entry door sidelight or high/low peep hole viewer; sidelight should provide both privacy and safety;
  •         doorbell in accessible location; and
  •         a surface on which to place packages while opening door.
    Electrical, Lighting, Safety and Security:
  •         install new smoke and CO detectors;
  •         install automated lighting, an emergency alert system, or a video-monitoring system;
  •         easy-to-see and read thermostats;
  •         light switches by each entrance to halls and rooms;
  •         light receptacles with at least two bulbs in vital places (exits, bathroom);
  •         light switches, thermostats and other environmental controls placed in accessible locations no higher than 48 inches from floor;
  •         move electrical cords out of the flow of traffic;
  •         replace standard light switches with rocker or touch-light switches; and
  •         pre-programmed thermostats.
    Faucets:
  •         thermostatic or anti-scald controls;
  •         lever handles or pedal-controlled; and
  •         pressure-balanced faucets.
    Flooring:
  •         if carpeted, use low-density with firm pad;
  •         smooth, non-glare, slip-resistant surfaces, interior and exterior; and
  •         color and texture contrast to indicate change in surface levels.
    Hallways:
  •         wide;
  •         well-lit; and
  •         fasten down rugs and floor runners, and remove any that are not necessary.
    Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning:
  •         install energy-efficient units;
  •         HVAC should be designed so filters are easily accessible; and
  •         windows that can be opened for cross-ventilation and fresh air.
    Miscellaneous:
  •         30-inch by 48-inch clear space at appliances, or 60-inch diameter clear space for turns;
  •         multi-level work areas to accommodate cooks of different heights;
  •         loop handles for easy grip and pull;
  •         pull-out spray faucet;
  •         levered handles;
  •         in multi-story homes, laundry chute or laundry facilities in master bedroom;
  •         open under-counter seated work areas; and
  •         placement of task lighting in appropriate work areas.
    Overall Floor Plan:
  •         main living on a single story, including full bath;
  •         5-foot by 5-foot clear turn space in living area, kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom; and
  •         no steps between rooms on a single level.
    Reduced Maintenance and Convenience Features:
  •         easy-to-clean surfaces;
  •         built-in recycling system;
  •         video phones;
  •         central vacuum;
  •         built-in pet feeding system; and
  •         intercom system.
    Stairways, Lifts and Elevators:
  •         adequate hand rails on both sides of stairway;
  •         residential elevator or lift; and
  •         increased visibility of stairs through contrast strip on top and bottom stairs, and color contrast between treads and risers on stairs with use of lighting.
    Storage:
  •         lighting in closets;
  •         adjustable closet rods and shelves; and
  •         easy-open doors that do not obstruct access.
    Windows:
  •         plenty of windows for natural light;
  •         low-maintenance exterior and interior finishes;
  •         lowered windows, or taller windows with lower sill height; and
  •         easy-to-operate hardware.
Advice for those who wish to age in place:

Talk with family members about your long-term living preferences. Do you want to downsize to a smaller single-family home, or do you plan to stay put in your traditional family home?

Take a look at your finances and retirement funds. With your current savings and assets, will you be able to pay for home maintenance? Consider starting a separate retirement savings account strictly for home maintenance.

Remodel your home before your mobility becomes limited. As you age, changes in mobility, hearing, vision and overall health and flexibility will affect how easily you function in your home. Consider making your home “age-friendly” as a phased-in and budgeted home improvement, rather than waiting until you need many modifications at a time due to a health crisis.

If you decide before you retire that you want to live in your current home through the remainder of life, consider paying for “big ticket – long life” home projects while you still have a healthy income. Such items may include having the roof assessed or replaced, replacing and upgrading the water heater or cooling unit, completing termite inspections and treatment, having a septic tank inspection and replacement, as needed, and purchasing a riding lawn mower.

InterNACHI advocates healthy living, as it plays a vital role in your ability to age in place. Most seniors leave their homes due to functional and mobility limitations that result from medical crises, and an inability to pay for support to stay with them in their home. Effectively managing health risks and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help you stay strong, age well, and live long at your own home.

In summary, aging in place is a way by which senior citizens can avoid being dependent on others due to declining health and mobility.

by Nick Gromicko

InterNACHI's Aging-in-Place Inspection Checklist (PDF)

From Aging in Place - Int'l Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) http://www.nachi.org/aging-in-place.htm#ixzz2Nt14q1kT

Monday, March 18, 2013

What is 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.

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 home 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.

InspectorSeek.com

From Asbestos - Int'l Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI)
 http://www.nachi.org/asbestos.htm#ixzz2Npjd4zus

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Advantages of Solar Energy



Solar energy offers considerable advantages over conventional energy systems by nullifying flaws in those systems long considered to be unchangeable. Solar power for home energy production has its flaws, too, which are outlined in another article, but they're dwarfed by the advantages listed below.

The following are advantages of solar energy:        
                            

  • Raw materials are renewable and unlimited. The amount of available solar energy is staggering -- roughly 10,000 times that currently required by humans -- and it’s constantly replaced. A mere 0.02% of incoming sunlight, if captured correctly, would be sufficient to replace every other fuel source currently used.
Granted, the Earth does need much of this solar energy to drive its weather, so let’s look only at the unused portion of sunlight that is reflected back into space, known as the albedo. Earth’s average albedo is around 30%, meaning that roughly 52 petawatts of energy is reflected by the Earth and lost into space every year. Compare this number with global energy-consumption statistics.  Annually, the energy lost to space is the combined equivalent of 400 hurricanes, 1 million Hoover Dams, Great Britain's energy requirement for 250,000 years, worldwide oil, gas and coal production for 387 years, 75 million cars, and 50 million 747s running perpetually for one year (not to mention 1 million fictional DeLorean time machines!). 

  • Solar power is low-emission. Solar panels produce no pollution, although they impose environmental costs through manufacture and construction. These environmental tolls are negligible, however, when compared with the damage inflicted by conventional energy sources:  the burning of fossil fuels releases roughly 21.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.
  • Solar power is suitable for remote areas that are not connected to energy grids. It may come as a surprise to city-dwellers but, according to Home Power Magazine, as of 2006, 180,000 houses in the United States were off-grid, and that figure is likely considerably higher today. California, Colorado, Maine, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have long been refuges for such energy rebels, though people live off the grid in every state. While many of these people shun the grid on principle, owing to politics and environmental concerns, few of the world’s 1.8 billion off-the-gridders have any choice in the matter. Solar energy can drastically improve the quality of life for millions of people who live in the dark, especially in places such as Sub-Saharan Africa, where as many as 90% of the rural population lacks access to electricity. People in these areas must rely on fuel-based lighting, which inflicts significant social and environmental costs, from jeopardized health through contamination of indoor air, to limited overall productivity.   
  • Solar power provides green jobs. Production of solar panels for domestic use is becoming a growing source of employment in research, manufacture, sales and installation. 
  • Solar panels contain no moving parts and thus produce no noise. Wind turbines, by contrast, require noisy gearboxes and blades. 
  • In the long run, solar power is economical. Solar panels and installation involve high initial expenses, but this cost is soon offset by savings on energy bills.  Eventually, they may even produce a profit on their use. 
  • Solar power takes advantage of net metering, which is the practice of crediting homeowners for electricity they produce and return to the power grid. As part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, public electric utilities are required to make available, upon request, net metering to their customers. This practice offers an advantage for homeowners who use solar panels (or wind turbines or fuel cells) that may, at times, produce more energy than their homes require. If net metering is not an option, excess energy may be stored in batteries. 
  • Solar power can mean government tax credits. U.S. federal subsidies credit up to 30% of system costs, and each state offers its own incentives. California, blessed with abundant sunshine and plagued by high electric rates and an over-taxed grid, was the first state to offer generous renewable-energy incentives for homes and businesses.
  • Solar power is reliable. Many homeowners favor solar energy because it is virtually immune to potential failings of utility companies, mainly in the form of political or economic turmoil, terrorism, natural disasters, or brownouts due to overuse. The Northeast Blackout of 2003 unplugged 55 million people across two countries, while rolling blackouts are a part of regular life in some South Asian countries, and occasionally in California and Texas. 
  • Solar power conserves foreign energy expenditures. In many countries, a large percentage of earnings is used to pay for imported oil for power generation. The United States alone spends $13 million per hour on oil, much of which comes from Persian Gulf nations. As oil supplies dwindle and prices rise in this politically unstable region, these problems continue to catalyze the expansion of solar power and other alternative-energy systems.
In summary, solar energy offers advantages to conventional fossil fuels and other renewable energy systems.