Monday, March 30, 2020

Is PVC Safe To Use For Venting Appliances?


Is PVC Safe To Use For Venting Appliances?

Many of the direct vent high efficiency appliances are vented using PVC. Specifically Schedule 40 PVC. Many inspectors and installers are starting to notice discoloration on these pipes. Some appliance manufacturers do not recommend venting their appliances in specific types of PVC pipe. Some manufacturers supply and recommend using their vent kits. Often times these are metal vents. Some of the PVC pipe manufacturers have indicated that their pipe was not produced for this application. Here is a warning from Charlotte Pipe on their website:

Combustion Gas Venting
Failure to properly vent combustion gas may result in serious injury or death from carbon monoxide.
• Always install / use pipe or fittings as specified by the
appliance manufacturer's installation instructions to
vent appliances.
• Never use PVC cellular core, ABS cellular core pipe or
ConnecTite® fittings for combustion gas venting.

Almost all appliance manufacturers agree that cellular core PVC, cellular core CPVC, and ABS should never be used to vent any appliance, only solid core. The difference between the two is that the inside and outside walls are solid PVC (solid core). Cellular core pipe has an inner core that is cellular (or foamed) PVC, a material that includes tiny bubbles of entrained air. For pipe manufacturers, the main advantage of cellular-core PVC is lower cost, since it requires less resin to make than solid core pipe. Cellular core will also break down with high temperatures faster. When PVC pipe degrades from heat it may produce toxins. Here is a link to a great video from TOH: https://youtu.be/ylX2gfggu_o
 So what should a home inspector be looking for:

·         The Plastic vent pipe should be stamped “Gas Vent Type”
·         Ipex manufactures an approved CPVC flue gas venting pipe that is rated for 90 C (194 F).
·         The plastic vent pipe should not be discolored
·         Discolored pipe may also be leaking flue gases at connections
·         Many approved plastic vent pipes are actually solid core CPVC which is rated for 90 C or 194 F.
·         Schedule 40 PVC is only rated for 60 C or 140F
·         Check the pipe; it will be stamped “Cellular Core”
·         Solid core may be marked as such or as “Pressure Pipe”
·         The PVC pipe and fittings should be from the same manufacturer
·         When in doubt, check with the appliance and pipe manufacturer


Saturday, February 29, 2020

Inspecting Hydro-Air Heating Systems


Inspecting Hydro-Air Heating Systems


Hydro-Air Boiler System


 Heat Pump Geo-Thermal System

A hydro-air system employs hot water coils in an air handling system. Basically, it is a forced air system with coils (Hydronic Coil) heated by hot water running through them. The hot water in the coil is supplied by a hydronic boiler. Some geo-thermal systems employ hydro-air if forced hot air distribution is desired. It could also be integrated in one air handler using the same coils for an air conditioning system. This is basically a heat pump employing a compressor. This configuration uses refrigerant. If supplied by a boiler; these units are very efficient in the winter months. The inspection on hydro-air units are different than a conventional forced hot air furnace. What should a home inspector be looking for:


·         There may be a timed delay when the thermostat calls for heat to allow the coils to heat up. The timed delay will be shorter on a heat pump system.
·         The unit will either have a dedicated zone valve, circulator, or pump / check valve installed in the air handler (see diagram above). This must activate properly for the system to respond.
·         Keep in mind that the hydronic supply from the boiler will most likely be used for domestic hot water and should be separated from the coils used for the Hydro-Air system.
·         A mixing or tempering valve (can be seen in detail above) should be installed if the unit is also producing domestic hot water. The water for the heating coils will be considerably hotter than the domestic hot water should be. The mixing valve will ensure the temperature is lowered to an acceptable level.
·         If possible the air handler should be positioned below the water heating source to prevent thermosiphoning; (mixing of hot and cooled water), if a circulator or pump is not employed.
·         The heat pump should be inspected as normal.
·         The duct system should be well insulated.
·         If integrated with the air conditioning system (heat pump), a condensate discharge should be present.
·         Obviously there is no flue pipe or carbon monoxide issue to be concerned with at the air handler.
·         The boiler or heat pump supplying the unit should also be inspected at this time.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Requirements For Surge Protection



 



The 2020 NEC updates require surge protection for most electric applications. Installing surge protection is something that many home inspectors already recommend. We will look at the different types and the proper installation of surge protectors. A “surge” is a very brief surge of voltage on the electrical lines. A surge can be caused by work the utility company may be performing, power outages, turning a breaker on and off, devices / appliances with large power draws, and a lightning strike.
A surge can cause damage to many sensitive electrical devices and appliances that have a motor. There are 4 types of surge protection devices. Type 1 is installed at the line side of the main electric service panel between the utility pole / transformer and where the electric conductors enters your service panel. Type 1 protect against external power surges, but do not offer protection against internally surges. You would see this device at the meter. Type 2 surge protectors are installed on the load side of the main service panel and will protect against external and internal power surges. This unit can be directly connected to the main service panel. It will look like a double pole breaker with no handle. A neutral stranded conductor from the surge protector will be connected to the neutral bus. Green conductor would go to the ground bus. This is for installation in a main service panel and is normally closest to the main service disconnect or the main service lug.  An external surge protection device is installed either next to or directly on the outside of the main service panel. Two black / hot conductors will be connected to a double pole circuit breaker closest to the main service disconnect or the main service lug. The size of the breaker is determined by the manufacture. I see many that are rated for 20 amps. This can easily be looked up to ensure it is properly installed. A white or neutral conductor is connected to the neutral bus, green to the ground. Type 3 surge protection devices are located at the devices. Surge protective receptacles can be installed in place of a typical receptacle. The wiring is the same. Surge power strips can also be used for protection. They should not be confused with a power strip that does not contain surge protection. Type 4 surge protectors are surge protection modules for industrial applications. They can also be directly wired in. In addition, they will protect industrial devices that use servo motors and automation drives.  

Monday, December 30, 2019

Dual Function Arc Fault / Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter Breaker


Dual Function Arc Fault / Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter Breaker

                                                                    



I have seen some disagreement between home inspectors and even electricians regarding the new requirements for Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter protection. This is especially true when we throw Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters in the mix! We all know what each circuit breaker does. In a previous newsletter / blog I discuss the AFCI requirements in detail. Where are AFCI’s required and when should a combination AFCI / GFCI breaker be installed? Basically AFCI’s are required for all 120 volt circuits where a GFCI is not required. However….there are times that a combination AFCI / GFCI is recommended or required. First some basics. We know GFCI’s are required in bathrooms, laundry rooms, kitchens (within 6 feet of a water source), and damp locations (basements, outside, garages, etc). They should also be installed protecting pools, spas, and hot tubs. AFCI’s and Dual Function AFCI / GFCI’s should be installed in the following locations:

·         AFCI’s should be installed for ALL 15 – 20 amp / 120 volt branch circuits protecting bedrooms, sleeping areas, living, dining, family rooms, dens, hallways, closets, kitchens, laundry areas, and baths not requiring a GFCI (wall receptacles more then 6 feet from a water source). Basically all 120 volt circuits.
·         AFCI protection is required for any circuit when adding, changing, replacing, or extending any branch circuit that requires AFCI protection
·         If a circuit is added, changed, replaced, or extended that required GFCI protection, a Dual Function ARCI / GFCI should be installed. This may include circuits that have been extended from a previous service panel that now serves as a junction box.
·         Newer type AFCI breakers / receptacles are compatible with household appliances including refrigerators
·         Average cost of a Dual Function AFCI / GFCI is $38.00
·         The lifespan of a AFCI circuit breaker is the same as a standard circuit breaker

Friday, November 29, 2019

Inspecting Flat Roof Coverings


                                         Inspecting Flat Roof Coverings 
















Flat roof systems and coverings have evolved considerably over the years. I remember the time that rolled asphalt was used primarily for flat roof coverings. And many times that was installed incorrectly. As a home inspector, I see many flat roof coverings, even with acceptable materials installed improperly. First off, there should not be an actual “flat” roof structure. Roof structures should have some pitch. The structure should not be built with a 0/12 pitch. Keeping standing water off this type of roof is impossible even with proper drainage. Even the smallest leak will be disastrous. Low slope / flat roof structures should slope approximately ¼ inch per foot. Many inspectors refer to a low slope / flat roof structure as having a pitch of less that 4/12. Although some roof shingle manufactures will warranty their shingles (if certain underlayment is properly installed) on up to a 2/12 pitch roof. However, home inspectors will not know if the proper underlayment was installed correctly. Installing a low slope / flat roof covering is something all roofing companies say they do, however this installation involves using the proper materials with a high degree of skill. The requirements for low slope / flat roof coverings are different than a pitched roof. I normally recommend a single ply membrane.  Here are the trouble areas and what a home inspector should be looking for:

·         Ensure there is some degree of slope and proper drainage
·         If roof drains are employed closely check to ensure they are sealed
·         Look for the installation of a clamp ring drain that will seal better than a conventional drain
·         Roofing material should extend at least 8” up an joining wall or window sill
·         Roofing material should be installed 18-24” under shingles where a pitched roof joins a low slope. Ensure shingles are not installed to low and nailed into the membrane
·         Lifted or bubbles in the membrane
·         Repaired areas or tar
·         Metal flashing should be used for brick walls and be let into or cut into the mortar joint
·         Stucco / EIFS; metal flashing should be used under the lower drainage section
·         Roof drains should be avoided if possible and exterior gutters or scuppers should be installed. Proper flashing should extend from the roof covering into the scupper
·         Parapets should have roofing material installed over them and capped with a metal flashing
·         Skylights should be installed with the roofing material extending up the side and capped with a proper gasket or manufacture supplied flashing
·         Penetrations should have pre-formed flashing not tar
·         The leading edge should have roofing material under the drip edge and over the fascia. Drip edge would then be sealed with another piece of roof membrane over the top of the drip edge
·         Ensure there is not a raised edge at the leading edge that would cause water to  back up or not drain properly   

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Kickout Flashing Requirements



Kickout Flashing Requirements



As home inspectors we understand the importance of kickout flashing. Many times this flashing is omitted, even on new builds. This is important for all siding materials but especially on stucco and EIFS. I have seen a considerable amount of damage on stucco  and EIFS siding because of missing kickout flashing. Having a gutter extended to the house in this area is not alone a solution. I have seen the roofer blame the siding company or vice versa. It is my opinion that the roofer should, as a matter of practice install kickout flashing in all areas where required. Remember kickout flashing, although not specifically named as such is required.  IRC Section R903.2.1 - Flashing – Locations, states: “Flashings shall be installed at wall and roof intersections, wherever there is a change in roof slope or direction and around roof openings. A flashing shall be installed to divert the water away from where the eave of a sloped roof intersects a vertical sidewall. Where flashing is of metal, the metal shall be corrosion resistant with a thickness on not less than 0.019 inch (0.5 mm) (No. 26 galvanized sheet)”. So what should a home inspector address this issue;

  • Kickout flashing should be installed in all areas where the eave of a sloped roof intersects a vertical side wall
  • Kickout flashing is not just required for stucco or EIFS, but for all siding materials
  • Ensure to thoroughly inspect the interior areas where kickout flashing is either installed or omitted
  • Ensure the kickout flashing is long enough to divert water properly away from the siding
  • Ensure the kickout flashing is installed in a manner that does not allow water to enter the wall assembly
  • Kickout flashing must be installed behind the siding and under the roof shingles
  • Ensure the water is being diverted into a gutter or other area and not accumulating in the area where the roof intersects with the sidewall
  • Kickout flashing must be corrosion resistant
  • Ensure step flashing is installed in conjunction and incorporated with kickout flashing
  • Recommend a qualified roofer install kickout flashing in all areas where required

Sunday, September 29, 2019

National Electric Code 2020 Updates

National Electric Code 2020 Updates



The National Electric Code (NEC) is revised every 3 years. All 50 states utilize the code for their standards. I am going to outline the updates from the previous version. One of the changes I was glad to see is that service panels with 6 main disconnects are no longer permitted. I have long advised my clients to upgrade split panel service panels. Trying to explain how to disconnect the service and the fact that some breakers, many times 240 volt circuits actually cannot be disconnected. This makes the panel dangerous to work on. The homeowner’s are often confused on which breaker is actually the “main” when several breakers are either marked or look like a main service disconnect. Load calculations will also be reduced to account for higher efficiency appliances and lighting options. There has been a huge reduction in this area and many times a smaller service size (depending on the house) will be adequate. When I started performing home inspections the 240 volt appliances were 50-60 amps. Now those same appliances are 20-40 amps. Here are the other updates that a home inspector needs to know: 

  • Outdoor Emergency Service Disconnects are now required for one and two family dwellings. This is to ensure first responders, especially fire fighters can disconnect the electric supply to the house
  • Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) are now required on most 120 – 240 volt branch circuits. This includes clothes dryers, ranges, ovens, etc.
  • Serge protection devices are required for all dwelling units. Many home inspectors recommend these are installed.
  • Service panels with 6 main service disconnects are no longer permitted
  • Line side barrier requirements are required and expanded to service beyond the main electric panels. (This is for shock protection. The barriers protect from energized conductors on the line terminals of the main over current protection device in a service panel) – Picture above
  • Short Circuit Current Ratings connectors and devices must be marked suitable for use on the line side of the service equipment. We are seeing more of these devices as homeowners are looking for energy efficiency. – Picture above
  • Temporary power equipment (we see this on new construction that is not complete) require markings for available fault current and date of calculation. For temporary over current devices between 150 volts to ground and 1000 volts phase to phase will be current limiting
  • ARC reduction for services 1200 amps and greater must ensure arcing currents activate ARC reduction technology.