NY Metro ASHI News

                                                                                               November 2003


A Publication of the NY Metro Chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors

Edited by John Gerardi (gerardi@att.net)

Articles published in the NY Metro ASHI News are the sole opinion of the author and we publish these articles for educational purposes only and not to endorse or state a position for or against the content of the article.

November Meeting
Tino’s Steak House
Route 100, Hawthorne, NY

Date: Thursday, November 20, 2003, 6:00PM

Next Meeting's Program  Chris Muglio will be speaking about hydronic heating systems.

Guests are welcome at all meetings.



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by Victor J. Faggella


STICKER SHOCK: I received my insurance renewal notice last month from the ASHI endorsed insurer, Business Risk Partners, and couldn't believe the new premium notice. It was almost 50% higher than last year. This despite the fact that we have never had a claim. The explanation from the account executive was that it was a general increase that was being applied to all clients in the tri-state area. Fortunately I was able to contact the person who used to handle the insurance when the company was EMAR, and has appeared at several of our seminars, Bruce Mayer. Bruce is now with a new insurance company, the Capacity Group. He was able to quote me a premium which was lower than my original premium with Capital Special risks, with better coverage. If your premium has risen, and you want to explore other avenues, call Bruce at 201-236-9800.


New SEPTIC AGGREGATE:_ It is estimated that at least 250 million tires (about 1 per person) are discarded annually in the United States. This large number presents a significant disposal problem and has led to intense research to find methods of recycling them. In the past, chipped or shredded tires have been used in a wide variety of products, including playground covers, doormats, roadbeds, fill and shoes. Now they are being used as an aggregate substitute in septic system drain fields.


The relatively stable structure of tire chips make them a suitable substitute for stone aggregate in septic systell1 fields. They are currently permitted for use or are under evaluation as an aggregate substitute for stone in 17 states. Performance studies comparing stone aggregate to tire chip aggregate show, in all cases, equivalent or similar wastewater dispersal to the soil within trenches.


One of the major concerns with using tire chips in place of stone aggregate was the potential leaching of various components of the tire chips into the soil and eventually into the ground water. However, bench studies and field testing have determined that neither the volatile or semi-volatile compounds found in tire chips enter the leachate. Further, other studies have shown that tire chips actually remove some of the organic compounds percolating through them. Overall, it appears as if tire chip substitution for stone aggregate is an excellent alternative in regard to wastewater treatment, durability and economics. It also provides a viable solution for recycling used tires.


The above information, on tire chips, was summarized from articles appearing in the" Small Flows Quarterly", a publication of the National Small Flows Clearinghouse. They offer a large number of free and low cost publications on both private waste disposal systems and private water supplies. Anyone interested in obtaining any of these publications or subscribing free to their periodic publications should call (800) 624-8301 or visit their website www nsfc.wvu.edu







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By Christopher Muglio

Accurate Home Inspections of NY, Inc.


Of course checking for thermal expansion is above and beyond the '"Standards of Practice." However having the ability to do so would be providing a service to your customers that might separate you from the rest of the crowd. Thermal expansion is caused when we heat water in a closed system, such as, a hot water boiler, a water heater, or even a hot water maker. As the temperature increases, so does the pressure. Think about what occurs when we heat water in a tea pot. Dripping relief valves on water heaters, and boilers Could be the tell-tale signs of thermal expansion. Attached to a hot water boiler we should always find an expansion tank, be it an old style steel tank, (usually mounted at the ceiling) or a captive air type bladder style expansion tank. Very often we don't find an expansion tank at the water heater location. It is very important that any type of expansion tank be sized correctly, according to the BTU rating of the heating device.


Even though, in a domestic water heater, the normal operating temperatures are much lower than in a boiler, the need for an expansion tank is sometimes necessary, as working water pressures can and often do exceed 801bs. Thermal expansion is often found when there is a check valve installed either at the cold water branch serving the water heater, or on the cold water main. Check valves, or backflow preventers, installed on the cold water service are becoming more popular as the water purveyors are subject to enforcing the backflow flow prevention laws set forth by the State of NY Department of Health, Bureau of Public Water Supply Protection, Albany NY. The pressure can be easily checked at any hose connection with the proper connector and gauge assembly. Attach the gauge to any hose bibb, or if you dare, the drain valve at the base of the water heater. Record the pressure, and then fire the water heater, and watch the gauge to see if there is a rise in pressure. If there are any leaking faucets, or ball cocks this test will not be accurate.


Once during an inspection I had shut off the stop at a toilet, as the ballcock was not shutting down. When I returned to the basement where the gas fired water heater was, the relief valve was already dripping. Thermal expansion was not noticed when the water heater was fired initially, probably because the ballcock was leaking. Leaky faucets and toilet tank water levels overflowing, or at the top of the overflow tube, are sometimes an indication of thermal expansion.


Thermal expansion also happens when the pressure reducing valve fails. Pressures above 70 psi are considered high. (I have found in Westchester County, street water pressures upwards of 215 psi) This is usually evident at the initial pressure check, unless, there are leaky faucets. Inordinately high water pressures lead to problems for all of the related equipment. Even the highest quality faucets and fixtures will leak when subjected to high water pressure. This often leads to premature failure of the water heating vessel, and all related equipment attached to the water system. Thermal expansion is responsible for premature failure in many water heaters where water is provided by a municipality. This problem generally never ocurrs if there is a well, as the well storage tank will absorb the expansion created during a temperature rise.


Thermal expansion is a commonly mis-diagnosed problem. When I worked in the plumbing and heating service industry, I found a badly leaking 5 year old, 32 gallon oil fired water heater that looked like an old rusty beer can. I suspected thermal expansion had prematurely caused this heater to fail. After it was removed and replaced, I checked the pressure and found it to be acceptable at 60 psi But when the heater was fired, the pressure rose to 140 psi in less than 4 minutes. A thermal expansion tank was installed which corrected this problem at once. The '"plumber?" who installed this heater initially, corrected the problem by attaching a garden hose to the relief valve and directed it to a sump where there was a pedestal style pump!!!  When I asked the homeowner, who installed the hose?, she said, the plumber did, after he changed the relief valve three times. I couldn't help myself from asking her, how she knew he was a plumber?







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How to Inspect A/C Systems

by Jay Schnoor, Professional Home Inspections, LaCrosse, Minnesota

originally published in the NAHI Forum May/June 1998


Submiited by Mark Jones


In the summer I always look forward to this part of the inspection. And, don't you know, it takes at least a couple hours to run a good air conditioning eva1ua­lion (and to cool me off).  I can't always do that, though, and occasionally have to revert to the NAHI Standards for conducting the inspection.

While you are reading this article (or are having it read to you if you live in Florida), pull out your NAHI Standards of Practice and review them. In part the Standards state that during the inspection the Inspector will identify the type of A/C and the energy source. Then we will operate the system, open readily accessible panels, observe the condition of controls and operative compo­nents, and observe the condition of the air outlets.


The system could be identified as one of the     following:

. Split system (with evaporator inside and condenser outside)


. Whole house through the wall      (hotel type)


. Air source heat pump


. Ground water source heat pump


The energy source will be electric or gas. (There is now on the market a wind-up radio so a new technology (nay be coming!)

We are required to operate the system.  I wouldn't just go in and turn down the ther­mostat and hope.  Do a little checking first. Make sure the winter cover is off (we'll talk more about this later). Check to insure the outside condenser unit is reasonably level. Many technicians state that the outside unit should he almost perfectly level. However, to re-level is a job for a technician - NOT the homeowner,


Additional outside checks should include a look-see inside the condenser unit for exces­sive debris, any signs of oil indicating a freon leak, any frayed or damaged wires, damage or corrosion to the condenser coil, and check the fan hub for hairline cracks. I found a fan blade which had been installed upside down a year ago when the condenser fan motor was replaced.



Since by Standards we have to remove any readily accessible panels, let's do that now.  There may be, though not a1ways, a screw on panel that will permit you to look at the entering air side of the evaporator coil.  If this panel is present - do it. This is a critical inspection point and an area where many systems need maintenance. The entering air side is wet and any dirt/dust that passes through the filter will cling to this surface and block airflow. If there is no access panel you will have to evaluate the system through the temperature checks you will do. It is good to also look at the condition and clean­liness of the b1ower and report your findings. If your system has no air filter, you should report this and recommend a HVAC techni­cian evaluate the coil because there is a good chance the evaporator coil is dirty or plugged.


We're now ready to run. Crank the thermostat down a few degrees below room temperature and let the system run for 15-30 minutes to balance out. You will want to go outside to listen to the condenser unit. Are there any unusual noises or vibrations? Feel the discharge air temperature. The fan discharge air should he 20-25 degrees warmer than the outside air.


Feel the two refrigerant lines. The suction line (large) should feel cool or cold to the touch - approximately 47-55 degrees. The liquid line (small) should feel about body temperature. If the liquid line is hot, the suction line will not be cold, and this prob­ably indicates a low freon condition.

Some Inspectors check the amperage draw of the compressor, although this exceeds the Standards. The correct reading for the air compressor will usually be 66% of the manufacturer's nameplate RL.A (running load an1ps).  Much higher than that should be reported as indicating a potentia1 problem with the compressor.


Some inspectors (including the author) check the temperature differential at the evaporator coil by inserting thermometers at the filter and then at a nearby supply regis­ter. The temperature differential (TD) should be 12-20 degrees, if the unit has been running and the house is cool. If the house has been closed and the temperature is hot and muggy, the TD will be less because much of the energy is going into dehumidifying. So be alert to that or the HVAC Technician will call you a "DUH" (again, the author).

You are not required to inspect gas-fired systems, evaporative (swamp) coolers or window A/C units. You do not need to check system gas pressures or evaluate the efficiency or adequacy of the system. But remember an A/C system is much more active if on a peak hot day it is running continuously or almost so, to achieve maxi­mum dehumidification. And you SHOULD not operate any system when the outdoor ambient temperature is below 60 degrees.


You should cover with your client the pre­ventive maintenance procedures of regular air filter maintenance and monitoring of the outdoor unit. Listen for changing sounds and keep the condenser coil free of debris. And if the dog likes the unit, buy it a plastic fire hydrant at a pet store.

Again, read the Standards of Practice so you know what must be inspected and reported. Also know what you are not required to do. Determine what you think is important infor­mation for your client and what your knowl­edge/comfort level is regarding A/Cs. Then study or work with a Technician to achieve your goal.


But most of all stay cool!



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