Friday, January 9, 2015

10 Easy Ways to Save Energy in Your Home

1. Find better ways to heat and cool your house. 

As much as half of the energy used in homes goes toward heating and cooling. The following are a few ways that energy bills can be reduced through adjustments to the heating and cooling systems
  • Periodically replace air filters in air conditioners and heaters.
  • Set thermostats to an appropriate temperature. Specifically, they should be turned down at night and when no one is home. In most homes, about 2% of the heating bill will be saved for each degree that the thermostat is lowered for at least eight hours each day. Turning down the thermostat from 75° F to 70° F, for example, saves about 10% on heating costs.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat saves money by allowing heating and cooling appliances to be automatically turned down during times that no one is home and at night. Programmable thermostats contain no mercury and, in some climate zones, can save up to $150 per year in energy costs.
  • Install a wood stove or a pellet stove. These are more efficient sources of heat than furnaces.
  • At night, curtains drawn over windows will better insulate the room.
  • Install a ceiling fan. Ceiling fans can be used in place of air conditioners, which require a large amount of energy.
2. Install a tankless water heater.
Demand-type water heaters (tankless or instantaneous) provide hot water only as it is needed. They don't produce the standby energy losses associated with traditional storage water heaters, which will save on energy costs. Tankless water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. A gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, demand water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. You don't need to wait for a storage tank to fill up with enough hot water.
3. Replace incandescent lights.
The average household dedicates 11% of its energy budget to lighting. Traditional incandescent lights convert approximately only 10% of the energy they consume into light, while the rest becomes heat. The use of new lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), can reduce the energy use required by lighting by 50% to 75%. Advances in lighting controls offer further energy savings by reducing the amount of time that lights are on but not being used. Here are some facts about CFLs and LEDs:
  • CFLs use 75% less energy and last about 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
  • LEDs last even longer than CFLs and consume less energy.
  • LEDs have no moving parts and, unlike CFLs, they contain no mercury.
4. Seal and insulate your home.
Sealing and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy-efficient, and you can do it yourself. A tightly sealed home can improve comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility bills. An InterNACHI energy auditor can assess  leakage in the building envelope and recommend fixes that will dramatically increase comfort and energy savings.
The following are some common places where leakage may occur:
  • electrical receptacles/outlets;
  • mail slots;
  • around pipes and wires;
  • wall- or window-mounted air conditioners;
  • attic hatches;
  • fireplace dampers;
  • inadequate weatherstripping around doors;
  • baseboards;
  • window frames; and
  • switch plates.
Because hot air rises, air leaks are most likely to occur in the attic. Homeowners can perform a variety of repairs and maintenance to their attics that save them money on cooling and heating, such as: 
  • Plug the large holes. Locations in the attic where leakage is most likely to be the greatest are where walls meet the attic floor, behind and under attic knee walls, and in dropped-ceiling areas.
  • Seal the small holes. You can easily do this by looking for areas where the insulation is darkened. Darkened insulation is a result of dusty interior air being filtered by insulation before leaking through small holes in the building envelope. In cold weather, you may see frosty areas in the insulation caused by warm, moist air condensing and then freezing as it hits the cold attic air. In warmer weather, you’ll find water staining in these same areas. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the openings around plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires. Cover the areas with insulation after the caulk is dry.
  • Seal up the attic access panel with weatherstripping. You can cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid foamboard insulation in the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic access panel. If you have pull-down attic stairs or an attic door, these should be sealed in a similar manner.
5. Install efficient showerheads and toilets.
The following systems can be installed to conserve water usage in homes:
  • low-flow showerheads. They are available in different flow rates, and some have a pause button which shuts off the water while the bather lathers up;
  • low-flow toilets. Toilets consume 30% to 40% of the total water used in homes, making them the biggest water users. Replacing an older 3.5-gallon toilet with a modern, low-flow 1.6-gallon toilet can reduce usage an average of 2 gallons-per-flush (GPF), saving 12,000 gallons of water per year. Low-flow toilets usually have "1.6 GPF" marked on the bowl behind the seat or inside the tank;
  • vacuum-assist toilets. This type of toilet has a vacuum chamber that uses a siphon action to suck air from the trap beneath the bowl, allowing it to quickly fill with water to clear waste. Vacuum-assist toilets are relatively quiet; and
  • dual-flush toilets. Dual-flush toilets have been used in Europe and Australia for years and are now gaining in popularity in the U.S. Dual-flush toilets let you choose between a 1-gallon (or less) flush for liquid waste, and a 1.6-gallon flush for solid waste. Dual-flush 1.6-GPF toilets reduce water consumption by an additional 30%.
6. Use appliances and electronics responsibly.
Appliances and electronics account for about 20% of household energy bills in a typical U.S. home. The following are tips that will reduce the required energy of electronics and appliances:
  • Refrigerators and freezers should not be located near the stove, dishwasher or heat vents, or exposed to direct sunlight. Exposure to warm areas will force them to use more energy to remain cool.  
  • Computers should be shut off when not in use. If unattended computers must be left on, their monitors should be shut off. According to some studies, computers account for approximately 3% of all energy consumption in the United States.
  • Use efficient ENERGY STAR-rated appliances and electronics. These devices, approved by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Program, include TVs, home theater systems, DVD players, CD players, receivers, speakers, and more. According to the EPA, if just 10% of homes used energy-efficient appliances, it would reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of 1.7 million acres of trees.
  • Chargers, such as those used for laptops and cell phones, consume energy when they are plugged in. When they are not connected to electronics, chargers should be unplugged.
  • Laptop computers consume considerably less electricity than desktop computers.
7. Install daylighting as an alternative to electrical lighting.
Daylighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate the home's interior. It can be achieved using the following approaches:
  • skylights. It’s important that they be double-pane or they may not be cost-effective. Flashing skylights correctly is key to avoiding leaks;
  • light shelves. Light shelves are passive devices designed to bounce light deep into a building. They may be interior or exterior. Light shelves can introduce light into a space up to 2½ times the distance from the floor to the top of the window, and advanced light shelves may introduce four times that amount;
  • clerestory windows.  Clerestory windows are short, wide windows set high on the wall. Protected from the summer sun by the roof overhang, they allow winter sun to shine through for natural lighting and warmth; and 
  • light tubes.  Light tubes use a special lens designed to amplify low-level light and reduce light intensity from the midday sun. Sunlight is channeled through a tube coated with a highly reflective material, and then enters the living space through a diffuser designed to distribute light evenly.
8. Insulate windows and doors.
About one-third of the home's total heat loss usually occurs through windows and doors. The following are ways to reduce energy lost through windows and doors:
  • Seal all window edges and cracks with rope caulk. This is the cheapest and simplest option.
  • Windows can be weatherstripped with a special lining that is inserted between the window and the frame. For doors, apply weatherstripping around the whole perimeter to ensure a tight seal when they're closed. Install quality door sweeps on the bottom of the doors, if they aren't already in place.
  • Install storm windows at windows with only single panes. A removable glass frame can be installed over an existing window.
  • If existing windows have rotted or damaged wood, cracked glass, missing putty, poorly fitting sashes, or locks that don't work, they should be repaired or replaced.
9. Cook smart.
An enormous amount of energy is wasted while cooking. The following recommendations and statistics illustrate less wasteful ways of cooking:
  • Convection ovens are more efficient that conventional ovens. They use fans to force hot air to circulate more evenly, thereby allowing food to be cooked at a lower temperature. Convection ovens use approximately 20% less electricity than conventional ovens.
  • Microwave ovens consume approximately 80% less energy than conventional ovens.
  • Pans should be placed on the matching size heating element or flame. 
  • Using lids on pots and pans will heat food more quickly than cooking in uncovered pots and pans.
  • Pressure cookers reduce cooking time dramatically.
  • When using conventional ovens, food should be placed on the top rack. The top rack is hotter and will cook food faster. 
10. Change the way you do laundry.
  • Do not use the medium setting on your washer. Wait until you have a full load of clothes, as the medium setting saves less than half of the water and energy used for a full load.
  • Avoid using high-temperature settings when clothes are not very soiled. Water that is 140° F uses far more energy than 103° F for the warm-water setting, but 140° F isn’t that much more effective for getting clothes clean.
  • Clean the lint trap every time before you use the dryer. Not only is excess lint a fire hazard, but it will prolong the amount of time required for your clothes to dry.
  • If possible, air-dry your clothes on lines and racks.
  • Spin-dry or wring clothes out before putting them into a dryer. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Summer Home Maintenance Tips

Winter is finally over and its time to embrace the summer. Following is a checklist for keeping your home and its systems running optimally!

1. Get your Air conditioner serviced by Licensed HVAC contractor.

2. Check the filters of HVAC system and clean / replace depending on model.

3. Check  roof covering (shingles etc.) to check for any damage due to snow.

4. Clean gutters of debris for proper drainage.

5. Check grading around the house to see that water is not flowing / ponding near the foundation. This will prevent leaky basement in case of heavy rains.

6. Cut / Trim grass regularly near the house to prevent water proper drainage of water away from the house.

7. Check for cracks in caulking around windows, doors and any penetrations in the wall, to prevent water penetration.

8. Check for cracks in mortar joints and in foundation walls. If they are big enough to allow water penetration then get them repaired by qualified contractor.

9. The other area which mostly gets damaged by snow is your driveway and sidewalk. Check for signs of cracking and settlement.

10. Make sure that the Sump Pump (if present) in the house is working properly.  

Maintaining your house will not only save you money down the road, your house will also last and look good for many years to come.
Find us on google places / maps Home Inspection Mississauga, Home Inspector MississaugaMississauga Home Inspection, Mississauga Home Inspector

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Tools Required For Home Inspection

Following tools should be a part of Home Inspector toolkit!

1. Moisture meter

A good quality moisture meter is a must in every home inspectors toolkit. It is required to measure moisture content in various building components and to check for active water leaks. There are many cheap moisture meters available but believe me a home inspector who uses them is not doing justice to their clients. At RK Home Inspections we carry the very best "Surveymaster Protimeter" by GE which is by far the industry standard for highest quality.

2. GFCI Tester & Wiring tester

This is used to test the GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) outlets in the house. Furthermore its tests the wiring problems in the house.

3. AFCI Tester

This is used to test the AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters) outlets in the house.

4. Clamp Meter & Multimeter

To test the voltage (measured in volts) and current (measured in Amperes)  in the house electrical wiring.

5. Infrared Thermometer

To check the temperature of various components and electrical breakers in the house.

6. Combustible Gas Detector

Combustible gas leaks eg. natural gas can be a very big fire hazard in the house. To detect gas leaks a gas leak detector is used.

7. Carbon Monoxide Detector

Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas. If inhaled in high quantities it can be fatal. Carbon Monoxide detector is used to determine the levels of carbon monoxide in the house.

 8. Flashlights

Flashlights of different power and sizes are very important to inspect the house thoroughly.

9. Ladders

Different types of ladder to suit the need.

10. Microwave Oven Tester

11. Inspection Mirrors

Special mirrors which can be extended to inspect hard to reach spaces.

12. Infrared Camera

To inspect the water leakage, missing insulation, overheating circuits and energy efficiency of the house. For more information click Thermal Imaging Camera.

13. Borescope

Also known as snake eyes to inspect hard to reach spaces.

Inspecting a house is a very specialized job don't hire unprofessional Home Inspector who do not have necessary tools and equipment to inspect one of the biggest investment you will ever make. Always remember you get what you pay for.

At RK Home Inspections we have all the above mentioned tools and have years of experience in building construction. 

Find us on google places / maps Home Inspection Mississauga, Home Inspector MississaugaMississauga Home Inspection, Mississauga Home Inspector

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Infrared Thermal Imaging

What is it?

Infrared is electromagnetic radiation emitted by objects. Most objects unless at absolute zero, emit some form of infrared radiation. It has longer wavelength than visible light, thus it cannot be seen by a naked eye. Infrared Thermography is referred to detecting this heat signatures of various objects through a infrared thermal camera. The camera detects the infrared light emitted from various objects and shows it as different colors (depending on the palette you choose). Colder objects are shown darker and the hot objects shown lighter.

There is a great deal of confusion in the minds of people about what a thermal image camera can or cannot do. I would like to highlight few points here!

1. Infrared red camera does not have an x-ray vision. It cannot see through walls or objects. There have been instances when an Home Inspector was analyzing the house during Home Inspection and the people are scared and don't want to be in the field of view fearing it can see through the clothing. Well, it does not have any such ability. Again it does not have an x-ray vision.

2. The infrared camera does not emit any radiation. It just a devise to detect the infrared heat signatures emitted or reflected by any object.

3. It is not a magical devise and require favourable conditions and great deal of skill and experience to interpret the findings. Furthermore, the findings required to be substantiated by moisture meter. There has been instances where due to lack of experience and knowledge people have given wrong diagnosis. Believe me its very easy to get excited and to be fooled by this devise. Always consult a professional trained and experienced in both building construction and thermal imaging for proper diagnosis.

4. It is not a digital camera (few models have digital camera built in as additional feature). It only detects the heat signatures emitted or reflected by the objects. Therefore, it needs DELTA T which is the difference in temperature between the objects or inside and outside of the building to display and work properly. When the difference in temperature between inside and outside is very low or almost equal it will not work properly.

Working with and operating thermal camera and interpreting its images require great deal of skill and experience. Its very easy to go wrong or arrive at the false diagnosis. 


Sunday, January 19, 2014

What is AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter)

What it is

AFCI (ARC Fault Circuit Interrupter) are the special circuit breakers inside the main Electrical panel which detects arching at the outlets in addition to performing as regular circuit breakers which offer protection against overload and short circuiting. They are very sophisticated devises which can detect special waveforms which are generated during arching at the outlet. AFCI can distinguish between the arching caused by regular operation i.e pulling out a cord and the one caused by an arc fault.

When the arc fault is detected the breakers opens the internal circuits within and thus stops the flow of current. Licensed Electrical contractor must be contacted to determine the cause of tripping before resetting it again.

What it an Arc Fault

We know that AFCI detects arc fault. But what exactly is an Arc Fault? To understand that first we need to know what is an arc? Arc is a luminous discharge of current that is formed when strong current jumps a gap (air) in a circuit or between two electrodes. The arc when generated produces heat and light which can burn the combustible material it comes in contact with. In houses arc fault is caused when loose or corroded connections make intermittent contact and causes arc. Arching should not be confused with short circuiting which is caused when a hot wire comes in contact with neutral or ground wire. If you ever heard buzzing or hissing sound at the outlets that is caused by arching.

Which circuits are protected with AFCI

After 2002 all 15 amp and 20 amp outlets in the bedrooms needs to be protected by AFCI breakers. In future more areas will be required to be protected. Every year many houses get burnt by fires caused by arc faults in the houses causing great deal of loss of life and property.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Types of Wood Flooring

There are basically 3 types of wooden flooring used in the houses.

1. Hardwood Flooring

The hardwood as the name suggest are the planks cut from actual timber to specified dimension. They are either packed unfinished to be finished  / stained at the site or factory finished. They come in variety of finishes and styles. Depending upon the requirement they can be flat sawn, quarter sawn or rift sawn to produce particular finish. Wooden flooring planks are usually 3/4"  thick and are nailed to the subfloor during installation. They have thicker wear surface and can be sanded multiple times. The hardwood floors are difficult to install where concrete is used as a subfloor for example basements and apartments.

2. Engineered wood Flooring

The engineered wood composed of top layer of wood veneer called lamella over core which can be of plywood, finger core construction or fibreboard. Engineered wood flooring is most popular wood flooring in the world. Only in North America Hardwood flooring is used more. However, it is increasing in popularity. Each layer of Engineered wood is run 90° to increase the stability and strength. This increased stability enables it to be used anywhere on any subfloor including concrete. Furthermore, it is less prone to expansion, curling and coupling than that of hard wood flooring. It is often confused with laminate and vinyl floors . Laminate uses an image of wood on its surface and vinyl flooring is plastic formed to look like a wood. Engineered wood can be from 3ply to 7ply, durability and cost increases with increasing number of plies.

The advantages of Engineered wood flooring over Hardwood flooring.

1. Can be installed on any subfloor including concrete.

2. It is not limited in plank size.

3. Is less prone to gapping, curling and cupping.

4. Unlike solid wood flooring it can be used where radiant floor heating is installed.

5. With Engineered wood mostly factory finished. The finish is more durable and drying time of the finish is saved.

6. Less labour intensive to install thus cost and time of installation is less.

3. Laminate Flooring

Perhaps the cheapest and least durable of all the three types of flooring mentioned here. Laminate flooring is basically not a wood flooring. It is a multi-layer synthetic flooring product fused together with a lamination process. Lamination flooring simulates wood or stone with photographic applique layer under clear protective layer. The inner core is composed of melamine resin and fibre board materials.

Laminate flooring has grown in popularity as it is very easy to install and is relatively inexpensive. It can be used in apartments with concrete as a subfloor with tongue and groove assembly.

Monday, January 6, 2014

What causes concrete to crack

What is concrete?

Concrete is a mixture of cement, sand and aggregate mixed in certain proportions determined by the strength required. When water is added to the mixture a chemical reaction occurs by which concrete becomes solid. Water cement ratio (amount of water per bags of cement) is very important. If more water is added concrete losses its compressive strength. However, add to little and the concrete is not workable. Additional compounds usually known as admixtures are also added to concrete mixture to improve the workability of the concrete.  Concrete is strong in compression but weaker in tension. Therefore, to improve its tensile strength steel reinforcement is added.

What causes cracks?

Cracks in concrete are inevitable. Although good workmanship and quality control can avoid disasters. However, they cannot prevent cracks from developing over period of time. Cracks in the concrete are a result of many different reasons. Few of them can be!


Concrete in its plastic state contains water, when water evaporates during curing of concrete, it shrinks and stresses develop. To release these stresses cracks develop in concrete. These cracks can develop anywhere on concrete which can be unsightly. Therefore, a good practise is to construct control joints (not expansion joints) at regular intervals to control where the cracks should develop so that they don't appear ugly.


Concrete like any other material expands and contracts as per variations in temperature. When concrete expands and pushes against the adjoining material, stresses develop resulting in development of cracks. Expansion joints are required at regular distances and various other locations to prevent these cracks.


Ground conditions also result in development of cracks in the concrete. Certain types of soils expands when wet and contracts when dry. Furthermore, frost will make the soil to expand and while thawing the soil contracts. This cycle of expansion and contraction causes concrete to crack.


All buildings settle little bit after getting constructed. If the ground underneath was not compacted properly, differential or irregular settlement can occur resulting in development of cracks.


Concrete is designed to take certain amount of load. If it is loaded beyond that limit cracks might appear. Furthermore, the ground below the concrete may not be compacted properly or is wet, making it to settle under load and as a result cracking the concrete.


If the concrete dries to quickly then the crazing cracks appear on the surface.