Like many items in the house, water heaters are not designed to last for the life of the house. So inevitably one day everyone’s water heater will need replacement. So, what water heater should you use to replace it? There are many different options today to change the water heater out with. Let’s look at some of the different type of water heaters we commonly see installed during our inspections.
Gas hot water heater: We find this style of hot water heater all day long and this probably makes up the bulk of what we see. One downside to this style is that energy is lost by keeping the water heated in the water heater all day and night. The upside however, is the price of gas is relatively inexpensive so this amounts to little money every month. A common problem people run into when replacing their hot water heater is that there are inevitably issues with the flue pipe or chimney. This can sometimes increase the cost of replacement for a standard gas water heater substantially.
Electric hot water heater: Next to gas water heaters, this is the style we find most commonly installed. These can be very easy to install as there is no flue pipe to deal with. Commonly, when there is a flue pipe issue a solution might be to come back with an electric water heater. While electric water heater are typically more energy efficient, electricity being more expensive than gas causes them to be more expensive to run every month. The recovery time on electric water heater typically lags behind that of gas ones as well.
Powervent hot water heater: These are gas hot water heaters that essentially utilize a fan to push the hot water heater gases through a plastic flue pipe. The biggest advantage to these guys is the flue pipe does not have to go out through the roof. It can go straight through the side of the house to discharge to the exterior. These can be a great option when trying replace an existing gas water heater that has expensive issues.
Tankless hot water heater: These guys are all the rage these days and capture the most attention from our clients. They are usually gas and are highly efficient. They only heat the water used instead of the older style which constantly heats 40 gallons (or more depending the time you use) thus saving you money. Unfortunately, this water heater can be triple the cost of a traditional water heater installation. Sometimes it can take several minutes for the water to turn hot. The benefit claimed by manufacturers is unlimited hot water. However, there is research questioning how many fixtures can be turned on simultaneously or what temperature you need to have the hot water heater set too, to maintain the designed temperature or the amount of fixtures running.
These are all the different options for some commonly found hot water heaters. There are other styles of course but these are the ones we find the most. As you can tell, it really depends on the installation and house hold for which one would fit you the best.
4. Insulate exterior hose pipes and bibs on the exterior of the house if you cannot shut off the water to them! Also insulate pipes in areas of the house that are not conditioned such as in the attic and the garage and even in the crawlspace at pipes that are close to the exterior vents. 5. Get your chimney cleaned. Getting your chimney cleaned out can really help reduce the dangers when it finally gets cold enough to use down here in Alabama. Creosote accumulations can build up and catch fire in chimneys and animals can nest in the flue pipes along with other problems a chimney technician can identify resolve while cleaning the chimney.
One of the many great things about being a Home Inspector in Birmingham, Al is the ability to test out so many of the years great new gadgets that pop up. We get to see the new stuff in the houses and then put it through the ropes. The following are some of the cool things that we have started seeing that would make great gifts!
1. WIFI Thermostat
We cannot say enough great things about WIFI thermostats. I can hardly remember what life was like before mine. The idea behind this feature is that your thermostat connects to the internet and then, using an app on your phone, you can control the temperature of your house from anywhere you have service. It is a great feeling to be driving home from Christmas tree shopping and be able to turn the heat on before we get there.
2. Ring Doorbell
This one is more modern than the WIFI thermostat. The Ring Doorbell has a camera, speaker and motion sensor in the doorbell. When the doorbell is rung or the motion sensor activated a message gets sent to your phone. From your phone you get a live stream of who is at your door and even talk to them if you wish. Pretty useful for the times you aren't expecting company.
3. Little Giant Ladder
These ladders are fantastic. They can help you get into some really tight places. Because they can configure into so many different sizes you really only need the one ladder so you don't have to worry about storing a variety of size ladders anymore. We use this ladder all day everyday for work and it just keeps on ticking. We give this ladder huge applause and they are must haves for any homeowner.
4. Patio Heaters/ Fire pits
Patio heaters and fire pits make fantastic gifts in the Christmas season as the weather starts too cool down. Fire pits are great fun to hang out around in the back yard during football season. Patio heaters put off a surprising amount of heat making the short winter spell that we have in Alabama all that much more tolerable while outside.
5. Cordless Drill
Last but not least is the cordless drill. The advances in cordless drill technology have been great. The batteries have gotten better and better allowing for some pretty significant usage before recharge is needed. This is a must have for any new home owner, especially first time ones.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has made a substantial change to the recommended remediation protocol for homes with problem Chinese Drywall. The new protocol is no longer recommending removal of all electrical wiring.
"With these changes, the remediation guidance for homes with problem drywall calls for the replacement of all
(1) possible problem drywall;
(2) fire safety alarm devices (including smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms);
(3) electrical distribution components (including receptacles, switches, and circuit
breakers, but not necessarily electrical wiring); and
(4) gas service piping and fire suppression sprinkler"
Executive Summary of Identification Guidance and Remediation Guidance
for Homes with Corrosion from Problem Drywall as of March 18, 20111
--Myth:Homes that don't have a bad odor cannot have Chinese drywall. FALSE--We have discovered numerous homes that contained Chinese drywall but no unusual odor was evident to the homeowner. Some Chinese drywall has low sulfur amounts and has little if any odor.
--Myth:The best way to identify Chinese drywall is random testing of the wall areas. FALSE-- Often Chinese drywall is only one of many drywall brands installed in a home and random testing can be "hit or miss". While not perfect, a visual inspection of the electrical, plumbing, gas, HVAC and visible drywall under the attic insulation is at present the best method. Testing of identified suspect areas can then be accomplished.
--Myth:Most all homes in the Alabama area built during the building boom probably have some Chinese drywall. FALSE --Many of the newer homes that we have inspected have had no evidence of Chinese drywall.
--Myth:Only homes recently built can have Chinese drywall. FALSE--We have found remodeled homes with Chinese drywall that were as old as 1930.
--Myth:If one home in a subdivision has Chinese drywall then likely all the homes have it. FALSE--We have found many examples of two homes built next to each other where one home has no indication of Chinese drywall and the neighbor has evident Chinese drywall boards and corrosion damage.
--Myth:Chinese drywall was only installed in homes during 2006. FALSE --According to the CPSC, homes with drywall installed from 2001 through 2009 could contain Chinese drywall.
--MYTH:This 3 year old home does not have Chinese drywall because the effects and odors would be apparent by now. False-- We've had clients report that they did not have any indications in the first few years.
--MYTH:I can tell the difference on my walls because Chinese drywall feels different.--The painted surface of Chinese drywall does not necessarily have a noticeable difference in the surface. Some experts believe that the gypsum mineral inside the boards does has a different texture from American boards.
--MYTH:My drywall supplier states that they did not deliver "KNAUF" brand drywall so I could not possibly have Chinese drywall installed. --Chinese drywall was installed in homes from several different Chinese brands-not just Knauf.
--MYTH:The home inspector can tell if my new home has Chinese drywall during a home inspection. --Most often the Chinese drywall is not evident and it takes a different and specific inspection process to attempt to identify Chinese drywall. Most Chinese drywall inspections take about the same length of time as a home inspection. Chinese drywall identification is not included in the Alabama Home Inspection Standards.
--MYTH:All Chinese drywall inspections involve cutting holes into the drywall to test for contamination.--Most inspections are visual and do not involve cutting the drywall. Occasionally, testing may be needed of a specific area of corrosion or drywall board.
Although more than two dozen different Chinese brand drywall boards are thought to be possibly installed in homes in the USA (per labeling by the Multi District Class Action Lawsuit- MDL), the ones we have most often found in our area of Alabama indentified as of Chinese origin are: Knauf (several brand variants), Venture, Prowall, and an unmarked board of Chinese origin.
Some exceptions are occasionally found, and recognizing non-labeled boards that are Chinese drywall is one of the challenges with a visual inspection. Another challenge is recognizing domestic drywall boards in order to rule them out as not being of Chinese drywall origin is another challenge. The MDL indentifies just 4 brands as being non-Chinese in origin. However, we have found several dozen different boards that identify themselves as made by companies in the USA.
Is all testing for Chinese drywall accurate? The short answer is “No”. The long answer…
Recently, we have had several customers call the office requesting a Chinese drywall inspection with testing. These customers had previously completed Chinese drywall testing and had been told they had Chinese drywall but wanted yet another and "non partial" inspection with testing. In some cases, upon completion of our inspection and testing, no evidence of Chinese drywall was found. Interestingly enough, in some of these inspections, the very boards in question were clearly manufactured in the USA. Additionally, proper testing by an accredited lab showed no excessive corrosion causing sulfur chemcial present in the questionable drywall.
Why the difference in results? Apparently, some testing companies are using test methods that are not recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Also, some companies are testing strictly for chemicals that are naturally found in USA drywall. In these type tests, the glitch may be that the allowable threshold for the chemical is set so low that some domestic brands may wrongfully be determined to be Chinese drywall.
As we have seen in the last year, the CPSC standards continue to evolve as more is learned about the problems with Chinese drywall. We try to stay abreast of the most current CPSC standards. We keep the lines of communication open with the labs we work with to ensure the most up-to-date testing. While we cannot guarantee our clients their homes do not have any Chinese drywall installed, we can offer some of our clients a level of confidence that will help them rest easier until the CPSC offers final protocol for identifying Chinese drywall.
With so many companies popping up to offer testing, inspection, and remediation for Chinese drywall, it's no wonder the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published a warning: "Don’t Get Nailed by Bogus Tests and Treatments". The CPSC also recently released guidelines to help bring some standardization to the inspection, testing and remediation of possible Chinese Drywall installations. Hopefully, these guidelines will bring some peace of mind to those who have been wrongfully told they have Chinese drywall. For those who are unsure whether or not they have Chinese drywall, these guidelines may help determine if Chinese drywall is present.
Griffith Home Analysis has long-established relationships with accredited environmental labs. We have been providing residential environmental testing for nearly twenty years and don't take take it lightly. The CPSC recommended drywall tests measure for contaminants as low as 10 parts per million. As a result, we leave the accuracy of these types of tests to qualified chemists. We do not perform onsite drywall tests as we have found some of these types of tests to be inaccurate.
We have discovered, just as the CPSC has suggested in step one of their new guidelines, that a visual inspection of the accessible drywall areas and the home systems' accessible metal components is the best place to start to determine if the possibility of Chinese drywalls existence in a building. Looking for possible markings of Chinese drywall or the corrosion resulting from Chinese drywall has proven to be our best tip-off that a home has Chinese drywall.
Visual identification can be difficult since most of the drywall manufacturer markings are obscured. Most views of the drywall manufacturers stamps are limited to partial stamps on the back of the drywall, pieces of the boards end tape or partial UPC numbers. We rely on our database of information built from hundreds of drywall inspections and first hand information from labs, drywall manufacturers, drywall distributors, builders and developers to help sort the limited information obtained in a drywall inspection.
For more information see the CPSC page: http://www.cpsc.gov/info/drywall/InterimIDGuidance012810.pdf
We have been waiting on some standards to evolve and offer some guidance on what to do with the homes that conclusively have Chinese drywall installed. The CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) has released "Guidance on Repairing Homes With Problem Drywall".
For clients who have Chinese drywall, the CPSC publication, as generally expected, recommends "remove all possible problem drywall from their homes, and replace electrical components and wiring, gas service piping, fire suppression sprinkler systems, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms." In most cases, this means the removal of most of the interior finishes to strip to the studs.
The unexpected result of the CPSC's sweeping recommendation is the effect on homes that have a partial amount of or only a few Chinese drywall boards. In Alabama, our experience with Chinese drywall inspections has discovered many homes with only partial installations of Chinese drywall and some exhibit little or no corrosion damage to the systems. Some contractors are arguing that complete removal of the homes interior and mechanical systems may be overkill. As we have seen in the past year, the guidelines seem to be continually evolving. Many homeowners are waiting for information from the EPA or CPSC on the health impact of the drywall contamination to decide how to react.
For more information see the CPSC web page: