How To Look at a House

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What is the box marked PowerBlaster in my electrical panel?

Wednesday, November 23, 2022
What is the box marked PowerBlaster in my electrical panel?

PowerBlaster® is an electrical metering device installed for monitoring home power consumption, and can also track power production for homes with solar panels. It is manufactured by Energy Aware Technology Inc., and recognizable from the name on the box installed in the electrical panel and the C.T. coil sensors surrounding each of the two service...

What is GFCI?

Thursday, November 17, 2022
What is GFCI?

GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, and is sometimes shortened to just GFI. It is a device that senses when current has escaped from its defined circuit and is going to ground. Because the route to ground for the wayward electricity may be through a person’s body, especially where water is involved, it cuts off the circuit within a fraction...

What is the difference between NM-cable and NMC-cable?

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Both NM-cable and NMC-cable are an assembly of two or more electrical conductors in a flexible non-metallic sheathing, but NM-cable is only approved for dry locations. The sheathing of NMC-cable is corrosion-resistant, so it  is rated for installion in dry, damp, wet, or corrosive locations. 
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Frequently Asked Questions about NM-cable (Romex®)

Tuesday, November 15, 2022
Frequently Asked Questions about NM-cable (Romex®)

Here’s links to a collection of answers to our most-frequently-asked questions about NM-CABLE (ROMEX®):
• What is the maximum spacing requirement for securing NM-cable (nonmetallic-sheathed cable)? 
• Is it alright to just put wire nuts on the end of unused or abandoned NM-cable or wiring? 
• Can NM-cable (Romex®) be used to make a...

Can NM-cable (Romex®) lay on the ground in a crawl space or unfinished basement?

Tuesday, November 15, 2022
Can NM-cable (Romex®) lay on the ground in a crawl space or unfinished basement?

Exposed NM-cable must be protected from damage, so it is not allowed to run across the ground in a crawl space or unfinished basement. And the photo above is an example of how not to do it.The National Electrical Code [NEC 334.15(C), NEC 300.4(D), and NEC 334.30(B)] allows these installation methods: 
1) Where the cable is run at angles with...

What is the HUD code for manufactured/mobile homes?

Tuesday, November 15, 2022
What is the HUD code for manufactured/mobile homes?

In response to years of complaints about the shoddy construction of mobile homes all across the country, Congress passed the “National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Standards Act,” and it was enacted into law by president Gerald Ford on August 22nd, 1974. But it did not take effect and begin enforcement until June 15th, 1976. All manufactured...

Can one missing or damaged shingle cause a roof leak?

Friday, November 11, 2022

Although possible that a single missing or damaged roof shingle can cause a roof leak, it’s unlikely unless you can see exposed roofing felt or wood sheathing. But damage in just one spot is like a small hole in a your favorite sweater. Both are made of interwoven pieces that, if not repaired promptly, will eventually unravel and rip open. 
...

What is a water trap at the exterior walls of a house?

Thursday, November 10, 2022

This is different from the water traps found in plumbing pipes or on a golf course. All the surfaces on the exterior wall of a home should slope away from the wall so that any rain that hits the wall will drain away. Areas that are flat, or—even worse—slope backwards, will allow water to puddle on them or funnel it back into the wall. Wood rot is...

MOISTURE PROBLEMS

Thursday, November 10, 2022
MOISTURE PROBLEMS

Moisture from Florida’s hot, humid, and wet outdoor environment can cause big problems in a house if not controlled. Here’s links to some of our articles about it. Also see the WATER INTRUSION page listings. 
• Why do new homes have more moisture and mold problems than older houses?
• What causes raised white lines of residue on a block...

What is rising damp?

Thursday, November 10, 2022
What is rising damp?

"Rising damp" is water being pulled up through porous building materials that are in contact with the ground—like concrete, masonry, or stucco—by capillary action. The wetness can result in mold, wood rot, stained walls, and elevated humidity inside a home. The solution to this problem, which is an especially vexing one in Florida, is a damp proof...

What is a damp proof course (DPC)?

Thursday, November 10, 2022

A damp proof course (DPC) is a barrier installed to stop movement of water by capillary action up through walls and floors. It is also now often referred to as a capillary break. Without a damp proof barrier, moisture moving up from the ground into a home—called rising damp—can cause mold, wood rot, and high humidity in a home. The problem of water...

Why are there bald spots of missing insulation in my attic?

Tuesday, November 8, 2022
Why are there bald spots of missing insulation in my attic?

Here are four possible reasons for gaps in your attic insulation:
1) Insulation was moved for repair or installation work in attic and not replaced afterwards - Workmen in the attic have to move it for repairs or new installations of cable, plumbing, or electric. Sometimes they do a sloppy job of putting the insulation back, or don’t bother at...

Who pays for a septic tank system inspection?

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Like other specialized inspections at the time of a home sale, the cost of the septic inspection is paid by the homebuyer. The only exception would be if the seller agrees to pay for it as part of the sales agreement.
    When the contractual inspection period is long enough, a buyer might wait to order the septic inspection until after getting...

Why are there cracks around my windows and doors?

Sunday, November 6, 2022
Why are there cracks around my windows and doors?

A window or door is essentially a hole in the wall, which makes it a structurally weak area. So when there is any stress in the wall—such as from settlement, uplift, or lateral movement of the soil under the home—the crack that relieves the stress is most likely to occur at the “hole." Also, the window or door has a different rate of thermal expansion...

Where is the water shut-off valve for my refrigerator?

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Newer homes have a water connection and shut-off valve at a box inset in the wall behind the refrigerator. But homes that were built before water service to the refrigerator became standard may have the water supply and valve retrofitted under the kitchen sink next to the cold water shut-off valve. It can also be in another room over a water heater...

Is it safe to plant a vegetable garden over a septic tank drainfield?

Saturday, November 5, 2022
Is it safe to plant a vegetable garden over a septic tank drainfield?

Unfortunately, putting a vegetable garden over a drainfield is a bad idea. Although a septic system that is working properly will provide almost-clear water with a small amount of organic nutrients, it can also deliver harmful pathogens and the residue of household chemicals and prescription drugs that were flushed down the drain. Also, as the tank...

Why is there a small gap between roof sheathing panels?

Saturday, November 5, 2022

The gap is necessary to allow for expansion of the plywood or OSB (Oriented Strand Board) panels when the humidity and/or temperature rises. A 1/8” space is recommended and it's clearly visible when you look up at your sheathing in the attic. The roof sheathing can buckle at the unsupported edges on hot/humid days if the panels are butted together...

How much does a septic tank system inspection cost in Florida?

Thursday, November 3, 2022
How much does a septic tank system inspection cost in Florida?

The average cost for a homebuyer’s septic inspection is around $500. Why so much? The State of Florida requires that the inspection be done by a licensed master plumber or septic contractor, and the tank must be pumped-out in order to certify its condition. Plus, there’s the disposal of the effluent, which is costly due to environmental regulations. 

Why is there a pressure relief valve at the outside wall of my home?

Friday, October 28, 2022
Why is there a pressure relief valve at the outside wall of my home?

The purpose of a pressure relief valve in a home water supply system, like the one shown above, is to protect the pipes and plumbing fixtures from damage caused by excessive pressure. The valve is usually located along the main water line coming into the house and after the shut-off valve. They are not code-required, but definitely a good leakage-prevention...

How do I find the size in tons of an Oxbox air conditioner or heat pump?

Wednesday, October 12, 2022
How do I find the size in tons of an Oxbox air conditioner or heat pump?

The size in tons of an Oxbox air conditioner or heat pump is determined from the third and fourth numbers in a series of four numbers at the center of the model number.  They will be divideable by 6 or 12 and, since a ton of cooling equals 12,000 BTU, dividing that number by 12 will give the tonnage of the unit. So J4AC3036B1000AA indicates 3 tons,...

How do I find the age of an Oxbox air conditioner or heat pump from the serial number?

Wednesday, October 12, 2022
How do I find the age of an Oxbox air conditioner or heat pump from the serial number?

The first two numbers in the serial number of an Oxbox unit is the year of manufacture. For example, 213251638J would mean manufacture in 2021.
    To determine the size in tons of your Oxbox unit, see our blog post How do I find the size in tons of an Oxbox air conditioner or heat pump from the serial number? For the age of another brand or...

How do I find the size in tons of an Airdach air conditioner or heat pump?

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

The size in tons of an Airdach air conditioner or heat pump is determined with the first two numbers (after a series of letters) in the model number. They will be divideable by 6 or 12 and, since a ton of cooling equals 12,000 BTU, dividing that number by 12 will give the tonnage of the unit. So the one shown (ACTC3614NG1-D) below is 3 tons.

How do I find the age of an Airdach air conditioner or heat pump?

Wednesday, October 12, 2022
How do I find the age of an Airdach air conditioner or heat pump?

Look for the scan-bar/QR-code strip below the data sticker on the unit. The year of manufacture is the third and fourth numbers in the sequence at the lower right.

    To determine the size in tons of an Airdach unit, go to How do I find the the size in tons of an Airdach air conditioner or heat pump? And for the age of another brand of...

Can you install a flexible gas appliance connector in an exterior location?

Tuesday, October 4, 2022
Can you install a flexible gas appliance connector in an exterior location?

Many, but not all, flexible gas appliance connectors are rated for exterior installation. You should check the manufacturer’s tag on the connector to verify. The yellow and gray appliance connectors manufactured by Dormont are exterior-rated, for example, but not the blue ones. 

    The appliance connector shown above, connected to a tankless...

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Dishwashers

Wednesday, September 14, 2022
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Dishwashers

Here’s links to ourarticles with answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about dishwashers:
• When was GFCI-protection for kitchen dishwasher receptacle outlet first required? 
• Can a dishwasher be wired to a kitchen counter small appliance receptacle circuit?
 • Can a dishwasher drain hose be connected after the sink...

What is the code minimum size of a dishwasher water supply line?

Wednesday, September 14, 2022
What is the code minimum size of a dishwasher water supply line?

The Florida Plumbing Code (Table 604.5), along with the International Plumbing Code (IPC), specify a minimum 1/2” supply line to a dishwasher. So the 1/4” poly supply line shown above is not acceptable.
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Here’s links to some of our other articles about dishwashers:
• When was GFCI-protection...

Where can I get replacement screws for the cover of my electrical panel (dead front)?

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Replacement screws that match the original ones for the dead front of a panel manufactured by Square D, Eaton, GE, or Siemens are available at the big box home improvment stores and most hardware stores for for around $6 for a half dozen. Screws that match older, defunct brands can be harder to find. But you can also get a 25-count bag of generic...

What is a good SEER rating?

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Defining a good SEER rating is a moving target. As HVAC technology and the minimum SEER requirement of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) push the number steadily higher, what was once a good SEER becomes just average or even low. If you define it as a number that is a little above the current minimum, then a good SEER today is in the 16 to 18 range....

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about SEER ratings

Friday, September 9, 2022
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about SEER ratings

If you know that the SEER number is an energy efficiency rating that must be posted on all new heat pump and air conditioning systems, that’s good. And if you understand that a higher SEER number means a lower electricity bill, that’s even better. Here’s more details:
• What does the “SEER” rating of an air conditioner mean? 
• How can I...

What is the difference between SEER and SEER2?

Friday, September 9, 2022
What is the difference between SEER and SEER2?

SEER2 is an updated version the original SEER energy efficiency rating system for air conditioners and heat pumps. It has raised the external static pressure requirement for testing, which the Department of Energy has determined will more closely resemble real-world conditions. External static pressure is the sum of all the external pressures, both...

Here's the 30 most recent of over 2900 home inspection blog entries. You can also use the Blog Index link above, or search box below, to find the article with the info you need. Also, our Blog Archive lists all the articles, including a reposting and updating of earlier blogs from mcgarryandmadsen.com dating back to 2011.

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