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John Mettle
John Mettle
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Electrical Safety

You may not know a lot about electricity, but you know a couple things for sure. You know you want your lights, refrigerator and your computer to work. 

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Here’s some information about trends in electricity usage in homes, as well as some warning signs of potential problems.

Beause of the demands placed on new and existing homes to distribute video, audio and Internet services to multiple users throughout the house, it’s important that homes are wired adequately. 

Recent legislation aimed at protecting homeowners has mandated the usage of specific electrical equipment in new home construction. Without getting too technical, you should know that Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) installation has been required in bedrooms of new residential construction, effective January 1, 2002 by the National Electrical Code® (NEC). AFCIs protect against fire by continuously monitoring the electrical current in a circuit and shutting off the circuit when unintended arcing occurs. Bedrooms were selected as the first area in which to implement this requirement because of a history of fires there.

In addition, a proposal was accepted for the 2008 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) that expands the use of arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) to all 15A and 20A branch circuits in new dwellings. This is due to the fact that conventional circuit breakers and fuses aren’t always enough to protect against electrical arcing in certain situations.

What else should you know?

When you’re selling an older home, or interested
in purchasing one, it’s important to have the wiring
inspected.  Even if the house is filled with antiques,
the wiring shouldn’t be in vintage condition.

Many of the legal wiring practices from past decades
are now illegal and considered downright dangerous
by today’s standards.  If you’ve ever touched the
cord of an antique lamp, you know what I mean.
They sometimes crumble to the touch.  Insulation materials used in older homes often meet the same fate. And because we’re a wired society, inadequate wiring is often pushed beyond acceptable limits of safe operation.

What can happen?  Arcing and overloading are common causes of electrical fires. Electricity that jumps across a gap to another conductor (arcs) can ignite flammable materials in its vicinity. Another potential fire hazard is having too much current passing through a wire, causing a circuit overload.  Melting or burning of the wire’s insulation can result and start a fire.

If undersized wiring is mistakenly used, this can also lead to fire risk. The same applies for undersized extension cords. When extension cords are used to extend or replace permanent household wiring, it’s a problem.

Keep in mind an estimated 50 million homes in the United States need
to be inspected for unsafe wiring systems. In fact, the Electrical Safety
Foundation International and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission recommend electrical inspections for any home 40 years
old and older, any home more than 10 years old that has had renovations
or the addition of major appliances, and any time a home changes hands.

Here are some things to keep in mind when previewing properties.  Are
there sufficient outlets throughout the home? Too many things plugged
in an outlet can create more current demand than a single outlet or
electrical line can safely handle. Adding multiple plug-in strips won't solve
the problem and extension cords should never be used for this purpose.
What the home needs are additional outlets, and possibly new wiring runs
to service them.

Do the outlets accept three-prong plugs? The third prong on a typical
appliance plug is for grounding and provides an extra measure of safety
against electrical shock. Older two-prong receptacle outlets, installed in
homes before this innovation, may not be adequately grounded and
should be upgraded.

An initial electrical inspection done by a trained home inspector is an excellent investment and can help make sure your family stays wired in your new home! Click here to view a sample report. Note: A home inspection is not a home warranty. Home warranties can be be purchased through a home warranty company.


The EPA (Environmental Protection Ageny) estimates that about 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. are radon-related. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Radon is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced by the decay of naturally occurring uranium in soil and water. Radon is a form of ionizing radiation and a proven carcinogen. Lung cancer is the only known effect on human health from exposure to radon in air. Thus far, there is no evidence that children are at greater risk of lung cancer than are adults.

The California State Radon Officer estimates that 23% of the homes in Los Angeles County have high radon levels and 18% of the homes in Ventura County have high radon levels.

Radon in air is ubiquitous. Radon is found in outdoor air and in the indoor air of buildings of all kinds. The EPA recommends homes be fixed if the radon level is 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or more. Because there is no known safe level of exposure to radon, the EPA also recommends that Americans consider fixing their home for radon levels between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L. The average radon concentration in the indoor air of America's homes is about 1.3 pCi/L. It is upon this level that the EPA based its estimate of 20,000 radon-related lung cancers a year upon. It is for this simple reason that the EPA recommends that Americans consider fixing their homes when the radon level is between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L. The average concentration of radon in outdoor air is .4 pCi/L or 1/10th of EPA's 4 pCi/L action level.

Radon reduction systems work. Some radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in your home by up to 99 percent. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs. Your costs may vary depending on the size and design of your home and which radon reduction methods are needed. Get an estimate from one or more qualified radon mitigation contractors. Hundreds of thousands of people have reduced radon levels in their homes.


Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any
organic substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present. There
are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation.
When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials,
mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains
undiscovered or unaddressed. It is impossible to eliminate all mold and
mold spores in the indoor environment. However, mold growth can be
controlled indoors by controlling moisture indoors.

Nine Things You Should Know About Mold

1. Potential health effects and symptoms associated with mold exposures
include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints.

2. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.

3. If mold is a problem in your home or school, you must clean up the mold and eliminate sources of moisture.

4. Fix the source of the water problem or leak to prevent mold growth.

5. Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60%) to decrease mold growth by: venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside; using air conditioners and de-humidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.

6. Clean and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.

7. Prevent condensation: Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces (i.e., windows, piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.

8. In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, contact a professional plumber or contractor to have the problem corrected.

9. Molds can be found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any substance, providing moisture is present. There are molds that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods.

Maintaining The Flow

The plumbing industry can trace its roots to ancient times, when
the Romans created a system of pipes connected to aqueducts to
bring water into their homes. Plumbing processes today are certainly
more complicated, but the idea is much the same -- a system that
brings clean water into our homes and removes waste water from
our homes.

While home builders and home buyers make decisions on many
of the plumbing features found in new homes today, public health
standards in the United States require all plumbing systems to
meet strict government specifications. Licensed inspectors monitor
the cleanliness of our drinking water, the types of materials used to
create plumbing systems in homes, offices and schools, the quantity
of water that we use, as well as the systems employed to remove
waste from our homes, and many other water and sanitation issues.
Close government monitoring of water usage and other plumbing
matters will continue because, according to the EPA, a government
survey showed at least 36 States are anticipating local, regional, or
statewide water shortages in the future.

With these facts in mind, it’s good to understand some plumbing basics, as well as trends likely to affect plumbing systems in the future. According to EPA figures, the average family of four uses 400 gallons of water a day. If a home has one or more leaky faucets, a drip rate of one drip per second will waste more than 3,000 gallons of water each year. Leaks can be found by reading the water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same both times, there is probably a leak somewhere. This problem can usually be fixed by simply replacing any worn faucet washers. On the bottom of a faucet stem, a screw holds a rubber washer in place. Unscrewing the washer and replacing it with a new washer of the same size may eliminate the leak. Washerless faucets have O-rings instead of washers that provide a seal, and a cartridge, ball, or disc mechanism that controls the water flow. These leaks can usually be fixed by replacing the O-ring on the stem.

A leaky toilet also presents a problem by wasting about 200 gallons of water every day. A toilet leak can be diagnosed by placing a drop of food coloring in the tank. If the color shows in the bowl without flushing, there’s a leak.

If the toilet was purchased prior to 1992, it is probably an inefficient model that uses between 3.5 to 7 gallons of water per flush. New and improved high-efficiency models use less than 1.3 gallons per flush -- that's at least a 60 percent reduction in water use than older, less efficient toilets. Retrofitting a home with high-efficiency toilets can save a family of four roughly $1,000 over 10 years without compromising performance.

Other plumbing fixtures in a home that may experience leaks include exposed pipes, as well as pipes that run through walls or the foundation. Green stains around brass and copper may signal corrosion.

Water pressure is an important function of a properly working plumbing system. Low pressure can indicate a problem with a line or sediment buildup in the faucet aerator or shower head.  In bathrooms, tiles in the shower area and around sinks should not show cracks. A tap on a tile may reveal loose or hollow tiles, indicating moisture leaks.

Also keep in mind that every plumbing system has its limits, based on the age and size of the system. Any planned improvements must take these limitations into consideration. For example, an existing drain line may work well for the number of sinks and toilets already installed, but may not have the capacity to catch the flow from an additional sink or toilet.

For the future, trends in plumbing include more solar powered water heating systems, as well as recycling graywater (defined as the non-industrial wastewater generated from domestic processes such as washing dishes, laundry and bathing). Advanced plumbing systems also will add innovative technologies to provide customized features as well as focusing on water conservation.

Water Quality

Is the water you drink, cook with or use for bathing... contaminated?

Are you drinking water that contains petroleum or bacteria, such as
Escherichia coli (commonly known as E. coli)?

Water Quality Water is the universal solvent, and it has the capability
of dissolving just about anything. Because of this unique property,
water can easily become contaminated. Serious contaminates such as
Lead and E. Coli Bacteria may be toxins affecting your family’s health.

You can test for the following:

• Inorganic: Minerals and physical properties

• Organic: Petroleum products, gasoline, fuel oil, and solvents

• Microbiology: Coliform, E. coli and other bacteria

• Radiology

• Radon gas

electrical panel
mold on the foundation
leaking faucet
glass of tap water