Water Heater Temperature Safety

Water Heater Temperature Safety

The water heater is a key component of a home’s plumbing system. Because of that, it’s also important part of a thorough home inspection. One thing a home inspector should check is the temperature setting on the control valve.

You use the control valve to set the temperature on the water heater. (Most water heaters are gas-fueled.) High temperature settings can cause severe scalding at sink and shower faucets. A proper setting ensures against that safety hazard. Plus, you’ll have a lower energy bill with a lower valve setting.

All manufacturers preset a temperature on this valve. 120℉ is the most common setting. You can determine the setting on your heater by noting where the arrows on the dial and the metal plate align. The dial in the picture above shows a very high setting. A home inspector would usually identify this as a safety hazard and recommend you adjust the temperature to a lower setting.

The temperature setting is just one component of water heater safety. For more information on water heater safety, check out this article from Nationwide.

Homeowner’s Insurance Basics

Homeowner’s Insurance Basics

The largest single investment most consumers make is in their home. Consumers can protect their physical structures, possessions, and minimize liability with a homeowners’s insurance policy. This policy is actually a package that combines four types of insurance coverage in a single policy. They are:

1. Property Damage Coverage

Property damage coverage helps pay for damage to your home and personal property. Your policy will usually cover other structures such as a detached garage or any other building on your property for 10% of the amount of coverage on your house. Your personal property, including household furniture, clothing, and other personal belongings, are also covered. This coverage is usually 50% of the policy limit on your dwelling. The coverage is also limited by the types of loss listed in the policy. Also, it only pays the current cash value of the item destroyed, unless you purchase replacement cost coverage. The policy also provides off-premises coverage, meaning your belongings are insured against theft even when they are not inside your home.

2. Personal Liability Coverage

Homeowner’s policies provide personal liability coverage that applies to non-auto accidents on and off your property if the injury or damage is caused by you, a member of your family, or your pet. The liability coverage in your policy pays both for the cost of defending you and paying for any damages the court rules you must pay, and there is no deductible to meet before losses are paid. The basic liability coverage is usually $100,000 for each occurrence, although you can request higher limits for an additional cost.

3. Medical Payments Coverage

Medical payment coverage pays if someone outside your family is injured at your home regardless of fault. This includes payment for reasonable medical expenses incurred within one year from the date of  the injury or accident in your home. The coverage does not apply to you and members of your household. This part of your homeowner’s policy may also pay if you are involved in the injury of another person away from your home. Medical payments coverage limits are generally $1,000 for each person.

4. Additional Living Expenses

If you need to move into a hotel or apartment temporarily, your insurance company will pay up to 20% of the policy limit on your dwelling for these expenses. However, if you move in temporarily with a friend or relative and do not have any extra expenses, you will not be paid for additional living expenses.

 

An Important Exclusion

Do you operate a full or part-time home-based business? Don’t assume your homeowner’s insurance policy covers all of your home business needs. If your policy provides coverage at all, it’s probably limited. You’re probably only covered for a maximum of $2,500 for equipment in your home and $250 for equipment off-site.

What You Should Know About Electrical Systems

What You Should Know About Electrical Systems

Electrical systems are an essential part of today’s lifestyle.  They power most modern home conveniences, such as lights, appliances, furnaces, air conditioners, televisions, entertainment centers, and computers.  An electrical system found in a typical home includes incoming power from a utility company, meter box, main disconnect switch, service panel, breakers or fuses, branch circuits and, at times, sub-panels. All of these supply power to light fixtures, ceiling fans, appliances and other equipment.

Electrical needs are continually growing.  Houses built prior to 1940 may still have their original service capacity of 30 or 60 amps, while 100-amp service became the norm sometime in the 1970s.  Since the 1990s, most new construction includes 200-amp service.

Utility companies provide power through wires to the meter box from either an overhead service drop or underground conduit.  Most older houses have service drops.  Three wires (two hot and one neutral) run from the utility company’s transformer to the meter box.  These wires, in turn, run to a service panel located on an interior wall near the meter box.

Electrical System Disconnect Breakers

Most service panels have an integrated main disconnect breaker, fuse, or lever.  A main disconnect that is not in the service panel may be in a separate panel near the service panel or outside at the meter box.  The main disconnect controls the electricity to the breakers or fuses.  Branch circuits are controlled by the breakers or fuses and are made up of wire, a means to distribute this wire (i.e. knob & tube, non-metallic cable, plastic or metal conduit & junction boxes), outlets, and/or switches.  In a 120-volt circuit there are two wires, one hot (usually black or red) and one neutral (white).  In a 240-volt circuit there are three wires, two hot (usually black or red) and one neutral (white).

Grounding Systems

Grounding is a separate system within the electrical system.  An effective grounding system disposes unwanted electricity to the ground, removing the potential for shock or electrocution.  Today’s practice has ground wires running from outlets and various fixtures to the neutral buss bar in the service panel.  Electricians also use wires or straps to bond metal components that are not supposed to carry electricity.  Ground wires also run from the neutral buss bar to water pipes and/or grounding rods, thus completing the circuit and making an effective ground.

Circuit Breakers

Breakers or fuses are the weak link in the branch circuit.  This is deliberate, serving as the fail safe if the circuit draws more current than it is designed to conduct. Otherwise, the wires would heat up with the potential for fire.  Breakers trip and can be reset, while fuses have to be replaced.  Single pole breakers typically come in 15 and 20 amps, which provide 120 volts. Double pole breakers are designed up to 50 amps and are used for dedicated appliances or equipment such as air conditioners, electric dryers, ranges, stoves and the like.  Electricians use two basic types of fuses for home service panels. Cartridge comes in small (15 to 30 amp), medium (35 to 60 amps) and large (100 amp).  Appliances and equipment that require 240 volts of electricity usually employ cartridges. The second type, conventional, typically comes in 15 to 30 amps.

What are GFCI and AFCI?

A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) or an Arch Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) can also provide protection for circuits. There are both GFCI breakers and outlets.  The purpose of both is to provide protection (in fractions of a second) from the likelihood of fatal shock in areas such as kitchen countertops, bathrooms, laundry room & tubs, garages, and basements. GFCI breakers protect the entire circuit, while GFCI outlets only protect the outlet on which they are installed and outlets downstream from them.

AFCIs protect from fire. AFCI breakers detect if there is an arch when electricity moves from one conductor across an insulator (either air or solid insulating material) to another conductor.  The heat generated in this process can ignite near combustible materials.  Damaged electrical cords or outlets not properly installed can create arch faults.

Swimming Pool Safety

Swimming Pool Safety

Swimming pools should always be happy places. Unfortunately, each year thousands of American families confront tragedies caused in part by lack of swimming pool safety measures. These tragedies are preventable.

Swimming Pool Safety Statistics

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has estimated that about 300 children under 5 years old drown in swimming pools each year. More than 2,000 children under 5 require hospital emergency room treatment for submersion in swimming pools.

Here are some statistics from a study the CPAC did in California, Arizona and Florida.

  • Drowning was the leading cause of accidental death around the home for children under the age of 5.
  • 75% of the children involved in submersion or drowning accidents were between 1 and 3 years old. Boys between 1 and 3 years old were the most likely victims of fatal near-fatal submersion in residential swimming pools.
  • In most cases, one or both parents were supervising the victim when the swimming pool accident occurred.
  • Nearly half of these victims were last seen in the house before the incident occurred. In addition, 23 percent of the accident victims were last seen on the porch, on the patio, or in the yard.
  • This means that 69% of the time no one expected the victims to be in or near the pool.
  • 65% of the accidents occurred in a pool owned by the victim’s immediate family.  33 percent of the accidents occurred in pools owned by relatives or friends.
  • Fewer than 2% of the pool accidents resulted from children trespassing on property where they didn’t live or belong.
  • 77% of the swimming pool accident victims had been missing for five minutes or less when someone found them in the pool drowned or submerged.

Why Do These Accidents Happen?

The speed with which swimming pool drowning and submersion can occur is a special concern. Anyone who has cared for a toddler knows how fast young children can move. Toddlers are inquisitive and impulsive and lack a realistic sense of danger. Therefore, these behaviors, coupled with a child’s ability to move quickly and unpredictably, make swimming pools particularly hazardous for households with young children.

In addition, swimming pool drownings of young children have another particularly insidious feature: these are silent deaths. It is unlikely that splashing or screaming will alert a parent or caregiver that a child is in trouble.

The best way to reduce child drowning’s in residential pools was for pool owners to construct and maintain barriers that prevent young children from gaining access to pools. However, there are no swimming pool safety substitutes for diligent supervision.

Barrier Guidelines for Swimming Pool Safety

Height

  • First, the top of a pool barrier should be at least 48 inches above grade, measured on the side of the barrier which faces away from the swimming pool.

Distance between members

  • If the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is more than 45 inches, the horizontal members can be on the side of the fence facing away from the pool.
  • Spacing between vertical members should not exceed 4 inches. This size is based on the head breadth and chest depth of a young child.
  • If there are any decorative cutouts in the fence, the space within the cutouts should not exceed 1-3/4 inches.
  • For a chain link fence, the mesh size should not exceed 1-1/4 inches square unless slats, fastened at the top or bottom of the fence, are used to reduce mesh openings to no more than 1-3/4 inches.
  • A fence made up of diagonal members (latticework) should have openings in the lattice of 1-3/4 inches or smaller.

Above-ground pools

  • The pool structure itself can serve as a barrier. Also, you can mount a barrier on top of the pool structure.
  • Either secure the steps or ladder with a lock or remove them to prevent access.
  • If locking or removal are not possible, you can surround the steps or ladder with a barrier like those described above.

Bottom Clearance

  • For any pool barrier, the maximum clearance at the bottom of the barrier should not exceed 4 inches above grade, when the measured on the side of the barrier facing away from the pool.
  • If an above-ground pool has a barrier on the top of the pool, the maximum vertical clearance between the top of the pool and the bottom of the barrier should not exceed 4 inches.

Gates for Swimming Pool Safety

Residential properties typically have two kinds of gates. Both can play a part in the design of a swimming pool safety barrier. Swimming pool barriers should have a gate or gates that restrict access to the pool.

  • The gates should have locks.
  • Gates should open out from the pool and should self-close and self-latch. That way, a young child pushing on an unlatched gate from the outside will close the gate and may engage the latch.
  • If the latch release mechanism is less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate, it should be at least 3 inches below the top of the gate on the side facing the pool. This prevents a young child from reaching over the top of a gate and releasing the latch.
  • The gate and barrier should have no opening greater than 1/2 inch within 18 inches of the latch release mechanism. This prevents someone from reaching through the gate and releasing the latch.

Your Home’s Doors

In many homes, doors open directly onto the pool area or onto a patio which leads to the pool. In such cases, the wall of the house is an important part of the pool barrier. You should apply security measures to any doors to the outside, even if those doors don’t lead directly to the pool area.

For swimming pool safety, all doors to a swimming pool area should have an audible alarm that sounds when the door and/or screen are opened.

  • The alarm should sound for 30 seconds or more within 7 seconds after the door is opened.
  • Of course, alarms should be loud – at least 85 decibels, when measured 10 feet away from the alarm mechanism.
  • The alarm sound should be distinct from other sounds in the house, such as the telephone, doorbell and smoke alarm.
  • An automatic reset feature should be available.
  • Because adults will want to pass through doors without setting off the alarm, the alarm should have a switch that allows adults to temporarily deactivate the alarm for up to 15 seconds. The deactivation switch could be a touch pad (keypad) or a manual switch and should be located at least 54 inches above the threshold of the door covered by the alarm. This height is based on the reaching ability of young children.
  • Self-closing doors with self-latching devices could also be used to safeguard doors which give ready access to a swimming pool.

Indoor Pools

When a pool is located completely within a house, the walls that surround the pool should serve as pool safety barriers. Measures recommended above where a house wall serves as part of a safety barrier also apply for all the walls surrounding an indoor pool.

Exemptions

A portable spa with a safety cover which complies with ASTM F1346-91 should be exempt from the guidelines presented in this document. Swimming pools, hot tubs, and non-portable spas with safety covers should not be exempt from the provisions of this document.

 

With the right barriers and protection in place, your family, neighbors and friends can enjoy your pool without concerns about swimming pool safety. Summer and your pool will be fun again!

Home Owner, Inspector Insider Blog