Renovation & Design

Renovation & Design

You've got questions -- he's got answers

Question: Where do your questions come from and what topics will you respond to?

Answer: It may seem a little odd for me to be answering this self-posed question after more than two decades of weekly columns, but it should still be relevant, even to longtime readers. As things have evolved, over time, I often find that inquiries from readers only trickle in and are often redundant. So, I posed this question to all of you regular readers in an attempt to spur on more responses.

At the bottom of each weekly submission is a small caption that explains where questions can be sent. Originally, I accepted not only emailed questions, but ones from good old Canada Post. At the beginning of this endeavour they may even have outnumbered the electronic inquiries. As the internet and email grew much more reliable and commonplace, I decided that it was much easier to cut and paste a digital question than manually type one into my laptop from a handwritten letter. Limiting those remaining few lovely mailed-in questions was a risk worth the effort. From that time forth, sending emailed submissions to trainedeye@iname.com was the primary means of getting a published response.

In addition to the regular emails from readers, I often include questions I receive from various other forms, often phone calls and other correspondence. Much of these are directly related to my home inspection service, whether from clients, my website, or from potential clients with home related issues. While it may take me a few days to respond to a general question received on my voicemail, I always endeavour to respond, as time allows. Thanks to the incredible reach of the internet, these inquiries often come from far and away. If the question has possible merit for my column, I will ask the caller if I can use it in a future article and print their name. Most people readily comply, but some will have privacy concerns over publication of their full name. I always respect that request by using only a partial name, and/or initials.

As far as possible topics, I have never really defined the parameters, nor have I severely limited the scope. Anything and everything to do with people’s homes is in play. Most questions are understandably related to either problems with current homes or renovations. The most popular ones almost always concern moisture issues in homes or mechanical systems that are often misunderstood. How to properly operate a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) easily tops the mechanical side of things, while basement, crawlspace, and attic moisture problems are prominent.

While these are undoubtedly the expected inquiries to an "Answers" column, I am still surprised at the relatively few questions I receive directly related to home inspections. When I first started writing this column, I regularly had to explain to most people what a home inspector did. Many homeowners and perspective buyers did not understand that there were individuals like me who would thoroughly evaluate a property prior to purchasing it. As the popularity and understanding of pre-purchase home inspections grew, I expected the questions to follow suit. While I rarely have to explain to people the complexities of the home inspection profession anymore, the focus of the emails has not changed substantially. I fully anticipated receiving weekly questions about unlicensed sub-standard home inspectors, pushy realtors, and cranky sellers. This just did not happen. Even questions about the entire home purchasing and selling process were few and far between. Regardless, I am still more than happy to address homeowner questions about cracked foundations and proper insulation methods.

But what about concerns with the extreme "buyer’s market" of the last couple of years? I have many questions from friends, family, and clients about the effect on mine and other inspector’s business, but almost none from readers. I am certain that there is a high level of curiosity in cyberspace, based on articles I have seen in numerous publications and online. What about the current state of affairs in regards to licensing of inspectors? Changes to the real estate acts in recent years, regarding condo purchases have been significant with the "cooling off period." Will that happen in the near future for all residential purchases? These and other house buying issues are constantly evolving and I am sure there are many people with relevant questions.

Now it is up to all of you "constant readers", to borrow a favourite phrase of Stephen King, to belly up to the bar. Please take a few minutes on your laptop, iPad, or smartphone and send me an email with a question about your experiences with your homes, as well as buying and selling. Don’t worry about full, proper sentences being an issue. A little editing is standard fare for most emails. If you have an issue or question about something you have not been able to answer, even with research on the web, send it to me. Especially if it has to do with a topic not previously discussed in these pages, or any inspection related queries, it is most welcome. I always endeavour to keep the topics fresh and varied, but I need your help to supply me with new material for that purpose. Thanks to those who have taken the time to send in previous questions, and to all of you for reading.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and a Registered Home Inspector (RHI)(cahpi.ca). Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at trainedeye.ca.

trainedeye@iname.com

Ari Marantz
September 25

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Renovation & Design

High-efficiency furnace blowers built to last

Question: Could you please advise on the following dilemma? I have a Keeprite high efficiency furnace and a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) installed in my home, built in 2014. The HRV is connected to the furnace and both have a separate control. When I turn the HRV on, via its control, the furnace fan starts running at the maximum possible speed. The furnace motor speed is extremely high, blowing the air very strongly. The HRV runs only when it is turned on, not constantly.

My concern is that this high furnace fan speed affects the furnace motor. I’ve changed the motor because the previous one died after three years of seasonal operation. I suspect that this HRV operation, which triggers such a high speed, was a contributing factor.

Thank you in advance, Henry.

Answer: Sometimes when an element of a home system fails there is no direct connection between its demise and other connected systems, even though it appears there might be. The furnace blower should be connected to the HRV control and should run at high speed when engaged, to help it effectively operate.

Some of the most common questions I receive are related to proper use and set-up of heat recovery ventilators (HRV). Especially since these have become a mandatory part of new homes in our area, in the last decade, inquiries are frequent. These fairly simple mechanical devices are often misunderstood, mainly because homeowners are not shown how to properly operate the system. Sometimes they are also not properly installed, or more commonly have the controls not fully engaged. In those situations, a regular service call by an experienced HVAC technician normally solves the problem. In your home, it appears that the HRV is properly set-up, and may have nothing to do with the short life of the furnace blower motor.

The reason that the HRV is cross-connected to the furnace blower control is to help move air through the entire home, once the HRV turns on. This is beneficial because that ventilation system has limited ducting and only a few intake registers in the entire home. There should be an intake in each bathroom, one near the kitchen, and often one in the laundry room. That is much different than the fresh air intake registers for the furnace, which has at least one register in each room of the house.

The HRV should have one duct that is connected to, or in very close proximity of, an opening in the furnace return air plenum. In this way, some of the air circulating through this small box will mix with the house air moving through the heating system. Even without the furnace blower running, this could help air distribution. The problem is that the HRV blower is very small, in comparison to the furnace fan, so it is not capable of efficiently circulating all that air by itself. Once the furnace blower engages, it will easily make up the shortfall and help the ventilation system move the conditioned air through the entire house. That will prevent the HRV from running too long, which can cause it too frost up in very cold weather.

It is also proper that the furnace blower run at maximum speed when the HRV engages it, due to the relatively cool temperature of the air being moved. The warmer the air the easier it is to blow through ducts. Because the HRV exhaust air is mixing with the incoming outside air it can be fairly cold when it enters its components.

A modern high-efficiency furnace is designed to have a blower that will last the entire life of the unit, with minimal maintenance and lubrication. It is designed to run almost continuously on the coldest or hottest days of the year. As long as it is cleaned and serviced regularly, it should not become deteriorated for more than two decades. The only thing that may prevent this longevity is infrequent replacement of the furnace filters. If left in too long they can become so dirty that airflow through is severely impeded, so change them as required.

Having your HRV control engage the furnace blower when it comes on is a proper set-up and should not affect the longevity of the motor. Your original one probably had a premature death because it was a defective or poorly made unit, not because the HRV caused it to work too hard.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and a Registered Home Inspector (RHI)(cahpi.ca). Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at trainedeye.ca.

trainedeye@iname.com

Ari Marantz
September 18

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Fresh eggs are the only way to scramble

Question: I seem to have a talent for cooking chewy scrambled eggs. They turn out kind of tough, every time. Any tips would be useful? Captain Spike

Answer: Here are a few tips for fluffy, restaurant-quality eggs. Start with fresh eggs, make sure that they are cooked before the expiry date. Whisk well, before cooking, either by themselves, or with water or milk. Grease pan to avoid sticking. Stir often with a wooden or plastic spatula. Remove from heat, before they are fully cooked. The heat from the pan will continue to cook the eggs.

Question: My daughter works as a server and says that people usually tip between 15-20 per cent. I am wondering what the standard rate is for tipping on takeout food. Thank you, Vanessa

Answer: It really depends on who you ask, in general it is optional to tip for takeout orders. However, knowing that servers typically receive minimum wage, it is kind to tip between 10-20 per cent on takeout orders.

Question: What is a fast and cheap solution for aching feet? I am a health-care provider, and I am on my feet for several hours at a time. Any suggestions? Chris

Answer: Thank you for your hard work during this very difficult time. The easiest and cheapest solution is to purchase Epsom salts. Fill a bucket with hot water and two tablespoons of salt per gallon. Soak your feet for at least 15 minutes. Dry with a soft towel and smother with skin cream.

Question: How can I prevent holes from forming on my old, concrete driveway this winter? David

Answer: Begin by taking time to shovel often. Avoid using salt and de-ice, products on the surface. Instead opt for: kitty litter, gravel or sand to add abrasion to the concrete. To improve longevity, add a sealer to the surface, if possible.

Question: How can I reduce the condensation build-up in the crisper drawers of my fridge? Food continues to spoil and is a waste of money. Thank you, Darlene

Answer: Place a tea towel on the surface layer of the drawer. The moisture will absorb excess condensation. Another option is to place a double layer of wax paper on the surface of the drawer, discard as needed.

Fragrant tips of the week

— Drop a cotton ball soaked with your favourite essential oil into a garbage can, before adding a garbage bag, to help mask foul odours. Replace the cotton ball every week. Jeremiah

— We have a large family and a busy kitchen, every few months the dishwasher smells terrible, and the dishes look grainy. Cleaning out the filter is a regular part of my cleaning routine, but recently I started buying cleaning tablets. These help to clean the basin, and the dishes come out much cleaner. Sarah

Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products on an inconspicuous area first.

If you have a great suggestion or tip please send an email. Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups— check out her website: reena.ca.

info@reena.ca

Reena Nerbas
September 11

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