Month: December 2010

Electric Eyes Save Indiana Jones!

Written By:  Jim Allhiser

Copy written by Perfection Inspection Inc.

Who doesn’t remember the scene where Indiana Jones dives under the stone wall that is closing barely squeezing to safety!? Cinematic excitement at it’s finest and something that most children would love to recreate. Garage doors that are closing appear very similar to that scene and unfortunately not every child has cleared the door before it closed shut.

Garage doors are the largest and heaviest moving parts on our homes and can be very dangerous if ALL of the modern safety features are not installed properly. Several years ago the auto-reverse feature became standard. This feature reverses the closing door when the door meets a certain level of resistance. This safety feature is good however the pressure is still enough to hurt or even kill kids or pets.

The most recent advancement is the infrared beam safety feature. Straight out of a high security spy movies the little sensors reverse the door when the beam that shoots across the bottom of the door opening is broken.  These infrared beams are great but even intelligent high tech safety features are of little use if they are not installed where they are intended.
Most manufactures state that the beam should be no higher than 6″ off the ground.  The homes around Salem, Oregon that I inspect usually have foundation walls that extend up to around 9″ above the floor of the garage.  Consequently I usually see the little beams installed around 10″ above the floor, after all it is much easier to attach to wood sill plate than have to drill and anchor into concrete!

Of course if that is still too much trouble there is always an option to just slap them together and secure them above the opener.

But that installation is really for those who are too smart to let kids or pets get in the way of the closing door…..

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Please read when installing

Funny thing about labels, they can tell you some useful things but there is a trick…..you need to actually read them.

There are labels for almost anything, to tell you when you should purchase something, or throw it away or even how it should be installed…..

I was in a Salem, Oregon attic the other day and I noticed some labels.  These labels were on building components and the labels had instructions or indications for how the product should be installed.  The first label I noticed was on the fiberglass batt insulation:

Clearly, right on the surface of the paper face were some instructions, “Apply this side toward living space.”   I was in the attic space and it was definitely not set up for “living.”  The reason for this label has to do with the movement of moisture vapor as it leaves the living space and enters an unheated space.  With the vapor barrier/paper face installed improperly, water vapor that is traveling up through the ceiling and through the insulation hits the big temperature difference at the paper face and condenses into liquid.  Here the liquid water is trapped and will cause bad things to happen to the home (mold, rot, deterioration, ect).  When the paper face is installed properly the vapor will not hit the dew point till it is past the vapor barrier/paper face and if the vapor condenses into liquid in the fiberglass batting, it can breath and escape and most importantly, is not trapped!

A few feet away I saw another label.  The manufactures for the gas flue for the water heater wanted to help the installers and make sure to remind them of proper installation:


Looks like this was another instance of lack of proper literacy.   The purpose for the 1″ gap requirement is fire safety.  The type B vent is designed to stay cooler than a straight walled pipe however it does heat up.  Over the years the combustible materials that are too close to the pipe will heat up over and over again.  Each time this heating occurs there are slight changes in the molecular structure and the material’s flash point, temperature that it catches fire, drops.  Eventually this may become a fire hazard.

Labels are important.  Read, read, read and if you don’t know why you should do something, call someone, like a wonderful home inspector, who does!


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Not everyone knows about the Old Cadet fire hazards that lurk in Salem Homes.

A few years ago a little company was producing a neat little electric wall heater that was easily installed, relatively inexpensive and allowed wonderful zonal heating (read-“energy efficient”)!

Things were wonderful for sometime but like most things there were a few issues with the first models. The little electric heaters were made by the Cadet corporation and after the release to the general public it was discovered that if housekeeping was not top notch these little heaters had the tendency to overheat (read-“catch on fire” and there could be “flames, sparks or molten particles spewing through the front grill cover of the heaters into the living areas”)!

The problem arose at the heat exchanging point. This is the point in every heating device where the heat that is produced in the heating device is transfered or “exchanged” to the medium that will carry heat to the home. The little wall heaters used fans to transfer heat directly to the home’s air through convection.Heat transfer of convection to describe problems with cadet heaters

The more surface area that the heating device can have exposed to the house air the better the transfer of heat. The more volume of air flows through the device the better transfer as well. There is a point between these two conditions where a balance between the two is chosen.

The little wall heaters that were brand new, met both of those expectations very well. Lots of heating elements (red hot wires) exposed to the air and the little fans did a very functional job of moving a large volume of air over the heated electric coils.

To prevent the red hot wires from getting dirty, which would insulate the heater elements from the air, hampering the exchange of heat, a small screen was placed in front of the fan. The little screen did a good job of keeping the elements clean, too good of a job.

The screens, especially in dusty areas or homes with pets became plugged very quickly. Even with the label on the side stating, “clean the heater fins every month,” these screens and heaters got neglected.Recalled cadet wall heater showing the vulnerability to over heating and fire in during a Salem Home Inspection

Although the heaters had wonderfully clean elements, the flow of air had been destroyed by the plugged screens. The thermostats didn’t know about the restriction of air and kept asking for heat. The elements got hotter and hotter as very little house air was able to flow over the elements to absorb the heat. This occurred over and over until the unit or the wall or both caught fire.


This is not new information as the CPSC noted the recall in Jan 1999. However, I still see the dangerous units in homes that I inspect around the Salem area.

The moral of this tale is; while we are in our friends, family and neighbor’s homes this holiday season we should keep our eyes open for these dangerous units. We should mention the recall to our hosts if we notice the electric wall heaters.

The way to determine if the units are dangerous is the model number.  You should look for: models FWFXLXTKZAZRARKRLXRXRW and ZC

The model number should be on the inside of the unit and behind the front panel.  At the risk of being like me, “that annoying home inspector guy,” you should try to locate the serial number without removing the panel.  I have learned that it is rude to take out a screw driver and start removing panels during a dinner party!  Also there is that little thing of high voltage live wires behind the panel…..

At the very least, you have a conversation starter for those awkward moments during the parties……..Where to find the cadet wall heater model number for the recall verification on a Salem Oregon home inspection