Salem

Multi-wired circuits

A material and man-hour (read MONEY) conservation technique I have noticed more and more recently is called multi-circuit wiring. The purpose of this technique is to save money on wires and man-hours by pulling only one wire for two circuits.

Seems like a good idea and there are definitely a fair amount of contractors that agree. During normal operation of most circuits no significant problems will be noted. However if too many watts are added, the circuits could be prone to overheating.

The issues come from the neutral wire. With a single circuit wire there is a black wire for the hot, and a white wire for the neutral. For simplicity sake let’s look at these as the supply=hot(black) and the return=neutral(white) for the current respectively.

A 15amp circuit should use a 14 gauge wire for supply and return. That means that if the maximum amount of power (allowed by the breaker) is called for, the wire on the supply and on the return are both thick enough to hold all of 15 amps or 1800watts at 120 volts. [(15amps)x(120volts)=1800watts]

Now let’s save some time and materials during installation by running a multi-circuit wire. This wire has two supplies and only one return. Remember each one of the 14 gauge wires are designed to hold 15 amps but now you have two wires that could be called on to hold all of 15 amps and only one 14 gauge return/neutral wire for 30amps! (15+15=30amps) Normal alternating current modulation will prevent the neutral from having to carry both loads at the same time but if something goes wrong and the neutral does experience over current in this manner the breaker will not trip, because breakers only protect the hot/supply wires.

The deal is the authorities that say this is ok are betting that there will never be a situation that causes both wires to call for the entire load at the same time. As a home inspector here in Salem, Oregon I am paid to be a “worst case scenario,” guy. It is my job to alert my clients to not only issues but also potential issues and educate them as best I can.

Thermal imaging finds Missing Insulation

I just did a home inspection on a fine home here in Salem, Oregon. Overall the home was a piece of cake, and very well taken care of. There was one little section of insulation in the attic that had fallen (from the cable guy presumably). It was impossible to see visually but thanks to the magic of my fancy little thermal/infrared camera my clients now know of an area that could use some additional insulation.

Very simple fix, in fact the fallen insulation is most likely sitting up there in the attic just waiting to be reinstalled and protect the home from the hot or cold of the attic.

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Radon and the Crowd it Rolls with.

Radon can make you very sick and has been linked to more cases of lung cancer than tobacco. Radon is a radioactive gas that is produced when uranium degrades. Uranium has a tendency to geologically ‘hang,’ with granite. This is significant due to the fact that the geology of granite and other minerals can be mapped.

The EPA has a fantastic resource for general knowledge on all kinds of different environmental issues. They have a radon exposure map that is based on a geologic map of the United States. Basically it categorizes areas of the US depending on what type of rock is found in that area.

Unfortunately this map is only a good guess. It cannot tell your home or any other home has a radon issue. The only way to determine if your home has a radon issue is to (shameless plug) get it tested. If you live in Salem, Oregon I just happen to know of a fantastic home inspector that can help….

 

Edge metal flashing on rake rafters

This flashing’s improper installation is pervasive. Despite the fact that there are instructions on every bundle of shingles detailing this as an improper installation.

It must seem like a good deal to put the metal on the top. Maybe it seems like a good thing to cover the edge of the hand-cut shingles that, due to lack of experience, look like a rodent chewed on them.

No matter what the reasoning, putting edge metal on top of the shingles is always wrong. When rain is hitting and running down the top of the shingles, edge metal on top allows water to wick under the metal and access the wood rafter and sheathing. This condition will promote wood rot.

Unfortunately repair of this condition can become significant if the edge flashings have been in place for a few years. Ideally you should replace the shingles that were involved when the metal was nailed down. Although those holes could be filled, you would need to re-fill the holes every few years as the caulking/tar releases its grip. Depending on how long the flashing was installed incorrectly, there will also be sheathing and possibly rafter damage.

The repair of this issue is quickly approaching the exclusive realm of a professional contractor. Although I am a big fan of DIY sometimes the mark of a true craftsman is knowing when to sub out to a qualified professional.