The Meltdown

This is one of those vulnerable articles. It’s hoped that as I share about my/our weaknesses you too will be encouraged to own and accept your weaknesses, defeating any perfectionistic stride that tends to disrupt and even destroy relationships.Meltdown: think nuclear plant meltdown where the nuclear core is severely overheated and catastrophic damage results.We have a five-year-old, and very recently something happened that often happens at his age-and-stage. He had a meltdown. The process normally goes like this. Creative idea, build something, doesn’t work, frustration sets in, destroy the creation in anger. Not all the time, just occasionally. Dealing with pre-school children all the time, and having had another three children who are now adults, there’s nothing alarming in it. Besides, our five-year-old has witnessed us having meltdowns – and I can speak only for myself here.


There are all sorts of meltdowns, not just the angry ones, but also the teary ones, the anxious ones, the prideful ones, and the panicky ones.I want to share with you the kind of meltdown I’m capable of; this would happen occasionally in 2016 when I was thrust into an occupational world that I did not want any part of, but had to engage in just to support my family.I was very blessed to be offered work – two separate part-time positions – through friends, one of whom was my ex-wife, when pastoral ministry work went belly-up.Meltdowns occurred because of both jobs, but the case in point here centred around my job working with my ex-wife. These meltdowns never had anything to do with her – we, her and her husband and I, had a very good working relationship, always trying to outdo one another in what we gave.But it was the nature of the work that had me positioned like a fish out of water. I was packing chilled meals for home delivery, and so regularly my mind was doing backflips, that at times, my head was saying, ‘I cannot do this… it’s too hard… my brain is wired to work with people, one person at a time, not five or more tasks held in the mind at any one time, with noise, with pressure, with interruptions. (I need to say that since I burned out in 2005 my brain has some kind of permanent disability in managing many tasks simultaneously.) I was always fine when I got out on the road to do the deliveries, other than the times I had meltdowns. And this happened on a half dozen occasions.Here is the nature of that kind of meltdown. I would call my wife and say, panicked and in tears, ‘Darling, I cannot do this anymore… it’s too hard… my mind can’t keep up… I’m useless.’ After 10-minutes of hearing me out she would usually help me accept that I could get through the delivery run. I was usually fine after this. The inner meltdown in the presence of others manifested in an outward meltdown when it was safe with my wife.


There was nothing wrong with the delivery driving job, and in fact it taught me important skills, helped me master a new degree of patience, gave me empathy for those in that kind of work, and it showed me what I’m not good at. And it showed me how, all through my life, I’ve had the capacity for this kind of depressed meltdown that comes straight out of my wounded child state.We all have meltdowns, even those who seem to have perfect lives, and especially those who look like they’ve got their lives under control.I don’t know a single person who hasn’t had a meltdown. So, what do we do with this?We stop feeling ashamed of them whilst we do all we can to limit the kind of damage meltdown can bring.

Home Inspections – A Question and Answer Guide

A home inspection is an evaluation of the visible and accessible systems and components of a home (plumbing, heating and cooling, electrical, structure, roof, etc.) and is intended to give the client (buyer, seller, or homeowner) a better understanding of the home’s general condition. Most often it is a buyer who requests an inspection of the home he or she is serious about purchasing. A home inspection delivers data so that decisions about the purchase can be confirmed or questioned, and can uncover serious and/or expensive to repair defects that the seller/owner may not be aware of. It is not an appraisal of the property’s value; nor does it address the cost of repairs. It does not guarantee that the home complies with local building codes or protect a client in the event an item inspected fails in the future. [Note: Warranties can be purchased to cover many items.] A home inspection should not be considered a “technically exhaustive” evaluation, but rather an evaluation of the property on the day it is inspected, taking into consideration normal wear and tear for the home’s age and location. A home inspection can also include, for extra fees, Radon gas testing, water testing, energy audits, pest inspections, pool inspections, and several other specific items that may be indigenous to the region of the country where the inspection takes place. Home inspections are also used (less often) by a seller before listing the property to see if there are any hidden problems that they are unaware of, and also by homeowners simply wishing to care for their homes, prevent surprises, and keep the home investment value as high as possible.

The important results to pay attention to in a home inspection are:

1. Major defects, such as large differential cracks in the foundation; structure out of level or plumb; decks not installed or supported properly, etc. These are items that are expensive to fix, which we classify as items requiring more than 2% of the purchase price to repair.

2. Things that could lead to major defects – a roof flashing leak that could get bigger, damaged downspouts that could cause backup and water intrusion, or a support beam that was not tied in to the structure properly.

3. Safety hazards, such as an exposed electrical wiring, lack of GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) in kitchens and bathrooms, lack of safety railing on decks more than 30 inches off the ground, etc.

Your inspector will advise you about what to do about these problems. He/she may recommend evaluation – and on serious issues most certainly will – by licensed or certified professionals who are specialists in the defect areas. For example, your inspector will recommend you call a licensed building engineer if they find sections of the home that are out of alignment, as this could indicate a serious structural deficiency.

Home Inspections are only done by a buyer after they sign a contract, right?

This is not true! As you will see when you read on, a home inspection can be used for interim inspections in new construction, as a maintenance tool by a current homeowner, a proactive technique by sellers to make their home more sellable, and by buyers wanting to determine the condition of the potential home.

Sellers, in particular, can benefit from getting a home inspection before listing the home. Here are just a few of the advantages for the seller:

· The seller knows the home! The home inspector will be able to get answers to his/her questions on the history of any problems they find.

· A home inspection will help the seller be more objective when it comes to setting a fair price on the home.

· The seller can take the report and make it into a marketing piece for the home.

· The seller will be alerted to any safety issues found in the home before they open it up for open house tours.

· The seller can make repairs leisurely instead being in a rush after the contract is signed.

Why should I get a home inspection?

Your new home has dozens of systems and over 10,000 parts – from heating and cooling to ventilation and appliances. When these systems and appliances work together, you experience comfort, energy savings, and durability. Weak links in the system, however, can produce assorted problems leading to a loss in value and shortened component life. Would you buy a used car without a qualified mechanic looking at it? Your home is far more complicated, and to have a thorough inspection that is documented in a report arms you with substantial information on which to make decisions.

Why can’t I do the inspection myself?

Most homebuyers lack the knowledge, skill, and objectivity needed to inspect a home themselves. By using the services of a professional home inspector, they gain a better understanding of the condition of the property; especially whether any items do not “function as intended” or “adversely affect the habitability of the dwelling” or “warrant further investigation” by a specialist. Remember that the home inspector is a generalist and is broadly trained in every home system.

Why can’t I ask a family member who is handy or who is a contractor to inspect my new home?

Although your nephew or aunt may be very skilled, he or she is not trained or experienced in professional home inspections and usually lacks the specialized test equipment and knowledge required for an inspection. Home inspection training and expertise represent a distinct, licensed profession that employs rigorous standards of practice. Most contractors and other trade professionals hire a professional home inspector to inspect their own homes when they themselves purchase a home!

What does a home inspection cost?

This is often the first question asked but the answer tells the least about the quality of the inspection. Fees are based according to size, age and various other aspects of the home. Inspection fees from a certified professional home inspector generally start under $300. An average price for a 2,000 square foot home nationally is about $350-$375. What you should pay attention to is not the fee, but the qualifications of your inspector. Are they nationally certified (passed the NHIE exam)? Are they state certified if required?

How long does the inspection take?

This depends upon the size and condition of the home. You can usually figure 1.2 hours for every 1,000 square feet. For example, a 2,500 square foot house would take about 3 hours. If the company also produces the report at your home, that will take an additional 30-50 minutes.

Do all homes require a home inspection?

Yes and No. Although not required by law in most states, we feel that any buyer not getting a home inspection is doing themselves a great disservice. They may find themselves with costly and unpleasant surprises after moving into the home and suffer financial headaches that could easily have been avoided.

Should I be at the inspection?

It’s a great idea for you be present during the inspection – whether you are buyer, seller, or homeowner. With you there, the inspector can show you any defects and explain their importance as well as point out maintenance features that will be helpful in the future. If you can’t be there, it is not a problem since the report you receive will be very detailed. If you are not present, then you should be sure to ask your inspector to explain anything that is not clear in the report. Also read the inspection agreement carefully so you understand what is covered and what is not covered in the inspection. If there is a problem with the inspection or the report, you should raise the issues quickly by calling the inspector, usually within 24 hours. If you want the inspector to return after the inspection to show you things, this can be arranged and is a good idea, however, you will be paying for the inspector’s time on a walkthrough since this was not included in the original service.

Should the seller attend the home inspection that has been ordered by the buyer?

The seller will be welcome at the inspection (it is still their home) although they should understand that the inspector is working for the buyer. The conversation that the inspector has with the buyer may be upsetting to the seller if the seller was unaware of the items being pointed out, or the seller may be overly emotional about any flaws. This is a reason why the seller might want to consider getting their own inspection before listing the home.

Can a house fail a home inspection?

No. A home inspection is an examination of the current condition of your prospective home. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value, or a municipal inspection, which verifies local code compliance. A home inspector, therefore, cannot not pass or fail a house. The inspector will objectively describe the home’s physical condition and indicate which items are in need of repair or replacement.

What is included in the inspection?

The following list is not exhaustive. Not all of these may be in the inspection you get, but the inspector will be following a standardized checklist for the home:
· Site drainage and grading
· Driveway
· Entry Steps, handrails
· Decks
· Masonry
· Landscape (as it relates to the home)
· Retaining walls
· Roofing, flashings, chimneys, and attic
· Eaves, soffits, and fascias
· Walls, doors, windows, patios, walkways
· Foundation, basement, and crawlspaces
· Garage, garage walls, floor, and door operation
· Kitchen appliances (dishwasher, range/oven/cooktop/hoods, microwave, disposal, trash compactor)
· Laundry appliances (washer and dryer)
· Ceilings, walls, floors
· Kitchen counters, floors, and cabinets
· Windows and window gaskets
· Interior doors and hardware
· Plumbing systems and fixtures
· Electrical system, panels, entrance conductors
· Electrical grounding, GFCI, outlets
· Smoke (fire) detectors
· Ventilation systems and Insulation
· Heating equipment and controls
· Ducts and distribution systems
· Fireplaces
· Air Conditioning and controls
· Heat Pumps and controls
· Safety items such as means of egress, TPRV valves, railings, etc.

Other items that are not a part of the standard inspection can be added for an additional fee:
· Radon Gas Test
· Water Quality Test
· Termite Inspection (usually performed by a separate company)
· Gas Line Leak Test (usually performed by the gas company)
· Sprinkler System Test
· Swimming Pool and Spa Inspection
· Mold Screening (sometimes performed by a separate company)
· Septic System Inspection (usually performed by a separate company)
· Alarm System (usually performed by a separate company)

We recommend getting a Radon Test if your prospective home falls into an area of the country with known Radon seepage, since Radon gas produces cancer second only to cigarette smoking and can be easily mitigated by installing a vent system. We also recommend a water test to make sure you do not have bacteria in the water supply. Water can also be tested for Radon.

What is not included in the inspection?

Most people assume that everything is inspected in depth on inspection day. This misunderstanding has caused many a homebuyer to be upset with their inspector. The inspections we do are not exhaustive and there is a good reason for this. If you hired someone with licenses for heating and cooling, electrical, plumbing, engineering, etc. to inspect your house, it would take about 14 hours and cost you about $2000! It is much more practical to hire a professional inspector who has generalist knowledge of home systems, knows what to look for, and can recommend further inspection by a specialist if needed. Your inspector is also following very specific guidelines as he/she inspects your home. These are either national guidelines (ASHI – American Society of Home Inspectors, InterNACHI – International Association of Certified Home Inspectors) or state guidelines. These guidelines are carefully written to protect both your home and the inspector. Here are some examples: We are directed to not turn systems on if they were off at the time of the inspection (safety reasons); we are not allowed to move furniture (might harm something); not allowed to turn on water if it is off (possible flooding), and not allowed to break through a sealed attic hatch (possible damage). The downside of this practice is that by not operating a control, by not seeing under the furniture, and not getting into the attic or crawlspace, we will might miss identifying a problem. However, put into perspective, the chances of missing something serious because of this is quite low, and the guideline as it relates to safety and not harming anything in the home is a good one. There are other items that 95% of inspectors consider outside a normal inspection, and these include inspecting most things that are not bolted down (installed in the home) such as electronics, low voltage lighting, space heaters, portable air conditioners, or specialized systems such as water purifiers, alarm systems, etc.

What if there are things you can’t inspect (like snow on the roof)?

It just so happens that some days the weather elements interfere with a full home inspection! There isn’t much we can do about this either. If there is snow on the roof we will tell you we were unable to inspect it. Of course we will be looking at the eves and the attic, and any other areas where we can get an idea of condition, but we will write in the report that we could not inspect the roof. It is impractical for us to return another day once the snow melts, because we have full schedules. However, you can usually pay an inspector a small fee to return and inspect the one or two items they were unable to inspect when they were there the first time. This is just the way things go. If you ask the inspector for a re-inspection, they will usually inspect the items then at no extra charge (beyond the re-inspection fee).

Will the inspector walk on the roof?

The inspector will walk on the roof if it is safe, accessible, and strong enough so that there is no damage done to it by walking on it. Some roofs – such as slate and tile, should not be walked on. Sometimes because of poor weather conditions, extremely steep roofs, or very high roofs, the inspector will not be able to walk the roof. The inspector will try to get up to the edge though, and will also use binoculars where accessibility is a problem. They will also examine the roof from the upper windows if that is possible. There is a lot the inspector can determine from a visual examination from a ladder and from the ground, and they will be able to tell a lot more from inside the attic about the condition of the roof as well.

Should I have my house tested for Radon? What exactly is Radon?

In many areas of the country, the answer is a definite yes. You can ask your real estate agent about this or go on to the internet for a radon map of the country. Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that’s formed during the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Radon exits the ground and can seep into your home through cracks and holes in the foundation. Radon gas can also contaminate well water.

Health officials have determined that radon gas is a serious carcinogen that can cause lung cancer, second only to cigarette smoking. The only way to find out if your house contains radon gas is to perform a radon measurement test, which your home inspector can do. Make sure the person conducting your test has been trained to The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) or The National Radon Safety Board (NRSB) standards.

What about a newly constructed home? Does it need a home inspection?

Yes! In fact, we find far more problems, some quite serious, in newly constructed homes than in homes that have been lived in for years. This is not due to your builder’s negligence – he/she has done the best job they could with subcontractors and planning – it’s just that there are so many systems in a home, that it is close to impossible to inspect everything, and correct it before the Certificate of Occupancy is issued. Then, for some reason, the subcontractors no longer want to work on the home, and final jobs and details are missed. We recommend getting several professional home inspections near the completion stages of the home to discover everything that should be corrected. If the house is still new but sitting for a while before sale, it’s even more important to get a home inspection. We have seen water lines not hooked up, plumbing lines not hooked up, sewer lines not hooked up, vents not hooked up, and a variety of other serious but easily correctable problems!

I am having a home built. The builder assures me he will inspect everything. Should I have an independent inspector make periodic inspections?

Absolutely yes! No matter how good your builder is, he/she WILL miss things. They are so concerned with the house, they get so close to their work, as do the subcontractors, that important items can, and will be, overlooked. Have a professional inspector make at least 4-6 interim inspections. They will be worth their weight in gold.

What is the Pre-Inspection Agreement?

Most service professionals have a service agreement, and home inspection is no different. In fact, there is enough confusion about what a home inspection should deliver that the agreement is even more important. Some homeowners who get a home inspection expect everything in the home to be perfect after the repairs. This is not the case! Imagine getting a call from a homeowner a year later who says the toilet is not flushing – remember that the inspection is a moment in time snapshot. In the inspection agreement the inspector is clear about what the inspection delivers and the things that are not covered, as well as what you should do if you are not pleased with the services. We really think that by reviewing this before-hand you will understand much more about the inspection and be happier with the results. A home inspection does not guard against future problems, nor does it guarantee that all problems will be found.

What kind of report will I get following the inspection?

There are as many versions of a “report” as there are inspection companies. Guidelines dictate that the inspector deliver a written report to the client. This can range from a handwritten checklist that has multiple press copies without pictures and 4 pages long to a computer generated professionally produced report with digital pictures that is 35 pages long and can be converted to Adobe PDF for storage and emailing. Be sure to check with your inspector about the report he or she uses. We recommend the computer generated report, since the checklist is more detailed and easier for the homeowner/buyer/seller to detail out the issues with photographs. In this modern age, we feel the reports must be web accessible and e-mailable to match the technologies most of us are using.

There are some great things you can use the report for in addition to the wealth of information it simply gives you on your new home:

· Use the report as a checklist and guide for the contractor to make repairs and improvements or get estimates and quotes from more than one contractor.

· Use the report as a budgeting tool using the inspector’s recommendations and the remaining expected life of components to keep the property in top shape.

· If you are a seller, use the report to make repairs and improvements, raising the value of the home and impressing the buyers. Then have a re-inspection and use this second report as a marketing tool for prospective buyers.

· Use the report as a “punch list” on a re-inspection and as a baseline for ongoing maintenance.

Will the report be emailable or available as an Adobe PDF file?

Yes. As discussed in the last question, you will probably want your inspector to be using the latest reporting technology.

What if I think the inspector missed something?

Inspectors are human, and yes, they do miss items. However, they routinely use advanced tools and techniques to reduce the possibility that they will miss something. This includes very detailed checklists, reference manuals, computer based lists, and a methodical always-done-the-same-way of physically moving around your home. That is one of the reasons that an inspector can miss an item when they get interrupted. The inspector will have a set way of resuming the inspection if this happens. If, in the end, something IS missed, call the inspector and discuss it. It may warrant the inspector returning to view something that you found. Remember, the inspector is doing the very best job they know how to do, and probably did not miss the item because they were lax in their technique or did not care.

What if the inspector tells me I should have a professional engineer or a licensed plumber or other professional contractor in to look at something they found? Isn’t this “passing the buck”?

You may be disappointed that further investigation is required, but, believe us, your inspector is doing exactly what they should be doing. The purpose of the inspection is to discover defects that affect your safety and the functioning of the home; the inspector is a generalist, not a specialist. Our code of ethics as well as national and state guidelines dictate that only contractors that are licensed in their specialty field should work on these systems and areas. When they tell you that a specialist is needed, there may be a bigger, more critical issue that you need to know about. If you move into the home without getting these areas checked by a qualified specialist, you could be in for some nasty and expensive surprises. The inspector does not want to cause you any more expense or worry either, so when they do recommend further evaluation they are being serious about protecting you and your investment.

Will the inspector provide a warranty on the inspected items?

Most inspectors do not give the homeowner a warranty on inspected items. Remember, a home inspection is a visual examination on a certain day, and the inspector cannot predict what issues could arise over time after the inspection. However, some inspectors are now including a warranty from the largest home warranty company in America – American Home Warranty Corporation, as well as others, on the inspected items for 60 or 90 days. This is a very good deal, and the agreement can be extended after the initial period for a relatively small amount of money.

Do most inspection companies offer money back guarantees?

Most inspection companies do not offer a satisfaction guarantee nor do they mention it in their advertising. It’s always a good thing if you can get extra services for no additional cost from your inspection company, and of course a satisfaction guarantee is an indication of superior customer service. You usually have to call your inspection company right after the inspection and viewing of the report to tell them you are not satisfied. If you are not happy with the services, you should talk to your inspector first and let him/her correct the issue(s) you are unhappy with first, as the inspector is trying to make an honest living just like the rest of us, and is not failing you on purpose.

What if my report comes back with nothing really defective in the home? Should I ask for my money back?

No, don’t ask for your money back – you just received great news! Now you can complete your home purchase with peace of mind about the condition of the property and all its equipment and systems. You will have valuable information about your new home from the inspector’s report, and will want to keep that information for future reference. Most importantly, you can feel assured that you are making a well-informed purchase decision.

What if the inspection reveals serious defects?

If the inspection reveals serious defects in the home (we define a serious defect as something that will cost more than 2% of the purchase price to fix) then pat yourself on the back for getting an inspection. You just saved yourself a ton of money. Of course it is disappointing, even heart wrenching, to find out that your well researched house is now a problem house, but you now know the facts and can either negotiate with the seller, or move on. You may want the home so much that it will be worth it to negotiate the price and then perform the repairs. Imagine, though, if you had not gotten the inspection – you would have had some very unpleasant surprises.

Can I ask my home inspector to perform the repairs?

You can, but if your inspector is ethical, he/she will refuse, and correctly so; it is a conflict of interest for the person who inspected your home to also repair it! Inspectors are specifically barred from this practice by licensing authorities, and it’s a good practice – an inspector must remain completely impartial when he or she inspects your home. This is one reason you should have a professional home inspector inspect your home and not a contractor – the contractor will want the repair work and you are likely to not have an objective inspection from this person even though they mean well and are technically competent.

Does the Seller have to make the repairs?

The inspection report results do not place an obligation on the seller to repair everything mentioned in the report. Once the home condition is known, the buyer and the seller should sit down and discuss what is in the report. The report will be clear about what is a repair and what is a discretionary improvement. This area should be clearly negotiated between the parties. It’s important to know that the inspector must stay out of this discussion because it is outside of their scope of work.

After the home inspection and consulting with the seller on the repairs, can I re-employ the inspector to come re-inspect the home to make sure everything got fixed?

You certainly can, and it’s a really good idea. For a small fee the inspector will return to determine if the repairs were completed, and if they were completed correctly.

What if I find problems after I move into my new home?

A home inspection is not a guarantee that problems won’t develop after you move in. However, if you believe that a problem was visible at the time of the inspection and should have been mentioned in the report, your first step should be to call the inspector. He or she will be fine with this, and does want you to call if you think there is a problem. If the issue is not resolved with a phone call, they will come to your home to look at it. They will want you to be satisfied and will do everything they can to do this. One way to protect yourself between the inspection and the move-in is to conduct a final walkthrough on closing day and use both the inspection report AND a Walkthrough Checklist to make sure everything is as it should be.

Copyright 2010 by Lisa P. Turner

A Beautiful Home of Dreams

Today we think and worry about the fact that the world is becoming more and more polluted due to increasing traffic and industries. The environment is getting worse day by day. But it has been scientifically proven that the air inside our homes is more polluted than the air outside. Our homes have become more polluted than the environment due to use of artificial things, materials and chemical products used for cleaning and maintaining out homes. To keep your home environment friendly always keep it clean, tidy, rubbish free and dust free. This can be done by vacuuming and dusting frequently.

We always want to relax and comfort ourselves at home. But if our home is not clean and tidy we will never be able to achieve our goal. To make your home comfortable and relaxing design it naturally. Use environmentally friendly materials to design and decorate your home. Use natural fabrics in your home like hemp, bamboo, indoor plants and other natural materials which are grown and harvested in an earth friendly manner. By following healthy design trends, we can opt for environmentally healthy homes. Health of your home and your family are the most important factors when you design your home.

This trend is extremely easy and beautiful to live with. Sophisticated living with environmentally friendly design can convert your home into a warm and cozy place to live in. Decorating and designing your home with natural ingredients, takes your home to new heights and provides you with uncompromising style and sophisticated living.

Home interior designing improves the overall look of your house. To make your home designing affordable, recycling is the best option. Reusing plastic containers, wood, paper and cans, reduces the cost of designing your homes. Reuse of materials and a little bit of creativity can help you save a lot of money. A mix and match of old and new trends can make your home look attractive and unique. While you design and decor your house the most important thing to consider along with creativity is the proportion and balance. Coordination between the two is very essential to make the house look beautiful and attractive.

Even colors play a very important role when you design your home. Go for bright colors for your home. You can even try bold color on one of the walls. Choosing colors for your home is one of the most important factors.

The Home-Buyers Guide to AC Systems – Part 3 of 3

Homeowners your hands one of the most important documents you can possess before you purchase a home! What every homeowner or potential homeowner absolutely needs to know and understand is this, you as a homeowner have ALL the responsibility to make sure your new home is going to function and be an energy efficient home.

This document is written for the homeowner to understand the city inspections. This article is not referring to the third party inspection completed by a licensed Professional Home Inspector.

If you are concerned about the energy efficiency for your new home the single most important item that impacts energy usage and monthly energy bills is the size of the home. The energy cost to operate your home is directly related to the size, shape and volume of your home. Home builders today are not supplying potential home buyers with two critical pieces of information you need to understand the energy efficiency of a particular home or if you are comparing the homes from two different home builders.

When an engineer designs and sizes the AC equipment for a building large or small he uses a load calculation method to determine how much heating and air conditioning capacity is needed to serve the new building. The same approach and method is supposed to be used today in new homes built in Texas. The home builders in Texas have been building homes in Texas since 2001 that will not meet the required energy code standard and design guides. The load calculation step is the very beginning and most important step in building a home for energy efficiency but is not being performed by builders today. This is simply because most builders do not pay attention, understand the energy code or understand load calculations.

The other problem or issue is that most homeowners have never heard about it and do not care as well. Most homeowners believe that someone else is taking care of this for them. As I stated earlier in this guide this is simply not true or being done.

Homeowners Have To Take Responsibility

How do homeowners know that one home is more efficient than another? The method used to
understand the efficiency of a home in regards to the heating and air conditioning systems is based on a unit of energy known as a “British Thermal Unit” (BTU). I am not going to get real technical here but I will give you the homeowner the information you need to go home shopping with and it is really very simple.

Three Efficiencies Regarding Home Building

1. Thermal Efficiency- Determined by the home construction methods and materials
used to build the home. It is the most important efficiency in home building.

2. Energy Efficiency – Measured and calculated by the conversion of energy input
(KW/BTU) into useful work output cooling/heating BTUH.

3. Overall Efficiency – Is the combination of both efficiencies above. Thermal Efficiency
has a huge impact on the Energy Efficiency rating and therefore will impact the
overall efficiency of the home.

As a homeowner this is what you need to know. The amount of energy required to heat and cool your home is directly related to the amount of heat gain your home experiences when it is warm outside and how much heat loss your home experiences when it is cold outside. This heat gain and heat loss is measured in BTUS. The amount of heat gain and heat loss is measured and defined on an hourly basis so the measurement is in BTUH. This stands for British Thermal Units per Hour. The higher the thermal efficiency of the home the lower the energy use is. As a homeowner you will receive a better return on investment for each dollar you spend to make your new home more thermally efficient than to build a very poor thermally efficient home and try to make up the overall efficiency with very expensive high end heating and air conditioning equipment. This approach simply does not work over the life of the home.

As a homeowner you have another measurement or consideration to think about and that is the “Return on Investment” (ROI) for your money. If you to take short cuts on the home construction side and purchase very expensive high end AC equipment to make up you may cost your self a lot more money over the life of with expensive repair bills. The cost to repair the high end AC systems is very expensive.

Below is a simple but real example.
- 14 SEER AC System – Replace a failed indoor fan motor. Cost= $250.00
- 20 SEER AC System – Replace a failed indoor fan motor. Cost= $1200.00

The newer systems are very complicated with a lot of electronic components that are very susceptible to power problems and lightning strikes during storms. As a homeowner you need to consider this when building a new home with the least cost to maintain and operate. Homeowners need to spend their money making their home more thermally efficient and use AC system(s) rated at 14-15 SEER instead of 20 SEER systems.

The Questions a Homeowner Needs to Ask a Home Builder

- Mr. Home builder what is the heat gain for this home on July 15th at 3:00 PM in the afternoon?

After he regains his thoughts he will probably reply with; what do you mean? This will give you a real clue here. He does not know anything about the thermal efficiency for the homes he is building!

“You might want to consider a new home builder at this point!”

- Mr. Home builder what is the heat loss for this home on January 15th at 3:00 AM in the morning?

These are the questions that any potential home buyer should ask if they are concerned about energy efficiency and the monthly energy bill for their home. If you are a homeowner who operates on a monthly budget then energy efficiency is very important for your new home. Let us use the example below to demonstrate how the real energy efficiency of two homes should be compared.

- Home A- single story with 2500 square feet of air conditioned living area, all electric home, all energy star rated appliances, and all the lighting fixtures are compact fluorescent and the high efficiency type. The home has a 5 ton 14 SEER rated AC system.

- The heat gain for the home in July is 49,500 Btuh.
- The heat loss for the home in January is 72,000Btuh.

- Home B- single story with 2700 square feet of air conditioned living area, all electric home, all energy star rated appliances, and all the lighting fixtures are compact fluorescent and the high efficiency type. The home has a 4 ton 13 SEER rated AC system.

- The heat gain for the home in July is 44,000 Btuh.
- The heat loss for the home in January is 66,000 Btuh.

Which home is more efficient? Many homeowners would choose Home A simply because it has the largest AC system and highest SEER rating of the two homes. The most efficient home is Home B. This home is larger and is being served with the smallest AC system. Even with the lower SEER rating for the AC system the system is rated at 4 tons and is able to cool the home adequately. The difference in heat gain and heat loss values is what makes home B the most thermally energy efficient. The size of the AC system does not make a home more thermally efficient. The AC systems in homes are sized to meet the heat gain and heat loss values of the home. The lower the heat gain/loss number the higher the “Thermal Efficiency” is for the home. What makes the home more thermally efficient is size, construction, direction the home faces, window type, wall construction and insulation values to name a few. The thermal energy efficiency of the home is determined by the construction methods and materials not the heating and air conditioning equipment. The AC equipment only makes a difference in the conversion of electrical energy or the conversion of fuel into useful work- cooling output (Btuh) or heating output. When the SEER rating is higher the conversion of electrical energy is more efficient and therefore the energy bills are lower for the home. A home that only requires a 3 ton AC system to meet the cooling load will be less efficient if the same home has a 5 ton system installed no matter what the SEER value is.

Example:
- Home C- Has a 12 SEER 3 ton AC system that is properly sized and works properly
- Home C- with a 16 SEER 5 ton AC system will not function correctly and will make the home uncomfortable because the system will short cycle and this reduces the energy efficiency (SEER) of the AC system.

Homeowners do not fall for the bigger is better sales pitch! Bigger is not better regarding AC systems EVER!

Let’s talk about heating systems now. If you are building a new home, buying a new home or purchasing an existing home you need to consider how your new home is heated. The method of heating a home today is not quite as simple as it once was. My personnel first choice for heating a home is by using a natural gas or propane system. I like the warmth and feel of the gas systems. At one time it would have been considered the most economically method to heat a home. In today’s constantly changing energy markets the price of a MCF of natural gas is not always the least cost to operate. I will list the methods of heating a home in order based on cost, comfort and reliability below.

The Southern Part of the Country

1. Gas Heat- If the price of natural gas or propane is least expensive on a consistent basis

2. Heat Pump System- If the home is total electric a heat pump system is a must for energy
efficiency.

3. If the home is total electric the last choice would be electric resistive heating. This is a very
expensive choice for heating.

The Northern Part of the Country

1. Fuel Oil – If the price of fuel oil remains less than natural gas or propane on a consistent basis

2. Natural Gas – Would be the second choice over electric heating.

3. Heat Pump System- If the home is total electric a heat pump system is a must for energy
efficiency.

4. If the home is total electric the last choice would be electric resistive heating. A very
expensive choice for heating.
5. In areas where wood is available and the home has a good wood heating system.
Home AC System Design

Questions to Ask Your Builder

1. What is the heat gain for the home? July 15th 3:00 PM _____________ Btuh

2. What is the heat loss for the home? January 15th 3:00 AM ______________Btuh

3. How many units (systems) are in the home?

Recommendations
- Single Story Homes less than 2000 sq ft- Single System
- Two Story Home less that 2000 sq ft- Two Systems, One Up and One Down Stairs
- Single Story Homes > 2000 but 5000 sq ft- Need to consult with a mechanical engineer with experience with
energy efficiency designs and energy conservation. Ask for references. Suggest
someone not in relation to the AC contractor to get the best objective design and solution.
- Discuss the heat gain/losses with your AC contractor or mechanical engineer to find out
what you can do to lower these values by making changes in the design and materials for
your home.

4. 6. Ask for the AC contractor’s name and for references. Talk to homeowners who have been in their home more than two years or so. This will give you a better understanding of how well the contractor designed the AC systems and how they performed in both the cooling and heating seasons.

5. Ask the contractor to give you some estimates in writing to replace the indoor fan motor and the compressor for the AC systems you are considering. If you are trying to decide between a system rated at 15 SEER and one rated at 20 SEER this will help you understand what the overall cost is and what your ROI could be over the life of the system(s).

6. If you are looking at purchasing a home that will require major remodeling and the heating and air conditioning system to be replaced you need to make sure you understand the following about the AC contractor you hire.

- Is the contractor licensed?
- Is his licensed current?
- What level of general liability insurance does he have?
- Is his insurance policy current?
- How many technicians will be working in your home?
- Have these technicians been registered with the state? A state of Texas requirement
- Have you checked the contractor out with the Better Business Bureau?
- Ask for a copy of his license and insurance policy.
- Verify the insurance policy is current with the policy provider, this is very important.

Insurance Requirements for AC Contractors Texas (Verify Requirements for Your State)

Homeowners AC contractors in Texas are required to carry a general liability insurance policy in order to perform work in the state of Texas. In 2003 the state of Texas stopped requiring AC contractors to prove they have general liability insurance prior to renewing their license each year. This puts homeowners at risk all over Texas when using and hiring AC contractors. You as a homeowner have to take the initiative to verify the AC contractor you are working with has a current general liability insurance policy.

- Class A license holders are required to carry a $300,000.00 policy.

- Class B license holders are required to carry a $150,000.00 policy.

Homeowners you need to determine if the value of your home and personnel possessions have a value higher than the required limits for the AC contractor you hire. Check with your homeowner insurance provider how this impacts you as a homeowner in the event your home is damaged or destroyed because of poor workmanship or faulty equipment. You may want to ask your contractor to provide a higher level of liability insurance before starting work in your home.

Homeowners do not become a victim of an unlicensed and uninsured AC contractor!

Third Party Inspections and Resources

Many cities and homeowners are using third party inspectors today. As a homeowner you are ultimately the responsible party to make sure your home and your investment is protected. Just because someone is a third party inspector means they are any better than the local city code official. I would recommend that you take the time to talk with two or more inspectors to find out who you believe is the best one that can help to insure you receive the best value for your money and the best AC system for your home. I always recommend that homeowners talk to their neighbors, friends and family to find out if they can offer you some good advice or to help steer you away from someone who does not understand what they are doing. A few simple phone calls or few minutes talking to someone can save you thousands of dollars and headache.

Summary

Homeowners if you are considering purchasing a new home you have a lot on your mind. The AC system(s) for your new home are a very important piece of the equation to being satisfied and happy with your new home. We covered a lot of information in the “The Home Buyers Guide to AC Systems” and I believe you probably have learned some helpful tips and a whole lot about heating and air conditioning. Do not let this overwhelm you but simply take it in a step by step approach when deciding what type of heating and air conditioning system for your home. If you take the information you have learned and start to discuss it with home builders and AC contractors you will find out they are not going to be very open and willing to work with you. When home builders and AC contractors know they are doing business with a potential homeowner that knows something about AC systems they become a little uncomfortable. This will go to show you that home builders and AC contractors have had it their way for a long, long time. It is time for homeowners to receive the best AC systems for their new homes. You can do this and be very
successful at the same time.

Good Luck with Your New Home or Next AC Project!