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About The House

Hugh Cairns: Hot topic - WETT reports

Nothing beats a toasty fire on colder days. Wood burning inserts, wood stoves and fireplaces provide a house with warmth and ambience. It is estimated that burning wood (or pellets and other wood derivatives) as a primary or supplemental heat source accounts for about 10% of the energy used for space heating in our province. Not surprisingly, once one leaves the Lower Mainland and the lower Fraser Valley, approximately one-quarter of BC households burn wood in an appliance other than an open fireplace. The farther north you go wood burning for indoor heat increases.

There are many reasons why people enjoy wood burning. Homeowners that heat their homes with wood cite cost savings and ample supplies of wood as reasons for their preference. Others heat with wood for ambience or to rely less on energy providers. Others burn wood because it is a renewable resource.

Wood burning technology is big business here in BC. In 2008, there were four manufacturers of wood and pellet stoves operating, collectively they produced some 75,000 appliances. The BC market is significant in itself but the majority of their products are exported. Add in the cord-wood industry and pellet production, thousands of British Columbians rely on wood energy technology for their livelihoods.

Whether you are buying or selling a home, or have a wood burning appliance in use, a regular thorough “WETT (Wood Energy Technology Transfer) report” will give you peace-of-mind regarding its safety. Notice that I said “WETT report”. There is no such thing as a WETT inspection, nor can any appliance be WETT certified. What is issued is an inspection report by someone who is WETT certified. All too often WETT professionals are asked for a "WETT Certificate,” a "WETT Certification,” a "WETT Approval" or they asked if a wood burning appliance is a "WETT Certified installation” - all of which are incorrect. What should be issued is an inspection report, performed by a person who is WETT certified. This is a common misconception that the WETT industry is working hard to clear up.

There are no current legal requirements in Canada for a person to be WETT certified in order to perform inspections and provide reports, but many insurance companies are insisting that inspection reports, the installation and maintenance of wood-burning appliances and equipment be performed by someone who is WETT certified. Interestingly, the installation and maintenance of wood burning appliances is not regulated in Canada, so it just makes sense to seek out a WETT professional in any case.

If you’ve had the benefit of working with Kurt Patterson of Kurt’s Services here in Kelowna, you’ll know that he is one of the most reputable wood burning appliance industry professionals in the Okanagan Valley. Kurt has the highest level of Wood Energy Technology Transfer (WETT) certification that puts him in the forefront of professionals that can inspect, report on and repair wood burning appliances. In addition, Kurt installs new units meeting stringent requirements. Contact Kurt at 250-575-9063.

Five reasons to service your furnace

In most homes, the furnace is the primary heat source. There is a lot at stake should break down or require replacement. Furnaces are a big investment, new furnaces cost well into the thousands of dollars, so why not maintain the one you have to its optimum service level.

It seems that furnaces break down when we need them the most – on the coldest days of the year. That’s why it makes perfect sense to service your furnace now to avoid potential costly breakdowns. Furnaces that break down unexpectedly literally leave you out in the cold.

Five reasons to service your furnace:

1.  Increased efficiency. Energy costs continue to climb. Although furnaces might seem simple enough, they can be complex, especially ones with high efficiency outputs. It makes sense that a furnace operating at peak efficiency will keep your energy bills under control in the cold months ahead.

2.  Dirt and dust are enemies of your furnace. Having your furnace serviced gives it a fresh clean start. Dust and dirt particles can infiltrate all areas of the furnace cabinet that can lead to mechanical breakdowns and inefficiencies. You can do your part by changing your furnace filter regularly between cleanings.

3.  Service your furnace for safety. Combustion gases can be harmful. Servicing your furnace should include the evaluation of its heat exchanger. Cracked heat exchangers can introduce carbon monoxide into the indoor air we breathe. Your technician will provide you with valuable information about your heating system that could be putting your family in danger.

4.  Furnace servicing can actually save you money in the long run. Now is the time to identify and resolve issues before they become larger ones. In many cases these fixes will extend the life of your furnace. Having a regular service is always cheaper than an after hours emergency call.

5.  Check your warranty. Most furnaces come with specific guidelines to maintain their warranty, especially newer ones. The vast majority of these warranties require that the equipment be maintained and serviced regularly. Furnace breakdowns under warranty usually require proof of service. With some circuit boards and mechanical parts costing hundreds of dollars you’ll want to ensure you’re not denied valuable coverage.

Hugh Cairns: Irrigating crawlspaces

Not every home is built with a crawlspace, but if you have one and an irrigation system it’s best to poke your head down there a few times a year to see what’s happening.

Crawlspaces are usually situated below grade and below the first floor of a home where construction trades can install necessary wiring, plumbing and ventilation components of the structure. Sometimes people use the crawlspace for a storage place for personal belongings, but storage blocks visibility that can conceal developing problems.

Anyone that has an irrigation system knows how they make watering virtually effortless. There is a lot of power in irrigation systems. They are under high pressure that is sprayed over hundreds and hundreds of square feet. The thing about irrigation systems is that they are usually at work in the wee hours of the morning when we sleep. By the time we get up they have already done their job, and sometimes more. Irrigation systems do a great job at watering, but they need periodic maintenance to make sure they are not broken and are spraying out of harm’s way.

If you’ve been on one of my home inspections you’ll know that I’m not a fan of irrigation piping and spray heads directly at the perimeter of the house, simply because of the damage they can cause. Far too often I see damaged siding and structural components. In the case of this house the soil along the side house was completely saturated. So much so that the irrigation system deposited enough water to travel deep into the crawlspace. This home is a great example why not to irrigate between houses when xeriscaping is a great alternative. My friends in the irrigation business advise that homeowners often water their plants and foliage too frequently. The general consensus is that it is better to water too much than too little.

Ponding water in the crawl space area has the potential to cause damage, structural problems and health concerns. Most homes in our area have heating; ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) duct systems in the crawlspace. Should the crawlspace become affected by moisture related problems, the HVAC system can be a direct conduit to move unhealthy air into your home.


Improved home inspector standards announced

The home inspection profession in BC continues to be the leading edge in consumer protection and home inspector standards across Canada and North America, and members of The Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors BC (CAHPI BC) are proud to play a large role in increased professionalism and security for BC homebuyers. CAHPI BC has worked in partnership with Minister Responsible for Housing, Rich Coleman, to improve home inspector licensing requirements by creating a common professional standard for home inspectors, and that’s good news for homebuyers.

Now, BC homebuyers will be ensured to benefit from a more standardized approach to home inspections. The Province will enhance Consumer Protection BC’s role in licensing home inspectors by:

  • setting new education and training requirements;
  • establishing standard testing and evaluation;
  • implementing provincial inspection standards and a common code of ethics; and
  • taking on an expanded compliance and enforcement role.

From my vantage, this is more good news for the home inspection profession and real estate industry as a whole. What is at stake for BC homebuyers is increased confidence in the inspection process and knowing that their home inspector of choice is held to the highest standard in Canada. It is important to note that BC is the first of two Canadian Provinces to pave the way for the licencing of home inspectors, and we accomplished that here in BC in 2009.

Read more About the House - Hugh Cairns articles


About the Author

When you need advice or guidance with for DIY home improvement and repairs, Hugh Cairns can help you with the answers.

Home improvements can be rewarding and turn your home a nicer comfortable place to live and increase its value. Whether you are renovating your kitchen, converting a loft, giving a room a lick of paint or making improvements to your home’s energy efficiency this column is here to guide you with some useful information and key things to remember.

Do you have a renovation question or concern? Please feel free to send Hugh your questions. Contact him through www.subject2homeinspections.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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