Home inspection findings by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck, Professional Real Estate Inspector TREC# 9073

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Up the Flue: Making a Home Energy Tight

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Your home’s insulation may not be complete, causing you to loose money.

I noticed recently a spate of articles dealing with simple steps to going green. I become annoyed with them, because their headlines advertise new steps or new information, and there is nothing that has not come out previously. At this point, I crave a bit more substance, finding an innovative new solution. However, here I am, about to write upon a topic that I have touched upon, so I may not be any better, but there is a bit of a twist. Sealing your home to prevent energy loss, thus saving money, can be odder than you think.

A few weeks ago on a home inspection, I found a chimney with the damper open, which is a nice way to break the insulation seal that you have created. Here in Houston, there is no reason for us to have a fireplace. It is rarely cold enough to light one, and we manage to forget to maintain them. I noticed that the seller had taken all of the usual precautions to insulate the home to prevent energy loss, but there was the damper allowing all of that summer heat into the home. I imagine that they lit a fire for the holidays in December, and they had forgotten to close the damper after the fireplace had cooled down. I closed it, and explained to my client what it was, and why it was a simple energy efficiency step.

I related that story, because I have another one involving a flue open to the outside. My wife is not the cook in my family, so she can forget how hot it can become when the oven and cooktop are on. Plus, the utility room door (next to the oven) in my home was open. The utility room gets heat from the garage, the water heater, and the clothes dryer. Walking into the kitchen, my wife asks if the heater was on. I mentioned all of the above items were causing this area to become really hot. She accepted that statement, but she said that she has noticed the heater coming on in the kitchen. Puzzling, but I moved on. The next day I was cleaning up in the kitchen, and I noticed a strong heat source, like the heater was indeed turned on. I checked my cooktop’s elements and the oven. Everything was off, but the heat was strongest by the cooktop. Then it dawned on me, there is a flue for the range fan over that cooking service. Earlier in the week, I had cleaned the filters and the covering for the light. My daughter had walked off with the covering, so it had not been replaced. This opened that flue to the house, letting the heat come inside.

Such a simple thing broke my insulating barrier, and it did feel like the heater had come on in that one spot. I replaced the cover, and the situation was solved. The situation was interesting to me, because my wife did want to turn the air conditioning to a colder setting to combat this heat, which would have meant a higher energy bill. I could see this being a quick reaction of quite a few homeowners. Now, my wife knows to keep the utility room door closed, and to look if there may be another reason for why she feels heat.

« « From Being Off the Grid to the Microgrid| A Couple of Articles on New Developments for Your Home » »

© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States
713.781.6090

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