Beware of These Common Household Electrical Hazards

Electrical FireMany electrical devices and appliances are invaluable household tools, but they can also constitute dangerous safety hazards if you’re not careful. The first step toward preventing electrical hazards is educating yourself about them! Today we’ll address a few of the most common fire hazards to keep an eye out for in your home.

Overloaded power strips

Surge protectors are designed to prevent dangerous electrical surges, but they can still be overloaded with too many appliances. This is why you should never create chains of power strips by plugging them into one another. It’s also a good idea to replace old, outdated surge protectors with new ones periodically.

Appliances placed too close to water sources

You’re probably well aware of the fact that water and electricity don’t mix, but that doesn’t stop some people from using devices like blow dryers and radios in wet bathrooms. These hazards are also quite common in kitchens, where plumbing issues can cause electrical appliances to short out and generate sparks. Clean up liquid spills as soon as you notice them, and be especially careful about standing on wet floors while using handheld electrical appliances.

Outdated electrical wiring

If the electrical wiring in your home hasn’t been updated in several decades, it could be more prone to fire hazards than modern wiring. Worn-out insulation can leave wires exposed to moisture, for example. If you’re not sure about the condition of your home’s wiring, it’s important to have it inspected by a professional to make sure it’s safe and up to code.

Do you have some lingering questions or concerns about the electrical system in your home? Feel free to give us a call or contact us online to request an inspection today!

It’s National Radon Action Month!

It’s National Radon Action Month!

Have you had your home tested for the presence of radon gas? This month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is raising awareness about the importance of radon testing in observation of National Radon Action Month.

Although radon tests can be conducted at any time of year, winter is widely regarded as the best time to get a radon test. That’s because it’s easier to get an accurate reading when all the windows and doors in a home are closed. It’s especially important for homeowners in our area to get radon tests, because many counties in Illinois have documented histories of elevated radon levels.

So what is Radon, and why is it a public health concern?              

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is a natural byproduct of trace amounts of uranium in soil undergoing radioactive decay. As the gas is release from the soil, it emits cancer-causing alpha radiation into the air. Currently, Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the nation. The U.S. Surgeon General estimates that radon-related lung cancer claims the lives of about 21,000 Americans each year.

The good news is, radon exposure is a preventable health risk.

There are several effective radon mitigating techniques available that can reduce indoor radon levels by up to 99 percent. Before exploring these options, however, you must first have your home tested for the presence of radon. At First Choice Inspectors, we offer professional radon inspections to help homeowners determine whether or not they’re at risk of radon exposure. If we detect elevated levels of radon gas in your home, we can connect you with a qualified radon mitigation company to help you resolve the issue once and for all. Schedule your inspection online, or give us a call today to learn more!

Is Your Dryer Creating a Fire Hazard in Your Home?

Is Your Dryer Creating a Fire Hazard in Your Home?Most Americans who own a home have a washer and dryer tucked away in a laundry room. In the late 1990’s, The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that roughly 75 percent of American households had either a gas or electric dryer. A dryer has become an essential appliance for many people, but it can also constitute a fire hazard if it isn’t properly maintained. That same study also found that dryers caused more than 15,000 fires across the U.S. in the sample year 1996, and caused more than 300 injuries and 20 deaths.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent your dryer from becoming a fire hazard.

You can start by making sure you clean out your lint screen or lint trap after every single dryer use. The vent and exhaust duct should be inspected and cleaned periodically as well. Never place any rags or clothing items with gasoline, cooking oil or other volatile organic compounds on them in the dryer. Doing so could be catastrophic.

When moving into a home, be sure to have a home inspector take a look at the dryer to make sure it’s in good condition. If the home inspector has any reservations about the dryer, you should then either work with the home seller to have a new dryer installed, or inquire about what kinds of repairs will need to be made to ensure the dryer is safe and fully functional.

If you’re thinking about buying a new home, the experienced professionals at First Choice Inspectors can conduct a thorough inspection to identify a variety of potential safety issues. Give us a call or contact us online today to learn more.

Health Risks Associated With Asbestos Insulation

Danger Asbestos Removal SignBefore its negative health effects were widely understood, asbestos was a common feature of building materials such as tile and insulation throughout much of the 20th century. Fortunately, when left undisturbed, the health risks associated with asbestos insulation are fairly negligible. If you are buying an older home, however, it’s important to have an asbestos inspection conducted before you do any renovating or remodeling.

There are a number of different health issues associated with asbestos exposure.

If you inhale airborne asbestos fibers, they can land in the lower regions of your lungs and cause asbestosis, which is a fibrotic lung disease that can impact your respiratory function and even lead to death. Asbestos fiber inhalation can also increase your risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma. Frequent asbestos exposure can even lead to cardiomegaly, a condition in which the heart is enlarged.

Fortunately, there’s a simple step that you can take to avoid asbestos-related health issues.

Prior to moving into an older home, ask your home inspector to conduct a thorough asbestos inspection. If the inspector does find asbestos, you should ask the seller to have it removed completely prior to closing. The last thing you want to do is have to pay for asbestos remediation after you’ve already moved into the home.

At First Choice Inspectors, our professional asbestos inspection services can give you the peace of mind of knowing that your new home is safe and free of asbestos-based building materials. Give us a call or contact us online today to learn more.

Things to Check Before You Turn on Your Furnace This Season

Things to Check Before You Turn on Your Furnace This SeasonIt’s starting to get cold outside, and that means that it won’t be long before you’re depending on your furnace to keep your home’s interior warm and comfortable. Heating a home for several months can put your furnace under quite a bit of stress, so there are a few things you should double check before you turn it on to ensure it functions effectively.

Have you cleared everything away from the furnace?

Over the course of the summer, items can build up on and around your furnace. From cleaning rags to children’s toys and other household items that you don’t have room for elsewhere, it’s easy to allow stuff to pile up near your furnace. Before you turn your furnace on, move these items away and make sure it has plenty of clearance to allow for proper airflow. If left unchecked, these stray items can constitute a fire hazard as well.

Have you replaced your furnace filter?

Your furnace filter cleans the air that circulates through your furnace and HVAC system. This filter can pretty filthy over time, and when it does, it will reduce the efficiency of your furnace. It will also allow dust, germs and other pollutants to become airborne in your home. This can have a detrimental effect on your air quality, and even make you and your family sick. Make sure you have a fresh filter to start the season off right.

Have you had your furnace inspected recently?

If you have a fairly new furnace, you might be able to get away without having a furnace inspection. Generally speaking, however, you should have your furnace inspected at least once a year. This will allow you to deal with any potential technical issues and keep your furnace up and running all winter long.

Buying a New Home? Be Sure to Get a Radon Inspection First!

Buying a New Home? Be Sure to Get a Radon Inspection First!There are plenty of things to check off your to-do list before you buy a new home. One thing that many homebuyers neglect to do, however, is get a radon inspection before they move in. It can be easy to forget, but radon inspections are very important, particularly if you live in an area that’s prone to radon exposure.

Radon is a radioactive gas that forms when the uranium in soil and rock decays naturally over time. It comes up through the soil, and eventually makes its way into the atmosphere. When houses are built on soil with radon content, the gas can permeate the homes’ foundations and cause serious health problems for local residents. In fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America. It’s also odorless and colorless, which makes it impossible to detect without a professional inspection.

Before you buy a home, you should ask a home inspector to conduct a radon inspection.

Radon inspections are very simple, but they are also very important to the health of you and your family. If radon is detected, a ventilation system can be installed to divert the gas away from your home. Any cracks in the home’s foundation can also be sealed to prevent radon from permeating the home in the future.  

Are you concerned about the presence of radon in your home? At First Choice Inspectors, we can conduct a comprehensive radon inspection to put your mind at ease. Contact us online or give us a call today to schedule an appointment.

Common Sources of Asbestos in Old Homes

Common Sources of Asbestos in Old Homes Owning a home is a great responsibility. From purchasing to reconstruction, you have total control over the home-owning process. One thing you don’t have control over, unfortunately, is where asbestos might be hiding in your home, especially if it was constructed before 1975. Here are four areas where you might find asbestos in an old home.

Look Up

Asbestos was a common feature of old ceiling tiles and roof shingles, so look up! Asbestos becomes a safety hazard when it’s made airborne, and ceiling fans may move asbestos dust around without your knowledge. If your ceilings are in rough shape, asbestos fibers can come loose and contaminate the air in your home.

Check Your Pipes

Asbestos dust can also become airborne when old asbestos insulation around boilers and pipes begins to break down. Transite pipes, which were used extensively in water distribution systems during the mid-1900s, also contain asbestos cement. If these pipes aren’t replaced before the cement starts to break down, they may release asbestos fibers into your drinking water.

Tread Lightly

Are you thinking about replacing old floor tiles? Try to find out when the tiles were installed first. Asbestos tiling was extremely popular from the 1920 to the 1960s, and you can even find them in homes built as recently as the 1980s. If you suspect you might have asbestos floor tiles in your home, consult a professional home inspector before replacing them.

Walls

Before you decide to tear that ghastly 70s-style kitchen wall out, find out what it’s made of. Many older homes were constructed with fire-resistant sheets, which, when drilled or demolished, can release asbestos into your home.

 

The only way to know for certain whether your old home contains asbestos material is to have it examined by a professional home inspector. Give yourself some peace of mind, and schedule an inspection with one of our certified and trustworthy professionals today. 

Health Risks Associated With Household Mold

Health Risks Associated With Household Mold

If you have mold in your home, especially certain types of black mold, it’s important to have it removed as soon as possible to avoid potential adverse health effects. Mold can grow on walls, in carpeting, inside of insulation and on floors that have been exposed to moisture. A mold colony can start to grow within just days of exposure to moisture, and if you don’t catch it early, it can spread very quickly and create problems for you and your family.

While everyone reacts to mold exposure a little bit differently, most people will, at the very least, show some signs of mold-related symptoms when they are exposed to it. These symptoms often include nasal blockage, coughing, itchy eyes, wheezing and irritation to the skin in some cases. But there are also more severe reactions that can affect people with mold allergies and certain lung diseases. These people can end up with severe lung infections if the ongoing mold exposure goes unchecked.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can prevent mold from growing in your home by keeping humidity levels as low as possible. You can also reduce the likelihood of mold growth by fixing leaky plumbing fixtures and cleaning up immediately in the aftermath of a flooded basement, bathroom or kitchen. Additionally, proper ventilation in your home and attic can prevent excessive moisture buildup which often leads to mold growth. It only takes a small amount of mold to cause adverse health effects, so treating your home for mold as soon as you spot it is of the utmost importance.

In some cases, it can be difficult for homeowners to detect the presence of mold. If you’re planning on buying or selling a home, or if you suspect that you might have mold in your current home, First Choice Inspections can find out for sure. We offer mold and mildew inspections, and if we do find mold growth we can direct you to a mold remediation service to help you get rid of it once and for all.

Give us a call at (773) 429-9711 today to learn more.

It Time to Replace Your Old Water Heater?

It Time to Replace Your Old Water Heater?If you have a hot water heater that is more than 10 years old, it’s probably time for you to think about replacing it. Your typical tank water heater is only meant to last for about a decade, and while you might get a little bit more life out of it than that, you should be prepared for a water heater replacement once your water heater turns 10. There are also a few other signs that will tell you it’s time to replace your old water heater. Check them out below.

Your water heater is delivering rusty water to your home.

Have you noticed that the hot water in your home has a rusty color to it? This may be the result of galvanized plumbing pipes in your home, but it may also be your water heater kicking up sediment from inside the tank and sending it out into your home. You obviously don’t want to use this water for an extended period of time, so if you start to notice it on a daily basis, you should start checking out new water heaters.

Your water heater is making strange sounds.

The sediment in your old water heater can do more than just cause rusty water. It can also cause loud banging sounds inside the tank. This happens when the sediment is heated up over and over again, which causes it to harden. These sounds are not going to go away, so you should not ignore them. Rather, you should take it as a sign that it’s time to look at new water heaters.

Your water heater is leaking.

When your water heater fails completely, it will usually start leaking all over the place. This is a pretty obvious sign that you will not be able to use your water heater anymore. Even if it’s just a small leak, it means your water heater is on the verge of becoming completely unusable.

If you’re in the process of purchasing a new home, you should have it inspected for potential problems, like an old water heater that will need to be replaced soon. First Choice Inspectors can provide you with a quality home inspection and identify these areas of concern before you buy. Give us a call at (773) 429-9711 today to schedule an inspection.

Benefits of Replacing Your Home’s Old Windows

Benefits of Replacing Your Home’s Old WindowsIf you live in an older home, chances are you’ve experienced the hassles that accompany hard to shut, drafty and dingy old windows. There are a number of great reasons to consider replacing your old windows, and they cover both aesthetic and practical concerns. Here’s our list of the top three benefits of replacing old windows.

Energy efficiency

Old windows are often comprised of a single layer of glass. The most popular contemporary window designs typically feature two panes of glass, sometimes even three depending on the level of thermal performance a homeowner is looking for. Multi-paned windows serve as more effective insulators, keeping warm air in during the winter and cool air in during the summer. This can reduce the load placed on your HVAC system, and save you a lot of money on your energy bills in the long run.

Noise control

Modern windows have also been designed to control sound distribution. That is to say, similarly to air currents, contemporary windows can keep unwanted sounds out so that the inside of your home remains quiet and comfortable. If you live in a high-traffic area that experiences a lot of road noise or construction, a new set of windows can keep all that sound to a minimum.  

Aesthetic value

Regardless of whether or not you’re planning to sell your home anytime soon, new windows can increase its market value. In addition to the increased comfort and quiet they offer, new windows enhance curb appeal and make the interior of your home look more attractive as well. By increasing the resale value of your home, new windows can be a great investment to make for the future.

Are your old windows costing you money on your monthly energy bills? A home energy audit from First Choice Inspectors can help you assess your home’s thermal performance, and make cost-effective suggestions for improvement. Get your quote today or call us at (773) 429-9711 to learn more.