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A building's central air-conditioning system must be periodically inspected and maintained in order to function properly. While an annual inspection performed by a trained professional is recommended, homeowners can do a lot of the work themselves by following the tips offered in this guide.

Clean the Exterior Condenser Unit and Components

The exterior condenser unit is the large box located on the side of the building that is designed to push heat from the inside of the building to the outdoors. Inside of the box are coils of pipe that are surrounded by thousands of thin metal "fins" that allow the coils more surface area to exchange heat. Follow these tips when cleaning the exterior condenser unit and its inner components -- after turning off power to the unit!

  • Remove any leaves, spider webs and other debris from the unit's exterior. Trim foliage back several feet from the unit to ensure proper air flow.

  • Remove the cover grille to clean any debris from the unit's interior. A garden hose can be helpful for this task.

  • Straighten any bent fins with a tool called a fin comb.

  • Add lubricating oil to the motor. Check your owner’s manual for specific instructions.

  • Clean the evaporator coil and condenser coil at least once a year.  When they collect dirt, they may not function properly.

Building orientation is the practice of facing a building so as to maximize certain aspects of its surroundings, such as street appeal, to capture a scenic view, for drainage considerations, etc. With rising energy costs, it’s becoming increasingly important for builders to orient buildings to capitalize on the Sun’s free energy. For developers and builders, orienting a new home to take advantage of the warmth of the Sun will increase the home's appeal and marketability.  For homeowners, it will increase their indoor comfort and reduce their energy bills.

Thus, building orientation, along with daylighting and thermal mass, are crucial considerations of passive solar construction that can be incorporated into virtually any new home design.  InterNACHI inspectors who consult with new homeowners can pass along this valuable information to help their clients reap long-term energy benefits and savings.

The purpose of this article is twofold. First, at InterNACHI, we’d like you to take measures to keep your garage free from fire. Fortunately, there are ways this can be done, some of which are described below. Secondly, garage fires do happen, and we’d like you to make sure that a fire cannot not easily spread to the rest of your house. While you can perform many of the recommendations in this article yourself, it is a good idea to hire an InterNACHI inspector to make sure your home is safe from a garage fire.

Why do many garages pose a fire hazard?

  • Where are you most likely to do any welding, or any work on your car? These activities require working with all sorts of flammable materials.

  • Water heaters and boilers are usually stored in garages, and they can create sparks that may ignite fumes or fluids. Car batteries, too, will spark under certain conditions.

  • Oil and gasoline can drip from cars. These fluids may collect unnoticed and eventually ignite, given the proper conditions.

  • Flammable liquids, such as gasoline, motor oil and paint are commonly stored in garages. Some other examples are brake fluid, varnish, paint thinner and lighter fluid.

The following tips can help prevent garage fires and their spread:

  • If the garage allows access to the attic, make sure a hatch covers this access.

  • The walls and ceiling should be fire-rated. Unfortunately, it will be difficult for untrained homeowners to tell if their walls are Type X fire-rated gypsum. An InterNACHI inspector can examine the walls and ceiling to make sure they are adequate fire barriers. 

  • The floor should be clear of clutter. Loose papers, matches, oily rags, and other potentially  flammable items are extremely dangerous if they are strewn about the garage floor.

  • Use light bulbs with the proper wattage, and do not overload electrical outlets.

  • Tape down all cords and wires so they are not twisted or accidentally yanked.

If there is a door that connects the garage to the living area, consider the following:

About 2.5 million children are injured or killed by hazards in the home each year. The good news is that many of these incidents can be prevented by using simple child-safety devices on the market today. Any safety device you buy should be sturdy enough to prevent injury to your child, yet easy for you to use. It's important to follow installation instructions carefully.

In addition, if you have older children in the house, be sure they re-secure safety devices. Remember, too, that no device is completely childproof; determined youngsters have been known to disable them. You can childproof your home for a fraction of what it would cost to have a professional do it. And safety devices are easy to find. You can buy them at hardware stores, baby equipment shops, supermarkets, drug stores, home and linen stores, and through online and mail-order catalogues.

InterNACHI inspectors, too, should know what to tell clients who are concerned about the safety of their children. Here are some child-safety devices that can help prevent many injuries to young children.