Home Maintenance Misconceptions

We all pick up ideas in passing about various subjects that we accept at face value. Perhaps even helping to pass them on to others with the full conviction that we are sharing a bit of wisdom. Most of the time these truisms are valid but every once in a while a myth sneaks in undetected. Here are a few home maintenance misconceptions.

  1. You test a smoke detector by pressing the ‘test’ button.
    If there’s no smoke the circuit had nothing to test except that the batteries still had power. Basically you are pushing the on switch for the alarm. If you want to test for smoke detection you need to present some smoke within range of the detector. A blown out candle or wooden match is more than enough to a functional smoke detector. While you are checking you might want to confirm that the detector is less than ten years old. I’ve been told that’s about length of their effective life. I hope it wasn’t a myth.
  2. Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors should be installed near the furnace.
    Only if you enjoy the occasional false alarm. Small amounts of CO are not uncommon around furnaces or other combustion sources. As for the ongoing debate over high or low placement in a room, there are arguments for each. If you desire more precise measurement and memory for duration testing the digital plug-in models fit the bill and will typically be 18 inches off the floor. Hardwired CO and smoke combination units are typically installed in ceilings and are an affordable alternative. High or low the one placement guideline to make sure you follow is that at least one alarm can clearly be heard in the sleeping areas.
  3. The bigger your range hood fan the better.
    This is potentially a life threatening concern because if your mega-fan is pushing too much air it has to come from somewhere and that may be your smouldering fireplace or conventional gas water heater. While it seems like an excellent idea to get rid of cooking odours and humidity, you need to balance the volume of air being blown out with the fresh air that replaces it. If that 600 cubic feet per minute fan has a 6 inch outlet, and you have unsealed combustion devices in the house, plan on putting in a 6 inch fresh air inlet. Back-drafting poisonous combustion gases and smoke into your home is unpleasant at best and fatal at worst. On the positive side you’ll find out if your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors work.
  4. Blocking your combustion air supply is a good idea.
    I see this occasionally while inspecting homes. If you have a conventional gas water heater or furnace they rely on a duct from the outside to provide a fresh air source for combustion. Some people worry about that cold air coming in the combustion air supply and stuff a rag or towel in it to block it. Bad idea. The fresh air inlet keeps air flowing up the chimney and is much less likely to create a back-draft situation as per the previous item.
  5. The finer your filter the better for your furnace.
    Not really. Furnace filters were created to protect the furnace and can operate quite well on the lowest MERV rated filter at your local hardware store. The finer the filter you buy the sooner it will get clogged up with dirt, forcing you to change it more often. One of the worst things you can do to your furnace is let the furnace filter get really dirty. It makes the blower motor work too hard and can actually burn them out.The higher rated filters were created to improve the air quality in the house for you and your family. They can screen out much smaller particles like smoke, pet dander and pollen, but are much more expensive. When buying your furnace filters remember that you are really paying that extra money to look after the health of your loved ones. If you change them often enough, your furnace will stay healthy too.

Author: Rob Cornish is a Home Inspector in Ottawa, Canada. © 2013 HomeXam Inc.
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