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Helpful Home Inspectors Earns Esteemed 2016 Angie’s List Super Service Award

Award reflects company’s consistently high level of customer service

Helpful Home Inspectors, LLC has earned the home service industry’s coveted Angie’s List Super Service Award, reflecting an exemplary year of customer service to members of the local services marketplace and consumer review site in 2016.

This achievement is particularly significant as Angie’s List experienced unprecedented member growth in 2016. More than 1.6 million consumers, many of whom were eager to quickly hire highly qualified service pros, joined Angie’s List after the company added a new, free membership tier.

“Companies that can meet higher demands without missing a beat in their exemplary performance standards truly do stand apart from their peers,” said Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks. “Only a fraction of the professional home inspection companies in this marketplace were able to do it.”

Angie’s List Super Service Award 2016 winners have met strict eligibility requirements, which include an “A” rating in overall grade, recent grade, and review period grade. The SSA winners must also be in good standing with Angie’s List, pass a background check and abide by Angie’s List operational guidelines.

“It is especially gratifying to win the Angie’s List Super Service Award for the sixth year in a row, knowing that it is our satisfied customers that make it happen,” said Alan Fastman, owner and inspector for Helpful Home Inspectors in Media, Pennsylvania.ALSSA 2011to2015

Service company ratings are updated daily on Angie’s List as new, verified consumer reviews are submitted. Companies are graded on an A through F scale in areas ranging from price to professionalism to punctuality.

“The biggest change at Angie’s List is that we are connecting even more consumers to high quality service professionals,” Hicks said. “And that’s good for everyone.”


Angie’s List helps facilitate happy transactions between more than 4.5 million consumers nationwide and its collection of highly rated service providers in more than 720 categories of service, ranging from home improvement to health care. Built on a foundation of more than 10 million verified reviews of local service, Angie’s List connects consumers directly to its online marketplace of services from member-reviewed providers, and offers unique tools and support designed to improve the local service experience for both consumers and service professionals.

Water Heaters and the Poet Virgil

Aegrescit medendo, a latin phrase attributed to the poet Virgil meaning, “the disease worsens with the treatment” may also be translated into the more common english phrase, “the cure is worse than the disease.” I’m not certain of the context, but the poet may have been speaking about certain do-it-yourself home repairs.

When constructing a home inspection report, I try to strike a balance between providing enough but not too much information about any given issue. With many issues, I adopt the mantra, “less is more”. With others, especially with those where an improper homeowner repair may make things worse, I opt to provide what I hope will be enough information to help ensure that the job gets done right. One such issue is the lack of a discharge pipe to serve the temperature, pressure-relief (TPR) valve on a water heater.

The TPR valve is an important safety feature that keeps the water heater from exploding if the temperature and pressure in the water heater build beyond what it can safely contain. The TPR valve is the last line of defense in case other safety features of modern water heaters fail to prevent explosive conditions. In such an event, instead of an explosion, scalding water under pressure will discharge through the TPR valve. The TPR valve needs a discharge pipe to divert pressurized scalding water to the floor or to another approved location.

During a professional home inspection, a Pennsylvania home inspector or a Delaware home inspector will check for the presence or absence of the discharge pipe. If missing or in need of improvement, it will be noted in the home inspection report. But how much information is enough information in this instance?

A “less is more” approach may result in a comment such as, “The water heater TPR valve needs a discharge pipe for safety.” The problem with such an approach is that attaching a pipe improperly could result in a condition that is at least as dangerous – and potentially much more dangerous – than having no pipe at all. Aegrescit medendo.exploding_water_heater

An improperly connected pipe could result in personal injury, property damage, contamination of the potable water supply or, at worst, an explosion. If you’re thinking, “What’s the big deal?”, Google “exploding water heater” and see what you find.

With that in mind, I like to provide my clients with all the information that I think is needed to help ensure that, especially if they attempt the repair themselves, the job gets done right.

What follows are the detailed requirements for the installation of the discharge piping as found in the 2015 edition of the International Residential Code©.

P2804.6.1 Requirements for discharge pipe. The discharge piping serving a pressure-relief valve, temperature-relief valve or combination valve shall:

  1. Not be directly connected to the drainage system.
  2. Discharge through an air gap located in the same room as the water heater.
  3. Not be smaller than the diameter of the outlet of the valve served and shall discharge full size to the air gap.
  4. Serve a single relief device and shall not connect to piping serving any other relief device or equipment.
  5. Discharge to the floor, to the pan serving the water heater or storage tank, to a waste receptor or to the outdoors.
  6. Discharge in a manner that does not cause personal injury or structural damage.
  7. Discharge to a termination point that is readily observable by the building occupants.
  8. Not be trapped.
  9. Be installed to flow by gravity.
  10. Terminate not more than 6 inches and not less than two times the discharge pipe diameter above the floor or waste receptor flood rim level.
  11. Not have a threaded connection at the end of the piping.
  12. Not have valves or tee fittings.
  13. Be constructed of those materials listed in Section P2906.5 or materials tested, rated and approved for such use in accordance with ASME A112.4.1.
  14. Be one nominal size larger than the size of the relief-valve outlet, where the relief-valve discharge piping is constructed of PEX or PE-RT tubing. The outlet end of such tubing shall be fastened in place.

Admittedly, that’s a lot to consider for what may have seemed a simple task. If it’s too much to deal with, I have three simple words of advice, “Call a plumber.”

I hope this is helpful.

Water Heaters Are Growing in Size and Cost

Most of us don’t think much about our water heater until the time comes to replace it. If the time comes after April 16, 2015, you may have a few unexpected things to think about.water heater

Water heaters manufactured after that date will need to meet new federal standards for increased energy efficiency. Not that you have to think much about that. After all, the folks who make water heaters have been thinking long and hard about that. They’ve been thinking about it since 1987, when the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.

What you may need to think about is will a new water heater fit your budget and will it fit the space occupied by your old water heater. Expect the new units to be more expensive and larger. In some cases, a lot more expensive and quite a bit larger.

Gas and electric water heaters with storage capacity of 55-gallons or less will grow larger to accommodate additional insulation. Those with a greater storage capacity will grow in size even more to accommodate new technologies – heat pump technology for electric water heaters and condensing technology for gas.

In addition to the increased cost of the water heater itself, there may be some less obvious costs involved. The new units will be heavier, costing more to transport and possibly requiring an extra hand to install. Some gas models will have an electronic ignition in lieu of a standing pilot and will require an electrical connection where none was needed in the past. Some will require a different vent configuration and/or a means of condensate disposal. Where an existing water heater fits in a tight space, some substantial remodeling may be required to accommodate a new larger unit or you may need to consider one with a smaller storage capacity or a different energy source. Tankless water heaters may be an option for some.

Of course, the news isn’t all bad. The increased cost of installation will be offset by anticipated savings in energy costs and a cleaner environment. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that these standards will result in about $63 billion in energy savings for consumers for products shipped from 2015 through 2044 and eliminate about 172.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions,equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of about 33.8 million automobiles.

We don’t all need to run out and buy new water heaters. The NAECA regulation effective date applies only to the manufacture of new water heaters and does not require that any of us replace a working unit. Models built before the effective date will be available for purchase until the supply runs out.

American Water Heater | Appliance Standards Awareness ProjectBradford White | Noritz | Rheem * | Ruud * | A.O. Smith | Takagi 

*The Rheem and Ruud links include a video set to a catchy tune.

Home Inspection from A to Z

a to z

Mostly for fun, but also to help answer a question often asked about what is included in a home inspection service, I’ve come up with this little ditty.

A professional home inspection is an objective visual examination of the readily accessible systems and components of a home, from the foundation to the roof. You might say, “from A to Z”. Among other things, the inspector will evaluate

Chimneys, crawl spaces, ceilings and cooling systems,
Doors, decks, downspouts and driveways,
Electrical systems,
Foundations, fireplaces, flashing and floors,
Gutters, grades and grounds,
Heating systems,
Kitchen cabinets and counters,
Laundry facilities,
Main valves and disconnects,
Normal operating controls,
Outdoor components that affect the structure,
Patios, plumbing and porches,
Quality of construction,
Siding, sidewalks and structure,
Unsafe conditions and unfinished spaces,
Windows, walls and wood stoves,
Xmas lights and other lightweight or extension cord wiring,
Y’s” and other plumbing fittings and the,
Zany results of amateur home repairs.

Your Pennsylvania home inspector or your Delaware home inspector will likely offer other ancillary inspection services as well, including termite and wood destroying insect inspections and radon gas testing.  
I hope this is helpful.

Home Inspection Checklist


You’re buying a house. Congratulations!

This is an exciting time, but there’s a lot to do and for many people this can be a stressful experience. In an effort to relieve some of the stress, related to one important step in the home buying process, I’ve created a Home Inspection Checklist. It is a tool for homebuyers to help you gain maximum benefit from a professional home inspection.  

When engaging a home inspection service, you want to be fully engaged, not just going through the motions. You’ll want to understand the process and to begin sooner rather than later. Don’t wait for someone to say, “OK, now we’ve got to schedule the home inspection.” If you do, you may find yourself at a disadvantage, as there is a lot to do in a short period of time between signing an agreement for sale and locking in the agreement.

Download a printable copy of the Home Inspection Checklist by clicking on the thumbnail at right.  As you’ll see, the first step in the process is to find a great home inspector. You may trust your real estate agent to recommend a home inspector, but remember, you don’t have to. Your home inspector should be working for you and you alone and you have the right to hire the inspector of your choice. Don’t limit your choices by waiting until the last minute to begin your search. 

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