A little bit of useful knowledge can go a long way for homeowners.
The average suburban family home has become a much more complicated and sophisticate system than ever before! Long gone are the days of wood-burning stoves and cracking a window open to feel the cool summer breeze. Today’s home commonly has forced-air ductwork, higher efficiency HVAC systems, geothermal systems, and electronic control systems. Many of these systems are new to contractors so it is no wonder that the average U.S. homeowner does not understand how to keep their home performing well. Homeowners must rely on a hired expert – but choosing the right one and one you can trust can be a tricky path.
So, how can homeowners protect themselves? Get to know your home! There are three basic categories of knowledge every owner should have about their home:
- Required knowledge
- Useful knowledge
- Advanced knowledge
What kinds of things fall into the category of required knowledge? We recommend the following:
- Water source: where does your home’s water come from (municipal water, well water, spring water)?
- Waste water: where does your home’s waste water go (septic tank, municipal sewer pipe)?
- Water main location: where is the water main for the home?
- What type of water heater does your home have?
- What type of appliance heats your home and where is it located?
- What type of fuel is used to heat your home?
- Does your home have an emergency on/off switch for the heating system and where is it located?
- What is the location of your home’s fire extinguisher?
- Does your home have air conditioning and where is it located?
- Does your home have a thermostat control and where is it located?
- Where are the locations for the main electrical panel and circuit breakers?
What kinds of things are useful and good to know about your home? We recommend the following:
- What type of roofing is on your home’s roof?
- What type of plumbing supply pipes are used in your home (copper, PVC)?
- How is your home insulated (attic, roof, walls, how much, what type)?
- Are your windows single-glazed, double-glazed or triple-glazed?
- Does your home have removable storm windows?
- Does your home have a mechanical ventilation system, if so, what type?
Gathering answers to these questions will better prepare you for work that might be performed in your home and will help prevent you from being swindled by crooked contractors.
If homeowners take a little extra time to learn a few building science principles and consider their home as a “whole system” it will be easier to select the appropriate contractor to perform repairs, maintenance or conduct testing on your home. Some of the things that would fall into this category include:
- Why does infiltration and exfiltration matter?
- Where are air leaks most often located?
- How air movement can undermine the performance of fluffy insulation.
- How can positive and/or negative pressure affect your home?
- What kinds of conditions can lead to condensation within your home?
- What are the most cost-effective energy retrofit measures?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of different types of heating fuel?
We are not suggesting that homeowners become home performance experts, but by getting to know your home a little better you can protect yourself and save money in the long run by choosing a contractor with knowledge and confidence in home performance service work. By gathering some basic knowledge about your home, you can work with your contractor to decide how to make your home the best total system it can be for you and for your family.