Minimizing Risk - Mandatory Inspections

It is the responsibility of each of us to properly maintain the many appliances in our homes that can create the risk of damage due to fire, water leaks and carbon monoxide poisoning.  Recently adopted Administrative Resolution #10 requires all homeowners to have regular inspections of their unit's dryer vent systems and chimneys, as follows:

To protect all buildings against fire hazards, and in anticipation of pending insurance carrier requirements, homeowners are required to have the following described work performed in their units before June 30 of the relative year:

(a) An inspection plus any necessary maintenance of the clothes dryer vent system every year beginning in fiscal year 2015 (July 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015).

(b) An inspection plus any necessary maintenance of the chimneys every other year with the first inspection beginning in fiscal year 2015 (July 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015).

The homeowner may choose any properly qualified and insured vendor for the required work.

The homeowner must provide written proof evidencing that the required work has been performed by June 30th of the relative year.  Written proof would be documentation from a properly qualified and insured vendor showing vendor name, address, and phone number indicating the date of service, location of the services rendered and description of the work performed. 

Proof may be delivered via email to board@regalpoint.net or mailed to the Board at 87 Regal Drive or hand delivered to an active board member.

The homeowner is responsible for all costs involved for the required work.

Failure to comply will result in a fine as permitted and outlined in Article 12 of the Master Deed and Article 12, Section 12.2 of the Bylaws of the Association.

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Additionally, for everyone's protection, the Board urges all homeowners to regularly inspect and maintain the following items:

Washer Hoses: These should be replaced every 5 years unless you purchase heavy duty hoses with longer warranties.  See below for more details as provided by our insurance carrier.

Water Heaters: Inspect regularly for telltale signs of rust or leaks - the only way to fix a bad water heater is to replace it.  See below for more details as provided by our insurance carrier.

Smoke Detectors:  Our homes were built with "hard-wired" smoke detectors.  Smoke detectors are only rated for 10 years and should be replaced after that.  Regularly test your detectors.  If your detectors use back-up batteries, these should be replaced every 1-2 years.

Carbon Monoxide Detector:  Carbon Monoxide is invisible, odorless and deadly.  CO detectors were not standard equipment when our homes were built - everyone should be sure to install at least one in the sleeping areas of the home.

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The following important educational information regarding five major areas of concern has been provided as a courtesy by our insurance carrier.

Dryer Vents

Improper installation or maintenance of a clothes dryer can pose a serious fire risk to families. The leading factor contributing to dryer fires is failure to clean lint from traps, vents and areas surrounding the dryer.

Why are Dryers Vented?

After the washer's spin cycle has finished, a typical 12-pound load of laundry weighs about 20 pounds. This means that the dryer will need to dispose of about a gallon of water with every load. A dryer vent removes this moisture as well as heat and lint produced by the clothes dryer to the exterior of a home.

As the dryer forces hot air through a rotating drum and the heat removes water from the clothes, lint forms. Lint is a highly flammable fiber that will ignite easily. While most moisture and heat vent to the outside, the removable lint filter traps most lint before it reaches the vent but some lint will always get by the filter. When trapped in the vent, lint will reduce the venting capacity and can eventually lead to a total blockage. It will also reduce the efficiency of the dryer and can result in a buildup of excess heat, moisture and lint into your home. It is important to clean lint from the lint filter before or after every load.

Signs of a Blocked Dryer Vent

  • Lengthy drying times

  • Clothes are hotter than normal at the end of the dry cycle

  • Dryer deactivation due to high temperatures

  • Increased heat and humidity in the area of the dryer

  • Flapper on vent hood does not open when dryer is on

Vent Materials

Several types of ducting material are available for venting a clothes dryer. The preferred material is either a rigid aluminum or galvanized steel duct.  The use of flexible metal ducting may be an acceptable alternative to rigid metal duct.

The flexible thin foil and flexible plastic accordion style vents sold in home improvement stores are unacceptable materials for venting a dryer. These vents can sag and allow lint to accumulate and catch fire if exposed to sufficient heat.

Proper Dryer Maintenance

When completed regularly, a few simple, inexpensive measures can help detect a problem with a dryer vent before it becomes a fire hazard and may even reduce wear on the dryer and energy costs to operate the dryer.

  • Remove lint from the lint filter before or after each load. Inspect the filter for rips before placing it back in the dryer.

  • Wash the lint filter with soap and water every couple of months to reduce the waxy residue left behind by dryer sheets.

  • Inspect and clean outside wall dampers on a regular basis.

  • Vacuum lint from behind and beneath your dryer on a regular basis.

  • Have your dryer professionally serviced and cleaned by a factory-authorized service representative every two to three years.

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Chimneys

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that chimneys and chimney connectors are the direct cause of nearly 40% of all home heating fires.  Failure to clean the chimney is a contributing factor in 64% of these fires.  Clogged chimneys or vents are also a contributing factor in many carbon monoxide (CO) poisonings as well.

The two basic purposes of chimneys are to create a draft for proper combustion and to provide a pathway for the safe removal of combustion byproducts to the exterior of the building.  By taking a few simple precautions, you can minimize the chance of a chimney fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.

What are the hazards?

Burning wood or other solid fuels in a fireplace produces smoke, water vapor, gases and unburned wood particles. As these byproducts rise into the cooler chimney, they condense and form creosote, a dark, tarry residue left on the inner walls of the chimney. Creosote is a highly combustible material and once ignited will provide the fuel for a chimney fire.

Natural gas and propane are common fuels for fireplaces with gas log sets. There are two types of gas logs on the market, "yellow flame" and "blue flame".  The yellow flame log sets simulate wood logs and produce an equivalent amount of heat. The blue flame log sets burn hotter and cleaner than yellow flame log sets but the flame is not as attractive. Yellow flame log sets produce more carbon and soot that will collect in the chimney than blue flame log sets. Though both types of log sets do not produce visible smoke like wood burning appliances, they do deposit corrosive substances inside the chimney.

CO is a combustion byproduct produced through incomplete burning of carbon based fuels such as wood, natural or liquefied petroleum gas or propane. A buildup of CO can happen when a fuel burning appliance malfunctions or there is a leak or blockage in the vent for the appliance. A buildup of CO within a building can lead to an accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

CO is undetectable by the senses because it is odorless, tasteless, and colorless. The initial symptoms of CO poisoning will often mimic those of the flu but without the associated fever. Symptoms may include headache, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath and fatigue.  As the concentration of CO increases in an enclosed space, the symptoms of CO poisoning will appear sooner.  More importantly, a person may also lose consciousness sooner.

Signs of Trouble

A loud roar in the chimney, creosote flakes on the ground, roof or gutter, visible cracks in the chimney, smoke escaping through cracks or into the attic are all signs that a chimney fire has happened or may be burning.

CO detectors will detect elevated levels of CO and sound an alarm to alert occupants of a potential poisoning risk. Every home that has fuel burning appliances, fireplaces or an attached garage should also have CO detectors installed on every level of the home and in a central location outside each sleeping area.

If a resident discovers that their chimney is on fire, or they begin to experience the symptoms of CO poisoning they should evacuate their residence and call the fire department immediately. They should also alert other building residents.

An annual inspection, plus any needed maintenance and cleaning for chimneys, vents and fireplaces will reduce the chance of a chimney fire or accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

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Washing Machine Hoses

Short of fire, nothing causes more damage to the inside of a property than leaking water. It is estimated that 65% of property damage is caused by water leaking from failing pipes, hoses, plumbing fixtures and appliances. The leading cause of water damage in most residences is failure of the flexible rubber hoses that connect the washing machine to the hot and cold water feed pipes.

The hoses that come with new washing machines and their equivalent replacement hoses are of low quality, usually lasting no more than four or five years.

These hoses usually fail at a specific place - the coupling. Standard hose couplings are rolled and stamped from thin sheets of copper, inserted into the hose ends and then crimped. Over time, flowing water polishes the metal coupling edges to a razor sharp edge. Those edges then cut the hose inside and outside where it bends at either end.

Many so-called experts and consumer groups tout braided stainless steel washer hoses as "burst-proof."  However, these hoses are essentially the same consumer-grade rubber hoses with a wire mesh jacket on the outside. When the coupling and hose are crimped together, the mesh jacket can be crushed into the hose and provide another sharp edge to cut the un­reinforced rubber hose.

Other aggravating factors in hose failures include not closing the washer valves when the washer is not in use and valve failures.

If the faucets cannot be closed or the washer is unattended when a washer hose fails, the discharge can be devastating. It can collapse floors and flood areas below and adjacent to the laundry room. Even regular inspections cannot detect signs of wear in washer hoses. These hoses fail suddenly and without warning.

Washing Machine Hose Upgrade

The only protection is replacement before it becomes necessary! 

To accomplish that, it is recommended that you change your washing machine hoses every 3-5 years with good quality hoses.  There are hoses available that give guarantees longer than 5 years, even up to 20 (see below).  Note that these guarantees cover replacement of the hoses if they should fail, they do not cover related losses.

FloodChek guarantees its hoses against leaking or bursting for up to 20 years.  According to their website, they have been manufacturing these hoses since the early 1990's and have never had a claim.  Their hoses are not available through traditional retail outlets, you can purchase a set directly from floodchek.com for $42.95 plus shipping.*

*This recommendation is courtesy of our insurance carrier; our Association makes no claims as to the performance of this product.

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Water Heaters

Another leading cause of residential water damage is water heater failure.

How do Water Heaters Fail?

A water heater holds and transfers water continuously — from installation to replacement or failure.  Over time, deposits will accumulate on the bottom of the tank. These deposits corrode the tank liner and heater elements. Water quality, particularly water hardness, directly influences the amount of sediment deposited.

Moving water also causes wear on the tank and piping. The hotter the water, the greater the fatigue on the parts it touches. The constant heating of cold water also subjects the unit to extreme temperature swings. No household appliance works under tougher conditions than the storage water heater.

In most cases, water heaters fail gradually, but not always. Some of the telltale signs of imminent failure include water accumulation beneath the heater, a hissing or whistling sound characteristic of a worn valve, and chronic hot water shortages during periods of normal demand. Prompt corrective action is required once the signs of failure appear.

When the corroded bottom of a tank fails without warning, the water already in the tank and the continuously fed cold-water supply create a deluge. If not stopped, this water will continue to flow. In these cases, it's crucial to stop the flow of water by turning off the cold-water supply valve at the water heater or at the water main shut-off.

Water Heater Inspection and Replacement

You cannot repair a failed water heat. You can only replace it. When replacing water heaters, record the installation date on the body of the unit or on a tag attached to the feeder pipe.  Note that installations require an inspection by the Township.

A good first step toward minimizing the chance of a water heater failure is to regularly inspect for signs of corrosion or any water below the heater. If you detect any sign of failure, you should contact a licensed and insured plumber promptly and have the heater replaced.

Storage water heaters have an expected life span between five and ten years.

Ways to Minimize Potential Water Damage

Residents can take several steps to minimize the damage from a failed water heater before a loss. Installing a catch pan with a drain connected to a waste line, sump pump or other means of channeling water out of the building will help in the event of a small leak. The pan and drain should be large enough to keep water from rising and contacting any electrical or gas controls in the heater and should allow for access to controls mounted on the water heater.

There is an automatic shut off valve (ASOV) readily available for nearly every residential appliance that uses water. An ASOV for storage water heaters uses a water sensor linked to a water-controlling valve mounted to the heater's cold water supply.

When the sensor detects water beneath the heater, the valve automatically stops the flow of water to the heater. This device can prevent damage from a slow leak and limit the damage from a tank failure to the contents of the tank. ASOV devices retail for around $100 plus installation.

Another popular ASOV—a Water and Gas Safety Valve (WAGS)—will simultaneously shut off the water and gas supply when it detects a leak. The WAGS valve is located in a drain pan beneath the water heater. The company also sells a foam "water dam" that can be placed around the water heater in lieu of a drain pan. The WAGS device retails for around $200 plus installation.

Water alarms are also available from several manufacturers. These devices will not prevent damage but may alert a resident to a leak or failure. These are typically inexpensive (as low as $10) battery operated devices that will send out a signal if it detects water - but you need to be there to hear it!  For about $100, you can buy an alarm with a phone dialer that connects to your house phone line.

On demand or instantaneous water heaters are becoming more popular. These devices eliminate the traditional storage tank and heat water directly when there is a call for hot water. Installation can be expensive, and there often is not enough capacity for large, simultaneous demands for hot water.

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Outside Spigots

One more specific wintertime item is to shut off and drain your outside spigots to prevent pipes freezing in extreme temperature conditions.  Frozen pipes can cause very costly water damage to your unit.  If you've never done this, you should start doing it every winter.  Here is how to close and drain a spigot: 

Remove any hoses from your outside spigots and drain the hoses.  Locate the pipe in your basement that leads to your outside spigot.  Turn off the valve closest to the spigot (could be up to 10 feet or more away from the exterior wall).  Then, open the outside spigot and leave it open.  You may find a small bleeder valve (drain plug) on the underside of the interior valve.  Open this plug while holding a small container below it and let the remaining water drain out into the container.  Close the plug. 

You should really do this when the weather first gets cold (early December); you won't have much use for a garden hose at that time of year.  In the spring, close the outside spigot and then open the interior valve.  

Note that Regal Point units have an outside spigot in the front and the back of the building.  Some of these are a "frost-free" type of spigot - if you are unsure of which type you have, it is best to follow the above instructions.

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