What I'm Seeing Now

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Since They Did This, Our Room Was Cold Last Winter And Hot This Summer

Setting up the inspection, a one-year warranty inspection, my client explained that some lights had been installed in the master bedroom and, "since they did this, our room was cold last winter and hot this summer."

On the final inspection last year I learned that some lights in the master bedroom ceiling had been forgotten by the builder.  That is something I would not have known, but put it on their inspection report so they had it in writing.  The builder promised to install them and dutifully did.

But there's a hitch!

Mighty Mo found the problem right away.  He's good like that!  What did he find?  (When I looked at the ceiling lights I knew what the problem was before I turned him on...)

Gee, can you tell what the problem is?

In this thermal palette, orange and yellow indicate warmer temperatures and lavender, blue and purple indicate cooler.

This is the bedroom ceiling over a window and the attic space is directly overhead.

Can you see where there is a good amount of insulation?

And where there is not?

The builder did two things:

1.  The cheapest lights available were installed.  Cheap canister lights are EXTREMELY inefficient because they are a hole in the ceiling through which air literally flows.  Remember, heat seeks cold.  So in winter heat is escaping and in the summer heat is entering through these light fixtures. 

2.  Since they are cheap lights they are not Insulation Compatible.  If they were they would have an IC sticker, indicating that it is okay for them to be surrounded by insulation.  IC canister lights also are not quite the energy waster that the cheaper lights are.  KNOWING these lights are not insulation compatible, the installer dutifully pulled insulation away from around the lights! 

If you are using the cheaper lights, Best Practice would have said to create a sleeve, perhaps out of sheet metal, and surround the lights so heat from the lights could dissipate upwards and they would not overheat as insulation surrounds them. 

But no. 

And this is a vaunted "Energy Star" home, so all the materials installed should be more efficient.  The builder's installer SHOULD NOT have used these cheap lights!  The builder SHOULD have used the IC lights because they meet Energy Star criteria.

Did my clients know all this?  Yes.  I explained it to them.  Did they check?  Obviously no.  In fact they said they assumed the builder would do what I said!

Alrighty then!

The day of this inspection was not a hot day, only about 75F.  The warmest spot in that image is the white area on the left, and it represents 94F.  That area without insulation is 12' square feet.  Imagine how much heat was getting in during the hot summer days and literally blowing out during the heating season!  No wonder the room felt warm last summer (and conversely cold in winter!). 

I understood this looking at the ceiling.  Mighty Mo explained it to them.
  And the builder was busted!

My recommendation:  when you have a hot and cold room there is a reason!  The reason almost always relates to insulation in the room.  Builders don't expect to have such a lesson as this one, taught to their buyers by a camera the size of a hamster.  So hire a thermographer to have a peek at your uncomfortable room!   Thermal images are definitive!  Take advantage of the technology and hire an inspector with a thermal camera!  And there is a side benefit - all thermographers are really cute.

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 49 commentsJay Markanich • September 25 2013 04:50AM

Comments

Jay, sounds so very simple, and yet, when someone wants to cut corners, they will.
Posted by Carol Zingone, Global Realtor in Jax Beach, FL - ABR, CRS, CIPS (Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty) almost 7 years ago
Great catch Jay. It doesn't take very much uninsulated area to cause an energy issue.
Posted by Bill and MaryAnn Wagner, Jersey Shore and South Jersey Real Estate (Wagner Real Estate Group) almost 7 years ago

Good explanation. Another example of going cheap being more costly in he end.

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Jay, that Mighty Mo is amazing! Busted indeed. What an invaluable tool it is for a home inspector. Shame on the builder.. shame...

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) almost 7 years ago

Carol - do what you say you are going to do!  That is the very definition of integrity, but it also represents the Golden Rule.

Exactly right Bill.  Even a small area like this will influence a room!

Gary - going "green" only means more money.  But if you are touting green, do what you say!

Nothing out of the usual Andrea!  He did not expecty Mighty Mo to show up.  And nobody ever argues with Mighty Mo.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Wow Jay.  I think Mighty Mo may have just solved one of the mysteries in my home.  Thanks for the post.  I guess I am going to be making the dreaded trip into the attic.  

 

Posted by Lynn Ashley-Rohovit, Suwanee, Johns Creek, Rivermoore Park Realtor almost 7 years ago

As far as I know, IC rated lights are now and have been for some time required by code. For good reason! As you have so nicely demonstrated. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay,

That old cause and effect works every time. You probably didn't even need to turn on the thermal camera to catch this one.

Rich

Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) almost 7 years ago

Wow, Jay.  It's hard for me to believe that a contractor would take the cheap route in an area like that. But, obviously, they do.  

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) almost 7 years ago

Ah yes, it would have been so much easier to do this right the first time!

Posted by Women of Westchester Working Together, Women helping Women get ahead (Women of Westchester Working Together) almost 7 years ago

Good morning Jay,

Very interesting.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) almost 7 years ago

Never assume a builder/contractor is going to do what the home inspector recommends. Always follow up! Good catch Jay.

Posted by Suzanne Otto, Your Montgomery County PA home stager (Six Twenty Designs) almost 7 years ago

Property Sis - we want a full report!  With photos!  Dress for it!  Only step on wood!

Jim - I did a quick IRC search and as usual it is not clear (E4004.8, E4004.9) as to whether it is required.  But local codes surely can.

I didn't Rich, but people need proof!  Especially builders...

Mike - what's that I see?  Yes, your pants are on fire!  Hard for you to believe ... right.

WOW - the first time?  You mean easier, quicker and cheaper?  Why in the world would they do that?  See comment to Mike above.  And believe it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Thanks for the information. I always learn something new from your posts.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) almost 7 years ago

Suzanne - the installation of these lights was in the contract and the builder didn't do it.  I had nothing to do with the installation, but did with the follow up!

Gita - I'm glad you do and stop by!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago
I just took a residential inspection class and learned so much. It's just amazing how some builders use the cheapest materials to cut expenses AND they cut corners to get the job done faster. For these very reasons, it is important not to waive an inspection contingency on new construction!!! Next time I work with a builder, I will be asking them a lot of questions!
Posted by Rosie Moore (Serving Sugar Land, Richmond, Rosenberg, Missouri City) almost 7 years ago

Time and again...I pick up valuable tid bits about this business of Real Estate...good post...thank you Jay

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) almost 7 years ago

Rosie - imagine how much money is available for bonuses if $1000 is saved on materials and labor for each house.  Hence my sarcastic phrase - 7-11 construction.

Richie - welkommen again!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Energy Star huh? This builder should have his star removed! They shouldn't even sell those old can lights anymore.

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) almost 7 years ago

Jay another great post that is always easy to understand. Thanks again for the time , effort and information you provide.

Posted by Chuck Mixon, Cutler Bay Specialist, GRI, CDPE, BPOR (The Keyes Company) almost 7 years ago

They would be okay in a kitchen ceiling between flooors Fred.  But not in an attic space.

Chuck - again you're welcome!  There's a lot going on out there!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Corinne - "little gadget?"  That little gadget is pretty high tech and was NOT cheap when I bought it!  The price has come down about 35% in the 10 years since I bought it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay, you are always on top of things. Literally, in this case!  Just shows what I don't know, and thanks for the info on the IC lights.

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) almost 7 years ago

That camera is pretty nifty.  It's pretty neat how using the correct tool can give you so much information so easily.

 

Posted by Tim Maitski, Truth, Excellence and a Good Deal (Atlanta Communities Real Estate Brokerage) almost 7 years ago

Tom - we try!  IC lights are important, particularly in an attic space.

Tim - tools are tools!  My wife sometimes calls them toys.  What do women know?  So, instead of hitting the watermelon with the huge hammer, you throw them?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay, I had an energy star home the other day---all signed off on---where the heat registers at the upper level were all 25-30 degrees warmer than those at the first floor level.  Crazy stuff.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Good information and nice visual.   Thanks for the post!

Posted by Greg Steffens (Mountain Country Realty) almost 7 years ago
Jay - That's a sin!! No wonder builders have all this money for bonuses to lure buyers agents. Practically every builder offers bonuses....which makes me believe that most of them are using cheap materials. Another reason why buyers need agent representation when purchasing a new build.
Posted by Rosie Moore (Serving Sugar Land, Richmond, Rosenberg, Missouri City) almost 7 years ago

Jay, You have to watch those pesky builders. Yes, they should have installed correctly in the first place and now they have to come back a fix it which will cost them more money. Never could figure out why they do this. Perhaps because most Buyers do not have a guy like you checking things. It is a numbers game for the builders.

Posted by Helen and Larry Prier- Re-Max Gateway - Residential Real Estate, Anacortes & surrounding Skagit & Island Counties (RE-MAX Gateway- Residential Real Estate Sales) almost 7 years ago
This is just one reason why buyers need representation when building...
Posted by Evelyn Johnston, The People You Know, Like and Trust! (Friends & Neighbors Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

Jay, Have to love what technology can do for us when we have the right tool for the job.

Posted by Liz and Bill Spear, RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton) (RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com) almost 7 years ago

I wonder how many inspectors have a thermogrphic camera?  I am sure some eyebrows will be raised when I start asking.

Posted by Dwight Puntigan, Dwight Puntigan (DRP Realty, LLC) almost 7 years ago
Great lesson for builder, owner and every home owner! Thanks so much, I just love reading your blogs.
Posted by Tanya Van Blake-Coleman, Improving the Quality of Your Life (Van Blake-Coleman Realty, St. Thomas/www.talk-to-Tanya.com) almost 7 years ago

What a great post!  Seems like everyone has a hot or cold room in our area.  Will keep this in mind and also recommend thermographs as well.

Posted by Kim Peasley-Parker (AgentOwned Realty, Heritage Group, Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Jay, you've done it again!  Thanks for this educational piece and to think it was done in an energy star home.  Come on, builders, do the right thing.

Posted by Matt Kombrink, Your #1 Source For Real Estate (RE/MAX All Pro) almost 7 years ago

Jay, that was informational in a few ways. The type of lighting that can be used to allow for best heat insulation; what not to do when installing lights, and you have a new assistant aside from Billy Ray, and that's Mighty Moe

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) almost 7 years ago

Wow.  What an eye opener.  I want to buy one of those infrared dealeos!

Posted by Jay & Michelle Lieberman, Creating Calm in the Buying and Selling Chaos (Keller Williams World Class) almost 7 years ago

Great information Jay,

   I learn something new everyday!

                 Best,

                   Eli

Posted by Charlotte Luxury Real Estate, Eli Magids (Keller Williams - Ballantyne Area) almost 7 years ago

Thermal imaging is just like magic in revealing what is behind those mystery hot or cold areas.  It's definitely a good thing that these homeowners followed through with this inspection so they had "evidence" to take back to the builder and get things corrected.

Posted by Nancy Conner, Olympia/Thurston County WA almost 7 years ago

Good evening, Jay. C'mon. Do ya really expect a builder to pony up and dish out the extra dough for energy compliant lights? Do you want to stifle capitalism at its finest?

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) almost 7 years ago

That's because the heat rises to the upper registers Charlie.

Greg - the images surely are definitive!

Rosie - the bonus money comes from somewhere! 

H&L - it is very much a numbers game!  More and more.

Evelyn - and different inspections along the way.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Bliz - and that camera is technology indeed.

I don't know Dwight.  I once heard about 3%, but I have never since been able to find where I heard that.

I'm glad you do Tanya!  And glad they are informative.

Kim - if you can find someone who does it!

Matt - Energy Star is not all it is cracked up to be.  Green means more money more than it means anything else.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Ed - Mighty Mo is great, but not as creative as Billy Jays!

J&M - I am thinking of getting a new one this month.  It is this T-420bx:  http://projects.flircs.com/thermography/

So do I Eli.  That's one reason I go to the AR site.

Nancy - and it's information they cannot argue with.

Michael - capitalism at its finest is where the butcher, the baker and the beer maker provide the best they can for their patrons out of self interest.  They want the patrons to come back!  When they come back the butcher, the baker and the beer maker earn greater profits!

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay, you are always so interesting and know so much.  You are like a detective!

Posted by Elise Harron, Rural Vacant Land and Development Specialist (Dirt Road Real Estate) almost 7 years ago

Thanks Elise.  That's a little bit what home inspections are about - detective work.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay the "builder buster" or maybe the "Bob buster" as in Uncle Bob.  Great post thanks. :)

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) almost 7 years ago

I don't know why the builder would hire anyone but a professional to do electrical James.  He didn't realize Mighty Mo was coming along.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Bet there are lots of people checking their lighting compatiblity with their insulation after reading this blog.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 7 years ago

They should check S&D!  It's a big deal!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

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