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.
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!
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