February, 2011
News in Brief
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Blog Early and Often


Publish your posts in the morning

When's the best time to post to your blog? Before 10 a.m. Eastern time, says viral marketing scientist Dan Zarrella.

Bright and early: People are more likely to look at blogs in the morning, so post early for the best results.

Zarrella surveyed more than 1,400 blog readers, studied more than 170,000 blog posts and learned that people are more likely to view, link and comment on posts in the morning.

Visiting blogs becomes decreasingly popular during the rest of the day.

But publishing several times a day "led to a huge increase in the blog's success," Zarrella found in an analysis of the 1,000 most popular blogs on the Web.

Source: Wylie Communications. To sign up for free writing tips, go to www.wyliecomm.com.

Radon Exposure is Leading Cause of Non-smoking Lung Cancer

Because radon exposure is the leading cause of non-smoking lung cancer that leads to more than 21,000 deaths each year, senior leaders from the  U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and eight other federal agencies are working to create a national risk reduction plan for radon that will help save lives and create safer, healthier homes for all Americans.

One in 15 American homes contains high levels of radon. Millions of Americans are unknowingly exposed to this dangerous gas. The EPA and the Surgeon General urge homeowners to take action if their homes have not been tested for radon in the past two years.

Early in 2011, the federal consortium will meet with key leaders in the public health, environmental and private sectors to begin shaping a national action plan that includes both immediate and long-term steps to reduce radon exposure. For more information on the joint federal initiative to reduce radon exposure go, to www.epa.gov/radon/federal_summit.html.

Distracted Driving Contributes to Deaths

Year after year, the leading cause of worker fatalities is motor vehicle crashes. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that in 2009, more than 5,400 people died in crashes linked to distraction and thousands more were injured. "Texting while driving" has become such a prominent hazard that 30 states now ban text messaging for all drivers.

OSHA is partnering with others across government, industry and the public to bring together important information and tools to attack texting while driving and other distracted-driver hazards. You are invited to learn more about combating this problem at www.osha.gov and at DOT's distracted driving website, www.distraction.gov.

To combat the threat of distracted driving, OSHA is prepared to act quickly. When it receives a credible complaint that an employer requires texting while driving or who organizes work so that texting is a practical necessity, OSHA will investigate and, where necessary, issue citations and penalties to end this practice.

IBHS Opens Multi-risk Building Science Research Center

In October, the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) opened a multi-risk building science research center in Chester County, S.C.

The state-of-the-art, multi-hazard applied research and training facility will enable researchers to more fully and accurately evaluate various residential and commercial construction materials and systems. The facility is entirely funded by the property insurance industry.

When fully operational, the IBHS Research Center will be able to simulate Category 1, 2 and 3 hurricane-force winds, extra-tropical windstorms, thunderstorm frontal winds, wildfire ember showers, wind-driven rain and hailstorms within its 21,000 square-foot test chamber. These capabilities largely derive from a massive array of 105, 5-1/2 ft. diameter electric fans that can be accelerated up to 140 mph. The laboratory's 750,000-gallon water tank will supply the test chamber's 200 nozzles, capable of creating "rain" at a rate of up to 8 inches per hour. In addition, hailstones, burning embers and different types of "debris" will be introduced into the wind stream via a series of special ducts and other mechanical systems as part of a variety of tests.

Initial research at the center will focus on improved roofing performance. Because roof covers are replaced more frequently than any other building component, changes in roofing products and installation requirements can produce significant paybacks within a short period of time. Priority areas of testing include looking at performance of shingles in various windstorm conditions, exploring the effects of short- and long-term aging on roofing material and systems and developing cost-effective methods to retrofit various systems to reduce damage and losses.

IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific and educational organization supported by the property insurance industry.

Source: IBHS

Solar Heats Up

Watch for an upswing in the solar industry because of the U.S. Congress extended a popular grant program (1603) that helps cover 30 percent of the cost of installing solar projects. The extension will end Dec. 31, 2011, and projects that start construction by the deadline still will qualify to get the money.

Congress recognized that the photovoltaic industry is creating thousands of new jobs for solar installers across America. The solar program was created by the American Recovery Act and provides cash grants in lieu of the 30 percent solar income tax credit for businesses.

The one-year extension of the cash grant was included in the Tax Relief of 2010, as reported by Solar Home Journal. It includes an accelerated depreciation provision for new business equipment, another important benefit for some prospective solar owners as well as a reduction in the payroll tax.

The Section 1603 program has distributed about $5.7 billion in cash grants for solar electric systems, solar thermal projects, wind turbines, geothermal installations, biomass projects, fuel cells, landfill gas energy systems and other projects, Treasury Department figures showed.

Of 1,656 projects awarded grants in lieu of tax credits, about three-fourths have been solar electricity projects.

The Section 1603 solar grant program primarily is for commercial installation, but can cover residential solar installations under certain circumstances. For example, the Treasury Department's website says builders and contractors who install solar systems on residential properties are not eligible for payments unless they continue to own the solar property.

Some other residential properties may be eligible for solar grants, according to the Treasury Department. As an example, the department says, "property used in a building that is used for residential purposes may be eligible if it is subject to depreciation or amortization in lieu of depreciation by its owner. This means that the property must be used in a trade or business or for the production of income. For example, if the applicant is a business that installed an otherwise eligible solar energy system on the roof of a residence that the business rents out for the production of income, the property would be eligible. If, however, the applicant is a homeowner who installed a solar energy system on the roof of his/her home and uses the solar energy property for personal purposes, the property would not be subject to depreciation and therefore would not be eligible."

Source: Solar Home Journal and The Politics of Solar Energy