Increasing Energy Costs Heat Up Homeowner Concerns

ASHI Recommends Pre-Winter Review to Lower Costs and Prevent Problems


Sheena Quinn
Public Communications, Inc.

DES PLAINES, Ill. -The holiday season is now in full swing, bringing with it colder temps and holiday shopping bills. At the same time, home heating costs continue to rise around the nation making energy efficiency a top concern for homeowners. According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), a pre-winter review of a home can help reduce energy costs and prevent a number of weather related problems before they start.

"There are numerous ways to reduce heating costs, so it is important for homeowners to review the condition of their home each year," says Stephen Gladstone, president of ASHI, the oldest and most respected non-profit professional organization for home inspectors. "An inspection of several key areas around the home can help assess its energy efficiency and expose any areas where improvement or repair is needed."

According to Gladstone, the following are some simple steps homeowners can take to improve their home"s energy use:

Doors and Windows -- Examine all of the home"s doors and windows, looking for water damage, wood decay and energy dissipating drafts. Old and worn windows/doors may need to be replaced. Otherwise, a piece of weather stripping or caulk can help to reduce the amount of heat escaping.

Insulation -- Check the attic for sufficient or missing insulation -- the current standard is at least 12" of material. Many older homes only have 4-6", in which case having more blown in can prove to be cost effective. Additionally, insulation is often misplaced or removed where cable television or phone work has been performed, so check for areas where it may be missing, allowing for drafts.

Furnace --Have your furnace inspected to make sure it is running properly. If the unit is old, it may be wise to invest in a new, more energy efficient model.

An Ounce of Prevention

In addition to energy problems, Gladstone noted that homes are subject to the effects of aging. Many homeowners tend to put off thinking about these issues until it becomes time to sell, but regular inspections of the home"s major systems should be a normal part of ongoing maintenance to preserve the value of the home.

"Periodically monitoring the overall condition of the home is crucial," he added. "Tending to problems before they become serious will help save a homeowner from more extensive and costly repairs down the road."

Following are some of the most common areas homeowners should be checking:

Chimneys -- ASHI recommends an annual check and cleaning if needed to avoid flue fires. Homeowners need to be conscious of creosote buildup, a byproduct of burning wood that can cause chimney fires. Damaged mortar around the chimney is another potential trouble spot. An ASHI inspector can recommend other fire preventative measures, if necessary.

Examining the Walls -- Homeowners should look for visible cracks and loose or crumbling mortar. Also, homeowners should be mindful of loose fitting or warped trim and siding. Ignoring these signs could result in unnecessary drafts and water damage.

On the Rooftop -- A leaky roof remains a dreaded fear for most homeowners. When checking for roof damage, look for damaged or loose shingles, gaps in flashing where roofing and siding meet vents and flues. Because of the high incidence of injuries from falls from rooftops and ladders, ASHI suggests homeowners check for problems from the ground using binoculars or call in a professional if a closer look is needed.

If you are unsure whether your home may be hiding one or more of these problem issues, consider obtaining an ASHI inspection by using the "Find An Inspector" search at This tool allows users to locate inspectors in their area by one of a number of criteria, including area code or zip code, metropolitan area, or the inspector"s company name or last name, just to name a few.

Leaders in Consumer Education and Service

Aside from educating the homeowner about ways to increase their home"s energy efficiency, an ASHI inspector will provide a complete overview of the condition of the home and offer invaluable maintenance tips, both of which can help prevent unpleasant surprises.

Members and Candidates of the American Society of Home Inspectors not only adhere to the ASHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics, but they are also capable of delivering The ASHI Experience, a higher level of customer service and consumer education in home inspections.

Another component of The ASHI Experience includes cutting-edge technology designed to help familiarize homeowners with the important elements of a professional inspection. With the Virtual Home Inspection, a first in the industry, homeowners can log onto and use the interactive hands-on tool to learn what they can expect from an ASHI Inspection and to see photos of many of the problem areas mentioned above. The education really occurs during the actual inspection, where ASHI urges the homeowner to be an active participant to ask questions and get as much learning and value out of the service as possible.

"Home inspection is no longer viewed strictly as a part of the buying and selling process, but instead as another way for a consumer to protect his or her most valuable asset," said Gladstone.

For More Information

Formed in 1976, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) is the oldest and most respected non-profit professional society for home inspectors in North America. Its mission is to promote excellence and exemplary practice within the profession. ASHI's Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics are the recognized guidelines for the home inspection profession.

For more information on the American Society of Home Inspectors, contact the association at 932 Lee Street, Suite 101, Des Plaines, Ill. 60016. Phone: 800-743-2744. Or visit the ASHI Web site at While online, experience ASHI's Virtual Home Inspection tool, which provides an interactive overview of the 10 main areas of the home that are part of an ASHI Inspection.