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Fri, Feb. 28

I-Drives, the BBB, breakers and more

Randy West

Randy West

I have a couple updates to make this week before I tackle this week's questions.

Several months ago I had a column about overhead garage door openers. There is a new type of opener called an I-drive. This opener mounts on the wall directly over the door, rather than on the ceiling behind the open door.

As with all overhead door openers, these openers are required to reverse if the door hits an obstruction when closing. My column stated these doors are also required to have the photo beam across the bottom of the door that will reverse the door if the beam is interrupted.

I did a little more research on these openers. Most I-drive openers do require the photo beam along the bottom of the door. However, there is one I-drive opener manufactured by Wayne Dalton that does not require a beam, as long as it is used with a specific (model 9000) Wayne Dalton door. To identify these doors look at the spring over the garage door. I copied the following comment off the Wayne Dalton website:

"This model is engineered to work on Wayne-Dalton pinch-resistant steel doors equipped with the TorqueMaster counterbalance system. To identify whether your garage door has TorqueMaster, look for a sealed tube above your garage door. If the spring is exposed, then it's not TorqueMaster."

So now you homeowners and inspectors know what to look for on I-drive overhead door openers. If you can see the spring, then there should be a photo beam at the bottom of the door.

In a column last July I made some comments about the Better Business Bureau. I was replying to a question that mentioned checking out home inspectors with the BBB. I went on the BBB website and found I was not listed, which kind of bothered me because I'm the oldest (so to speak) home inspector in Prescott and have never had a complaint filed against me.

The BBB sent me a form which I filled out, and now I am on their website as an "OK" company. They did some other research too, because they found out my wife is vice president of my company. The only reason she's VP is because I needed a VP to incorporate. She doesn't really do anything as VP other than come into my office on the first of each month looking for a paycheck (which she would do even if she weren't VP).

I also heard from several home inspectors that are members of the BBB. They told me they do get some referrals from their BBB membership, so I may even join myself.

I had a call this week from a client who just moved into their home and their bedroom lights and outlets were not working. I told them to check for an AFI breaker in their electrical panel. There was such a breaker, and when they reset it the bedroom lights and outlets worked. I love it when I look good.

AFIs are breakers that have a "test" button on them. These are different than the GFCI outlets you have in your bathroom and kitchen. GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. These are designed to prevent shocks, and are required at the exterior, garage and near plumbing fixtures.

AFI stands for Arc Fault Interrupter. These are designed to prevent fires. I saw an interesting film that showed how these work in a laboratory environment. The circuit was "shorted" by driving a nail through the wire. Without an AFI breaker the wire would heat up, melt the insulation and eventually start a fire. But if the circuit was protected by an AFI breaker the breaker would trip before the wire got hot enough to start a fire.

AFI breakers are required for all bedroom circuits. I've also been asked if the smoke detectors are required to be on an AFI circuit. The answer is no, maybe, yes. When AFI breakers were first required many electricians did not put the smoke detectors on an AFI circuit. Technically, any outlet in the bedroom should be AFI protected. Don't confuse outlets with receptacles. An outlet is anywhere electricity can be removed from the circuit. I use the plumbing system as an analogy. The plumbing lines are the wires, and anywhere you can get water is an outlet, i.e. the sinks, hose faucets, etc. Since smoke detectors "use" electricity (and actually they are plugged in with a small connector), they are an electrical outlet, and therefore smoke detectors should be on an AFI circuit.

You can tell if you have AFI breakers by looking in your electrical panel. The AFI breakers are usually a different color, and will have a "test" button on them. So if you live in a newer home and the outlets or lights stop working in a bedroom, check for AFI breakers in your panel.

My last question this week is about smoke detectors. I was asked first why some chirp every 30 or 60 seconds. This means the battery is low and should be replaced. I was then asked why every one in the home goes off if one goes off. This has been required for years, and is (in my opinion) a very smart feature. Imagine you're sound asleep (or have the TV on loud, or both) in the master bedroom and a fire starts in the room farthest away from you. By the time you hear the detector it could be "too late", or at a minimum you could have extensive fire and smoke damage. If they all go off you are alerted immediately, giving you much more time to save yourself, pets, wine collection or other valuables.

Of course, this also means if any smoke detector malfunctions every detector in the home will go off. And the newer smoke detectors have a sensor built in so they will only do this at 3 a.m. on a morning after you indulged in more of your wine collection than normal.

Randy West owns Professional Building Consultants in Prescott.

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