Originally Published: September 2, 2010 9:58 p.m.
I have to start this week with an "update" to a funny story. I use a wireless Bluetooth earbud with my cell phone. Last year I told you this can cause problems. I was walking out of a restaurant and called my wife. When she answered, I said, "Hi, beautiful!" The two girls in front of me turned around and gave me "the look." I pointed at the strange growth in my ear and quickly told them I was talking to my wife. They understood and smiled and walked away.
Here's the update. My smart phone allows me to "dictate" e-mail and text messages. This is very convenient for someone with Neanderthal-sized thumbs like me. You have to say the punctuation marks. So I was "speaking" a text message while sitting in my car last week. It went something like this: "Tom comma, I will be there at 8:00 period. By the way comma, you better bring doughnuts this time exclamation point."
At this point I looked out my window, and an elderly couple was staring at me. I was not holding the phone, and they could not see the earbud in my right ear. I just smiled and nodded, and they (very) quickly walked away.
Right then Barbara Andersen, a local Realtor, called me. I was still chuckling so I told her what happened. I told her there were many people in Prescott who think I talk to myself because of the earbud. Barbara had a different approach to this. She said she does talk to herself a lot, so she bought an earbud and puts it in her ear so people won't realize she's talking to herself.
Last week, I told you why home inspectors don't inspect evaporative coolers. I'll continue with what we don't do this week. Some clients recently asked why home inspectors don't inspect cable TV and/or phone lines. They had a valid point when they said that in this "digital" day and age the cable TV or phone lines are much more important.
I could give the wimpy excuse that I hear other inspectors give: The Standards of Professional Practice for Arizona Home Inspectors don't require us to inspect TV and phone cables. I don't like that excuse, especially since I inspect other items that the Standards don't require us to. For example, we are not required to inspect or test smoke detectors. But I always test every smoke detector, and recommend them if they're not present.
The Standards require us to test one electrical outlet in every room. But I always test both plugs in every accessible outlet.
So why do I test smoke detectors and every electrical outlet when I'm not required to, but not phone and cable outlets? Because smoke detectors and electrical outlets can be safety concerns if they're not working or wired properly. A nonworking TV or phone outlet can definitely be inconvenient, but is not a safety concern (unless you get so frustrated you start throwing things). And even if I wanted to inspect cable TV outlets, it would be pretty difficult. My electrical outlet tester fits in my pocket. To test TV cable outlets I would literally have to take a TV to every cable outlet, plug in the TV and connect the cable, and then turn the TV on to see if the cable is working. This would obviously be difficult and too time-consuming to do during a home inspection.
And even if I found a non-working cable outlet, it is not necessarily a problem. All electrical outlets in a home should be working all the time. But the last time I had the cable company at my home, they asked me which outlets I intended to use. They only connected those cables at the box on the exterior wall. So the cable outlets in some rooms are not working, but if I decide I want a TV or computer in that room, all they have to do is connect that cable at the box on the exterior wall.
I know from personal experience how frustrating it can be to move into a home and find out the phone or cable outlets don't work. I bought a new home about six years ago. I did the inspection the same way I would for clients, meaning I did not test the phone or cable outlets. I have two phone numbers to my home, one being my company phone number. On the day we moved in I was in a hurry to get my business phone working. I discovered that most phone outlets were not working. The electricians wired the phone outlets in this house, and they wired them in series.
I already explained that there were cables from every TV outlet in the home to the cable box on the exterior wall. But there was only one wire from the phone box. Think of the old Christmas lights, where if one bulb went out the entire string of lights would not work. That's what I had with my phone outlets. I had to go to every phone outlet in the home and splice the wires together so the "next" outlet in the series would work. And I had to do this on moving day. But even for myself, there is no practical way to test phone and TV outlets during a home inspection.
Randy West owns Professional Building Consultants in Prescott. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.