What kind of equipment is used during a home watch visit?

A hygrometer, flashlight, laser thermometer and moisture meter are among the equipment most home watch reporters use.  Let me tell you how & why they’re used.

A hygrometer measures the temperature and humidity in your home.  When I enter a client’s home, it’s the first thing I pull out of my bag.  I’ll turn it on and leave it atop or near the home’s thermostat and leave it for at least 10 minutes while I do other things.  I check the temperature and note any difference between it and the home’s thermostat. I also check and record the humidity in the home.  The humidity reading is more important than the thermostat reading. Professionals recommend setting your thermostat between 76 and 78 degrees when leaving your home for an extended period.  The humidity should never exceed 55%. And, the closer to 50%, the safer you’ll be from the threat of mold. The temperature necessary to maintain a safe humidity level in your home varies. An 80 degree setting may work in one home, while another may require a 75 degree setting. A hygrometer will help to establish the best setting in each home.

I use my flashlight to check the ceilings, walls, baseboards and corners of each home. It helps me to discern changes in texture and color which might suggest a moisture problem. And, naturally, it helps me to see better in areas of low light.  I also use my flashlight under sinks when running the water and around toilets after brushing and flushing each one – every visit – to identify leaks.

A laser thermometer is used for measuring the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer.  It’s also used to measure the temperature of the air being returned to the home from the air conditioner.  I turn my client’s thermostat down 2 degrees to get the system running. After 5-10 minutes, I’ll shoot my laser into a return air duct and record the temperature before returning the thermostat to its initial setting. The ideal temperature will be at least 15 degrees colder than the setting on the thermostat.  If it isn’t, there may be a problem with the home’s air conditioning system.

If I notice a discoloration on a floor, ceiling or wall, or I notice a gap between a baseboard and wall, I’ll use my moisture meter to determine if there’s moisture beneath the surface.  Most meters record in percentages (0-100%) and colors, normally green-yellow-red, which displays on top of the meter. An audio signal usually accompanies the reading once it reaches a certain percentage, and the pitch of the signal increases in correlation to the percentage of moisture found. I like to record a moisture reading on a piece of painter’s tape placed over the area that was read.  On subsequent visits, I know the place that was measured and the % of moisture that was recorded there on each date. It’s a good practice to keep records of any abnormalities that arise so that, if a problem does exist, that information is available to help the contractor, plumber, etc., diagnose the cause.

Much of these things I’ve written about here a homeowner can, and ought to do when in residence.  I like to educate my clients about what to look for when they’re home. They too, may find damage before it becomes a disaster.  

Gail Schultz, your right choice in home watch.