Hoffman Estates, Illinois 

Home Inspections to Chicago and 150 suburbs since 2004.
APS Home Inspection is a division of A Prompt Services providing services to customers like you since 1983




Ben Gromicko, founder of iNACHI

Published the 'Packet of Home Maintenance Information' for the average homeowner to answer a lot of questions. You can download the 79 page brochure here.

Keeping up neighborhood values

My wife and I do a lot of walking around the neighborhoods with our dog and we've noticed something. With all the snow fall in recent weeks there are a few homes that obviously(?) don't have anyone living in them. What's the tip-off? Driveways and sidewalks with no clearing of snow or even any tracks to imply someone is living there. Whether it's a foreclosed home or a family of snow-birds gone south for the Winter this is an invitation to desperate ne're-do-wells. Potential home buyers look for proximity of foreclosures and many agents are familiar with crime reports in the areas. Driving up and down a driveway, walking up and down the front walk both leave suggestions that "someone lives here". Even in nicer weather, picking up yard debris and maybe getting together with neighbors to take turns cutting the grass helps the neighborhood be safer and it looks nicer too!

Bird Feeders and Voles (field mice)

A lot of us like to take care of our winged friends, especially in the Winter months. That's why putting out bird seed and suet is so popular.
Here's what you have to watch out for (personal experience):
We had feeders in our back yard for several months, storing the seed bags off the floor in our attached garage. Didn't pay much attention to the seeds we were finding on the floor, just thought it was spilled morsels...and other clues.
Finally we were alerted to our guests when, driving down the highway, a mouse suddenly crawled up on the dashboard! It was a little warm so the car windows were open and the mouse proceeded to scamper across the dashboard, out the window, up on the hood and disappeared into the wiper cowl--all while traveling at 40 miles per hour and my wife freaking out next to me.
Short of it: a family of voles had taken up residence in our two month old car (the shop gutted the interior and trunk down to bare metal, set traps and waited for two weeks), garage (had to gut the garage, discovering nests in every possible and impossible place) and areas around the outside of our home. If you can put your little finger into it they can get into it. We had cats and dogs so maybe that's why the varmints didn't come inside!
Put out poison, traps and sonic repellants; removed every trace of bird feeders. That was eight years ago and only the occasional sighting of an outside pest has happened.
We have a neighbor who is a bird lover and knows her outdoor shed is a vole haven. It's close to her bird feeders and that's where she stores her feed. As long as the critters only reside in the shed she's very happy to continue feeding her little friends--being on the lookout for "guests".


  1. Draining your hot water heater:
    If you're on a well system you should drain your water heater once a year, two years at most; but if you have municipal water that might not be necessary. Here's a tip to know when it is time to drain your water heater. If you hear a crackling sound when the tank starts to heat up it is time to drain the tank. That's the sediment in the bottom of the tank making the noise. If you don't know how to drain the tank ask a plumber, handyman or knowledgeable person. It really is very simple once you've done it.
  2. If you start to hear a rattling noise from a water pipe when you shut off a faucet the air trap may be saturated and has to be drained. What you're hearing may be 'water hammer'. Sounds technical? Not at all. If you've seen plumbing pipes near a faucet with a 6 to 12" length of capped vertical pipe that goes nowhere, that's the air trap. (By the way, I've seen the air trap installed horizontally. That makes it useless.) As water rushes through the pipe toward an open valve/faucet, it has considerable force behind it. When the valve is closed the water bangs against the valve causing the pipe to rattle. An air trap allows the rushing water to come to a halt by compressing the air in the trap.
    To bleed the water out of all the air traps turn off the main water supply to the house. Turn down the water heater setting. Open all the faucets in the house and let the water drain. This allows air to get into the air traps. Turn all the valves/faucets off. Turn the water heater setting back to its original setting. Turn the main water supply on. Go through the house turning on each valve. A lot of spluttering and splashing will occur as the line recharges with water. Don't be concerned if the water comes out a little discolored for a while, especially if you have copper pipes. It will flush clear in a few seconds.
    By the way, re-charging your air traps may be a good time to drain your water heater. See 1 above.
  3. If you have a dripping pressure relief valve on your water heater--don't cap it or seal it in any way. Have a plumber replace it.
    To see what happens when a water heater explodes watch this video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbreKn4PoAc


  1. If you have had your A/C compressor replaced look at the nameplate on the unit and find the maximum breaker size listing.
    Now look in your circuit breaker panel and look at the size of the breaker that is used for your A/C circuit. The breaker should not be rated higher than what is on the compressor's nameplate. Here's why and why I often find an oversized breaker.
    Let's say your old compressor was listed with a 30 amp maximum breaker. Your new compressor is listed with a 20 amp maximum.
    If your compressor starts pulling above 20 amps (something needs attention and the circuit breaker should start opening) the breaker won't open and the minor problem worsens until the compressor fails and possibly needs replacement instead of a quick fix. Installers really don't have too much of an incentive to decrease the breaker--they may be selling you a new one a couple of years earlier.
  2. Here's a quick check you can do on your own to see if your A/C is functioning properly; it's called a Delta Test.
    Get an inexpensive meat thermometer; the small, skinny kind.
    Have your A/C running for 10 to 15 minutes during the cooling season to stabilize. This part is a little tricky; the evaporator of a central air conditioning system is usually in the square duct area just above the heating section of your system. It's the area that has tubes leading in and out.
    Determine if you can find a small opening to insert the thermometer tip at the bottom and top of this evaporator area. Careful, you don't want to puncture the coolant tubes. Some HVAC service techs will drill small holes in these areas and place a small piece of foil tape over them; that's normal. If you can't find small openings insert the thermometer tip into the air flow as close as possible to the evaporator at both the return and supply sides. Note the temperatures of both readings. The difference should be between 15 and 22 degrees. Anything outside of this range you might consider having a technician come and inspect your system; it isn't as efficient as it should be.


  1. GFCI testing: Most homes now have GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet protection near the kitchen sinks, in the bathrooms and at the exterior outlets, among other areas. Many outlets have test and reset buttons and the recommendation is to test these outlets on a monthly basis. Some circuits may be protected at the circuit breaker panel with a test button on the breaker.
    If your GFCI outlet has the test/reset buttons on the outlet a better way to test it is by using an inexpensive three-prong tester available at all hardware and home improvement stores; the kind with the push button for GFCI testing. This tester is great for the homeowner because it can alert you to simple problems like open grounds, reversed polarity. The advantage to using this method of testing the GFCI outlet is the fact that pushing the tester's button creates a momentary voltage imbalance between the hot and neutral (similar to the condition when a fault occurs PAST the outlet if the hot or neutral  conductor comes into contact with anything that diverts the current from its safe, normal path-a "short circuit") that causes a properly functioning GFCI to trip. Pushing the Test button on the outlet merely tests the tripping mechanism, not it's ability to trip during a fault. I have often pushed an outlet's test button, tripping the circuit, but it does not trip with the tester nor a more advanced analyzer.
    Also it is important to test the outlets because over time their ability to trip often fails, which is normal aging of the device.
  2. AFCI testing: New construction requires AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) protection for circuits in sleeping areas. Right now AFCI is only used at the circuit breaker and has a test button on the breaker. Several very expensive testers/analyzers are on the market that can perform AFCI circuit testing but different circuit breaker manufacturers use different circuitry to accomplish the same protection. One tester/analyzer may not trip the circuit when another brand will. The best way to test these AFCI circuit breakers is to press the test button on the breaker.


  1. If you have a tear-off of your old roof shingles and the old vent hoods are removed in the process, be sure that it is in writing that the installers will properly re-connect any ducts to the vents that penetrate the roof. And go into the attic and look before you sign off on the job. Be sure that the work order specifies that any ducts are re-attached because without that clause the installer has no obligation to do it. Most likely he'll charge you more because his installers have to go into the attic to do it. All too often the vents are re-installed on the outside and the bathroom ducts are left laying on the attic floor! Condensation and mold damage are very likely down the road.
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