Monday, November 14, 2011

卑斯省驗屋師資格漫談 Inspect BC Home Inspectors

自2009年3月31日卑斯省成為加拿大首個要求驗屋師申請執照的省份。但地產界與巿民至今仍然未能掌握執照驗屋師的專業資格與行業準則,故有必要藉此加以解說。

何謂驗屋?如何分類?
中文「驗屋」的含義似乎較為籠統、混淆不清,若先了解英文名稱便容易明白:
1、Building Inspection 是「樓房檢驗」,一般指「房屋檢驗」,主要是檢查樓房的結構安全是否有違建築條例和安全標準。
2、Home Inspection 是「家居檢驗」,是檢查住宅樓房的整體結構安全、設施的維修保養、 以至家庭電器的操作,是更全面的檢查。
3、Property Inspection 是「商業物業檢驗」,又或稱為 Commercial Inspection「商業檢驗」,是檢驗商業物業或整幢公寓大廈。根據美洲物料檢驗標準ASTM E2018 ,超過4個居住單位的家居檢驗,也算為物業檢驗。

當你找驗屋師時,就當說明是何種檢驗,否則大多是指家居檢驗(Home Inspection),並且必須向驗屋師索取他的驗屋標準(Standard of Inspection),查問清楚驗屋的範圍,避免誤會,因為發牌機構沒有規限驗屋標準,以致4家驗屋師學會或協會的驗屋標準有些微分別。而且少數專業驗屋師的表現遠遠高過一般協會的要求。

驗屋師的職責與範圍?
驗屋師在驗屋之先,都會將他們的工作範圍向要求驗屋的客戶作簡短解說,並將一份所屬學會或協會的驗屋標準交給客戶,聲明驗屋工作乃表面的檢查,亦不會提供保險保障。

基本上驗屋範圍幾乎包括全部可見部份:包括屋頂、閣樓、外牆,門窗、陽台、地基、結構、保温、通風、供水、排水、供電、天然氣管道、熱水爐、暖氣、空調、壁爐、空氣交換機HRV、廚房、浴室、客廳、睡房、地庫、矮地庫等等。http://visual.merriam-webster.com/house/structure-house/frame.php

無論新屋舊屋,一般驗屋都不包括建築條例審查、地段地界、環境汚染歷史、地下油缸、泳池、石棉、白蟻、含鉛油漆、牆內電綫、濾水機、保安警鐘、對講機、電視、電話、消防等等。

以下是各驗屋學會和協會的驗屋標準:
ASTTBC-PI (formerly BCIPI) http://www.bcipi.com/documents/SOI-Ver10March2013.pdf
HIABC https://hiabc.ca/about-us/scope-of-inspection/
CanNachi http://www.cannachi.org/images/stories/pdfs/CanNachi_SOP_apr-21-10.pdf
NHICC http://nationalhomeinspector.org/SOPtemplate.pdf

如何獲取驗屋師執照?
卑斯省自2009年立法管制驗屋師後,並不監管商業物業的檢驗工作;任何曾經接受物業檢驗訓練的專業工程人員,包括ASTM E2018 檢查方法,都可以檢驗商業物業。

消費者保障局只負責家居驗屋師的執照申請,但訓練與審查則交由以下4個驗屋師學會、協會或機構執行:
1、卑斯省技師與技術員學會 (ASTTBC - Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of British Columbia) 屬下的卑斯省驗屋師學會 (ASTTBC-PI British Columbia Institute of Property Inspectors - BCIPI)
2、卑斯省驗屋師協會 (HIABC) - Home Inspectors Association BC
3、加拿大全國家居驗屋師協會 (CanNachi - Canadian National Association of Certified Home Inspectors)
4、加拿大全國家居驗屋師驗證局 (NHICC - National Home Inspector Certification Council)

只要修讀認可的驗屋課程,加入上述認可學會/協會成為實習會員,然後跟隨一兩位經驗驗屋師實習一段短時間,便可申請實地驗屋考試,當考試合格成為正式會員後,便擁有檢定驗屋師(CHI - Certified Home Inspector)或 註冊驗屋師(RHI - Registered Home Inspector)的衘頭,但是仍未能執業。從實習至取得執照期間是不能充當驗屋師助手的;從事檢驗工作,電腦輸入,解答咨詢等技術性工作一概作為無牌經營論。

取得RHI和CHI資格並有意作驗屋師助手或自行執業者,必須購買100萬錯漏保險和100萬商業責任保險,然後向消費者保障局(Consumer Protection BC)申請執照,方可執業成為家居驗屋師(Licensed Home Inspector),但此執照不能作任何商業物業驗屋。

如何驗證專業的驗屋師?
驗證驗屋師的牌照非常簡單,法律規定所有驗屋師名字後面都附帶牌照編號,亦要隨身帶備驗屋師證件。若有懷疑,應立刻到消費者保障局網站捜查驗屋師名單 http://www.consumerprotectionbc.ca/index.php/consumers-home-inspections/confirm-an-inspectors-license,如有不實,立即檢舉。

執照驗屋師良莠不齊,必須詢問親友的口碑;更不要撿便宜,收費較高者必然是學歷與經驗都與眾不同,更需要提早預約,以免失之交臂。學歷與經驗是不容易驗證的,僅在此略擧一二,容後再作專文論述:

1、學術性與法律規管
在發牌制度以前,卑斯省有十多間驗屋師協會,當中只有卑斯驗屋師學會(BCIPI - 2012年改稱為ASTTBC-PI )為本省學會,在卑斯省的ASTTBC Act 規管之下,要求會員必須完成卑斯理工大學的有關課程,經過嚴謹實習訓練和多次實地考劾,成為實習會員;一年後再經過多次實地考劾,方能成為正式會員,然後參加每年多次的專業進修講座保持會籍。

在發牌制度以後,只餘下一間學會和三間協會或機構。由於卑斯驗屋師學會保持專業的實習訓練和考劾模式經歷十多年的考驗證明有效另外三間協會或機構都採取比較寬鬆的一次或多次的考試制度,毋需學院學歷,因此便被發牌的消費者保障局要求改為更專業的「進修-實習-考劾-進修」的形式了。

由於 ASTTBC-PI 十年來都法例規管,以嚴謹態度訓練和考劾會員,所以多次重大的驗屋師法律訴訟,受罰的驗屋師均非ASTTBC-PI 會員,由此可見正統的學院訓練和法律監管的重要性。

2、正統專業資格
除上述提及的三間沒有法律監管的協會外,更加要注意由它們發出的所謂資格,在驗屋師名字後面的很多衘頭,都是沒有經過國際專業驗證和毫無學術價值的。

以下擧例一些常見的具有學術地位的專業資格:
P Eng - Professional Engineer 專業工程師是大學工程科畢業後,在相關行業工作多年,經過實習和面試而取得的專業資格。
AScT - Applied Science Technologist 専業技師是兩年或以上大專工程科畢業,在相關行業工作兩年,經由上司及多位專業會員推薦考試入會的專業資格。在其他省份稱為 CET - Certified Engineering Technician。
C Tech - Certified Technician 檢定技術員乃完成一年的大專工科課程,在相關行業工作實習,並獲得推薦入會的專業資格。

具有上述專業資格加上適當的物業檢驗訓練,便可作為商業物業驗屋師。
若欠缺上述專業 ,仍可考取ASTTBC-PI 的 CPI - Certified Property Inspector 成為商業物業驗屋師。
若要作家居檢驗,必須向消費者保障局申請執照,方可執業成為家居驗屋師。

( 至於上文提及 ASTTBC-PI  CHI  HIABC  RHI ,加上CanNachi  Associate CMI - Certified Master Inspector  NHICC  NHI - National Home Inspector 都可以申請為家居驗屋師 (Licensed Home Inspector)執照,但不具有專業資格。只是一種營業執照,也不一定具有大專畢業學歷,亦不能作任何商業物業驗屋。)

3、工作經驗
工作經驗非常重要,所以要小心分析驗屋師廣告提供的資料,先去取當中浮誇和不能量度的形容詞,再分析所述年份是實際驗屋經驗還是有關行業經驗,海外經驗還是本地經驗,實際施工經驗還是監工檢驗經驗。

每一位領有執照的驗屋師都有一個5位數字的牌照編號,一般是4萬或5萬號,雖然這些編號不分先後,但4字頭的驗屋師是2009年3月31日之前巳經執業的,而5字頭則是2009年之後才申請牌照的,6字頭則是新丁。

一般有五年以上本地驗屋經驗加上檢查細心、報告專業、和能夠提供家居及商業物業驗屋的驗屋師最為可靠。最後就是要詢問親友的口碑,更不要吝嗇驗屋費用,收費髙的必然是較為經驗豐富和口碑好的驗屋師。

如何投訴執照驗屋師?
當覺得驗屋服務不滿意時先查看消費者保障局網站,了解如何追討責任。
關於執照事宜,包括無牌經營、未能出示執照証、非法收受利益、公司名稱與注冊名稱不符、洩漏驗屋報告、沒有向四大學會/協會注冊等,都可以向消費者保障局投訴。
Consumer Protection BC
PO Box 9244 Victoria BC V8W 9J2,
Phone: 604.320.1667
Toll Free: 1.888.564.9963
Fax: 250.920.7181
Email: info@consumerprotectionbc.ca


關於專業守則,包括行為操守、學歷、訓練、驗屋標準等,都必須向驗屋師所屬學會/協會/機構投訴。:
1. ASTTBC-PI (2012年稱為BCIPI)
2. HIABC (稱為CAHPI(BC)
4. NHICC
如何追討責任

假如與執照和專業守則無關,純粹是服務満意或損壞維修等問題,請勿單向維修公司和地產經紀咨詢,應該立刻致電驗屋師尋求專業意見,一般驗屋師都樂意回答或親自到現場了解情況,若是同意責任疏失,便可立刻取得賠償修理費用。
一般驗屋師只會提供驗屋費退欵,只有 ASTTBC-PI賠欵上限提高至5萬元。如要更高賠償額則必須在驗屋前與驗屋師相討,可能要附加費用以取得提高賠欵上限的同意書。

若果未能私下了結,可以向所屬驗屋師學會
/協會/機構投訴,由協會派出調查員實地視察作出報告,並由協會的檢舉委員會審查及判決。

若果還是
満意協會的判決,可以咨詢律師,要求仲裁、或向小額錢債法院、或向高等法院尋求更大賠償,一切視乎律師意見。

兩年前北溫哥華巿有一案例,驗屋師沒有完全根據驗屋標準以保障客戶利益,卑斯省高等法院法官判驗屋師疏失,而被罰款接近20萬元修理費。經多年訴訟後,客戶損失亦不輕,粗略估計經三年訴訟的律師費必不在3萬元以下,加拿大法律是不可以追回律師費和要求懲罰性賠償金的,所以避免更大損失,切勿輕易訴諸法院處理。

避免驗屋後不必要的責任追究,必須在事前多做一些準備,聘請經驗豐富和口碑極佳的驗屋師方為上策。如何判別新進驗屋師非常簡單:每一位領有執照的驗屋師都有一個5位數字的牌照編號,一般是4萬或5萬號,雖然這些編號不分先後,但4字頭的驗屋師是2009331日前巳經執業的,而5字頭則是2009年後才申請牌照的新丁

Monday, March 21, 2011

Install window stop to prevent children falling accident 防止兒童跌出窗外


The insect screen is not designed for child safety. Please check your upper floor windows and any windows above the sunken patio NOW. Make sure the window stops are installed to limit the window opening at 10-cm (4-inches) maximum. (see more for child injury prevention)

A three-year-old Langley girl is in stable but serious condition after falling six metres (20 feet) from an upstairs window. Langley RCMP Sgt. Ravi Pawar said the girl was playing with her seven-year-old sister on a window seat in their parents’ bedroom in the Vancouver suburb at about 2 p.m. Sunday when the younger child put her hands on the screen of an open picture window and fell out, landing on her side in the driveway.

防蚊蟲紗網不是為兒童安全而設計的。請立刻檢查您的樓上和任何天井上方的窗戶,安裝窗口安全塞,限制打開窗口不超過4英寸。


Related news:
2011/03/20 CBC News - Girl, 3, fell when second-storey window screen gave way
2011/03/21 Vancouver Sun - B.C. three-year-old survives six-metre fall from balcony
2011/05/15 World Journal - 4樓墜下 8歲男童重傷
2011/05/21 Sing Tao - 4歲女童2樓墮下輕傷 窗邊玩耍意外 一周第二宗 / 上周男童露台失足
2011/06/05 The Province - Girl, 2, dies after falling from eighth floor
2011/06/05 World Journal - 幼兒墜樓一日兩起 一死一獲救
2011/06/15 Sing Tao - 5歲童3樓墮地 受重傷
2011/08/09 The Province - Surrey boy lucky to escape serious fall with broken nose
2011/08/22 Los Angeles Times - About 5,000 children may be injured yearly from window falls
2012/04/01 Ming Pao - 家人忙入伙 3歲童2樓墜落傷
2012/08/25 World Journal - 老式公寓窗戶 隱藏墜樓危機
2015/08/11 Ming Pao - 素里2歲童墜樓傷
2016/08/15 Ming Pao - 4歲童爬窗3樓飛墮斷雙腿 家有幼孩宜鎖窗 打開4吋可肇禍
2017/04/09 Sing Tao - 卡加利兩幼童從三樓窗戶跌落 5歲男孩危殆

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Home Heating Safety Alert 家用取暖安全警報

Winter Weather Warning: CPSC and USFA Issue Home Heating Safety Alert

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the United States Fire Administration (USFA) are urging consumers to play it safe as winter weather blankets the United States.

According to USFA, home fires spike in winter months. Cooking and home heating are the leading causes of residential building fires during the winter. The risk of fires also increases with the use of supplemental heating, such as space heaters.

CPSC estimates that home heating was associated with an average of 33,300 fires and 180 fire deaths per year from 2005 to 2007.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is also a serious threat in the winter months. Any fuel-burning appliances in the home, including furnaces and fireplaces, are a potential CO source. Carbon monoxide is called the "invisible killer," because it is an odorless, colorless and poisonous gas.

There has been an increasing trend in unintentional, non-fire CO deaths associated with consumer products since 1999. CPSC staff estimates there were 184 CO poisoning deaths on average per year from 2005-2007 compared to 122 deaths per year from 1999-2001. Since 1999, the majority of CO deaths have been associated with heating systems and portable generators.

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are an important line of defense in the home, and they give consumers valuable escape time. About two-thirds of fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms, or in homes where consumers have removed the alarm's batteries or where the batteries are dead. Recently, there were tragic deaths in homes where alarms could have made a difference:

In Citra, Fla., a fire killed five children on November 8. Their home did not have smoke alarms.
In Penfield, N.Y., a 54-year-old man died of CO poisoning in November. Prior to his death, the home's CO alarms reportedly beeped and were removed from the house.
CPSC and USFA recommend that in addition to having working smoke and CO alarms, consumers should follow these safety tips to prevent fires and CO poisoning:

Preventing FiresPlace space heaters on a floor that is flat and level. Do not put space heaters on rugs or carpets. Keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture, and other flammable materials; and place space heaters out of the flow of foot traffic. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
To prevent the risk of fire, NEVER leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or place a space heater close to any sleeping person. Turn the heater off when you leave the area. See CPSC's electric space heater safety alert for more space heater safety tips (pdf).
Never use gasoline in a kerosene space heater. Even small amounts of gasoline mixed with kerosene can increase the risk of a fire.
Have fireplace flues and chimneys inspected for leakage and blockage from creosote or debris every year.
Open the fireplace damper before lighting a fire, and keep it open until the ashes are cool. An open damper may help prevent build-up of poisonous gases inside the home.
Store fireplace ashes in a fire-resistant container, and cover the container with a lid. Keep the container outdoors and away from combustibles. Dispose of ashes carefully, keeping them away from dry leaves, trash or other combustible materials.

Preventing CO poisoningSchedule a yearly professional inspection of all fuel-burning home heating systems, including furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, wood stoves, water heaters, chimneys, flues and vents.
NEVER operate a portable gasoline-powered generator in an enclosed space, such as a garage, shed, or crawlspace, or in the home.
Keep portable generators as far away from your home and your neighbors' homes as possible - away from open doors, windows or vents that could allow deadly carbon monoxide into the home.
When purchasing a space heater, ask the salesperson whether the heater has been safety-certified. A certified heater will have a safety certification mark. These heaters will have the most up-to-date safety features. An unvented gas space heater that meets current safety standards will shut off if oxygen levels fall too low.
Do not use portable propane space heaters indoors or in any confined space, unless they are designed specifically for indoor use. Always follow the manufacturer's directions for proper use.
Never use gas or electric stoves to heat the home. They are not intended for that purpose and can pose a CO or fire hazard.
More information can be found in CPSC's Safety Alert, Winter warning on portable generatorReplace batteries.

Related News:
2013/12/24 CTV News - Two deaths and multiple emergency calls for carbon monoxide poisoning
2013/12/25 World Journal - 多市逾百宗一氧化碳中毒

Monday, January 3, 2011

Noisy Water Heater 製造噪音的熱水爐

How to troubleshoot water heater noise like pounding, rumbling, crackling, popping, ticking, sizzling.
Noisy water heater article is about common problems in residential water heating and how to troubleshoot annoying noise like rumbling, ticking, pounding...

Water heater noise is usually associated with the two main conditions; water hammer and mineral build-up, but there are also other reasons for noisy heater and plumbing.

It is common to experience the annoying noise your water heater makes after a short period of service. Even if your hot water heating unit is installed in the area away from the living or sleeping room, you might hear a noise in the plumbing that travels with a vibration waves from the water heater.

Noise for example can come either from the gas water heater due to water droplets on the crusty formations and sediments; or is associated with the hissing sound on electric units and formation of lime scale on the immersed heating elements.

The most common symptoms of water heater noise are:
•Pounding noise
•Ticking
•Rumbling
•Crackling
•Popping
•Sizzling noise
Noisy Water Heater - Pounding Noise
Why my water heater is making pounding noise?

Mineral buildup and water hammer are the main causes of the pounding noise your hot water heater makes.

When water is flowing through the plumbing system and it is stopped suddenly, the high intensity shock wave travels through the pipeline, making vibration in the piping system, followed by the pounding, banging and thumping noise.

Pounding noise is associated with the water hammer occurrence. Water hammer and how to solve the problem with the pounding noise it produces, you can find in the article about water hammer.

Pounding noise can occur due to lime formations and sediments at the tank bottom. To eliminate the noise some professionals will recommend installing water softener, or flushing the system occasionally. How to troubleshoot sediment problem and noisy water heater due to the lime scale; it is explained in our article about sediments and lime build-up.

Rumbling
Aluminum hydroxide gel in tank or plumbing is one of the main causes of the rumbling noise in water heaters, while the mineral buildup can also be a factor. The aluminum hydroxide gel is the result of the chemical reaction between the anode rod and water condition.

These blue, green or gray gel beads tend to accumulate in the water heater drain or in faucet aerators.

Solution for this water heater noise problem should be considered if there is a mineral build up and if there is no:

If the water heater is new and has no lime build-up, simply turn the heater off, remove the anode rod and flush the system thoroughly. Bring the anode back and run the water heater.

If there is a lime build up, use one of the recommended delimers (phosphoric acid for example or one recommended by the manufacturer) and follow the procedure for flushing the deposits.

Ticking
Ticking noise is usually caused by fluctuation in pressure in the piping system. If your water heater is energy efficient unit, the odds are that it has heat traps installed. Due to temperature change; expansion and contraction of the elements, heat trap ball is rattling in the nipple.

If there is no other way to eliminate this ticking noise, simply remove the heat traps from the heater. There will be only a minor reduction in the energy efficiency, without affecting the safety of heater's operation.

Another reason for ticking sound might be in the hot water pipes, due to expanding and contracting against a loose strap or wood framing while making a hot water draw. One of the solutions is to track down where the ticking noise is the loudest, secure the pipe or install plastic spacers. The simplest solution: Turn the temperature on your water heater just a few degrees down.

Popping and Crackling
Lime (CaCO3) in water heater is the result of the water hardness, present almost in every home plumbing, more or less. More lime is created as you heat the water more and due to higher usage in the excessive hardness environment.

Popping and crackling noise is one of the symptoms where water is trapped under the lime deposits. Solution for the noisy water heater due to lime build up is simple, flushing the heater with the proper acidic compound (delimer recommended by the manufacturer).

If the water flow is also stopped abruptly it can also cause the popping or crackling noise.

Another reason for crackling might be condensation dripping on the burner or any other hot part's surface.

Sizzling
The main reason for sizzling noise in your gas water heater is due to condensation and or leaking problem; when the water drops are dripping down the flame in the burner or hot surface.

Condensation is created when the hot flue gases are in contact with cooler surfaces. Condensation will form inside the vent and the drops of water will hit hot surface every few seconds making the sizzling sound. It can be seen by looking in the combustion chamber where the flame will first grow very bright and then very dim.

Keep in mind that on some usually older units, even half a gallon of water vapor will be produced every hour of operation.

Condensation should stop when the entire water heater is heated above 115 F. If the problem is with leaking, locating and repairing or replacing the leaking element or to tighten the loose fittings, is the solution.

A sizzling gas water heater can be very normal as the natural gas has a very high moisture content and therefore in products of combustion.

On the heating elements of the electric water heaters, due to lime scale, water trapped next to the element will also make the sizzling noise, boiling the water to steam.

Conclusion:

Water heater noise can be reduced by disconnecting the heater and with a regular flushing. This is the most common solution. If the water is too hard, you might want to consider installing a water softener, but consider a negative influence on the anode rod.

Use the following article to learn about lime build-up and deliming process.

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