What Can You Learn from a Frosty Roof?

Viewing a frosty roof, or a one without frost on an icy morning, can provide useful information about the home’s insulation.

Frosty roof photos (and why it matters)

Here are some homes in Los Gatos viewed early one winter morning when the sun had barely risen.   The home on the left shows some ice over and near the eaves, but not higher up on that roof.  The house on the right  has frost all nearly all of its roof except over the garage where it connects to the 2nd story.   What is happening?


Two homes on an icy morning - one with more frost than the other


In the left house, the roof is warm and the frost is melting or gone, while on the right the roof is not warm except in one spot.

Frost is a good indicator that the insulation in the attic is keeping the heat in the home and that it’s not being lost to the attic and roof. The house on the right is very well insulated. The one warm spot may be close to the furnace, water heater, washer, or dryer – something in the garage is heating up that corner of the roof.

This has nothing to do with the roof type, by the way. The one on the left is metal and the one next to it is composition shingle. In the photos below, at the left is another comp shingle and to the right of it has a concrete tile roof.

Let’s look at another example:


What is a “cool air return”? What are “heat registers”?

Cool air returnWhat is a “cool air return“? Silicon Valley home hunters are very likely to encounter both heating vents (also called heat registers) and cool air returns in houses, townhouses and condos across the South Bay Area. They are found wherever a home enjoys central forced air heat with ducts and vents. (Some Victorian houses have forced air heat but it is only brought to perhaps one main room or area in the house!)

The purpose of a cool air return is to feed the furnace with a supply of cooler air to be heated ad then circulated back into the rest of the dwelling via the heat registers or vents. Often the cool air return is found near the floor. This makes sense when you consider that the hottest air will rise, leaving cooler air nearer the ground. Heat registers are often near the floor (and near a window), but if the home is on a slab foundation and has forced air heat, the vent will be on the ceiling.

How can I tell the difference between the cool air return and a heat register or vent?

Generally speaking, the vents for warm air are long and narrow, and the cool air return is much larger and boxier in shape.  Below please find an image of heating vents.

Heating ventsThe first example of a heating vent is probably the most typical you’ll find in Silicon Valley: it’s metal, kind of a dark gray color.  Older ones (homes from the 50s) have an even narrower shape but still tend to be metal, sometimes painted dark brown.

The next example is usually found where the property has hardwood floors.  The idea is to make the vent blend in and be less noticeable. Naturally, the wooden vents come in a variety of colors to match the many types of woods that might be found in a residence.

By and large, cool air returns and heat registers are pretty ugly. The wooden vents are a nice step above the usual offerings.  Several companies sell nicer cool air returns and heat registers or vents, though. So if you are remodeling and want to get away from that “tract housing feel”, a few custom touches might be just the ticket for a more unique feeling home. (more…)

Want your Silicon Valley house to sell? Make the temperature comfortable so that buyers linger longer!

Rainbow of home temperatures

Keep the temperature of your home for sale in a comfortable zone so that home buyers linger longer!

The other day I showed a vacant home in the Evergreen area of San Jose that was easily 95 or 100 degrees in the master bedroom, perhaps more.  Yes, we’re in the middle of a Silicon Valley heat wave! But the owner’s suite had no curtains and faced the blazing afternoon sun.  More importantly, though, the house has central air conditioning, but it was turned off.  Completely off!

Why was the A/C not turned on when it was 90 or 100 degrees outside?  The seller did not want to spend the money.

Here’s an important piece of the home-selling puzzle: the longer buyers stay at the property, the more likely they are to want to buy it.  So home sellers, make it so that your buyers will want to linger!  If they dash in and out, you can pretty much forget that visit resulting in a sale. In our case, we quickly left because our visit went from uncomfortably warm downstairs to intolerably hot upstairs.

I see this with homes in winter, too, where home sellers don’t want to pay for  heating when they’re not living in the house. They  turn the heat either all the way off or so such a low number (in the 50s) that buyers are uncomfortable the whole time they are seeing the home.  Similarly, those buyers leave to find relief in a warm car – and seldom either come back or consider writing an offer.

Heat and cooling to make a home comfortable is not a waste of money.  It’s a type of staging.  Just as we want the house to be clean, uncluttered, and looking its best so that our seller clients make the most money possible from the sale, we also want the home to feel comfortable in terms of temperature (and smell nice too!).  All of these things matter if you want to leverage this important asset and sell for top dollar.  To turn off the heat in winter or the cooling in summer is counter-productive to your and your real estate agent’s goals.  Keep it comfy!

Addition resource for Silicon Valley home sellers: http://SellingYourHomeInSiliconValley.com/