Useful Information

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The rules or codes of the State of California, City & County jurisdictions regarding smoke and carbon monoxide alarms vary! Along with State, City & County rules or codes there are the rules of installation provided by the makers of the devices which will override any jurisdiction code or rule on placement. With that said most of these rules and codes are similar but not quite the same. It's an ongoing competition between jurisdictions how the rules and codes of each jurisdiction are written which boggles the mind of any sane person. I will lightly touch on this subject which determines how the State of California, City & County state their respective requirements for these devices. By the way, by the time you get done reading this, someone has put in motion a change to these very vacillating rules & codes. Just in California there are hundreds of pages of code books devoted to this subject.

In general, in all jurisdictions, the most important issue at stake in dwellings where humans reside is whether these devices are installed and whether they're in working order. The second issue is, are they installed where they will do what they are designed to do and not be prevented from doing their intended function. All new devices come with installation directions, providing you with the best place to install your alarm. NOTE: Plug-in carbon monoxide alarms have a likely chance of being unplugged thus making the alarm moot.

How does anyone know if their existing alarms are working properly? Well they need to be tested with the substance for which they are named, smoke or carbon monoxide. Pushing the test button on the device only tells us the alarm portion is functioning. Using smoke or carbon monoxide should set off the alarm for which it is designed. Cigarette smoke works great for smoke alarms or there are small inexpensive smoke alarm & carbon monoxide testers available online for $20 each. They usually test between 7 and 10 smoke and carbon monoxide alarms each. If you have more than one alarm all should be tested or replaced with new if not functioning or it looks old and yellowed. Yellowed smoke alarms usually mean they are old, past its life expectancy and needs replacement. Depending on jurisdiction, smoke alarms in brand new homes have alarms hardwired together since the early 1990's. Hardwiring them together creates what is referred to as a 'multiple station smoke alarm system', so if one goes off they all go off simultaneously. In general most older homes do not have hardwired alarms. NOTE: If you are testing a 'multiple station smoke alarm system', all alarms have to be tested individually as you are testing each separate alarm to activate.

As most of us know, these alarms have an obnoxious loud noise to wake sleeping residents. The minimum rule or code is to be placed within 10 -15 feet outside of ALL bedroom doors. Having one alarm in the guest bedroom hallway is not enough to wake occupants in another bedroom on the other side of the home. Again, 10 -15 feet within the outside of ALL bedroom doors. It is important the alarm be 10 -15 feet from the bedroom door where occupants may be asleep so to awaken them. If it doesn't wake occupants they have less time to escape the fire or possibly be overcome by smoke never to awake.

Now we come to having the alarm inside the bedroom. ALL brand new homes will have smoke alarms inside all bedrooms as well. ALL new homes have all smoke alarms hardwired together. Currently only one jurisdiction, Cathedral City, requires them in bedrooms of ALL homes; battery only type is acceptable. Neither the City of Palm Springs nor the County which governs all other Coachella Valley cities requires smoke alarms in bedrooms, unless they are already there. You can't reduce a building's current code status, only enhance them, meaning if they were there they must remain or be replaced, not deleted. Though they differ in stringency, both Palm Springs & Cathedral City Fire Departments require a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm test inspection before a home sale can close. Palm Springs requires smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in the bedroom hallway or in the case there is no hallway, outside the bedroom door if that door is farther away than 10-15 feet from other alarms. Cathedral City requires smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in the same places except also in the bedroom.

Smoke alarms should not be placed within 3 feet of a blowing air duct vent as this may delay the smoke getting to the alarm. Smoke alarms should not be placed in or near the kitchen or garage due to false alarms. If you want an alarm there use a heat detection alarm. As of 2011, California has had a carbon monoxide alarm requirement for all single family homes and as of 2013 for multi-resident buildings.

Last but not least are new findings that the original Ionization type smoke alarms do not work properly. A smoke alarm should activate its alarm noise within about 1 minute of smoke arriving at the smoke alarm. See the YouTube smoke alarm demonstration link here, It's been proven that the original Ionization type smoke alarms are faulty or don't work in more than 50% of cases. Photo-Electric type alarms are much better alarms. Fire Departments are starting to recommend and in some cases demanding Photo-Electric or at least a Combination Ionization/Photo-Electric type alarm.

One short note about fire egress from bedrooms. For a long time it has been required that all bedrooms have access the the exterior of the home through a window or door as fire egress and also fireman access. In the past many homes were not built this way. The best remedy is to make these bedrooms have the proper egress. This can be expensive and sometimes impossible. With that said, is is important that all bedrooms have working smoke alarms and all egress points are easily opened or accessed by a small child. If the child can not open a window or door it is NOT a fire egress exit!!! If you are remodeling you should make sure the new window (opening portion) has the proper fire egress dimensions.

FIRE DEPARTMENTS ARE NOW RECOMMENDING THE PHOTOELECTRIC TYPE SMOKE ALARM OR THE COMBINATION IONIZATION & PHOTOELECTRIC SMOKE ALARM BE INSTALLED. Old original type ionization smoke alarms are problematic as ionization smoke alarms have been found NOT to be (going off), alarming soon enough. [See the faulty smoke alarm demonstration on You Tube]. Cheap life insurance..."You can replace a home but not a life". EVERY home must have at least a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm in all bedroom halls within 15 feet of ALL bedroom door(s) and this is the only requirement of the Seller, except in Cathedral City where the Seller is required to provide smoke alarms in the bedrooms as well. The 15 foot rule, of 15 feet within ALL bedroom doors is so the alarm be close enough to the bedroom to wake sleeping occupants and this is true with the carbon monoxide alarm as well. The Buyer/Client, not the Seller is responsible for adding smoking alarms in bedrooms, except in Cathedral City. Both of these alarm types should be installed according to the their instructions, but should not be installed within 3 feet of a ceiling fan or a heating/cooling air vent where smoke would be blown away from the alarm. There are numerous arguments about where to install a carbon monoxide alarm, but just having them installed within 15 feet of ALL bedroom doors will suffice. Plug in type carbon monoxide alarms are likely to be unplugged and make this alarm moot, we recommend installing permanent ones. NOTE: If replacing a hardwired alarm the new alarm must be hard wired as well. In ALL NEW HOMES current industry standards locates a smoke alarm in each bedroom, as well as the bedroom hall 15 foot rule and on each level of a multilevel home. ONLY in new or newer homes are smoke alarms hardwired together and referred to as a 'multiple station smoke alarm system' so if one goes off they all go off simultaneously. New homes require smoke alarms inside bedrooms because it is thought to be necessary to make sure the occupants are awaken. SO YOU - THE NEW HOMEOWNER SHOULD TEST AND CHECK SMOKE ALARMS FOR AGE 8 YEARS OR LESS AND CHANGE ALL SMOKE ALARM BATTERIES AT THE TIME YOU TAKE POSSESSION OF YOUR NEW HOME WHETHER THEY ARE BATTERY OPERATED or HARDWIRED WITH BATTERY BACK-UP TYPE, AND THEN ONCE YEARLY AT THE CHANGE OF SPRING OR FALL DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME. Search the web @;; for more information about smoke alarms.


GFCI = GROUND FAULT CIRCUIT INTERRUPTER = (THE OUTLET WITH THE BUTTONS. They are not hard to install and do not require a ground wire. This item has become an important safety device in the home. These receptacles may be required in certain places of the home if the home is less than 32 years old, but regardless of how old a home is, having them in place saves lives. This electrical device was made to decrease the chance of being electrocuted. They came about because sometimes the fault wasn't strong enough to trip the breaker or blow the fuse in the electrical service panel, but was strong enough to electrocute. GFCI's function in milliseconds to cut off power.

As all devices they can go bad so they should be tested semi-annually. Testing of GFCI's can be done by anyone with an inexpensive $ 8 GFCI tester available at Lowes Home Centers. When using the tester remember to use the test button on the GFCI receptacle (outlet) itself to test the GFCI, and not the button on the tester. If you find one not working I would strongly recommend that you buy a new one and NOT DEPEND on the faulty one AT ALL and tape off the malfunctioning GFCI until replaced.

The New-Generation GFCI receptacles are much, much better than their predecessors. Look for Leviton "SMART LOCK" GFCI's that come in several colors with a lock embossed on the front face of the GFCI. Please buy or request these new ones as they CAN NOT be wired incorrectly. A GFCI receptacle can be installed anywhere, but everything on that circuit down line now is controlled by that GFCI. Example - if the refrigerator is on that circuit and the GFCI trips the refrigerator will stop working until the GFCI is reset. Refrigerators or freezers are not to be on GFCI receptacles or circuits for this reason.


What is an AFCI?... Starting November 1, 2002 all new homes must have AFCI breakers. The National Electrical Code , Section 210-12, requires that all branch circuits supplying 120-125V, single phase, 15 and 20 ampere outlets installed in dwelling unit bedrooms be protected by an Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter. Eventually they will be in more areas but the NEC selected to require them on bedroom circuits first because a CPSC study showed many home fire deaths were related to bedroom circuits.

The AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) breaker, will shut off a circuit in a fraction of a second if arcing develops. The electrical current of an arc is not always high enough to trip a regular breaker. You must have noticed a cut or worn piece of a cord or a loose connection in a junction box or receptacle arcing and burnt without tripping the regular breaker. As you can guess this is a major cause of fires in a dwelling.

An AFCI is a product that is designed to detect a wide range of arcing electrical faults to help reduce the electrical system from being an ignition source of a fire. Conventional overcurrent protective devices do not detect low level hazardous arcing currents that have the potential to initiate electrical fires. It is well known how many lives are lost and how much damage electrical fires do to property. Electrical fires can be a silent killer occurring in areas of the home that are hidden from view and early detection. To test the device press the button on the breaker. If the breaker trips it is working, if it doesn't its not working and an electrician should be called to investigate.

Code Section 210-12

(a) Definition: An arc-fault circuit interrupter is a device intended to provide protection from the effects of arc faults by recognizing characteristics unique to arcing and by shutting off the power to the circuit when an arc fault is detected.

(b) Dwelling Unit Bedrooms. All branch circuits that supply 125-volt, single-phase, 15 and 20 ampere receptacle outlets installed in dwelling unit bedrooms shall be protected by an arc-fault circuit interrupter.


This or any home inspection is NOT a MOLD, MILDEW, FUNGUS, ALLERGEN or MICROBIAL ORGANISM INSPECTION though the Inspector may find and report on signs of what appears to be one of the above and recommend further investigation by a Certified Industrial Hygienist. Such sampling for testing would be at an additional cost over this inspection fee. If you have any questions about this process please call me.

Mold, mildew, fungus, allergen and other microbial organisms commonly occur in areas that show existing or past evidence of or have the potential for being wet, leaking, moisture intrusion and/or inadequate ventilation. Some indicators but not all can be actual wetness, signs of previous being wet and or the smell of wetness commonly known as a "moldy smell'. Over the years humans have become more susceptible to these microscopic organisms. The identification of these organisms can only be done by sampling of air or with a swab that will then be sent to a laboratory for testing. The cost of such sampling is miniscule compared to the health costs brought on by these organisms. Any area wet, damp or dry exhibiting such conditions can be a SERIOUS HEALTH HAZARD and all these conditions are ALWAYS the result of an underlying problem which MAY HAVE been remedied, but unfortunately with the cause of the problem remedied doesn't mean the problem of airborne microbial organisms has been eradicated. At times eradication of the problem can be expensive, so if concerned about this possibility, so we recommend lab testing to determine if there exists an ongoing climate for incubation or microbial contamination and if found to be the case, the appropriate steps be taken to eliminate this climate before taking possession of the property.

Straight Talk about this Concern: The first thing to know about microbial organisms is that they are ubiquitous in nature. Microbial organisms are inside and outside of every single home. It is these organisms when the climate is right can grow and can cause humans to have from none, to mild to serious adverse health effects. There are about 5-6 types of mold that have been found to be particularly harmful to humans and only some humans seem to be effected by these microbial organisms. Those that seem 'most' adversely affected by these organisms are the immunodeficient, elderly, small children and people with allergies but this doesn't leave the rest of us out if the picture.

Three Choices of Action: First, a few decide the problem is minor and take no action. Secondly, most now have it tested to identify the type of organism and possible extent of the problem. Third, having the problem eradicated. In picking eradication it is PARAMOUNT that before the eradication process begins air samples be taken in several places inside and outside of the home to establish BASE READINGS. Without these readings the final sample readings will have nothing to which to compare to and it will be unknown if the eradication is complete. [The United States Government has not set base readings for any area in America because these base readings vary too much.] By law it is mandatory that after the eradication process has been completed and before any areas opened for eradication are again closed up, FINAL TEST READINGS be done by a company OTHER THAN THE ERADICATION COMPANY to prohibit any conflict of interest. This separate company will tell the eradication company whether their efforts in eradication were successful or if they spread the organisms around the house. If you are interested in sampling the air or any certain area of the home or have any questions about this process please don't hesitate to call me, 760-880-1393.


  • Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District
    43-420 Trader Place
    Indio, CA 92201
  • West Nile Virus Hotline: 800-975-4448
  • To Report Dead Birds: 877-968-2473
  • West Nile Virus in Horses: 916-654-1447


Household Hazardous Waste ABOP Center OPEN Saturdays ONLY
1100 Vella Road - East of Gene Autry & South of Mesquite Ave

October - May
9 am to 2 pm

June - September
7 am to Noon

  • Oil & Latex Paint
  • Thinners
  • Motor Oil
  • Insecticides
  • Car or Flashlight Batteries
  • Anti-freeze
  • Take anything you think is hazardous


Aluminum wiring is not necessarily the fire hazard as it once was. There are now new types of wire connectors which provide a safer wiring situation. Of course if there is a chance to rewire a home it should be rewired with copper. See the history


The US Department of Energy ( D.O.E. ) has mandated that, starting in 2006, the minimum efficiency for new A/C units will be 13 SEER. A SEER is another way of saying how much electricity it takes to run your air conditioning unit, a measurement of efficiency and can be compared to ‘miles per gallon of your car. The higher the SEER number, the lower your electrical bill will be.

Some manufacturers and electric utilities offer rebates when you buy high efficient systems. Check with your local utility, appliance salesman or the appliance manufacturer for any ongoing rebates.

If you install solar panels you will save electrical utility costs and can actually give power back to the electrical grid through your electrical meter and you will be reimbursed for that power. You will be saving yourself and the State in which you reside the cost of supplying energy that also comes with the added benefit of a less pollution produced. Solar electrical energy is becoming a bigger and bigger source of electricity for Southern California home owners.


Web Search

  • Go to the index on the left and see what the different levels of radon are for all US States.
  • You may buy your own test kit to test for radon gas from this site. Follow the directions very closely to get an accurate reading.
  • Is it worth it, you bet it is! Radon Gas causes lung cancer and the US has the highest rate of lung cancer of all the industrialized nations.


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