I started inspecting in 1983 and I was thinking today how much things have changed in residential construction just in these 28 years. (think how things have changed since, say, 1950 !). Here’s a sampling (and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things…)
Electrical: gfi outlets in kitchens, arc fault circuit to BR’s (and now to the whole house for structures built after Jan. ‘09), smoke detectors in BR’s & all of them interconnected, photovoltaic panels on roofs, remotely read electric meters, more efficient lighting (cfl’s, LEDs etc.)
Furnaces: back draft sensors, electric pilots, computer controlled, programmable thermostats, much better heat exchangers and flues
A/C: better filters, float switches inside the unit to prevent accidental overflow, much higher efficiency (13-17 SEER vs. 9 !), variable speed blowers and compressors.
Plumbing: better insulated & safer water heaters with drainpans under them, hot water set at a lower temperature & tankless units. “PEX” plastic waterlines, solderless connectors (“shark bites“), low flow toilets/shower heads/aerators, insulated waterlines INSIDE and under the slab, rain switches on lawn sprinklers, aerobic septic systems.
Energy efficiency: (LOTS more of this coming soon) Low E glass, solar screens, deeper insulation, radiant barrier, double pane windows with vinyl frames instead of aluminum, energy audits, houses painted with reflective semi-gloss paint instead of flat, “green” building methods, sprayed on foam insulation, much better sealing of air leaks, TyVek and other similar “house wrap”.
Exteriors: 20 year shingles now standard, hardiplank, cement trim (instead of wood)
Safety: safety sensors at bottom of garage door, narrower spacing of guardrails, anti-tip bracket under range, safer pool and spa drains, no more pool diving boards, CO detectors, better security systems
Kitchens: computer controlled ovens and dishwashers, electronic ignition for oven and range burners, more efficient fridges, ducted vent-a-hoods & space saver microwaves now common, granite; seamless and composite countertops; laminate & engineered flooring.