HVAC – CheckThisHouse https://www.checkthishouse.com Home maintenance, remodeling, repair, and improvement tips for your property Thu, 29 Oct 2020 11:19:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.16 3 Radiator Mistakes To Avoid This Season https://www.checkthishouse.com/9472/3-radiator-mistakes-to-avoid-this-season.html Wed, 23 Sep 2020 13:01:23 +0000 https://www.checkthishouse.com/?p=9472 The colder months are coming, and that means it’s time to have your home heating back on frequently. That means radiators have to start making their usual rumbling noises before they kick into gear again. If your home relies on traditional heating, and you want to ensure energy (i.e. your bills) isn’t wasted, or you ... Read more]]>

The colder months are coming, and that means it’s time to have your home heating back on frequently.

That means radiators have to start making their usual rumbling noises before they kick into gear again.

If your home relies on traditional heating, and you want to ensure energy (i.e. your bills) isn’t wasted, or you don’t end up with problems that seemingly come out of nowhere, there are radiator mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

This article is going to focus on how to best utilise your radiators in the colder months:

1. Setting Your Radiator Valves to Maximum

While your central thermostat will have a set temperature it is trying to get the house to reach, your radiators all act independently, as they’re trying to heat rooms of varying sizes.

A big mistake people make at this time of year is setting radiator valves to their maximum, when they only need to stay at low levels.

It’s like having a pot of water on the stove. Would you rather have a pot with water which is nicely simmering away to keep something warm, or are you going to crank the hob up and boil away wasting energy?

Play around with your valves by placing them at the lowest possible setting. Try it out for just a day and see if the room feels as warm as you need it to. If it doesn’t turn, the valve up a smidge and try again.

You’ll find that by playing around from room to room, you end up getting a feel on where each radiator needs to be.

If all your radiators are at the same level, and you don’t have identical rooms throughout your home, you’re doing it wrong.

And if you don’t have a clue how much heat a room needs, use a handy heating calculator online. All you need is some measuring tape, and you’re good to go.

2. Drying Clothes Near Your Radiator

A big downside of saying goodbye to the good weather is that washing and drying clothes outside can turn into a gamble.

Everyone loves having fresh-smelling clothes which dried outside. No one likes forgetting they were hanging clothes up when a sudden downpour starts.

If you’re going to be drying clothes indoors, make sure you don’t do so near radiators.

Why can it be a bad thing?

Well, let’s say you had a full load of washing in a small washing machine which takes around a 7kg load. When you pull the load out and hang it up, you’re looking at around 2 litres of water still clinging on to the clothes.

If you were to start drying everything beside a radiator, all that moisture is going to want to be drawn out and towards the nearest cold surface which can take it.

All this results in damp and mold. It’s the reason why the corner right about your bathroom shower is always the first place you’ll see those little damp spots.

If you have to dry clothes indoors, do so in a room where the load is placed away from a radiator, and ideally with a window open to let moisture escape.

3. Overlooking Cold Spots

It is difficult to know if anything is wrong inside a radiator. You can’t just crack it open and have a look inside.

After the first few days of the heating being back on, go around and do a touch test (when the radiator isn’t piping hot) of each radiator.

Pay attention to the bottom and middle. If you notice cold spots, let some air out and check again after a few days.

If it still feels cold, you may have some sludge in there which needs taking out. Best to get it looked at now rather in the middle of winter when there isn’t a plumber available, and radiators start acting up.

Get to Know Your Home Heating

Hopefully these tips can smarten you up to which mistakes to avoid when it comes to your radiators and home heating system.

If you’d like to read more articles like this, check out the HVAC section of the website.

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5 Tips for Hiring the Right Air Conditioning Technician https://www.checkthishouse.com/9394/5-tips-for-hiring-the-right-air-conditioning-technician.html Tue, 01 Sep 2020 13:06:31 +0000 https://www.checkthishouse.com/?p=9394 When it comes to air conditioner repair, it is essential for you to hire the right technician for the job. Your air conditioner is something on which you have spent a significant amount of money, and you don’t want to hire an unreliable technician and ruin your air conditioner unit for good. There are a ... Read more]]>

When it comes to air conditioner repair, it is essential for you to hire the right technician for the job.

Your air conditioner is something on which you have spent a significant amount of money, and you don’t want to hire an unreliable technician and ruin your air conditioner unit for good.

There are a lot of AC repairing services out there that are offering different packages and expertise. You also don’t want to hire a technician that is overpriced and doesn’t provide you value for the money.

So, to make things easier for you below, here are a few tips that will help you hire the right air conditioner repair service:

1. Do Some Research

The first thing you need to do is learn more about the air conditioner and get familiar with the repair services available out there.

Check the brand, model, and the type of air conditioner and see if any other expensive repairs can arise from the problem you are facing.

Just keep in mind even if you do not know much about air conditioners, you should still get familiar with their build, so when the technician tells you about the problem, you will be able to understand it as well.

You can also open the unit and can check it on your own. However, if the fault seems too much, then it is better to let the professional do the deed.

2. Experience Matters the Most

Before finally hiring a technician, you need to make sure that he has a good amount of experience under his belt.

In such things, experience matters a lot, and the more a technician has worked on air conditioners, the better he will be at repairing them.

Ask them how long he has done this job for and whether he has done it full time, or was it just a part-time gig? Is there any area where they consider themselves as experts?

Also, ask them about any certification they have. Just make sure they have a better experience.

3. Look For Reviews

While hiring an air conditioner repair company, you need to check their reviews as well. You don’t want to go with a company or technician that has no evidence backing them up.

In this modern age of technology, finding reviews is easier than ever. All you have to do is check the website of the company or social media.

Go through the reviews thoroughly and see what people have appreciated and what they have complained about. If you find too many negative reviews, then it is better to look for another company.

4. Be Specific about the Repairs

When the technician has identified the problems for you, ask them to be as specific as possible.

For example, if the outdoor unit of the fan is not working, then ask them about why exactly it isn’t working and what they are going to do about it.

The thing here is that when you are a specific technician won’t be able to charge you anything extra, and you will pay a fair bill.

5. Compare Costs

Another important thing you need to do is to compare costs. Instead of just sticking with one technician, do your research and consider a number of them.

Once you have compared their services and experience, shortlist them, and then compare for the price.

Here you need to make sure that you are getting value for the money. You also don’t necessarily have to go with the expensive one.

If you can get something done at less price, then why not go for it? So do consider the cost and make sure you are getting what you are paying for.

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Should I Get an Air Conditioner? https://www.checkthishouse.com/9377/should-i-get-an-air-conditioner.html Tue, 25 Aug 2020 21:12:00 +0000 https://www.checkthishouse.com/?p=9377 Are you finding the summer heat unbearable? If you are opening every window, turning on every fan or even sticking your head in the freezer to find some relief from the heat, it may be time to consider getting an air conditioner. But before you run to the store to make your purchase, there are ... Read more]]>

Are you finding the summer heat unbearable?

If you are opening every window, turning on every fan or even sticking your head in the freezer to find some relief from the heat, it may be time to consider getting an air conditioner.

But before you run to the store to make your purchase, there are things you should consider before choosing an air conditioner for your home:

Do I Need an Air Conditioner?

This is probably the most important question, since there is no point in buying an air conditioner if you don’t really need one.

There are many ways you can try to keep your house cool without an air conditioner. You may want to explore these options before committing to yourself to not only the cost of an air conditioner, but the cost of running it and maintaining it as well.

For example, you can try moving down to your finished basement during particularly hot nights or trying to keep your lights off as much as possible during the summertime (yes, this really helps!).

However, if you find that nothing provides relief from the sweltering summer heat, it’s probably time to make that purchase.

What Kind of Air Conditioner Should I Buy?

Once you’ve determined that, yes, your home definitely needs an air conditioner, the next step is choosing the best AC unit for your home.

When it comes to choosing an air conditioner for your home, consider the following:

  • The size of the unit. You need to choose a unit that has the capacity to cool your home. A small unit will struggle to keep up with cooling a larger home, but a unit too large for your home is a waste of space and money.
  • Your budget. It’s possible that your budget can’t handle a full AC installation, so you may want to choose a portable or window unit. To save money in the long run, pick an energy efficient model and look for rebate programs.
  • The type of system. There are 3 main types of AC systems you can choose for your home and each has their own pros and cons

There are two types of AC systems that are popular for homes:

Split Systems

More and more people are opting for split AC systems because they provide both heating and cooling options. It’s referred to as a “split” system due to the indoor and outdoor components.

If you already have a furnace, you simply need to add an AC coil to the top of the furnace and use its ductwork to blow cool air throughout your home.

Portable or Window Units

With a smaller living space, it may be more appropriate to purchase portable or window units to cool down specific rooms in your house.

The benefit of having a portable unit is that you can, obviously, move it from room to room with ease. Window units are harder to carry around and tend to stay in one window for the summer.

Air Conditioning and Maintenance

When you purchase an air conditioning system, you need to consider maintenance and repair costs. In order to maintain efficiency, you want to make sure your unit is in good working condition.

Split systems are more involved than portable/window units, so they may require professional services when it comes to keeping them maintained and repaired.

Portable and windows units are easier to take care of.

No matter the style of unit you choose, keep in mind that you will need to keep filters clean in order to provide optimal cooling and maintain good air quality.

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How to Maintain Your A/C as it Gets Hotter Outside https://www.checkthishouse.com/9323/how-to-maintain-your-a-c-as-it-gets-hotter-outside.html Fri, 07 Aug 2020 10:58:11 +0000 https://www.checkthishouse.com/?p=9323 Few things are worse than a broken air conditioner on a hot summer day. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to ensure your home stays cool, even as temperatures increase. Read on to learn more about maintaining your A/C throughout the summer: Change Filters Regularly Changing out your A/C filter regularly is one ... Read more]]>

Few things are worse than a broken air conditioner on a hot summer day.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to ensure your home stays cool, even as temperatures increase.

Read on to learn more about maintaining your A/C throughout the summer:

Change Filters Regularly

Changing out your A/C filter regularly is one of the easiest things to do to make sure your system works effectively.

When a filter is clogged with dust, the A/C unit must work harder to cool your home. Over time, a clogged filter could cause significant damage to your air conditioner as well.

Filters come in many shapes and sizes, so be sure to know what type of filter your A/C unit needs. For reusable filters, vacuum and rinse them frequently to remove dust and debris.

Disposable filters should be changed monthly. One easy way to remember is to tie it to an existing monthly task.

For instance, you may want to change your A/C filter the same day you pay your rent or mortgage.

Clean Vents

When A/C vents are clean and free of dust or debris, air is able to freely flow, keeping the room cooler.

To clean your vents, first turn off the power to your A/C system and unscrew them from the wall or ceiling.

For loose dust or cobwebs, you may be able to simply brush the debris away.

If your vents are caked with dust and dirt, clean them with soap and water, then dry with a clean cloth before you screw them back into place.

Clear Drainage Lines

Everyone knows that air conditioners pump cold air into rooms to cool them, but they also remove moisture from the air. In the summertime, the A/C removes humidity, which helps with cooling.

As moisture is removed, condensation forms on the evaporator coil then drips into the condensation pan. The pan connects to a pipe that takes the liquid out of the home and deposits it into the yard.

Along with condensation, dust and bacteria often make their way into the drainage line, causing a grime that could block the line over time.

Boiling water poured into the drainage line or using a wet-vac can often clear a blockage.

However, if a clog appears in your drainage line, it’s best to contact an HVAC technician to avoid damage to your A/C system.

Clear the Area Around Your A/C Unit

Maintaining your outdoor air handler is just as important as maintaining the unit inside your home. Be sure to keep the area around your air conditioning unit clean and free of debris.

Keep grass low and trim plants back away from the walls of the system.

This way, no outside debris will make its way into the system, which can restrict air flow or create a clog.

Help Your A/C Work More Efficiently

While we rely primarily on our air conditioning units to cool our homes, there are many other things we can do to take some pressure off the A/C.

Curtains, for instance, block the hot summer sun from heating your home, and they also prevent air from escaping through older, less energy efficient windows.

Replacing your windows’ weatherstripping will also help to keep the cold air inside.

If your home has ceiling fans, be sure to use them, especially in the summer months, even if your air conditioner is running. The fans will help to keep the room cool, which will make the air conditioner’s job of bringing down the temperature a lot easier.

It’s also a good idea to let your system rest when the house will be empty.

Hire a Professional

Don’t wait until your A/C breaks on a hot July afternoon to call your HVAC technician. Schedule an appointment before the summer heat sets in, even if you don’t suspect any issues.

our experienced technician will clean and inspect the system, recommending any necessary repairs.

This way, your air conditioner will be in prime working condition before the summer heat sets in.

Stay Cool as Temperatures Increase

Don’t wait until your A/C breaks to maintain it. Change filters and clean vents regularly, and clear drainage lines when needed.

Keep the area around your outdoor handler clear as well.

You can also take the pressure off your air conditioner by keeping curtains closed, weatherstripping windows, and using ceiling fans.

Remember to schedule an A/C inspection before summer, too, to keep your house cool, no matter the temperature!

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How To Maintain Good Air Quality Inside Your Home https://www.checkthishouse.com/8626/how-to-maintain-good-air-quality-inside-your-home.html Fri, 19 Jun 2020 14:07:32 +0000 https://www.checkthishouse.com/?p=8626 Do you find yourself coughing more than usual at home? Do you smell something “funky” and can’t determine the source of the stinky scent? Are household members beginning to become sick? If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, your home might have poor indoor air quality. Weak health, cumbersome stenches and unclean surroundings ... Read more]]>

Do you find yourself coughing more than usual at home?

Do you smell something “funky” and can’t determine the source of the stinky scent?

Are household members beginning to become sick?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, your home might have poor indoor air quality.

Weak health, cumbersome stenches and unclean surroundings are a few of the many consequences of failing to maintain good indoor air quality.

So it should be in your best interest to continue reading to know five tips to improve air quality inside your abode.

Replace Air Filters

Air filters serve to catch particles, such as dust, mold, and pollen, from entering your home.

Clean filters do a relatively good job of preventing these substances from arriving uninvited into your house.

But filters can become dirty over time. Dirt and other substances can damage the component, causing unclean elements to weaken your home’s indoor air quality.

At this point, changing your air filter should become a top priority.

Changing the filter requires you to temporarily turn off the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Do this step first to reduce the risks of accidents and mishaps during the replacement process.

Next, locate the filter and determine the component’s size. Acquire the dimensions before purchasing a new filter for the HVAC system.

Once you have a new filter, remove the old unit. You may need to use tools like a screwdriver to remove the filter correctly.

Insert the new air filter carefully and turn on the HVAC system again. You should now enjoy fresh air inside your home.

If you find this task to be too challenging, you can always count on professional help to aid you in this regard.

Senior caucasian man changing a folded dirty air filter in the HVAC furnace system in basement of home

Keep The Floors Clean

If you think about poor indoor air quality, perhaps the first thought that enters your mind is airborne particles.

Consider thinking about sources of unclean particles around your home that may reduce indoor air quality.

On that note, think about your floors. Are particles floating into the air once you step on the flooring? These tiny things will mix with the breathable space, causing a heightened risk of household members inhaling these substances.

Therefore, clean your floors to improve your home’s indoor air quality. You can start by creating and maintaining a vacuum-cleaning schedule.

Use vacuum cleaners to ensure particles on the floor won’t become airborne. Also, use vacuums with HEPA filters to help reduce lead concentrations indoors.

The continuous absorption of lead by the body can cause health complications, such as decreases in cognitive and nervous functions.

Aside from using your vacuum cleaner regularly, don’t forget to mop the floor. Use a wet mop to pick up any remaining dust or debris that the vacuum leaves behind.

Open The Windows

Perhaps one of the cheapest ways to improve and maintain good air quality inside your home is to open the windows.

Do this to create breathable spaces around your abode. Also, opening these entryways can help reduce indoor humidity, an essential element for the survival of dust mites, molds, and mildew.

Keep in mind that this tip may not work for every household. Some properties might be nearby crowded streets.

Smoke from vehicles may enter the home if you open your windows. Hence, it might be better to keep your windows closed and use other techniques to improve indoor air quality.

Use Houseplants

Houseplants help maintain and improve indoor air quality by reducing harmful airborne components, such as formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide.

Consider the following houseplants the next time you’re looking for “green” ways to improve your home’s air quality:

  • Aloe Vera
  • Spider Plant
  • Gerbera daisy
  • Snake plant
  • Golden photos

Use Air Purifiers

If you don’t mind spending extra cash to maintain your home’s good air quality, you can purchase a reliable air purifier.

Air purifiers use internal fans to pull air from your home to a series of filters. These devices will then purify the captured air (hence the name) before returning it.

The process will repeat several times throughout the day, keeping the indoor environment as healthy as possible.

Purifying the air using these gadgets can also help reduce the risks of specific illnesses, such as:

  • Asthma
  • Allergy attacks
  • Lung disease
  • Mesothelioma
  • Leukemia

Conclusion

Don’t disregard the importance of maintaining good indoor air quality. Changing air filters, cleaning the floors, and opening the windows are only a few of the many techniques you should consider.

Follow these tips, and every household member should enjoy breathing fresh indoor air.

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Ideal Portable ACs for an Open-ended Kitchen and Living Area https://www.checkthishouse.com/8494/portable-acs-for-open-ended-kitchen-and-living-area.html Wed, 18 Dec 2019 20:27:49 +0000 https://www.checkthishouse.com/?p=8494 closeup product shot of a portable air conditioner with white backgroundAir conditioning devices are essential devices used to cool rooms and buildings when it is hot. In the past, you could not carry around an AC because they were usually AC wall units. Nowadays, you can even find portable ACs that you can carry anywhere. However, there are very many portable air conditioners on the ... Read more]]> closeup product shot of a portable air conditioner with white background

Air conditioning devices are essential devices used to cool rooms and buildings when it is hot. In the past, you could not carry around an AC because they were usually AC wall units. Nowadays, you can even find portable ACs that you can carry anywhere. However, there are very many portable air conditioners on the market. The hurdle now comes when you are trying to select the most appropriate one to meet your specific needs. Many people have trouble choosing portable air conditioners for open-ended spaces. Here are some of the best portable ACs for just such an area.

1. Whynter 14000 AC

Whynter 14000 Air conditioner

If you are going through a list of portable ACs for open-ended kitchen and living areas, you should not miss this Whynter device. The Whynter 14000 BTU portable air conditioner comes with three operational modes. The three modes are; air conditioner, fan, and dehumidifier. With the air conditioner, you can cool an open area with ease, leaving no hot spots. The fan mode gives you a supply of fresh cool air throughout the living room or kitchen.

With the Whynter 14000 BTU, you get to enjoy programmable functions. The digital display on the device allows you to program it to do whatever you please. It also comes with a remote that allows you to make adjustments from a distance. Let us not forget the auto drain function. This particular function turns collected moisture into cool air.

2. Hisense 10000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

Hisense 10000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

One of the notable things about this hisense portable air conditioner is its high performance. This AC comes with 10000 BTU powerful enough to cool medium to large-sized rooms. If you have an open area, then this AC is perfect for you.

Another thing that distinguishes this portable air cooler is the remote. Almost all air conditioner comes with a regular remote. But when it comes to this Hisense device, the remote control is slightly different. When it comes to the Hisense 10000 BTU, you get a smart sensor. This sensor is known as the i-Feel temperature sensing remote control. With this, the device senses the room temperature and makes the necessary cooling adjustments.

3. Honeywell 12000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

Honeywell 12000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

If excellent functionality and dependability are things that are on your checklist when looking for a portable cooling gadget, then with Honeywell air cooler, your search might come to an end. The high BTU enables the device to cool open spaces of about 500 square feet. The device itself is easy to install, as is the filter maintenance. The washable filter protects from hair and dust. This, in turn, helps in keeping your home cleaner and fresher all day long.

Operating this device is also quite a simple task, thanks to the digital control panel. If you do not wish to use the panel, you can control everything using the remote. All of these options allow you to toggle from one option to another with ease. Another factor that makes it a top choice is the fact that it runs quietly. In essence, when the device is operational, it makes no noise at all.

Conclusion

Choosing an appropriate air cooler is a challenging task; there is no doubt about it. The task becomes even more difficult when looking for one that will fit into your open-ended kitchen or living room. When having trouble making such a choice, you can go through the specifications of the Honeywell 12000 BTU air conditioner. Its capabilities will blow your mind. The Hisense 10000 BTU air conditioner is also another device you should include in your list. It is the amazing cooling effects it brings into your open space is what makes it a great pick. Of course, we cannot leave out the Whynter 14000 AC, an amazing device with fantastic functionality.

For more great home interior tips, check out the other blogs on Check This House.

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Is a Mini “Split” Air Conditioner Right For Me? https://www.checkthishouse.com/8481/is-a-mini-split-air-conditioner-right-for-me.html Mon, 25 Nov 2019 18:50:26 +0000 https://www.checkthishouse.com/?p=8481 When it comes to heating and cooling your home, you have options – but which option is most appropriate for your home? One of the newer styles of air conditioning units is the mini split air conditioner and, given all of its great benefits, it may be the best fit for cooling and heating your ... Read more]]>

When it comes to heating and cooling your home, you have options – but which option is most appropriate for your home?

One of the newer styles of air conditioning units is the mini split air conditioner and, given all of its great benefits, it may be the best fit for cooling and heating your home.

What is a Mini Split Air Conditioner?

A mini split air conditioner is a combination heating and cooling system. It allows you to control the temperatures in individual rooms or spaces.

How it Works

A mini split air conditioning unit involves two components: an outdoor compressor/condenser and an indoor evaporator/air handling unit.

The indoor handling unit blows warm air from inside your home over cold evaporator coils. The cool air is blown back into your home while the heat that is absorbed from the air is moved to the outdoor unit.

The outdoor compressor releases this warm air outside. The system continues this cycle to keep your home cool.

Mini split air conditioning units can also include a heat pump, which converts cold air into warm air in order to heat your home. Having one can eliminate the use of a furnace.

Installation

Installing a mini split air conditioner involves a small 3 inch hole through the wall of your home to the outside for the conduit. The conduit consists of the power and communication cables as well as the copper tubing and condensation drain line – it connects the indoor and outdoor units.

Small indoor units are then installed in individual rooms.

Is a Mini Split Air Conditioner Right For Me?

If your home requires an air conditioning system to maintain and cool and comfortable temperature during the hotter months, you may want to consider installing a mini split air conditioning unit instead of window or duct-based units.

Benefits of a Mini Split AC

When comparing a mini split AC to other air conditioning systems, the overall installation is easier and requires no duct work throughout your home. This is beneficial as well, since ducts tend to leak and this duct leakage means that cool air is lost and the unit has to work harder to keep your house cool.

When your unit works harder, it requires more energy to do so. Having a ductless system, and reducing cool air leakage, increases the energy efficiency of your home’s cooling system.

You also save money because the temperatures of your home can be zoned. Because the indoor units are installed individually in each room, you can choose which units are running and which are shut off.

This is especially helpful since mini split AC can be installed with a heat pump, meaning that you can also choose which rooms you heat during the wintertime. Of course, like any major appliance, It’s always best of have a professional install any cooling equipment.

When to Choose a Mini Split AC

Apart from the amazing benefits of a mini split air conditioning unit, there are other factors you should consider when choosing to install this style of system.

Houses that are 2000 square feet or larger may require a more heavy-duty system to accommodate the large space. However, if your home is less than 2000 square feet, a mini split AC is perfect.

Because you can choose which rooms to heat or cool, having a mini split AC unit is preferable for homes in which some rooms are not used on a regular basis.

Lastly, mini split AC units are designed with filters to prevent dust build up within your home. Systems that rely on ducts are more likely to blow around dust and allergens.

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3 Things You Should Be Burning Up To Know About Your Furnace https://www.checkthishouse.com/8297/3-things-you-should-be-burning-up-to-know-about-your-furnace.html Sat, 01 Dec 2018 18:07:15 +0000 https://www.checkthishouse.com/?p=8297 Your furnace is quite possibly one of the most important parts of your home – especially for those of us who live here in the North Pole Canada… I mean Canada. Despite this, most homeowners know a whole lot of nothing about their furnace, other than that it keeps them warm and it’s expensive to ... Read more]]>

Your furnace is quite possibly one of the most important parts of your home – especially for those of us who live here in the North Pole Canada… I mean Canada.

Despite this, most homeowners know a whole lot of nothing about their furnace, other than that it keeps them warm and it’s expensive to replace if anything happens to it.

So to help you be the best homeowner you can be (and save yourself some inevitable hassle and money down the road) we are going to let you in on 3 things you really should know about your furnace.

1. The Average Lifespan of A Furnace is 20 Years

Of course, this is an average estimate – depending on multiple factors, a typical furnace can last anywhere from 15 to 30 (or even more) years. However, most manufacturers recommend having your furnace replaced after 20 years.

What Can Affect My Furnace’s Longevity?

Some of the factors that can influence how long your furnace lasts for include: the make and model of the unit, the frequency and quality of maintenance, moisture levels and proper ventilation, and even whether or not it was installed properly.

How Will I Know When To Replace My Furnace?

This is a broad question – there is no one correct answer.

Of course, if you are already having troubles with your furnace or it stops working all together – and it is already over 15 years old – you are more than likely better off replacing the unit than repairing it.

In another sense, if the furnace is over 15 years old and you aren’t experiencing any problems, you may still be better off replacing it, as a new furnace will be more efficient. This will more than pay for itself by saving you money in the long run on fuel and operating costs (as well as potential repairs) that you may run into with an older, less efficient furnace.

Get A Professional’s Opinion

If you really aren’t sure which option would be better for you, your home, and your wallet – have a technician come and inspect your furnace. They can let you know what they think, based on experience and education on the matter, and can help you make a more informed decision.

2. Your Furnace’s Vent Pipes Require Certain Clearances

Your furnace produces heat when it discharges exhaust gases, which flow through the vent pipes from the unit to the exterior of your home. If these vent pipes are too close to anything – such as the wall, other utility units, or even just random objects you are storing in the area – you may have a problem on your hands.

When this problem becomes very serious is when the objects close to the vent pipes are combustible. If these objects are too near to the vent pipes, the heat released from them can, after a period of time, be enough to cause the combustible objects to ignite.

Of course, for safety’s sake, there are required minimum vent pipe clearances that need to be met when your furnace is installed – so it is important that you are aware of this and can discuss these requirements with your installation technician.

3. A Furnace Should Be Inspected and Cleaned Annually

As we mentioned earlier, the frequency and quality of maintenance can have a large impact on your furnace’s longevity.

Inspections

It is recommended that you have your furnace inspected (at least) once per year – preferably in the fall season, giving yourself time to allow for any necessary repairs you may need before the colder weather hits.

During this inspection, once of the most important things to check for is leaks, especially in the flue pipe, as carbon monoxide leaking into your home can be very dangerous.

Cleaning

Along with an inspection you should also have your furnace cleaned every year as well.

Not only should you ensure you have a clean air filter for the upcoming season, but you also should have the inside of the unit itself cleaned. When air mixes with fuel in the furnace’s combustion chamber it generates heat, water vapour, soot, and carbon dioxide. All of these, especially together, can cause corrosion within your furnace.

By keeping up with the cleaning and inspections, your furnace will be in tip top shape for the cold, long winter (sigh) ahead.

Can you think of any other important things that homeowners should know about their furnaces? Share them below!

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HVAC Mistakes That Are Killing Your Unit and Wasting Your Money https://www.checkthishouse.com/8311/hvac-mistakes-that-are-killing-your-unit-and-wasting-your-money.html Thu, 18 Oct 2018 21:17:28 +0000 https://www.checkthishouse.com/?p=8311 You want it to be cool in your home during the hot summer months and warm and cozy during the frigid winter. However, you could be making a few serious mistakes that are forcing your HVAC system to work too hard without producing the temperature effects you crave. Because temperature control consumes so much energy, ... Read more]]>

You want it to be cool in your home during the hot summer months and warm and cozy during the frigid winter. However, you could be making a few serious mistakes that are forcing your HVAC system to work too hard without producing the temperature effects you crave. Because temperature control consumes so much energy, you could be wasting thousands of dollars every year without realizing it. If you suspect that your HVAC isn’t functioning optimally, this guide will help you determine whether you are the root cause – and teach you how to fix your problems.

Improperly Sized Unit

An air conditioning unit needs to be sized appropriately to the size of your home. A unit that is too small won’t be able to meet your heating and cooling needs, especially during the peaks of the season; a unit that is too big will cycle on and off too frequently, wasting energy. Particularly, after you build an addition or complete a remodel, you should investigate what size unit is perfect for you.

Aged System

Older homes often come with older HVAC systems. Unfortunately, even if your aged HVAC still functions, it likely isn’t doing so efficiently. Plus, you are more likely to require repairs and maintenance with an older model. If you recently purchased an older home, you should contact home warranty insurance companies in your area to determine how they can help you update your HVAC.

Closed or Blocked Vents

It is worth your time to glance around your most used rooms to find the HVAC vents. If you can’t find them, you may have blocked them with furniture or decorations, making them less effective at changing the temperature in your rooms. You might also notice the vents closed tight, which prevents the system from having any effect on temperature. While it’s okay to close the vents in rooms you don’t often use, like guest bedrooms, you should keep vents in used rooms wide open and clear of obstructions.

Closed Doors

Some older homes lack return vents, which means air cannot return to the A/C or furnace until it is sucked through a central return. Thus, if you like to live with closed doors, it’s likely that those rooms aren’t being properly heated and cooled; you might notice hot spots or chilly drafts if this is occurring. There are two solutions for this issue: start leaving your doors open or cut off about an inch from the bottom of your doors, so air can flow freely underneath.

Ignored Maintenance

This is the number one biggest cause of HVAC problems. Like all other systems in your home – your plumbing, your appliances, etc. – you need to participate in regular maintenance, or else your unit will break down at the most inopportune times. You can search the Web for HVAC maintenance professionals near me or else research what you need to do to properly service your unit.

Improperly Positioned Thermostat

It seems inconsequential, but the position of your thermostat can greatly affect how well or poorly your HVAC works. Your thermostat measures the temperature of your home, so if you keep it in an area that is most often too warm, like near the kitchen, or too cool, like in a dark hallway, you probably won’t get the temperature control you truly need. If you need to change the location of your thermostat, you might consider upgrading to a smart thermostat, which lets you control your house temps from anywhere.

Chaotic Temperature Settings

The more often you change the temperature on the thermostat, the more often your HVAC will need to cycle on and off, which wastes energy and fails to provide the temperature sensation you want. Most thermostats offer schedule programming, so you can set your HVAC to relax when you are usually at work or out of the house and kick into high gear when you need the temperature more tightly controlled. This predictable pattern keeps your HVAC working more efficiently.

Clogged Filters

Changing the air filters is one of those chores most homeowners put off, but if you aren’t swapping in new filters or cleaning your reusable ones every three months or so, you are slowly killing your HVAC system. The problem is that filters become clogged with dust, dander and other particulates, and when that happens, your unit must suck extremely hard to receive any air to heat or cool. That extra exertion is bad for the machine, putting undue stress on delicate parts. Thus, you should set a reminder on your phone or calendar to change your filters.

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3 Ways To Know Your Chimney Needs Cleaning https://www.checkthishouse.com/8299/3-ways-to-know-your-chimney-needs-cleaning.html Sat, 13 Oct 2018 18:16:10 +0000 https://www.checkthishouse.com/?p=8299 We all love the coziness that comes from a real wood burning stove or fireplace, as opposed to the sufficient yet lackluster heat that comes from a furnace – especially during the long, cold winters we are so accustomed to. But with the added luxury of having a real wood fire to keep us warm, ... Read more]]>

We all love the coziness that comes from a real wood burning stove or fireplace, as opposed to the sufficient yet lackluster heat that comes from a furnace – especially during the long, cold winters we are so accustomed to. But with the added luxury of having a real wood fire to keep us warm, there are also added responsibilities.

One important consideration to keep in mind when using your fireplace is properly maintaining your chimney. Of course, we can’t see our chimneys, so they often fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” list of household chores – but that needs to change.

Keep reading below to learn not only why keeping your chimney clean is so important, but also the 3 main indicators that tell you your chimney needs cleaning.

Why Does Your Chimney Need To Be Cleaned?

The consequences that can arise from dirty or damaged chimney flues can simply be inconvenient or expensive, but they can go so far as to be fatal – which, we think, is not a risk worth taking.

On the minor end of things, a dirty chimney can lead to a variety of problems with functionality that may require repairs. Having to get repairs done is not only a hassle, especially if the cold weather has already begun, but can be costly.

Additionally, even if no repairs are needed, a dirty chimney also lowers the energy efficiency of your fireplace or woodstove – again, not something you want when the cold weather is just around the corner.

On the more concerning end of things, a dirty chimney can actually be a serious hazard and pose real risk to your home and the safety of your family – did you know that there are over 25,000 chimney fires in the US every year?

The scary thing about chimney fires is that they can often burn for a long time, going undetected by homeowners until it is too late. Some things to take note of that can indicate a chimney fire are loud cracking or popping noises as well as dense, dark smoke.

As you can see, there are sufficient reasons as to why you should take the cleanliness of your chimney seriously.

How To Know When It’s Time

Now that you understand why it’s important to maintain a clean chimney, you are probably wondering things like “how often should it be cleaned?” or “how do I know if it’s ready to be cleaned or not?”

And, of course, there is no definitive answer to these questions. Every chimney is different. (Cliché, we know).

But seriously – we can’t honestly tell you that you need to clean your chimney once per year or after you’ve used the fireplace “x” amount of times. How quickly creosote (the chemical buildup that signals a “dirty” chimney) depends, really, on factors such as how you use the fireplace, what type of wood you are burning, and how the wood burns (aka how good you are at making a proper fire…).

Checking for Creosote

The only real way to know when it’s time for a good chimney sweep is to check the current cleanliness of the chimney with your own two eyes (or hire someone to do it, but it’s easy enough to do yourself).

  • Step 1: put on goggles, a dust mask, and grab your handy, dandy flashlight.
  • Step 2: make sure there is no downdraft coming through the chimney.
  • Step 3: use the fire poker and scratch the black surface above the fireplaces’ damper/smoke chamber.

If the scratch in the black layer (which is the creosote build up) is paper thin, you are in the safe zone – your chimney is not yet in need of a cleaning.

If the scratch appears to be around 1/8th of an inch thick, you may have a bit of leeway, but should definitely schedule a cleaning for the near future.

If the scratch is nearing or over ¼ of an inch thick, you have fully entered the danger zone – schedule a cleaning now and don’t use the fireplace until after the chimney is clean again. With this much buildup, a chimney fire could happen too easily at any moment.

Get Checkin’!

It’s not hard to do and it could save time, money, and even lives. Put on your goggles and check your chimney today. If it doesn’t need to be cleaned, you are in the clear and can continue on enjoying some cozy fire lit evenings. If it does, simply call your local chimney sweet company and they would be happy to bring your chimney back to a safe state!

References

  1. https://www.checkthishouse.com/72/chimney-flue-furnace-water-heater-venting.html
  2. https://www.familyhandyman.com/cleaning/when-to-clean-a-chimney-flue/view-all/
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Keep Your House Warm This Fall Without Breaking the Bank https://www.checkthishouse.com/8283/keep-your-house-warm-this-fall-without-breaking-the-bank.html Mon, 17 Sep 2018 15:00:21 +0000 https://www.checkthishouse.com/?p=8283 According to the U.S. Department of Energy half of what Americans spend on energy goes towards heating and cooling their homes, which means it is the single costliest energy expense for most families. The majority of us — and especially those who live in northern regions of the country — know that fall and winter ... Read more]]>

According to the U.S. Department of Energy half of what Americans spend on energy goes towards heating and cooling their homes, which means it is the single costliest energy expense for most families.

The majority of us — and especially those who live in northern regions of the country — know that fall and winter can take a heavy toll on the budget as we rely on our homes to keep us warm and shield us from the elements.

But there is smart, preventative home maintenance that can be done in effort to ensure your family stays warm without breaking the budget.

 

Inspect Your Furnace

The most important thing you can do to protect your budget from unnecessary heating costs is ensure that your furnace is in good working order. A furnace that isn’t is a furnace that is working inefficiently and potentially even dangerously.

Hire a Professional

Hiring a professional to inspect your furnace is the best way to ensure your home is prepared for fall and winter. Professionals bring with them the training and experience required for the most thorough of inspections.

According to real estate expert Patrick Chism, “Even if you have a new home, no construction is entirely without fault. Whether the issues are big or small, having an inspection done will open your eyes to potential problems.”

It’s valuable to recognize that even if nothing appears to be wrong, it could be, and having the right set of eyes may be the solution to the problem you don’t even know you have.

Do-It-Yourself

There’s a chance that even if you aren’t a professional, you do have experience with heat systems. Additionally, conducting routine maintenance yourself is a way to save even more funds.

If you’re going to inspect the furnace yourself, here are some key things to remember about when you should bring in a professional in the name of safety:

Be careful: Always turn off the source of power. Hit the off switch on electrical furnaces and turn off the gas line on gas furnaces.

Check flames: Whatever type of furnace you have, it should produce steady blue flames. A yellow flame means there is something contaminating the flame, and you need to call a pro.

Smell: While an occasional, small whiff of gas isn’t likely cause for concern, a large amount or regular occurance is a sign of a leak that needs immediate attention.

Listen: If a noise seems out of place, or a vibration is questionable, these are also signs that you need to call a professional.

However you decide to go about inspecting your furnace at the beginning of the chilly season, remember to prioritize safety. Even if you have a thorough how-to guide, if you’re uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to bring someone in who can put your mind at ease; it will be money well spent, especially in light of how much you’ll likely save on utility bills.

 

Ensure Your Home Isn’t Releasing Heat

The best heat source in the world cannot combat a home that has trouble keeping the warm air produced inside. Thus, it’s worthwhile to take the time before the cold hits to make sure that the usual heat-releasing suspects aren’t causing you to use your heater more than absolutely necessary.

When The Washington Post overviewed the major ways heat escapes homes these were the most substantial problem areas:

Ceilings, walls, and floors: Even well-insulated houses inevitably have gaps and holes that permit heat to escape in these areas. Heated areas that have openings into unheated areas are surefire ways to lose the heat you’re paying for.

Good solutions include insulating the backs of areas like attic doors and hatches, and weather-stripping their edges. Additionally, small hacks like covering your hardwood or tile floors can add a layer insulation.

Ducts and plumbing penetrations: Holes that allow pipes, vents, and ducts to pass through walls often have extra space that allows heated air to escape. A caulk or foam spray is a smart and relatively easy way to seal them.

Fireplace: Fireplace maintenance experts recommend checking the chimney a minimum of once a year to ensure there are no cracks, which would obviously lead to heat loss. Additionally, if you have a fireplace with a poorly fitted or missing damper, that fireplace is allowing air to pass through. If you close the flue, light a flame, and the smoke travels upwards into the chimney you have a leak.

Windows and doors: Depending on the size of the gaps surrounding your windows and doors, there is the potential for major heat loss in these areas. Utilizing weather stripping and indoor caulk can make a drastic difference.

Many of the common ways our homes lose heat can be treated fairly easily after a quick trip to the hardware store. And what’s more, these fixes will pay for themselves as you reap the rewards of a well-insulated home. Fall is the season we love best, but a skyrocketing energy or gas bill can easily distract from the pleasure of it. The good news is that with a relatively modest amount of planning, your preventative home maintenance efforts can keep your space warm throughout the entire season, without draining all of your financial resources.

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Room Humidity and House Humidifier Energy Savings https://www.checkthishouse.com/6290/room-humidity-and-house-humidifier-energy-savings.html Mon, 28 Nov 2011 01:24:19 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=6290 Controlling humidity levels in your home can increase your energy savingsControl room humidity with a humidifier to achieve best energy savings Energy savings in your home can be improved by controlling room humidity levels and using two types of humidifiers. There are whole house humidifiers that attach to the forced air heating system or portable units and can condition smaller portions of your property. Both groups of humidifiers will help increasing room humidity but waste energy and/or water at the same time; some significantly, others considerably less. However, if used properly, good quality whole house humidifiers will make you feel warmer in colder months, thus allowing you to lower the thermostat temperature settings, and saving [...]]]> Controlling humidity levels in your home can increase your energy savings

Energy savings in your home can be improved by controlling room humidity levels and using two types of humidifiers. There are whole house humidifiers that attach to the forced air heating system or portable units and can condition smaller portions of your property.

Both groups of humidifiers will help increasing room humidity but waste energy and/or water at the same time; some significantly, others considerably less.

However, if used properly, good quality whole house humidifiers will make you feel warmer in colder months, thus allowing you to lower the thermostat temperature settings, and saving energy while still feeling comfortable in your home with slightly increased room humidity.

Controlling room humidity levels with Rotary Disc Furnace Mount Humidifier by Desert SpringI did some research a couple of years ago and decided to install in my home the Rotary Disc Furnace Mount Humidifier by Desert Spring. It is very effective in increasing room humidity and extremely energy efficient. However, it took me two years to come to this conclusion, after the first year I was slightly disappointed but during its second year rotary disc humidifier performed perfectly well (my first impression – rotary disc humidifier review ).

Room humidity control with a whole house Honeywell TrueSteam™ humidifier modelSecond on my best humidifiers list would be the Honeywell TrueSteam™ model. It’s much more expensive, with more complicated design than the one by Desert Spring, but based on the opinion from my friend who’s been using and monitoring it during the last two cold seasons it is a great performer.

Honeywell TrueSteam™ might be also a great solution for those with limited space and access to air ducts since the unit doesn’t require installing on / attaching to a furnace or an air duct.

Energy savings / achieving desired room humidity with portable type humidifiers

Most of the portable type humidifiers will not be capable of increasing humidity of the entire area of your home to the point where you can lower the thermostat setting by a couple of degrees and still be comfortable.

However, there are a few large portable humidifier units, which can be placed strategically in your house and work not only on single room humidity. Placing them close to the air return port will increase their efficiency.

If you decide to work only on a single room humidity levels with a small humidifying unit, there won’t be any noticeable energy savings. However, if you use it in your bedroom, it will help you breathe easier during the cold and dry months.

Humidifier tips to efficiently control room humidity

    • If your humidifier didn’t come with a display showing you actual room humidity, purchase an inexpensive digital hygrometer to monitor relative humidity inside your house (one on each floor would be ideal).
    • 35% -40% is a comfortable room humidity level for most people, going over 50% room humidity might elevate your allergy problems, cause mold growth, walls / ceilings staining, paint and wallpaper peeling, etc.

  • If you have hardwood flooring in your house, you may notice changes in its appearance depending on the humidity levels. Maintaining that 35%-40% room humidity during the cold season should keep your floors in good shape.
  • Controlling room humidity with contaminated humidifier's water panel is not very efficientMaintain your humidifier(s); don’t let them become contaminated with mold, scale, and/or rust; replace water pads and filters on a regular basis.
  • If you have a forced air heating system installed in a crawlspace you may not even know about a humidifier attached to one of the air circulating ducts. Without a routine maintenance those humidifiers often become heavily mold contaminated and spreading the mold spores through your home making you and your family sick.
  • Filter your humidifier water supplying line if you have hard water; it will lower the amount of maintenance the appliance requires.

With those simple whole house humidifier energy saving tips you’ll be able to better control room humidity and breathe easier indoors during the cold season.

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Improving Air Circulation in Homes with No Air Return on Second Floor https://www.checkthishouse.com/6284/air-circulation-in-homes-with-no-air-return-on-second-floor.html Sat, 19 Nov 2011 01:15:49 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=6284 Air circulation in homes - single, central air return register installed on the ceilingAir circulation in homes which are older and/or in poorly designed newer ones equipped with a central, forced air system might be compromised because they do not have an air return port installed on the second floor. It doesn’t matter how much you run the air conditioning system during the summer – that second floor will ... Read more]]> Air circulation in homes - single, central air return register installed on the ceiling

Air circulation in homes which are older and/or in poorly designed newer ones equipped with a central, forced air system might be compromised because they do not have an air return port installed on the second floor. It doesn’t matter how much you run the air conditioning system during the summer – that second floor will always stay much hotter than the first.

During the winter it becomes difficult to keep the property warm without proper air circulation as well. In both situations, the forced air system is wasting huge amounts of energy to keep up with the recommended thermostat settings.

A few solutions to consider when improving air circulation in homes and things to investigate. Implementing any and / or combination of them will make your living more comfortable and lower your home energy usage:

Air circulation in homes # 1

The following is recommended in any heating system but its importance magnified with forced air HVAC systems – check your bedroom and bathroom doors through the house. There should be at least a ¾” gap between the door bottom and the threshold /finished floor surface, in order to provide a positive air circulation in homes.

Air circulation in homes # 2

With no air return port installed on the second floor, slightly open the window in each room to release the air pressure. You are still throwing lots of money through the window but the temperature will become more comfortable.

Air circulation in homes # 3

The best solution – try to locate an area on the upper floor of your house corresponding to the forced air system location in the basement, crawlspace, etc. See if it would be possible to run an air duct between the two locations – the size / diameter of the duct should be calculated by a professional. Keep it close to the interior wall corners or closets if possible because it will be easier to build a chase around that air return duct and hide it.

Air circulation in homes # 4

If you have an open 2 story staircase between the floors, install a ceiling fan on the top floor ceiling / above the stairs, and run in clockwise (summer and winter in this case) on a low or medium speed. This will help to circulate / push the air down to the first floor return(s).Installing ceiling fans in majority of rooms will further improve air circulation in homes.

Keep the forced air system thermostat fan ON (instead of “AUTO”) position to help circulate the air during the hottest and coldest periods of time. Within a few minutes the temperature should equalize between the floors.There’s another, more advanced and much more expansive way of improving air ventilation and air circulation in homes, especially multi story buildings. This is by using supplemental mechanical balanced heat-recovery ventilation systems.

However, I’m pretty sure that one or combination of any of the 4 tips above will help improving air circulation in homes.

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How to Use Thermostat Fan ON – OFF Feature https://www.checkthishouse.com/6274/how-to-use-thermostat-fan-on-off-feature.html Fri, 11 Nov 2011 00:56:59 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=6274 Picture of the thermostat fan ON-OFF switchThermostat fan ON – OFF Use forced air heating and / or AC thermostat fan ON – OFF feature to your advantage and help your HVAC forced air system perform most efficiently. Utilizing thermostat fan ON – OFF feature will probably be more beneficial for multi-level homes equipped with just one HVAC unit and little to no air return ports assigned for each room (ie. two air returns on a two story residence / one per floor only). HVAC systems designed with a single air return port, usually installed in the center of the house or in the center of each floor, are often [...]]]> Picture of the thermostat fan ON-OFF switch

Picture of the thermostat fan ON-OFF switchUse forced air heating and / or AC thermostat fan ON – OFF feature to your advantage and help your HVAC forced air system perform most efficiently.

Utilizing thermostat fan ON – OFF feature will probably be more beneficial for multi-level homes equipped with just one HVAC unit and little to no air return ports assigned for each room (ie. two air returns on a two story residence / one per floor only).

HVAC systems designed with a single air return port, usually installed in the center of the house or in the center of each floor, are often responsible for poor air circulation and can utilize thermostat fan ON – OFF feature.

There might be areas within your house with a temperature differential as high as 10°F (sometimes even more) during very hot or very cold days. There are two ways you can equalize the temperature quickly.

You can use each one of those procedures separately, or combine both of them during extremely hot or cold days for maximum performance. It’s good to familiarize yourself with benefits of thermostat fan ON – OFF feature

Thermostat Fan ON – OFF Feature #1

Move the switch to thermostat fan ON setting if you feel significant temperature changes while walking between different sections of your house, i.e. from the first to second floor. The fan will circulate air independently from the Heat or Cooling cycle, equalizing temperature through the house.

Some of the more advanced heating systems have a variable speed fan installed, which operates on the lower speed setting during that cycle – this function is very energy efficient and extremely quiet. You can also purchase additional equipment that attaches to your HVAC air duct system providing constant air circulation and air cleaning continuously (their cleaning is an important part of your home maintenance schedule).

Thermostat Fan ON – OFF Feature #2 – adjusting air registers

Instead of using the thermostat fan ON – OFF feature you can attempt to equalize temperature through the house by adjusting your air supplying registers between the cold and warm season.

Thermostat fan ON-OFF - air duct damper allows changing air flow volume to various registers through the hoouseThermostat fan ON-OFF - air duct dampers allow changing air flow volume to various registers through the hoouseYou may also have dampers installed inside the air ducts that adjust airflow through the house.

  • Cold season – fully open upper floor registers, and partially close the ones located on the lowest floor. Make your adjustment until the temperature equalizes through the house. Do not to close any of the registers completely (unless you really want to eliminate conditioning of some area). Use the thermostat fan ON function if necessary to speed up the air exchange process
  • Warm season is just the opposite of the above. By partially closing upper floor air registers and fully opening the ones located on the lower floors you’ll be able to equalize temperature through the house much faster. Again, turn the thermostat fan ON to speed up this method.

This natural process, known as a “stack effect”, is simply being accelerated by the HVAC system.

Stack Effect” in buildings is a process of warmer air rising from the lower to upper portions of the house where it escapes through the openings beyond the house.

If you have a forced air heating system or if you are using fans, the air is being re-circulated back to the lower floor. The same thing will happen naturally as soon as the warm air cools down. The rising warm air reduces the pressure at the lowest level of your home, which allows infiltration with the cold air (through the windows, doors, or any other openings).

Combine thermostat fan ON-OFF feature with recommended thermostat settings for even bigger energy savings!

Utilize thermostat fan ON – OFF function to increase efficiency of your heating and air conditioning system and to make your home more comfortable.

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Recommended Thermostat Settings For Energy Savings https://www.checkthishouse.com/6249/recommended-thermostat-settings-for-energy-savings.html Mon, 31 Oct 2011 21:29:08 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=6249 Recommended thermostat settings savingsRecommended thermostat settings  and thermostat location Before I explain recommended thermostat settings for energy savings I’d like to point out the best and the worst thermostat locations. To maximize home energy savings and ensure the most efficient operation of your HVAC system, thermostat location should be chosen on an inside wall in a frequently occupied area of the house or the apartment. Additionally, thermostat location should be at least 18″ (46cm) from any of the house’s outside walls, and approximately 5′ (1.5m) above the floor surface in a location with freely circulating air of an average temperature. Thermostat locations you should avoid! The recommended thermostat settings [...]]]> Recommended thermostat settings savings

Recommended thermostat settings savings

Before I explain recommended thermostat settings for energy savings I’d like to point out the best and the worst thermostat locations.

To maximize home energy savings and ensure the most efficient operation of your HVAC system, thermostat location should be chosen on an inside wall in a frequently occupied area of the house or the apartment.

Additionally, thermostat location should be at least 18″ (46cm) from any of the house’s outside walls, and approximately 5′ (1.5m) above the floor surface in a location with freely circulating air of an average temperature.

Thermostat locations you should avoid!

The recommended thermostat settings may not help to improve your home energy savings if you have a thermostat installed in the following locations :

  • Behind the doors and within the walls inside corner areas
  • On an outside wall’s interior surface
  • In direct sunlight or where radiant heat from appliances might affect control operation
  • Next to, or directly in front of, an HVAC air discharge grill, stairwells, or outside doors
  • Where thermostat’s functioning may be affected by water pipes, steam, air ducts, or by an un-heated/un-cooled (not conditioned) space behind the thermostat

Recommended Thermostat Settings / What is the perfect temperature for maximum home energy savings?

Finding and setting your home at the right temperature is the first goal. Recommended thermostat settings during the winter or at least the best starting point for the cold season is 68°F.  In the summer months, recommended thermostat settings is that of 76°F degrees (again for the starting point).

As a rule of thumb, every 1 degree difference in thermostat settings will give you energy savings of 2% to 4% for a 24 hour period (energy used for heating and / or cooling). This will depend on your geographical location / climate zone, insulation, etc.

Let’s use this recommended thermostat settings profile as a starting point; if you are in the winter months and you have your thermostat set at 70°F degrees normally, if you can still feel comfortable by lowering it to 68 F degrees, you will be able to save up to 8% in your energy costs dedicated for heating purposes.

In the summer, keep the air conditioning set at just 76 F degrees and turn on a fan.  Doing this will pull out all of the humidity in the air and keep the temperature at a low level.  If you can tolerate moving this more so, you will save money.

Recommended Thermostat Settings  – Using Programmable Thermostats

If you’re still using old fashioned dial type thermostat, consider upgrading it to a digital / programmable one. They are not that expensive but can produce significant savings every year if properly used – about $180 every year.

Recommended Thermostat Settings  – Programmable Thermostats advantage

Recommended thermostat settings for a programmable thermostatProgrammable thermostats operate on the same principle as the regular once. Whenever the temperature drops below (heat cycle) or raises above (cooling cycle) the pre-set they turn ON and OFF your appliance.

However, they have additional functions which will allow us to input recommended thermostat settings for energy savings into their memory to achieve maximum home energy savings.

Depending on the thermostat model you might be able to set several time periods during each day of the week for maximum home energy savings.

  • What’s the point of keeping the temperature at home at the comfortable level if nobody’s there to enjoy it – use recommended thermostat settings from the table below!

When you go to work, send your kids to school, or take entire family for weekend getaway simply adjust the thermostat to conserve precious energy and set the time to be about an hour or two before you come home, and at that time, the comfortable / recommended thermostat settings  for energy savings settings will kick in.

When the time comes to turn the system on, they get the home to the right temperature efficiently. Once you start using recommended thermostat settings you will not notice any difference until you see that your next heating or cooling bills have dropped. I’d also recommend programming the thermostat for different temperatures at night when you are sleeping.

Another of the great features of the programmable thermostats; you do not need to remember changing recommended thermostat settings  for energy savings every day, as the device will take care of that for you once set.

The recommended thermostat settings for energy savings below are pre-programmed in many (if not all) programmable thermostats. Play with it and keep checking your monthly statements.

 

Recommended Thermostat Settings for Energy Savings

Setpoint Times & Temperatures

Setting Time Setpoint Temperature (Heating) Setpoint Temperature (Cooling)
Wake 6:00 A.M. ≤ 70° F ≥ 78° F
Day 8:00 A.M. Setback at least 8° F Setup at least 7° F
Evening 6:00 P.M. ≤ 70° F ≥ 78° F
Sleep 6:00 P.M. Setback at least 8° F Setup at least 4° F

Remember, those recommended thermostat settings  for energy savings are just a starting point for you. Since we all have different levels of comfortable temperature environment, you might need to do some adjustments. However, I would recommend to do it in 1° increments and giving at least a couple of days between the next changes of thermostat settings.

Use recommended thermostat settings  for energy savings and stay comfortable!

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Hot Water Heating Maintenance: Interior Fall Maintenance https://www.checkthishouse.com/6243/hot-water-heating-maintenance-interior-fall-maintenance.html Tue, 25 Oct 2011 23:51:58 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=6243 Hot water heating maintenance - circulating hot water boilerHot Water Heating Maintenance Hot water heating maintenance procedures should be an important task on your interior fall maintenance list. Hot water heating maintenance – bleeding hot water radiators once or twice a season Bleeding your radiators means releasing any air trapped in them. This hot water heating maintenance process improves your hot water heating efficiency instantly. Hot water can flow into every part of the radiator, so it does a better job of warming your room. In order to figure out your hot water heating system’s radiators performance, turn up the thermostat a few degrees above the room temperature, make sure that all [...]]]> Hot water heating maintenance - circulating hot water boiler

Hot water heating maintenance procedures should be an important task on your interior fall maintenance list.

Hot water heating maintenance – bleeding hot water radiators once or twice a season

Bleeding your radiators means releasing any air trapped in them. This hot water heating maintenance process improves your hot water heating efficiency instantly. Hot water can flow into every part of the radiator, so it does a better job of warming your room.

Hot water heating maintenance - circulating hot water boilerIn order to figure out your hot water heating system’s radiators performance, turn up the thermostat a few degrees above the room temperature, make sure that all of the radiator valves are open, and run the system for 15-30 minutes – more or less will depend on the design of your system and a floor plan of your house.

Touch the radiator surfaces; if you notice that the upper sections are cold or remain significantly cooler then the bottom, it means that the radiator requires bleeding.

Hot water heating maintenance – radiator bleeding procedure

The bleeding procedure is very simple, but if it hasn’t been done for a while, the valves might break while opening or start leaking after the service has been performed. Therefore, if you are in doubt about how to perform this task, call a professional.

Radiator bleeding procedure:

Hot water heating maintenance - air bleeding of the radiatorAfter testing the radiators, turn the heat off and let the radiators cool. Then put your “bleed key” into the valve at the top of the radiator and turn it to release air. Make sure you have a rag or a container handy to contain any small amount of water that may spray out once the air is released.

Hot water heating maintenance – Tips that will help you to maximize performance and energy efficiency of the radiator:

Install a reflective heat panel behind the radiators, especially ones that are attached to the exterior walls – this helps a lot in older homes, which have little or no wall insulation installed. The panel will reflect / direct heat from the wall behind the radiator towards the living area.

You can purchase reflective materials / panels designed specifically for this purpose and just cut them to the required size. A Novitherm™ is just one of the examples you can use, or simply do it yourself.

Hot water heating maintenance – Homemade radiator reflector alternative #1

Grab a piece of cardboard, thin plywood, paneling, etc. Cut it to the size of the radiator, attach aluminum foil to it (shiny surface out), and slide this reflector behind the radiator. Whatever you’re going to attach the foil with, make sure that it doesn’t become toxic when exposed to heat – read the labels!

Hot water heating maintenance – Homemade radiator reflector alternative #2

If you have enough clearance behind the radiator, purchase a 1” thick insulating foam panel that is lined with aluminum foil, cut it to the size of your radiator and then slide it behind.

While doing the above, keep in mind the following:

Hot water heating maintenance #1

Reflectors can be installed behind the hot water heating and steam radiators (including hot water baseboard heaters). However, you have to make sure that the material you are using can handle the temperature of the radiator. For the hot water system,  it would be 180°F, while steam radiators may reach 215°F.

Hot water heating maintenance #2

The hot water heating radiator manufacturers recommend maintaining at least ¾” clearance between the radiator and the wall behind it in order to maintain its maximum performance. Make sure to maintain that ¾” clearance when choosing the reflector.

Hot water heating maintenance #3

Placing the reflective material between the hot water heating radiator and an un-insulated (or poorly insulated) exterior wall might result in condensation buildup and mold growth. You should be OK when using insulating materials for the reflective panel purposes and securing it flat / tight / permanently against the wall. Loose or temporarily attached reflective panels should be monitored periodically for any signs of moisture, condensation, and mold.

I hope those hot water heating maintenance tips for the interior fall maintenance will save you a few bucks during the cold season.

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Combustion Air Requirements for Fossil Fuel Burning Appliances https://www.checkthishouse.com/6236/combustion-air-requirements-for-fossil-fuel-burning-appliances.html Sat, 22 Oct 2011 22:21:17 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=6236 Combustion air requirements - example of a water heater, furnace, and washing equipment instalalionCombustion Air Requirements There are four possible combustion air sources in your home; House living space Attic Crawlspace House exterior In some cases combinations of the above combustion air sources is required, but the application of each has to be determined on an individual basis. EXAMPLE of the combustion air calculations For your own safety; I want you to examine the location of the fossil fuel burning appliances in your home as soon as you finish reading this chapter (furnace, water heater, fireplace, heating stove, etc.).  If you have a problem figuring combustion air requirements and determining if everything is correct, email me with detailed description of your [...]]]> Combustion air requirements - example of a water heater, furnace, and washing equipment instalalion

There are four possible combustion air sources in your home;

  1. House living space
  2. Attic
  3. Crawlspace
  4. House exterior

In some cases combinations of the above combustion air sources is required, but the application of each has to be determined on an individual basis.

EXAMPLE of the combustion air calculations

For your own safety; I want you to examine the location of the fossil fuel burning appliances in your home as soon as you finish reading this chapter (furnace, water heater, fireplace, heating stove, etc.).  If you have a problem figuring combustion air requirements and determining if everything is correct, email me with detailed description of your setup, pictures, or contact a licensed HVAC contractor to evaluate your situation. Some installations are potentially life threatening…

I’m going to use just one configuration in this combustion air calculations example, and it is a very common type of installation.

Let’s assume that we have 2 gas appliances – a furnace and a water heater – installed in a utility room or closet (not in the garage – different requirements apply, bathroom or bedroom – not permitted / safety hazard). Both appliances’ combustion process relies only on combustion air from the house interior / living space.

A high efficiency furnace with two PVC pipes installed (one for exhaust and one for combustion air) and both of them terminating on the house’s exterior would not qualify for this example.

What we need to do is to calculate the combustion air volume within that living space and compare that with the combustion air requirements of our appliances to support proper / complete combustion process.

Combustion air requirements - water heater label displaying BTU's per hourCombustion air requirements - furnace label displaying BTU's per hour

Take a piece of paper and write down two numbers from the appliances’ labels (click pictures for examples of labels) – their BTU’s per hour. Use the simple formula below to calculate the amount of combustion air required by those appliances.

(Water Heater BTU’s – 38,000) + (Furnace BTU’s – 69,000) = 107 000 BTU’s

The calculation is very simple:
(38,000 + 69,000) x (50 ft³) / (1,000 Btu/hr)  =  5350 ft³

5350 ft³ is the amount of air volume that those two appliances require per hour of their operation in order to complete a clean combustion.

In the next step you need to take a measuring tape, and right down the height, length, and width of the room supplying combustion air for those appliances (or combine dimensions of a few smaller rooms if they are connected together with properly installed vents allowing free air flow between them).

Going back to our example; the room size capable of supplying combustion air to our appliances would have to be approximately 26’ L x 26’ W x 8’ H = 5408 ft3, quite large… So, in order for the utility room or a closet to provide that much combustion air, it has to be somehow open to the rest of the living space.

Slipping area and / or a bathroom cannot be used for providing combustion air to the fossil fuel burning appliances.

Combustion air requirements - example of a water heater, furnace, and washing equipment installation

There are two options:

  1. If the closet or utility room has been equipped with a solid door(s) – the door would have to be replaced with a louver type door(s), equipped with an appropriate size of the louvers.
  2. Two openings would be required in the existing door or closet wall (between the closet interior and an area that would provide sufficient amount of combustion air). Each opening must have at least 107 sq inches of a net free air flow area (100 sq inches minimum if total BTU of installed gas appliances is less than 100000, and additional 1 square inch of net area per each 1000 BTU’s over 100000).One opening is required within 12″ from the floor, second within 12″ from the closet ceiling.

Keep in mind that in order to provide sufficient amount of combustion air an actual opening will need to be larger if covered with some decorative grill:

  • Metal louvered combustion air vent cover provides 60%-75% of its net free area (10″x10″ louvered opening would only provide 60-75 sq inches)
  • Wood louvered combustion air vent cover provides only 20%-25%

Check those vent covers periodically for lint contamination and never put anything against them that could limit combustion air flow – put it no your routine home maintenance list.

I hope this will help you to calculate combustion air for fossil fuel burning appliances.

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Attic Furnace Passageway and Platform Installations Requirements https://www.checkthishouse.com/6209/attic-furnace-platform-installation-requirements.html Sat, 22 Oct 2011 02:20:06 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=6209 Attic Furnace Mechanical Code RequirementsAttic Furnace Walkway & Platform Attic furnace installation must comply with you local mechanical code or IMC (International Mechanical Code) if such was adopted in your area. The following are attic furnace installation requirements based on 2009 IRC and 2009 IMC (The codes refer to it as “Appliances in attics”). Attic furnace access / passageway and platform Attic furnace passageway and service area electrical requirement Appliance in the attic / Attic furnace access / passageway and platform Access opening and an unobstructed passage way to the appliance / furnace in attic area must be provided and be adequate in size to allow removal of the [...]]]> Attic Furnace Mechanical Code Requirements

Attic furnace installation must comply with you local mechanical code or IMC (International Mechanical Code) if such was adopted in your area. The following are attic furnace installation requirements based on 2009 IRC and 2009 IMC (The codes refer to it as “Appliances in attics”).

  • Attic furnace access / passageway and platform
  • Attic furnace passageway and service area electrical requirement
  • Appliance in the attic / Attic furnace access / passageway and platform

Access opening and an unobstructed passage way to the appliance / furnace in attic area must be provided and be adequate in size to allow removal of the largest appliance installed.

Attic furnace / appliance clear access opening dimensions are:

  • 20 inches (508 mm) by 30 inches (762 mm) minimum

but it must be large enough to permit removal of the largest appliance installed in the attic area.

Attic Furnace Mechanical Code Requirements

Attic furnace passageway minimum dimensions requirements:

  • 30 inches high (762 mm)
  • 22 inches wide (559 mm)
  • 20 feet max length (6096 mm)

measured along the center-line between the attic access opening and the attic furnace.

This 20’ limitation applies to the minimum 30” height only )low clearance attics). If there are no obstructions on the passageway to the attic furnace, and it has a minimum 6 feet (1829 mm) height and 22 inches (559 mm) width along its entire run, the walkway length limit goes up to 50 feet (15250 mm) in IRC (International Residential Code) and has no limit in UMC (Universal Mechanical Code)

The attic furnace passageway flooring

The passageway requires continuous, solid flooring which is minimum 24” wide (material has not been specified but it must be able to support the installer and the appliance’s weight).

Attic furnace service platform

A minimum 30 inches (762 mm) by 30 inches (762 mm) level service platform / space is required in front of the attic furnace’s / attic appliance service access panel. The attic furnace passage way and level service area are not required if you have your attic furnace / appliance installed in such way that it is serviceable through the attic access opening and it can be removed through that opening

Attic furnace / appliance passageway and service area electrical requirement

There should be a light fixture installed at or near the appliance area and controlled by a switch located by the attic passageway access opening. Also, an electrical outlet receptacle must be provided at or near the attic furnace / appliance for servicing purposes.

If you are installing an attic furnace, air handler or combination of both please visit attic drip pan installation

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Attic Air Conditioner Drip Pan Installation & HVAC Coil Catch Pan https://www.checkthishouse.com/15/drip-pan-under-the-attic-installed-air-conditioning-coil.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/15/drip-pan-under-the-attic-installed-air-conditioning-coil.html#comments Thu, 29 Jul 2010 16:01:31 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/testhouse/?p=16 Attic air conditioner drip pan installation falls under the IRC (International Residential Code) and UMC (uniform Mechanical Code) regulations. Like with any building codes, check with your local building department if any or all of the following requirements apply in your jurisdiction. Even if you don’t like rules, make that attic air conditioner drip pan ... Read more]]>

Attic air conditioner drip pan installation falls under the IRC (International Residential Code) and UMC (uniform Mechanical Code) regulations.

Like with any building codes, check with your local building department if any or all of the following requirements apply in your jurisdiction. Even if you don’t like rules, make that attic air conditioner drip pan installation a part of your warm season house maintenance procedures before it will start leaking, and damage the ceiling.

The following industry standards apply to locations where accumulating / not draining properly condensate would damage building components, and the attic air conditioner drip pan installation fits right under those standards.

The rules listed below are based on 2006 IRC – International Residential Code [….], and 2006 UMC – Uniform Mechanical Code{….}:

Protection is required if condensate stoppage would damage building components[IRC] {UMC} :

Picture of the attic air conditioner drip pan installation

AC condensate primary and secondary discharge pipes - attic air conditioner drip pan installation

Secondary AC condensate drain to a conspicuous point of disposal – you need to have a main drain from the coil catch pan located inside the coil compartment and a secondary drain in case the first one gets clogged [IRC] {UMC}.

Both AC condensate drains should discharge in different locations and that secondary drain to some easily accessible / conspicuous location so you can monitor it (code requirement). If you notice condensate dripping from the secondary discharge pipe, it means that the main condensate drain pipe stopped functioning for some reason.

AC primary and the secondary condensate drains tied together which negates the secondary drain purpose - attic air conditioner drip pan installation

Attic air conditioner drip pan installation - missing (required) primary AC condensate drain line trap, all four drains tied together, no required slope on gravity drain pipe

The attic air conditioner drip pan installation installers are sometimes tying together both – the primary and the secondary drains, which installation negates the secondary drain purpose.

Just think for a moment, if the primary and the secondary pipe discharges in the attic, will you ever go there and check on them?

The areas that people install AC condensate secondary discharge pipe: above the kitchen window / through the roof soffit (not over or into the public way), sinks, toilet bowls (if you have some pictures and don’t mind emailing me them for posting online, please let me know).

Attic air conditioner drip pan installation options

  • In case that auxiliary drip pan cannot be plumbed to some conspicuous location, it requires interlocked detector / cutout switch. The switch cuts off the power supply and stops air conditioning system operation as soon as the water starts accumulating inside the drip pan [IRC] – this is probably the most effective way of alerting the homeowner about the problem.
  • In case the attic air conditioner drip pan installation isn’t possible at all, the IRC calls for water level detection device with interlocked cutout installed in AC coil primary drip pan.

This particular requirement also applies to the down-flow type units (blower motor installed on top / blowing down) with no secondary drain and no means of installing auxiliary drip pan

  • Primary AC condensate discharge pipe requires a trap installation (no traps on a drip pan secondary line )

A central air conditioner condensate trap purpose is to prevent air from being discharged from or sucked back into the “A” coil compartment or air handler during system operation.

For the attic air conditioner drip pan installation, a missing trap on the primary AC condensate discharge pipe compromises system’s efficiency. It may also be responsible for condensate drainage problems, internal leaks, mold contamination of the coil compartment wall liner.

The next step in the attic air conditioner drip pan installation is to find a place to drain the primary discharge line and the secondary drip pan under the coil. This is often a challenge for HVAC contractors, especially when dealing with remodeling projects, additions, alterations of the existing property.

There are a few, constantly broken rules that apply to the attic air conditioner drip pan installation and the condensate discharge pipe / its terminations in general;

HVAC system installation picture - Condensate pump can be used if gravity drain pipe installation

  • AC condensate discharge pipe must be at least ¾” in diameter and the minimum required slope towards the drain should be 1/8”. This applies to gravity / natural drain with no condensate pump assistance. Make sure that there are no reductions in pipe diameter along the entire run. There’s always some dust, lint, corrosion that will eventually cause blockages, especially if a smaller size condensate line is being used.

  • Types of materials that are permitted to be used as a condensate drain pipe: PVC, cast iron, galvanized steel, copper, polybutylene, polyethylene, ABS and CPVC.
  • AC condensate shall not discharge over or into the public way: the sidewalk, stairs, etc. You should also avoid areas where condensate might affect / damage house finishes, cause site erosion, or penetrate foundation / cause foundation settlement.
  • Dripping condensation will eventually stain / cause discoloration of concrete, stone, brick, siding (and other materials), and by keeping them moist promote mold growth on their surface. Also, you have to keep in mind that some of those AC condensate discharge pipes might be responsible for condensing / high efficiency furnace drainage. In such case, house exterior wall termination (and sometimes attic installation that is not protected / insulated) of the discharge pipe might freeze up in a cold climate. This will compromise high efficiency furnace operation and flood the heat exchanger.
  • Direct connections of the AC condensate discharge pipe to plumbing system waste or vent pipe are not permitted. This is the most (at least from my experience) abused installation requirement. Because it is easy and much faster than trying to do it right (especially in the attic), many installers of the air conditioning system connect the condensate discharge pipe directly.

There are two very important concerns associated with a direct connection of the attic air conditioner’s condensate discharge pipe to the plumbing system waste or vent pipe;

Primary and secondary AC condensate drains tied together in the attic and discharging directly into the plumbing vent stack - attic air conditioner drip pan installation

  1. It makes difficult or in most cases impossible to early detect any blockages inside the “A” coil compartment.
  2. There is a possibility of bacteria growing back up the condensate line and / or sewer gases contamination of the air conditioning system

The attic air conditioner drip pan installation – recommended condensate discharge locations (it applies to any central AC system installation as well)

AC condensate might drain indirectly into the waste pipe – an example would be the tub overflow, the sink tailpiece, laundry drain. However, in all those examples, discharge pipe must be connected above the p-trap on the sink side, bathtub overflow side, laundry machine discharge pipe connection side – such connection is called “indirect” waste pipe connection.

Here are some of the other locations the AC condensate can discharge to, but under one condition – the lowest point of the condensation drain line must remain at least 2″ above the highest flood level rim of the indirect waste receptor;

What is that “indirect liquid waste receptor” – it is a plumbing fixture (like a sink) with a p-trap installed on its drain line that separates it from the sewer / waste system, and makes the connection indirect.

  • Sinks – if it has a safety overflow, condensate discharge pipe must be at least 2” above it, without overflow hole – 2” above the sink edge
  • Floor drains are acceptable for condensate discharge, but NOT directly into the ejector pump pit the floor drain is connected to
  • Sump pump pit is also acceptable
  • Trap in the attic attached to the vent stack – if you use it to drain the primary and the secondary condensate drain pipe, your local building inspector may not approve it.

Interlocked detector, cutout switch cuts off the power supply and stops air conditioning system operation as soon as the condensate starts accumulating inside the drip pan

Picture of the primary and secondary AC condensate drains discharging into the attic floor drain equipped with a trap

However, it might work if combined with the water level detection device / interlocked cutout switch. Also, such drain will perform properly only if you keep the trap filled with water. Prolonged periods of time without operating HVAC system will cause water to evaporate and allow sewer gasses to discharge into the attic.

With the attic air conditioner drip pan installation, you can try to use the plumbing vent chase or other vertical space between the attic and the lowest level to drop the condensate carrying drain pipes down and discharge them to any of the listed locations. Just make sure that you seal the penetrations on both ends – at the attic floor and at the bottom – for example basement ceiling.

Very bad choices for the attic air conditioner drip pan installation and any other central AC systems condensate discharge pipe terminations;

  • Crawlspace – dumping any moisture into the crawlspace is always a bad idea, moisture attracts all kinds of insects, can contribute to differential settling and facilitate the growth of a variety of molds that can promote unhealthy conditions
  • Discharging under the concrete slab – I see such installations sporadically, usually in older homes/basements, and I can’t even imagine the bacteria/mold growing under the concrete layer and contaminating condensate discharge pipe.

So how is your attic air conditioner drip pan installation doing…

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Whole House Fan ShutterCover Review https://www.checkthishouse.com/4897/whole-house-fan-shuttercover.html Sat, 24 Apr 2010 04:59:19 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=4897 Read more]]>

Whole house fan without insulating cover responsible for warm air migration into the attic and mold growth

There are three reasons for which I put together this Whole House Fan ShutterCover Trim to Fit Review;

  1. The ShutterCover Trim to Fit manufacturer contacted me with some information about his product and I decided that it is worth to mention it on my website. For your information – I’m not affiliated with the manufacturer, nor I’m profiting from you reading this fan Shuttercover™ Trim to Fit review – it’s my personal opinion without any influence, even if it sounds like a sales pitch :-).
  2. During the cold season, I inspect many homes with black mold contaminated attics and in some of them, a simple thing like a whole house fan Shuttercover™ Trim to Fit I’m going to review would have prevented most of the house’s conditioned air from penetrating shutters.
  3. Installing the whole house fan ShutterCover appears to be an easy task to perform and a valuable item to put on your house maintenance schedule list.

I have always suggested that my clients purchase or “manufacture” a cover (box) that you can install over the whole house fan from the attic side. I still highly recommend this solution, but it sometimes requires a lot of effort, and for many home owners, it might not be even possible to implement.

Because of the size and/or location of the attic access hatch, transferring an assembled whole house fan box cover or assembling one in the attic is simply not an option. There are, of course, flexible/soft types of whole house vent covers, but you are still required to enter the attic before and after the cold season.

Whole house fan ShutterCoverThe whole house fan Shuttercover™ is a completely different story. It really can’t get any more simple than it already is.

Whole House Fan ShutterCover Benefits

  • Easy to trim so it fits any size whole house fan (up to 48”x48”)
  • Easy to apply / install over the fan shutters from within your house
  • Simplicity of the Shuttercover™ allows you to install it in seconds, and not only during the cold season, but also between the whole house fan without even entering the attic

Despite the fact that whole house fans use significantly smaller amounts of energy than air conditioners, the entire assembly provides very little insulating value. During the cold months, while you are heating your home, the whole house fan shutters allow the heated air to escape into the attic, which sometimes results in condensation and attic black mold growth. At the same time, cold air from the attic migrates into your home.

During the warmer months, whenever air conditioning is running, or even without the system operating, the whole house fan shutters become very hot. They either transfer the heat into the much cooler house or let the cool/conditioned air out (usually into the attic). Don’t believe it?

Touch the whole house fan shutter surface (assuming that there is no insulating cover installed in your attic) during the summer and during the winter.

  • Another huge benefit – by using your whole house fan  Shuttercover™ to seal the louvers, you’ll reduce your energy expenses.

Look at it this way – what’s going to happen when you open your window during the winter, or while operating an AC on a hot day? You’ll be dumping your money through that window, dollar after dollar.

An unprotected whole house fan shutter is the same as that – an open window into the attic. For every proud whole house fan homeowner, they are just increasing the energy usage and cost.

Let’s get into some whole house fan Shuttercover™ Trim to Fit details:

  • It is made of ¼-inch thick, Low-E reflective foil insulation.  This type of insulation adds significant energy savings by stopping up to 97% of radiant heat transfer.
  • To fulfill your aesthetic expectations, one side of the Shuttercover™ has a white coating that blends in perfectly with the surrounding ceiling.
  • The square piece of insulation can be easily trimmed to fit any whole house fan shutter size up to 48 inches by 48 inches.
  • Whole house fan Shuttercover can be installed over any shutters with Velcro type tapeA trimmed-to-fit Shuttercover™ section attaches to the whole house fan shutters frame with a self-adhesive Velcro tape. That allows you to easily remove the cover before turning on the fan and re-apply it after it has been turned OFF – no more duct tape, plastic foil or (the most convenient part) more trips to the attic…

However, I’d still highly recommend to examine your attic periodically, or have someone do it for you.

  • One more benefit of having the whole house fan Shuttercover™ installed – In many of the homes I’ve inspected that included a whole house fan installation, the heating/cooling system thermostat was installed in a very close proximity to the fan.

Without some type of a cover installed over the whole house fan, this area will always have a “micro-climate” – hotter or cooler than the rest of the house, affecting the thermostat directly and resulting in a false activation of the system. Shuttercover Trim to Fit can help prevent it from happening.

Since I personally don’t have a whole house fan installed in my house, all that rambling above is based on observation of many attics, conditions that resulted from uninsulated fans / fans shutters, and information from the Whole House Fan Shuttercover Trim to Fit manufacturer of this product.

I think, that you can’t really go wrong with such a simple “gadget”, and my review will help you a little, but let me know if you already have a whole house fan Shuttercover™ Trim to Fit and how is it performing.

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Condo Furnace Above the Ceiling – The Unprofessional Way https://www.checkthishouse.com/3895/condo-furnace-ebove-the-ceiling-the-unprofessional-way.html Sat, 25 Jul 2009 22:08:21 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=3895

Looking at some condo gas furnace installations in compartments or closets above the ceiling makes me laugh, cry, and scream at the same time. I can’t even imagine what the installer of the furnace was thinking … or if he was thinking at all.

In HVAC trade, just like in any other, there are some basic rules that anyone performing the job should follow. Not because somebody wrote them down, but because there’s a reason to follow them. Many of the rules are common sense. Some must be just taken for granted, but all should be followed if you (the installer) are being paid for it.
This short story is just another proof that Chicago’s new condos are rarely (if ever) inspected by the city building department inspectors.

Access to the furnace closet located above the bathroom ceiling

The access to the furnace closet, located directly above the bathroom ceiling, was quite comfortable and served as an air combustion supplying port – this is the good part and where it unfortunately ends.

Extremely limited access to the forced air furnace installed above the bathroom ceiling

The condo furnace had been suspended from the ceiling in a far corner of the closet space.

It had been positioned in such way that any attempt of servicing it would require a person to levitate horizontally in approximately 16” of clearance between the furnace front panel and the chimney wall. It appears that furnace installation was performed before the bathroom ceiling drywall went up – set it and forget it…

Furnace vent pipe negatively sloped, requires minimum quarter of an inch per foot pitch

For the furnace to vent efficiently, its vent pipe must be pitched up at least ¼” per linear foot of an entire run – this one drops down a few inches before connecting to the chimney. Another basic requirement for the gas appliance vent pipe installation, and an important safety issue.Chicago furnace gas supply line installation requires drip leg

The gas supply line at the furnace had been installed without the required drip leg (this is Chicago, and it might not be required in all jurisdictions), and the flexible CSST pipe was missing straps along its run.

Air conditioning drip pan requires separate condensate drain - some jurisdiction permit safety disconnect switch instead

Protective drip pan under the furnace and A/C coil had been plumbed together with the coil main condensate drain pipe – two separate lines are requires to provide drainage in case one of them fails.

Another option is to install a drip pan condensate overflow safety switch which disconnects power to the air conditioning system in case the drip pan condensate level approaches overflow (not everywhere approved as a replacement for the drip pan separate drain pipe).

Forced air furnace filter compartment

Furnace service door was missing.

No air filter installed.

It wouldn’t take much effort and time to make this condo furnace installation work from the beginning. It’s just pure stupidity and a waste of time to whoever did it and will ever have to service.

Is your gas furnace installed above the condo ceiling? Look up there, and imagine yourself crawling and performing any type of maintenance on it.

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Furnace / AC Seasonal Inspection – Do You Trust Your HVAC Guy? https://www.checkthishouse.com/3879/furnace-ac-seasonal-inspection-do-you-trust-your-hvac-guy.html Thu, 23 Jul 2009 22:32:47 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=3879 Read more]]> Making seasonal inspections of your furnace and air conditioning system makes sense, and I’d highly recommend having it done on a regular basis on any age furnace and AC units.

The question is – do you trust your HVAC guy?

Most people do, because they are always very happy to announce at the beginning of a home inspection that their heating and air conditioning system was JUST serviced by a professional, and it is in a perfect condition.

This statement always makes me suspicious of some hidden issues, and in most cases, I end up delivering a rather unpleasant message to the home owner …that he just dumped a $100.00 HVAC checkup fee into the drain.

This has happened many times already and I always feel sorry for the homeowner, but in a particular home inspection, I finally got proof that I can present to you. In this case, the HVAC guy taped his invoice to the front of a 20 year old furnace with an explanation of his work.

Direct vent furnace inspection invoice
“Check furnace and A/C and found no problems, I cleaned the evaporator coil + drain. Tested operation – Good.
Unit look good for its age and operates normal.”
$89.00

Armstrong, direct vent furnace components locationThe appliance was a direct vent forced air furnace with a cooling unit, everything in one box. It was installed in a townhouse utility room with its back compartment open to the building exterior. I’ve seen many of those units, usually in condominiums, and I know from my experience that heat exchangers in this particular type of a direct vent furnace / AC combo often fail within 15 years, and 20 is a significant stretch.

Heavily contaminated air return compartment under the AC coilThere are usually two service panels: one gives you access to the air conditioning coil and air filter, the second is for the burners. The filter and AC coil behind the first panel looked OK, but the condensate pan and condensate drain tubing was leaking, there was standing water on the floor underneath the coil / floor heavily contaminated, and black mold covered the air return compartment – old stuff, something that accumulated there over the years.

Severely corroded burner chambers in a direct vent type furnace - AC combo unitI already had a huge headache, because my sinuses suffer in a moldy environment, so I moved over to the furnace’s second compartment to finish the job. Unfortunately, it took a while to remove screws holding this access panel (one was severely corroded) and I’m 100% sure that nobody even attempted to open it for a long time (certainly not 3 days ago).

As I expected from this 20 year old direct vent furnace, areas around the burner chambers showed severe corrosion but no visible holes or cracks.

  • Direct vent type furnaces utilize air from the house exterior for combustion (gas burning process) purposes. Because exterior air usually contains more moisture than conditioned air from the house interior, it accelerates corrosion of the furnace internal components – heat exchanger.
  • The gas furnace heat exchanger – it is a metal separator between two areas inside the furnace. One area is where the fire is burning; the second area is where the air stream is pushed by the blower fan into the air ducts and registers (some very old furnaces operated without blowers). When that separating piece of metal cracks, Carbon Monoxide, which is a bi-product of an incomplete combustion, might leak into the air stream … and cause your death.

The good thing about most of those direct vent type furnaces is that you can easily access the heat exchanger for evaluation – as long as you can remove all of the corroded screws holding the furnace heat exchanger compartment access panel.

Direct vent furnace inspection - cracked heat exchanger #1Direct vent furnace inspection - cracked heat exchanger #2It was not easy, but I was finally able to lift the panel a few inches and take some pictures from the furnace heat exchanger interior. No surprises there, corrosion and several cracks along the edges of the metal tubes that serve as the heat exchanger.

Lets summarize our findings and compare them with the verdict from the HVAC professional:

  1. Furnace / AC compartment contaminated with potentially hazardous mold, distributed through the house every time the system is turned on – visible from the furnace air filter access panel / no comment from the HVAC service person
  2. Heavily leaking condensate drain pipe, water accumulating on the floor inside the air return compartment, water soaked framing of the compartment – HVAC professional claims cleaning the AC coil condensate drain pipe, not mentioning leaks and standing water
  3. Furnace heat exchanger severely corroded and cracked in many places – potential life threatening hazard / possibility of Carbon Monoxide poisoning – there’s not even one word in the HVAC service description mentioning severe corrosion and dangerous cracks of the furnace heat exchanger …

And the owner paid almost $90.00 for a statement that everything is OK

Before you hire a contractor:

  • do some research on the internet to find out the basic “How To” for whatever type of service you need
  • ask friends for recommendations
  • check credentials of the contractor
  • ask if there’s any warranty to cover performed work
  • follow the servicing person if possible (not invading his work space of-course)
  • ask him to explain what is he doing.

This poorly performed furnace / AC inspection is not just a single accident, it happens very often, and remember – it’s your money that ends up in somebody else’s pocket.

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How to Fix Musty Smells & Odors From Heating System Air Ducts https://www.checkthishouse.com/3258/musty-smell-from-heating-system-air-ducts-forced-air-heat.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/3258/musty-smell-from-heating-system-air-ducts-forced-air-heat.html#comments Thu, 12 Mar 2009 03:21:08 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=3258 must smell heating systemMusty smell from heating system air ducts could have many sources. Although musty smell is always associated with moisture presence, eliminating it in some cases requires total redesigning of the forced air heating system. This particular case applies to the houses with a forced air heating system metal air ducts embedded into the concrete slab (scroll to the bottom for a couple of other scenarios). With a plastic or cement air distributing pipes musty smell is rarely a case, unless some water leaks develop on pipe connections or cracks start appearing due to uneven settlement. So if you have a forced air heating system, [...]]]> must smell heating system

Although musty smells area lways associated with moisture presence, eliminating it in some cases requires total redesigning of the forced air heating system.

This particular case applies to the houses with a forced air heating system metal air ducts embedded into the concrete slab (scroll to the bottom for a couple of other scenarios). With a plastic or cement air distributing pipes musty smell is rarely a case, unless some water leaks develop on pipe connections or cracks start appearing due to uneven settlement.

So if you have a forced air heating system, your house is build on concrete slab with no basement or crawlspace underneath, and air registers are located on the floor or along the baseboards – the following might answer your concern about some musty smell coming from heating system air ducts.

Musty smell in your house - forced air heating system floor air supply openingMusty odor from air ducts - wet and contaminated interior of the forced air heating system ducts installed under the house concrete floorDepending on your house location, water table, drainage system around the property, whether you have a sump pump or not, the air ducts embedded into the concrete slab might be acting as a drain tile.

They could pick-up water from the ground through the pipe connections and forced air heating system would distribute moisture through the house.

Musty smell from air ducts - high water line visible on interior walls of an air duct installed under the concrete floor.Musty odor from a forced air heatings system - interior of the heavily corroded metal air duct installed under the concrete slabOver time, those metal air ducts corrode under the concrete slab when exposed to moisture and slowly disintegrate. All kinds of insects might enter through the holes and contaminate your property. Mold will usually start growing in that dark, moist environment and its spores easily distributed with the circulating air contaminate your house.

Musty smell in your house.

The solution to that musty smell caused by heating system air ducts embedded into or installed under the concrete slab without ruining your house floor:

  • Musty smell from air ducts in a single story house with an attic and a forced air heating system installed on the floor level.

Furnace air supply side would have to be disconnected from the floor opening and extended into the attic, new air ducts distributed through the attic area with registers open into each room previously supplied from the floor. This might not be that easy if you have a downflow type forced air furnace and no room for the side or rear air duct that would run into the attic.

New furnace might be the only solution to eliminate musty smell, still cheaper than cutting the concrete floor and replacing those old, corroded air ducts.

  • Musty smell from air ducts in a two story house with lower level partially or fully supplied from the floor registers.

Disconnect section of the air duct entering concrete slab… the rest depends on the house layout. You’d have to find the easiest way to install air supply for the house section that was using floor vents.

The cheapest way to block those disconnected forced air heating system registers, would be to pour some concrete into each opening.  You could also use expanding foam and top it with concrete after it dries out.

Musty smell from a forced air heating system ducts installed in a crawlspace or attic area

  • If you are experiencing this musty smell from the heating system air ducts, and part or entire forced air heating system is located in the crawlspace or attic, your answer will be most likely in one of those areas. There might a moldcontaminated attic and gaps in the return air ducts or filter compartment are acting as a vacuum, pulling musty air with mold spores into the air circulating system.

  • Same condition applies to the area under the floor of your house. You could have a flooded crawlspace , humid / contaminated with mold, and musty smelling which would be picked up by loose, separated forced air heating system ducts, gaps around the floor penetrations, etc.

Musty smell in your house should be always treated as a warning sign. Now, pick up that floor register cover, look into the attic, open the crawlspace hatch.

Those might be the first steps you have to take to get rid of that nasty, musty smell in your house!

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Furnace, Water Heater & Vent Pipe Clearance Guides & Locations https://www.checkthishouse.com/3151/furnace-water-heater-vent-pipe-clearances-and-locations.html Sat, 07 Mar 2009 03:25:02 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=3151 furnace, hot water tank clearance locationsGas burning appliances vent pipes produce heat when discharging exhaust gases to exterior. Temperature of the vent pipe is transferred to the surrounding area and all the materials that are in the vent pipe vicinity. Problems start arising if those materials are combustible and located to close to the furnace, water heater vent pipe. If you apply heat to a combustible material for some period of time (that varies between materials), its point of ignition will gradually get lower and eventually little heat will be required to start a fire – that’s why you need a clearance between the vent pipe and a combustible material.]]> furnace, hot water tank clearance locations

Vent pipe clearance to combustible materials

Visit water heater inspection for more information about this subject.

Vent pipe clearances - single wall vent pipe not permitted in attic, too close to framing - 6 inches minimum distance to combustiblesFurnace, water heater vent pipe clearance - paper and wood framing are highly flammable and require 6 inch clearance to a single wall vent pipeFurnace and water heater vent pipes require clearance to combustible materials – why is that necessary?

Gas burning appliances vent pipes produce heat when discharging exhaust gases to exterior.

Temperature of the vent pipe is transferred to the surrounding area and all the materials that are in the vent pipe vicinity. Problems start arising if those materials are combustible and located to close to the furnace, water heater vent pipe.

Furnace, water heater vent pipe clearances - single wall vent pipe installed too close to the main beamIf you apply heat to a combustible material for some period of time (that varies between materials), its point of ignition will gradually get lower and eventually little heat will be required to start a fire – that’s why you need a clearance between the vent pipe and a combustible material.

Flash point / temperature at which wood will ignite is 572F (300C).

For all of us not aware of this condition, here are the required / minimum furnace, water heater vent pipe clearances and locations where the single or double wall vent pipes can be installed.

Furnace / water heater vent pipe clearance – single wall

Furnace, water heater vent pipe clearances - single wall vent pipe requires 6 inches clearance from the floor framing

Minimum distance between the single wall vent pipe and combustible materials is 6”

The minimum distance between the single wall vent pipe and combustible materials is 6”

The single wall vent pipe cannot be concealed inside the wall or floor. Even if you keep the clearances at the entrance and exit from that space, whatever section is inside must be double wall type pipe.

A vent pipe is an important part of the gas water heater maintenance – don’t forget your schedule.Furnace, water heater vent pipe clearances - single wall cannot penetrate ceiling, wall or floorFurnace, water heater vent pipe clearances - no single wall can enter ceiling, wall or floorThe reasoning is simple – you can’t see what is happening inside the wall or floor, and if the single wall vent pipe starts corroding, separates, leaks exhaust gases, you’ll have no control over it. Also, concealed spaces have no way of discharging heat and 6” vent pipe clearance simply wouldn’t help.

Furnace, water heater vent pipe clearance - single wall vent pipe is not permitted in unconditioned atticFurnace, water heater vent pipe clearances - no single wall furnace vent pipe is permitted in an unconditioned attic The furnace, water heater single wall vent pipe cannot start in or pass through the attic. Also, it cannot be used in the crawlspace or other unconditioned space. The exceptions are unconditioned basements and garages within the exterior walls if local 99% winter design temperature equals or is larger than 5F.

Winter design temperature is the temperature that is exceeded during either 99% or 97.5% of the hours in December, January and February. Heating systems through the US are designed / calculated based on winter design temperature. 97.5% winter design temperature values are typically used by local codes. (Simplified Design of HVAC systems by William Bobenhausen)

Furnace, water heater vent pipe clearances - single wall pipe thimble at ceiling penetration, but double wall pipe is requiredA conditioned space is an area where temperature and humidity are controlled directly or indirectly.
An unconditioned space is an area isolated with doors and / or partitions from a conditioned space.

Typical examples of an unconditioned space are unheated attics, crawl spaces or garages.

  • Whenever the single wall vent pipe penetrates the roof surface, it requires thimble which must extend 18” above and 6” below the surface. Thimble must be open at the bottom and sealed around the vent pipe above the roof.
  • Horizontal section of the furnace, water heater single wall vent pipe cannot be longer than 75% of the vertical vent pipe length

Furnace, water heater vent pipe clearance – double wall

  • Typical listed and labeled double wall vent pipe clearance to combustible materials is one inch, but you should always check before installation.
  • Maximum horizontal section of the furnace, water heater double wall vent pipe cannot be longer than 100% of the vertical vent pipe length.

It will complete the information about the furnace and the water heater vent pipe clearance requirements.

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Whole House Humidifier Maintenance https://www.checkthishouse.com/3061/whole-house-humidifier-maintenance.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/3061/whole-house-humidifier-maintenance.html#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2009 05:23:35 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=3061 Read more]]> Whole house humidifier maintenance - crawlspace installed applianceWhole house humidifier maintenance - mold on exterior walls of the applianceWhole house humidifier maintenance - mold on interior walls of the humidifier fan coverWhole house humidifier maintenance - mold on interior walls of the appliance Routine whole house humidifier maintenance is required to prevent the unit from becoming a perfect mold distribution device and to maximize its performance. If your furnace is located in a crawlspace or house attic area you might not even know that you have a whole house humidifier installed. Please, check it or if you can’t, have someone else do it for you. Those areas are always full of surprises…

Whole house humidifier basic maintenance tips:

Furnace humidifier maintenance #1.

Check your humidifier unit visually on regular basis. If the humidistat is located somewhere close to the humidifier, turn it to OFF position and than back ON to the higher setting while listening for a “click” like noise from the unit itself (flow through type humidifier / check all whole house humidifier types).

If it clicks, the solenoid valve should be operating. After you hear that click listen for the water running through the plastic tubing. If the humidistat is on a different floor, ask someone to turn it, and listen for the solenoid valve to click – this test requires furnace to be ON / operating.

For the whole house humidifiers equipped with a float valve, you have to remove the humidifier enclosure cover and slightly push the float valve down to see if the water starts flowing.

Wick type whole house humidifier needs to be removed from the furnace air duct in order to evaluate it.

Furnace humidifier maintenance # 2.

Make sure that there’s no water dripping from the whole house humidifier itself and any of its components (water supply line, drain line, shutoff valve, enclosure, area underneath the unit, or furnace itself)

Furnace humidifier maintenance #3.

Replace the whole house humidifier water pad / evaporator pad / filter / foam on seasonal basis (or more often if required, e.g. with private well water). Make sure that you re-assemble everything correctly to prevent water leaks

Furnace humidifier maintenance #4.

Clean the whole house humidifier components contaminated with mineral deposits after the heating season ends – it will be much easier to do it when everything is still wet and soft. You can use 50/50 vinegar-water solution for heavier contaminated components. Just soak them for 15-30 minutes (or longer if necessary) and that should help to fulfill the whole house humidifier maintenance procedure.

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Bathroom Exhaust Fan & GFCI Bathroom Vent Protection Requirements https://www.checkthishouse.com/2940/bathroom-exhaust-fan-and-vent-requirements.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/2940/bathroom-exhaust-fan-and-vent-requirements.html#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2009 02:58:33 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=2940 Bathroom Exhaust Fan & GFCI Bathroom Vent Protection RequirementsEvery bathroom without an openable window (min 1.5sq. ft) requires an exhaust fan. The bathroom ceiling exhaust (or wall) should be discharging to the house exterior, not into the ceiling / wall frame cavity, or another room, crawlspace, attic, etc. This is extremely important if your bathroom contains any significant humidity source like a shower ... Read more]]> Bathroom Exhaust Fan & GFCI Bathroom Vent Protection Requirements

Every bathroom without an openable window (min 1.5sq. ft) requires an exhaust fan.Bathroom vent improperly discharging into the soffit resulting in mold growth

Bathroom vent discharging into the soffit which is not recommended

The bathroom ceiling exhaust (or wall) should be discharging to the house exterior, not into the ceiling / wall frame cavity, or another room, crawlspace, attic, etc. This is extremely important if your bathroom contains any significant humidity source like a shower stall, bathtub, steam shower, etc. Discharging moisture from your bathroom fan into some enclosed and/or poorly ventilated areas is often responsible for the crawlspace and attic mold growth. By the way, have you ever checked your attic ventilation?

Bathroom vent improperly discharging into the attic

  • Bathroom ceiling exhaust fan requires a damper to prevent back-drafts
  • Bathroom exhaust exterior vent opening should be screened with a ¼” to ½” mesh to prevent birds from building nests inside the vent pipe

GFCI protection for bathroom ceiling exhaust ventBathroom vent GFCI protection is required for installations above the shower or bathtubNEC (National Electrical Code) does not require bathroom exhaust fans to be installed on a GFCI protected circuit. However, you should be following the manufacturer’s installation instructions. In most, or should I say in all, cases concerning a bathroom exhaust fan installation directly above the bathtub and / or shower stall (or any other moisture sources), the bathroom fan must be listed as suitable for such locations and must be installed on a GFCI protected circuit.

This is a paragraph from the bathroom exhaust fan installation instructions:

“If this bathroom exhaust fan is to be installed over a tub or shower, it must be marked as appropriate for the application and be connected to a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) protected branch circuit.”Bathroom vent - GFCI protection requirement for over the shower and tub installationsTo test if a bathroom exhaust fan is GFCI protected, turn the fan ON, and push TEST button on a bathroom GFCI receptacle or GFCI breaker dedicated for this bathroom. If the exhaust fan is still running after the receptacle or the breaker tripped, it is most likely not protected (there are occasionally some hidden GFCI receptacles installed).

You should always check the manufacturer tag before attempting to install a ceiling exhaust fan directly above the bathroom tub or shower stall.

Bathroom exhaust fan tips:

Bathroom vent - humidity sensing fan with time and sensitivity adjustment

  • For those who always forget to turn ON the bathroom exhaust fan (or forget to turn it OFF), I highly recommend one with a humidity-sensing switch. I’ve been using two of those in my bathrooms for almost 4 years, and I am very happy with their performance. One of the humidity sensors failed during the first year, but the manufacturer replaced it without any problems.
  • Bathroom humidity sensing fan (at least the one that I have is made by BROAN) can be wired like a 3-way switch – it means that you can turn the fan ON/OFF using a regular wall switch or it will be automatically activated by an elevated humidity level.
  • Controls on the bathroom humidity-sensing fan allow for the time of operation and humidity level adjustments.

Let me know if I’ve left anything unanswered about bathroom exhaust fans!

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Rotary Disc Humidifier by Desert Spring Review https://www.checkthishouse.com/2903/rotary-disc-humidifier-by-desert-spring-review.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/2903/rotary-disc-humidifier-by-desert-spring-review.html#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2009 02:18:44 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=2903 Read more]]> Rotary Disc Humidifier after installation 1

It’s been almost one month since I’ve finished the installation, so it’s time for my Rotary Disc Humidifier by Desert Spring Review. I was a little hesitant before buying it and concerned with the other not-so-happy owners, but have finally come up with some answers I hope will help.

Rotary Disc Humidifier after installation 2

Let’s start this rotary disc humidifier by desert spring review from describing my environment:

  • House sq footage – 2200
  • House type – 2 story colonial, on slab (no basement or crawlspace)
  • Furnace type – New American Standard, high efficiency down-flow, 80000 BTU
  • Difficulty of the Rotary Disc Humidifier installation – easy with right tools, as it is most likely with every type of the whole house humidifiers

Rotary Disc Humidifier floating switch leak solutionRotary Disc Humidifier review – design flaws – overall design is very clean, parts easily accessible and removable for maintenance purposes. The only thing so far that I don’t like is the float switch assembly height adjustment. To achieve maximum performance from the Rotary Disc Humidifier, its plastic disc’s outer ring has to be fully submerged in water. However, there is a vertical slot in the plastic basin where the floating switch is attached, which allows for a small adjustment of its height.

For a properly installed / leveled Rotary Disc Humidifier, this level will never change, and the position of the floating switch is in the top section of the slot. In such an installation, the rubber float seal installed on the Rotary Disc Humidifier basin exterior wall does not provide a watertight seal. Almost every time the basin starts filling up, water finds its way under the rubber float seal bottom section and drips on … whatever you have underneath.

It’s easy to overcome this problem by installing another washer (same shape as the rubber one) made out of thin plastic on the floating switch side of the basin. Placing the rubber seal on that inner side of the Rotary Disc Humidifier basin doesn’t work too well because of the basin slot and float valve design. You can also use a small piece of an aluminum duct tape. Just tape the slot on the basin inside wall and cut a little opening for the floating valve assembly on the upper section of the slot.

Rotary Disc Humidifier motorRotary Disc Humidifier by Desert Spring Review – motor – there are 3 possible ways of controlling the humidifier motor operation.

  1. The humidifier comes equipped with a 24VAC plug-in type transformer
  2. You can use a furnace 24VAC transformer to supply the Rotary Disc Humidifier’s power – follow the furnace manufacturer instructions
  3. You can connect a Rotary Disc Humidifier motor and humidistat directly to the furnace control board in which case the appliance will operate only when the furnace burners are on – same as above, follow the manufacturer requirements.

Rotary Disc Humidifier transformerRotary Disc Humidifier Review – motor burnout – I believe that it occurs in the first two wiring options, and the reason is very simple. This is only based on my own observations – I was running the Rotary Disc Humidifier with its own transformer plugged into the electrical outlet for 3 days. Prior to this installation, my house humidity level was controlled by one portable humidifier, running constantly, and it never went over 36% at 69°F on second floor (humidifier installed on second floor), and about 34% on the first floor (it’s been a cold / dry winter in Illinois).

I set the humidistat to 50% humidity hoping to get to at least 40% and turned the furnace blower to ON position for a little more dramatic … instant effect. It seemed like during the first 10 hours, the humidity level went up by 2%. Unfortunately, it stayed at that 2% for the remaining 3 days – with the Rotary Disc Humidifier’s motor and the furnace blower running constantly, and furnace burners turning ON at an average 15 minute intervals (exterior temperature in the 15°-20°F range).

So, with the furnace blower either ON or OFF, your Rotary Disc Humidifier will run almost constantly, eventually burning the motor, because it will rarely reach (if ever) the 50% setting. In my house, it never went over 38%…

The optimal performance of the drum or disc style humidifiers is achieved with a hot furnace heat exchanger, when water particles are vaporized before they actually hit the heat exchanger. The problem with running the blower and the Rotary Disc Humidifier (besides burning up the humidifier motor) is the moisture that will not evaporate on a cold furnace and will accelerate heat exchanger corrosion. So, I personally don’t like the setup with the direct transformer power feed.

Rotary Disc Humidifier connection to the furnace control boardThe third option for the Rotary Disc Humidifier connection, which turns the disk’s motor only when the furnace burners (and the blower) are on, would be perfect, but for some reason the appliance doesn’t perform as expected.

At first, I thought that my humidity-measuring device is malfunctioning, so I went and purchased another one, then I borrowed a third one from my neighbor… same results, between 35%-38%

Rotary Disc Humidifier Review – efficiency – I’m pretty sure that water usage is very low (this part I didn’t measure), so this is most likely right at the manufacturers description.

Rotary Disc Humidifier - basin contamination after 24 days of operationRotary Disc Humidifier - cover contamination after 24 days of operationRotary Disc Humidifier Review – cleaning – this will depend completely on your water type, source, and filtering devices – like every type of humidifier, this one also needs maintenance. I’m very close to Chicago and on Lake Michigan water, which should be very well purified. What you see on the picture is after 24 days of running the humidifier and draining the basin every 4 days.

Rotary Disc Humidifier by Desert Spring Review final thoughts

  • Part of the humidifier’s performance problem might be caused by my high efficiency furnace, and its two heat exchangers … However, the Rotary Disc Humidifier manufacturer, Desert Spring, does not specify that this product should not be used or may not perform as described with a high efficiency furnace.
  • I would most likely install a steam whole house humidifier by Honeywell but because of my furnace setup, this is not possible.
  • Maybe with a different furnace type, its layout, and a smaller house, Rotary Disc Humidifier would work much better.

That concludes my Rotary Disc Humidifier by Desert Spring Review, I’ll get back to you next season…

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Solid (Wood/Coal) Fuel-Burning Stove Chimney Venting https://www.checkthishouse.com/2691/solid-woodcoal-fuel-burning-stove-chimney-venting.html Tue, 03 Feb 2009 05:23:21 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=2691 Read more]]> As with every fuel-burning appliance, proper venting is always critical, and to enjoy your solid (wood/coal) fuel-burning stove, you have to get it right.

This guide is just an explanation of basic safety / code requirements for the solid fuel burning stoves. However, you should always consult stove installation with your local building code enforcement division, owners / installation manual, and / or local Certified Chimney Sweep (www.csia.org)

Every solid fuel-burning stove must have a chimney. Sidewall venting or through the roof venting using the interior type stovepipe is not acceptable and extremely hazardous.

The most popular chimney types for the solid-fuel burning stove are masonry, and a UL approved Stainless Steel Class “A” Insulated Chimney.

Solid-fuel burning stove (and fireplace insert) connection to the existing masonry type chimney.

1. The chimney should be examined first to ensure that it is in a good shape, and lined for this particular application. Older chimneys often lack the liner and might be heavily deteriorated, or even blocked. In addition, there is usually a heavy creosote buildup involved with a wood/coal burning stoves, which will be very hard to remove from the brick chimney without the liner. The most common type of the liner used for a wood/coal burning stove would be a UL approved stainless steel system.

Clearances for the solid fuel burning stove and a fireplace chimneyMasonry chimney installed on the house exterior wall is much harder to warm-up so it can provide proper draft. The liner (hopefully an insulated one) dramatically improves draft, and benefits discharge of the combustion products to the house exterior.

The minimum height of the wood/coal stove or the fireplace chimney (masonry or metal) would be 3’ above the roof surface and 2’ above anything within 10’ – of course, you can go higher, which usually improves draft.

2. If you have an existing liner in the masonry chimney:

  • it has to be at least the size of the stove collar
  • must be less or equal 2X of the stove collar diameter for the exterior chimney
  • must be less or equal 3X of the stove collar diameter if the only exposed chimney section is above the roof

3. You cannot just stick the stovepipe into the existing chimney or into the brick fireplace firebox and expected it to vent properly. It has to extend into the chimney flue liner, should be sealed at the liner connection, and below the smoke chamber . Otherwise, gaps around the pipe will cause your house air to dilute combustion products inside the chimney, lower their temperature and compromise proper draft.

4. If you have a manufactured, metal type fireplace, and your idea is to connect a wood/coal burning stove to its chimney, contact the fireplace manufacturer.

5. Remember to keep the stovepipe at a ¼” per foot rise towards the chimney entrance. Maintain at least 18” clearance (for single wall pipe) between the stovepipe and combustible materials, and 6” for a double wall (double wall pipe has a stainless steel interior pipe and black exterior surface). If your chimney is behind the paneling (or any other combustible) wall, you’ll have to remove this combustible surface to provide required spacing. It is possible to reduce those clearances by using approved shielding materials / clearance-reduction system.

UL approved Stainless Steel Class “A” Insulated Chimney

There are basically two types of insulated chimney installations:

1. Typical for a single story house – stovepipe runs straight up from the wood/coal stove and terminates below the ceiling level where it connects with an insulated chimney. From here, the chimney continues through the attic and roof or just through the roof if you don’t have an attic.

Typical side wall chimney installation for a solid fuel burning stove2. For any type of the house, especially if your stove is located close to the exterior wall – stove pipe runs from the appliance and terminates at the side wall (remember at least ¼” rise per foot towards the wall), where it connects with an insulated chimney. Special insulated connector passes through the house sidewall and angles up continuing to its required termination point. Do not use interior type stovepipe for the exterior and passing through the wall applications!

Wood burning stove minimum clearances from combustible materialsMinimum solid fuel (wood/coal) stove clearance to combustible material, unless otherwise listed and labeled by the manufacturer.

Always compare your appliance manual and local code with those minimums below.  Your particular stove design might require different clearances. They may be also reduced if an approved type of clearance-reduction system is used.

  • Front clearance of the solid fuel-burning stove – 18” min
  • Sidewalls and rear clearance – 36” min
  • Top of the stove clearance – 48” min

Bottom clearance for solid fuel burning stove:

  • with legs >6” tall – 2” thick masonry base with a metal shield
  • with legs providing 2”-6” clearance – 4” hollow masonry base + metal plate
  • if less than 2” clearance – entire floor underneath the stove must not be combustible (no hardwood floor under the masonry base permitted)

Some other requirements for the solid fuel burning stove installations

  • No garage installations
  • Fuel storage minimum  36” from the stove
  • No installation in an alcove or an enclosed space with a total area < than 512cu. feet
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3 High Efficiency Furnace Plastic Vent Pipe Types (PVC, CPVC & ABS) https://www.checkthishouse.com/2606/high-efficiency-furnace-plastic-vent-pipe-types.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/2606/high-efficiency-furnace-plastic-vent-pipe-types.html#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2009 05:41:02 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=2606 plastic vent pipesPlastic vent pipe types listed below have been certified by the American Gas Association for use in furnaces classified as Category 4. These particular types of furnaces use positive pressure vent systems (exhaust gas temperature less than 1400F above the dew point temperature) and are always equipped with an induced draft motor that removes exhaust ... Read more]]> plastic vent pipes

Plastic vent pipe types listed below have been certified by the American Gas Association for use in furnaces classified as Category 4.

These particular types of furnaces use positive pressure vent systems (exhaust gas temperature less than 1400F above the dew point temperature) and are always equipped with an induced draft motor that removes exhaust gases from the appliance and discharges them to the exterior.

The dewpoint temperature is the temperature at which the air can now longer hold all of its water vapor, and some of the water vapor must condense into liquid water. (definition by weatherquestions.com)

High efficiency furnace PVC vent pipe types and specificationsProper installation of the vent system is essential for the condensing furnace (that’s another name for category 4 type furnace) to achieve maximum efficiency and to drain condensate efficiently from the system.

Make sure that your  installation complies with National, State and Local codes. Some of the furnace installation guides may be available online or obtained directly from the manufacturer.

There are 3 plastic types of pipes certified by the American Gas Association for use in high efficiency, condensing, category 4 furnaces: PVC, CPVC, and ABS

PVC  pipe

ASTM Standard Type of the Pipe max Allowable Temp Marking on pipe surface
F891 Cellular Core 158o ASTM F891
D2665 DWV Pipe ASTM D2665
D1785 SCH 40, 80, 120 ASTM D1785
D2241 SDR Series ASTM D2241

 

CPVC Pipe

ASTM Standard Type of the Pipe max Allowable Temp Marking on pipe surface
D2846 CPVC 41 212o ASTM D2846
F441 SCH 40, 80 ASTM  F441
F442 SDR Series ASTM F442

 

ABS Pipe

ASTM Standard Type of the Pipe max Allowable Temp Marking on pipe surface
D2661 SCH 40 DWV 180o ASTM D2661
F628 SCH 40 DWV Cellular Core ASTM  F628441

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Combustion Air for Fuel Burning Appliances https://www.checkthishouse.com/2531/combustion-air-for-fuel-burning-appliances.html Fri, 23 Jan 2009 05:23:28 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=2531 Combustion air is required for all types of fuel burning appliances in our homes to properly burn that fuel.

Combustion air has three functions:

  1. It  is required to properly burn fuel
  2. To dilute exhaust gases that are being vented to exterior
  3. To vent and cool appliances

The most popular fuel used in our homes is of course natural gas.

For every one cubic foot of gas, there are 10 cubic feet of combustion air needed for clean burning in addition to dilution and ventilation air.

There are two products out of a perfectly balanced gas combustion – carbon dioxide and water vapor, which are perfectly safe. However, if we limit the amount of the combustion air in the process,  a third bi-product might develop, unfortunately a deadly one – Carbon Monoxide.

Example:

Imagine a gas water heater in a small closet, behind the solid door, and without any openings in walls providing that necessary combustion air. After using all of the closet’s combustion air for burning process, the air pressure in the closet will become lower than the one inside the water heater’s vent flue pipe.

The water heater closet will pretty much act now like a vacuum and the exhaust gases may be sucked back into the closet space instead of being discharged to the exterior. Since the oxygen starving combustion process is now producing that deadly Carbon Monoxide, it will eventually leak through the gaps around the closet door into the house…

The areas designated for fuel burning appliances are described as confined space and un-confined space.

The water heater closet from my example could be a confined space – an area with a closed, solid door and walls / ceiling that create a barrier between the appliance and the rest of the house, thus not allowing any combustion air penetration.

A confined space is a room that has less than 50 cubic ft of air volume for every 1000 BTU/hr of appliance input .

Combustion air amount depends on the appliances BTU's

If the water heater has a 40 000 BTU/hr rating, the room would have to have over 2000 cubic feet of volume to provide enough combustion air (without additional sources) for proper burning process.

Un-confined space is a room that has more than 50 cubic ft of air volume for every 1000 BTU/hr of appliance input (BTU/hr input should be on the appliance label / information tag).

Assuming that our example water heater closet itself is a confined space, and it is located in a room being an un-confined space, we would require two openings in the closet door or wall to allow combustion air inside. One opening should be located within 12” from the floor, and second within 12” from the ceiling of the enclosure.

Combustion air ports in the utility room wallOpenings between confined space and unconfined space must have at least 100 sq. inch area each and provide at least 1sq. inch of a free airflow area per 1000 BTU/hr of the appliance input (1/4” min. or larger mesh screen if installed over the openings, metal grills and louvers provide 60%-75% of their net free area, wood louvers only 20%-25%).

With a 40000 BTU/hr water heater input, the combustion process would require only 40 sq. inches of an opening at top and bottom, but you still have to obey the minimum 100 sq. inches per each opening requirement.

Examples of combustion air opening sizes between confined space and un-confined space (inside of the house air)

Up to 100K BTU/hr – 100 square inch openings
125K BTU/hr – 125 square inch openings
150K BTU/hr – 150 square inch openings
175K BTU/hr – 175 square inch openings, and so-forth

Click for house interior combustion air calculations.

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Gas-Appliance Chimney Placement and Termination https://www.checkthishouse.com/2418/gas-appliance-chimney-placement-and-termination.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/2418/gas-appliance-chimney-placement-and-termination.html#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2009 03:44:12 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=2418

Furnace and / or water heater chimney requires proper placement and termination to safely discharge exhaust gases from the appliances combustion (fuel burning) process. Improper chimney placement and termination is often responsible for back-drafts, excessive corrosion of the chimney pipe walls, condensation, and Carbon Monoxide contamination of your house.

The rule explained on the pictures is just one of the several that have to be applied when installing the chimney. Make sure that you have a licensed professional performing gas water heater & furnace flue sizing calculations while replacing or adding any of those appliances in your home.

Chimney located less than 8' to the vertical wall must extend 2' above the roofFurnace and water heater chimney too low, must extend 2'min. above the roof if closer than 8' from vertical wallNatural (gravity) and motor induced draft type gas burning appliances chimney installed closer than 8’ from the vertical wall, must extend a minimum of 2’ above the roof placed over that wall.

Termination (height above the roof surface) of the gas-appliance chimney installed further than 8’ from the vertical wall are listed in the table below (relation to the roof slope). Based on International Residential Code and Uniform Mechanical Code

Termination of B and BW Vents based on [IRC 2426.6.5] and {UMC T8-1}
Roof Slope Height above Roof
up to 6/12 1′
>6/12 to 7/12 1’3″
>7/12 to 8/12 1’6″
>8/12 to 9/12 2′
>9/12 to 10/12 2’6″
>10/12 to 11/12 3’3″
>11/12 to 12/12 4′
>12/12 to 14/12 5′
>14/12 to 16/12 6′
>16/12 to 18/12 7′
>18/12 to 20/12 7’6″
>20/12 to21/12 8′

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Proper Brick Chimney Crown Installation & Materials https://www.checkthishouse.com/2255/brick-chimney-crown-almost-never-done-right.html Mon, 05 Jan 2009 05:23:15 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=2255 Brick Chimney CrownBrick Chimney Crown A brick chimney crown – also known as a chimney termination cap, cement wash, or just a chimney cap – seals the chimney top opening around the flue and sheds rainwater / prevents moisture from deteriorating the chimney. For the chimney crown to fulfill its purpose, it must be properly shaped and installed. Unfortunately, after looking at hundreds of brick chimney on new and old houses, I’m wondering if the actual purpose of the chimney crown is ever taken into consideration. The overall appeal of the chimney crown and its complement of the house’s structure from the moment [...]]]> Brick Chimney Crown

A brick chimney crown – also known as a chimney termination cap, cement wash, or just a chimney cap – seals the chimney top opening around the flue and sheds rainwater / prevents moisture from deteriorating the chimney.

For the chimney crown to fulfill its purpose, it must be properly shaped and installed.

Unfortunately, after looking at hundreds of brick chimney on new and old houses, I’m wondering if the actual purpose of the chimney crown is ever taken into consideration. The overall appeal of the chimney crown and its complement of the house’s structure from the moment it is built seems to be the only motivation.

There are 3 basic types of materials used to create a brick chimney crown:

  1. Concrete: it is the most popular and long lasting chimney crown, assuming that it’s been properly installed
  2. Brick chimney covered with mortar: used often but extremely poor in performance
  3. Stone, which outperforms all materials if one solid block is used and properly installed – usually the most expensive type

The most common material used to manufacture the brick chimney crown is concrete. Such crowns are either pre-manufactured / delivered to the building site, or created on site by pouring concrete directly on top of the chimney into the assembled form – this method is called “cast in place”.

Brick chimney crown should slope away from the flue at least 3 inches per footBrick chimney crown should have at least two and a half inch drip edgeChimney crown (flat) with crumbling mortar on top provides no water run-offA brick chimney crown made out of concrete should be at least 2” thick and have a 2 & 1/2” overhang (recommended by the Brick Institute of America) to protect the face of the brick wall it sits on.

The top surface of the chimney crown should slope away from the flue wall towards the crown exterior edge at a 3:12 pitch (3” rise for every 12” of the crown surface width). It would be ideal to have a crown shaped this way when it is created, because mortar added on top of the flat crown will always separate, crack and fall apart.

Pre-manufactured chimney crown - cracked, no expansion gap provided around the chimney flueCracked chimney crown - no expansion gap provided around the chimney flueThere should be a gap between the chimney crown and liner, filled with a flexible sealant, which allows for liner expansion. Without that gap and during the cold season, exhaust gasses warm-up the liner which expands, pushing against the much colder chimney crown, and causes it to crack.

Brick chimney crown - cement wash type, separating bricks due to water penetrationBrick chimney crown - cement wash type, inadequately sloped and crackingSeverely deteriorated brick chimney crown - cement wash typeThe cheapest type of a brick chimney crown is a design called a chimney wash. It is a layer of mortar, hopefully pitched properly (3” slope for every 12” of a flat surface) / applied over the top course of bricks.

One winter season is capable of destroying it and by the time you’ll find out, the top section of the chimney requires rebuilding – add chimney crown seasonal evaluation to your home maintenance tasks list.

Brick chimney crown assembled from limestone blocks separating at mortar jointsStone chimney crowns (usually limestone) are usually very long lasting but under two conditions – a single piece of a stone has been used and the flue penetration has some expansion space. Without the expansion joint, it will crack – just like the concrete crown. If it has been assembled out of several pieces of a limestone (much cheaper than one solid piece), brick chimney crown will separate at mortar joints and cause chimney structure deterioration.

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Whole House Humidifiers Types, Performance and Tips https://www.checkthishouse.com/2035/whole-house-humidifiers-types-performance-and-tips.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/2035/whole-house-humidifiers-types-performance-and-tips.html#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2008 00:54:51 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=2035

A whole house humidifier or furnace mounted whole house humidifier is just another example of an extremely neglected component of our house – on top of a brick chimney, an attic, and a crawlspace, which fall into the same basket.

If you’re not going to maintain it, it’s probably a bad idea to get a whole house humidifier. Since it is attached to a forced air heating system that constantly circulates air throughout the house, poor maintenance can create environment attracting mold growth and help reproduce of dust mites.

Properly operating and maintaining a whole house humidifier helps us relieve many physical discomforts associated with cold / dry weather, including respiratory problems and dry skin and lips. It also lowers or completely eliminates static electricity, cosmetic wall trim separations, cracks in finishes, separating hardwood floor boards, etc.

The trick is to balance the amount of moisture in your home at such a level, which will benefit your health, living environment, and save energy instead of creating conditions which sometimes cause mold or other biological organism growth (excessive moisture could do that).

For a proper humidity balancing, you either have to observe and monitor your environment, or purchase an electronic device which will do it for you. In general, the humidity in your house should not exceed 50% (35% – 50% is the most comfortable).

Higher levels will usually create condensation on windows, sometimes on walls and ceiling surfaces, or possible mold and mildew growth.

No matter how advanced the whole house humidifier system installed on your property is – it will require regular maintenance because it won’t work properly or at all without it. The truth is – I rarely see one properly maintained or even operating at all.

Fan Assisted Flow-Through (bypass) Whole House HumidifierMold Contaminated Flow-Through Whole House Humidifier Water PanelFlow-Through (bypass) Whole House Humidifiers (passive and fan assisted) – they use a so-called water pad made out of foam, expanded aluminum, and some other materials. The water drips on top of the square pad and the air from the heating system flowing through the pad picks up the water particles and carries them through the air ducts and around the house. The remaining water (whatever wasn’t picked up by the air) drains through the base of the whole house humidifier.

Passive Flow-Through (bypass) Whole House HumidifierMold Contaminated Water Panel of a Flow-Through (bypass) Whole House HumidifierA whole house humidifier’s water pad has to be replaced once a year before every cold season to perform efficiently and to prevent mold growth. For the homes utilizing private well or other sources with high levels of minerals, cleaning might be required more often.

For every gallon of water evaporated into humidity, Whole House Flow-Through Humidifiers waste between 5-8 gallons down the drain.

Drum Whole House Humidifiers – they have a drum shaped rotating frame (powered by a small, low voltage motor) and a foam or fabric sleeve pulled over it. The bottom section of the drum is always submerged in water which keeps the rotating foam / fabric moist and allows air flowing through the drum to pick up that moisture.

The foam / fabric and the water in a small reservoir under the drum require regular maintenance! If you leave that water standing in an unused humidifier (for example during the summer), and then just start the whole house humidifier unit without cleaning it first, I guarantee that you’ll be spreading mold spores through the entire house.

 

Wick Type Whole House HumidifierWick type whole house humidifier has no humidistatWick type whole house humidifier openWick Type Whole House Humidifiers – assembled out of a small reservoir and a filter (wick) that absorbs water from it. The entire humidifier is mounted inside the air duct, and in order to inspect it, you have to unscrew the cover plate and remove the entire unit – I don’t recommended it, very cheap and easy to install, but there’s no device (humidistat) to control humidity level.

Spray Mist Whole House Humidifiers – as the name suggests, they spray water mist into the air duct and the mist is picked up by the flow through the air duct. Don’t even consider this type if your house’s water supply is a private or community well – it will contaminate the spray head immediately. Those are one of the cheapest and easiest to install types out of all the whole house humidifiers.

Honeywell steam whole house humidifier closedHoneywell steam whole house humidifier openSteam Whole House Humidifiers – being the most expensive to purchase / install and not that cheap to operate, it consists of advanced technology and complicated designs. Steam whole house humidifier might operate with or independently from your system heat cycle.

Whenever the humidity drops below the setting, they will activate your furnace blower and get the humidity to the right level independently from the thermostat settings. One of the known problems associated with this type of the whole house humidifier is that the water distributed with cold air (with operating furnace blower only / no heat) does not completely evaporate.

Condensing on the air duct cold walls might sometimes cause bacteria and mold growth. If you like new gadgets and don’t mind spending some serious money for it – go ahead – but it sill does require maintenance. One more type of a Flow – Through type humidifier but this time almost 100% efficient (as claimed by the manufacturer).

Rotary Disc Furnace Mount Whole House Humidifier by Desert Spring: To be honest with you, I can’t say much about it except for relaying information from the manufacturer’s website, forums, and discussion boards. It sounds great because it is (as claimed by the manufacturer)

  • the most effective furnace-mount humidifier on the market
  • 100% efficient – 1:1 conversion of water to humidity
  • uses only 4 Watts/hr of energy
  • drain-less system – there’s no need for a drain in your utility room / furnace location area
  • very little maintenance with Auto-Flush accessory (you can do it manually every few days, depending on usage, minerals would only need to be removed every month or two in most regions of North America)
  • never needs filters or pads replacement – uses self cleaning polycarbonate discs (non-absorbent plastic)

As with every product, there are those who love it and hate it. I’ll show you how to install one of those units… at least I’ll try, and by clicking on the picture or link below, you can find out about its performance.

Desert Spring Humidifier ReviewRotary Disc Humidifier by Desert Spring Review

Just like with every type of equipment, whole house humidifiers require regular maintenance – follow this link for details furnace humidifier maintenance.

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Whole House Fan and How to Benefit From It https://www.checkthishouse.com/1952/whole-house-fan-and-how-to-benefit-from-it.html Fri, 21 Nov 2008 05:32:41 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=1952 Read more]]>

Whole house fan louvers view from the hallwayWhole house vent speed controlMany of my clients ask me about the whole house fan, a big square box in the center section of the house’s upper floor ceiling behind a set of self-closing louvers. As a home owner, you can either benefit from the whole house fan, or it can make your living conditions worse.

Where and when it makes sense to use the whole house fan

  • Preferably mild climates with cooler and less humid nights
  • Use the whole house fan only if the temperature and humidity outside is more favorable than the conditions indoors. If your air conditioning system has been operating during the day, and the temperature outside drops lower (but the humidity is still high), don’t turn the whole house fan on. The vent will suck all the humid air into your air conditioned house
  • The best time periods to use it would be, of course, early morning and evening

Who shouldn’t use the whole house fan?
If you suffer from allergies, it might not be a good idea to bring all the pollution into the house. The window screens will stop some of it, but whole house fans are very powerful and will make you sneeze more than ever.

Physics of the whole house fan operation!

Typical installation of the whole house fan on the attic floor1. Before you turn the fan on, open as many windows and doors as possible, close fireplace damper and / or glass door, and shut the furnace / water heater room doors (if they are louver type, it won’t matter). The suction of the whole house fan (at least at the highest speed) is so great, that without open windows / doors, it will draw air from the outside through any possible openings like, for example, from the chimney. If it is a fireplace chimney and you don’t remove the ashes… well, it’s going to be a mess. If it is a water heater / furnace chimney, it might blow off the pilots.

2. When everything is ready, you can turn on the whole house fan and usually within the next few seconds you should feel plenty of exterior air flowing around the house. Unless…

3. This part is equally important as opening the doors and windows – both have to be balanced to function properly in order to really benefit from the whole house fan operation. The air drawn by the whole house fan has to be discharged through the attic vents to the exterior. Otherwise, pressure created in the attic area will cause the air that was just pulled out of your house to return with dust and insulation particles through any possible gaps in the attic floor and the whole house fan itself.

Regular attic ventilation might not be enough to support the whole house fan operation; you might need much more to carry all that extra volume of air to the exterior. And the formula to calculate the square footage of the attic vents required to discharge that air is very simple. All you need is the dimensions of all your rooms:

Example: your ceilings are 8’ high and you have four 10’ x 14’ rooms, one 15’ x 17’ room, and a 10’ x 3’ hallway (this is just a sample, calculate all the rooms in your house you think should be covered)

10’x14’x8’ = 1120×4 = 4480
15’x17’x8’ = 2040
10’x3’ = 30

Total – 6550 cubic feet

Now you have to divide 6550 by 750, which equals 8.73 sq feet – this is the area of the required attic vents (all of them combined – soffit, ridge, gable, etc.)

4. If the house you’re moving into has the whole house fan already installed, lets hope that it was properly sized up for its purpose (there might be a tag on the unit itself), which is to replace your house air within just a few minutes.

5. If you’re the one installing the whole house fan, consider 3 or 4 minutes as an optimal time for the house air exchange. To achieve that, you’d need to divide your house total air volume (6550 cubic feet from our sample) by 3 or 4 minutes. That will give us 1810 CFM / 1357.5 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute).

6. One more important thing: louvers of the typical whole house fan are not air tight and have no insulation applied on their surface; they leak air between the house and attic. I would highly recommend installing a cover in attic area or Whole House Fan Shuttercover™ to prevent air drafts during the cold season – don’t forget to remove it before you decide to use the fan again.

Whole house fans are noisy and many people never use them, but they might benefit your wallet if you apply all of the above. There are currently other types of house ventilation systems available: they are more expensive (2 – 3 times) but very quiet, more efficient, and provide air circulation for extended periods of time.

Have a cool summer next summer.

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Gas Water Heater and Furnace Chimney Flue Size Calculations https://www.checkthishouse.com/1887/gas-water-heater-and-furnace-chimney-flue-sizing.html Tue, 18 Nov 2008 03:55:13 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=1887 Furnace Chimney Flue Size CalculationsChimney Flue Size Calculations The following gas water heater and furnace chimney flue size calculations are based on Peoples Gas “Construction Guide for Gas Usage” in the city of Chicago and National Fuel Gas Code. Before applying any of the following rules, you must check your local building code requirements, and appliance manufacturer installation instruction. Have you checked your house brick chimney lately… or whatever type of the chimney you have? Did you have a new furnace or water heater installed / was your house chimney flue recalculated for those new appliances? Make sure that you chimney flue size / diameter is correct; [...]]]> Furnace Chimney Flue Size Calculations

The following gas water heater and furnace chimney flue size calculations are based on Peoples Gas “Construction Guide for Gas Usage” in the city of Chicago and National Fuel Gas Code. Before applying any of the following rules, you must check your local building code requirements, and appliance manufacturer installation instruction.

Chimney flue size - diameter must be properly calculated and installed - it is a serious safety issue!

  • Have you checked your house brick chimney lately… or whatever type of the chimney you have?
  • Did you have a new furnace or water heater installed / was your house chimney flue recalculated for those new appliances?

Make sure that you chimney flue size / diameter is correct; chimney flue size is one of the parameters that will help to achieve proper draft – the water heater and a furnace exhaust gases will be discharged safely to the house exterior – your life may depend on it. Some of the consequences of an excessive or insufficient chimney draft are:

  • Poor burner performance
  • Excessive combustion (burning process) noise
  • Improper combustion which could result in Carbon Monoxide spillage into the living area
  • Soot buildup inside and around the burner chamber of your appliances

The basic method for the chimney flue size calculations is “The Seven Times Rule” (applies to natural draft and / or fan assisted type appliances vented into the same chimney).

When two or more appliances are connected to a chimney, the flow area of the largest section of that chimney cannot exceed seven times the smallest flue collar, or draft hood outlet area, unless designed with approved engineering methods.

To make it simple – if you have a gas water heater with a 3” draft hood, and a furnace with a 4” flue collar connected to the same chimney flue, you’d calculate that chimney flue size based on the 3” draft hood – the smaller of two. So let’s calculate… or why don’t we skip those calculations and I’ll give you the answers:

The largest permissible flow area (in²) of the chimney flue for draft hoods or flue collars.
Diameter of Draft Hood Outlet or Flue Collar Flow Area (in²)
3″ 7.065
4″ 12.560
5″ 19.625
6″ 28.260
7″ 38.465

The Seven Times Rule application results:

The Seven Times Rule for appliances connected to a multistory common chimney
Smallest draft hood outlet or flue collar Largest section of vertical vent or chimney
3″ 7″
4″ 10″
5″ 13″
6″ 15″
7″ 18″

Q. Are those numbers sufficient for calculating you chimney flue size / diameter?

A. No, they aren’t! There are several other factors responsible for chimney flue size; chimney placement, height, lateral length of the vent pipe, type of the vent pipe, number and type of the connectors along the entire chimney flue run, size and category of the vented appliances…

So it’s always smart to have a professional calculating your chimney flue size. But, using the tables above will at least prevent many wild, way off the chart installations. Make sure that you have Carbon Monoxide detector installation performed according your local jurisdiction requirements!

If you’re looking for a gas water heater and furnace chimney flue size tables / guides covering most of the possibilities, try this publication by Hart & Cooley.

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Chimney Inspection | Home Inspector Tips https://www.checkthishouse.com/874/chimney-inspection.html Tue, 26 Aug 2008 16:59:32 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=874 Chimney inspection - start from examining your chimney from the ground, binoculars may be helpfulHouse chimney inspection No climbing on and leaning the ladder against your chimney stack while performing chimney inspection! You are going to start chimney inspection by examining its structure from the ground. Depending on chimney’s height, position, roof pitch, and clearances around the house, you may be able to perform most of the chimney inspection from the ground level using a pair of good quality binoculars. House chimney inspection – masonry chimney For a brick chimney inspection (it would also apply to stone and cinder block) – check the condition of mortar lines between the bricks, and the bricks themselves. Heavily deteriorated / missing mortar [...]]]> Chimney inspection - start from examining your chimney from the ground, binoculars may be helpful

No climbing on and leaning the ladder against your chimney stack while performing chimney inspection!

Chimney inspection - start from examining your chimney from the ground, binoculars may be helpfulYou are going to start chimney inspection by examining its structure from the ground. Depending on chimney’s height, position, roof pitch, and clearances around the house, you may be able to perform most of the chimney inspection from the ground level using a pair of good quality binoculars.

House chimney inspection – masonry chimney

Chimney inspection - check for missing, deteriroated mortar and gaps between bricksFor a brick chimney inspection (it would also apply to stone and cinder block) – check the condition of mortar lines between the bricks, and the bricks themselves. Heavily deteriorated / missing mortar qualifies chimney for tuck-pointing.

Sometimes, portions of bricks and significant amounts of mortar are missing; this creates holes in the chimney walls and partial rebuilding might be required.

Chimney inspection - leaning chimneyThe same applies to a leaning chimney – unfortunately brick isn’t a flexible type of material, and a leaning chimney, sometimes separating from the house structure, would most likely require partial or complete rebuilding. Problems with the chimney foundations or with the way it was designed from the beginning (old, flue-less designs) might cause vertical cracks – these are dangerous and might allow Carbon Monoxide seepage into the living area, therefore, they require professional evaluation.

House chimney inspection – TV antennas

Chimney inspection - antenna attached to the chimney is often responsible for its deteriorationTV antennas attached to the chimney are often responsible for cracked mortar joints and may eventually cause the chimney to lean (especially on tall structures). Wind causes the antenna and its mast to vibrate, loosing up mortar joints, and creating cracks – it is probably better to secure it properly to the roof using a tripod type stand, using silicon under the brackets and on top of the screws (make sure that they are long enough to penetrate shingles and decking).

House chimney inspection – flashing

This next part may not be visible from the ground, so either hire somebody to check it for you, or if the roof is easily accessible and you feel absolutely comfortable doing it yourself, follow me:

Chimney inspection - metal flashing on a brick chimneyChimney inspection - roofing cement used as a chimney flashingFlashing on masonry chimneys is usually metal (copper, galvanized steel, aluminum), it should be sealed along the chimney walls and properly installed under the shingles – something called “step flashing” is usually required on a pitched roof.

Roofing cement is not a proper type of a flashing, but is often used when more than one layer of shingles is installed or the old flashing starts leaking. It might serve as a temporary fix but it will eventually crack and should be replaced with a permanent type of flashing as soon as possible.

House chimney inspection – masonry chimney crown

Chimney inspection - concrete crown on a chimneyChimney crown is designed to seal the chimney wall and to shed rainwater; sometimes it is a block of concrete, sandstone, or bricks simply sealed with mortar around the chimney flue. This part often deteriorates, cracks, or falls apart – small cracks should be sealed with rubberized compound (silicone, good quality exterior rated caulking) or they might expand during the winter if  water gets into them and freezes.

If large sections are missing or mortar has heavily deteriorated and opened gaps around the flue (exhaust pipe), it requires professional servicing.

House chimney inspection – metal crowns

Chimney inspection - metal crown on a chimneyMetal crowns (or better known as termination caps) may be corroded, have sunken, and now hold water – check for holes and seal around the flue pipe penetration. If you spot any gaps or holes in a metal crown of the chimney, chances are, its interior frame has been already compromised as well and requires servicing.

House chimney inspection – chimney rain cap and protective screen

Chimney inspection - rain cap with screenChimney inspection - rain cap with no screenChimney inspection - smashed rain cap might prevent proper ventingChimney rain cap and screen – install it if it’s missing. If it’s installed; it should not be damaged / smashed / collapsed / blocking the flue. There should be no bird nest around it or inside of it / some chimneys and their rain cap designs permit easy penetration of birds and sometimes rodents.

If your chimney has a cleanout at the base, you can use a flashlight and a small mirror to look inside – I’ve seen many dead birds, beehives, all kinds of debris, and one, very alive opossum – that’s one of the reasons to have a cap installed (screen recommended too).

House chimney inspection – metal chimney

Chimney inspection - corroded metal chimney wall - B ventChimney inspection - corroded metal chimney componentsLook for corrosion, holes, and loose parts on a metal chimney; rain cap brackets sometimes corrode and cause the cap to collapse and block the flue). Some metal chimneys come as one piece and any damaged parts would require the entire chimney to be replaced (usually applies to the sections sitting on top of the roof and posing as a brick chimney / square box surrounding flue pipe).

House chimney inspection – asbestos / transite pipe

Chimney inspection: asbestos - transite pipe chimney covered with cracksChimney inspection; close-up of a cracked and deteriorated asbestos transite pipe chimneyAsbestos / transite pipe chimney looks like a cement (grey color / unless painted) pipe, usually visible in the attic area or above the furnace, but may also have an exposed section penetrating the roof. If it is intact – no damage, cracks, deterioration … then itʼs fine (theoretically).

However, people are not happy with asbestos on the premises, even if it doesn’t require immediate servicing, because in case it becomes a problem, professional removal and disposal is quite expensive. So … take your chances. If it is damaged and reported by the inspector, it will most likely become an issue.

House chimney inspection – chimney flue

Please follow this link – chimney flue – to further explore it.

You’ll be able to easily discover many problems by following the above tips while performing your chimney inspection, just be careful!

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Chimney Flue Requirements, Furnace and Water Heater Venting https://www.checkthishouse.com/72/chimney-flue-furnace-water-heater-venting.html Fri, 20 Jun 2008 18:07:44 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=128 Chimney Flue RequirementsProper furnace / water heater venting is an extremely important issue, which depends on the performance of the house chimney / chimney flue or other exhaust assemblies. The conditions explained in this post also apply to the wood burning appliances. Consequences of improperly assembled vent pipes, problematic chimney flue, deteriorating chimney walls can be sometimes fatal – fire and Carbon Monoxide poisoning are topping the list. Therefore, combustion products from your furnace, water heater, wood burning fireplace, and any other appliance that requires some kind of an exterior vent / chimney, have to be properly properly discharged to the exterior. Certain requirements [...]]]> Chimney Flue Requirements

Proper furnace / water heater venting is an extremely important issue, which depends on the performance of the house chimney / chimney flue or other exhaust assemblies. The conditions explained in this post also apply to the wood burning appliances.

Consequences of improperly assembled vent pipes, problematic chimney flue, deteriorating chimney walls can be sometimes fatal – fire and Carbon Monoxide poisoning are topping the list.

Therefore, combustion products from your furnace, water heater, wood-burning fireplace, and any other appliance that requires some kind of an exterior vent / chimney, have to be properly properly discharged to the exterior through its flue.

Certain requirements have to be met for the appliance’s chimney / chimney flue to draft properly. The most obvious one is unobstructed surroundings, in particular the roof itself. Depending on chimney placement / distance to the surrounding walls, there are different height rules.

For oil and wood burning appliances there is a very simple formula that regulates this chimney height requirement, it is called “3-foot, 2-foot, 10-foot rule”. What it means is that top of the chimney should be 3 feet above the roof surface through which it protrudes and 2 feet above anything within a 10′ radius measured horizontally (those are minimums).

This chimney rule can be applied to wood burning fireplaces, heating stoves and any oil fueled appliances, but remember that manufacturer requirements have to be incorporated into it.

Improperly installed water heater chimney / ventFor gas venting appliances, the chimney flue / venting rules are more complex, simply because of the variety of products on the market. For a double wall type vent (required in cold climates) I’ve prepared a separate post – Gas appliance vent terminations.

Below are some requirements for the furnace / water heater single wall vent pipe / chimney (warm climate):

  • Chimney / chimney flue must terminate min. 2′ above the roof
  • Chimney / chimney flue must terminate min. 2′ higher than building withing 10′
  • Chimney / chimney flue must terminate min. 5′ above the flue collar (e.g. water heater installed close to the roof framing would need at least 5′ long vertical vent pipe)
  • Single wall vent pipe requires minimum 6″ of clearance to combustible materials

General rule –  the chimney should not be outside a window or other house opening.

There’s several other requirements which apply to certain types of furnaces and water heaters venting. Always follow manufacturer guidelines, if you have any concerns about your chimney, call a heating contractor or other chimney specialist and have the chimney/heating system examined.

Never connect bathroom vent to the chimney flueSingle chimney with two flues, one for wood burning fireplace, second for gas appliances1. NEVER USE CHIMNEY FLUE TO VENT CLOTHES DRYER, KITCHEN / BATHROOM VENT

2. DO NOT USE SINGLE CHIMNEY FLUE TO VENT GAS AND SOLID FUEL (WOOD BURNING FIREPLACE OR HEATING STOVE) – you can have one chimney but multiple flues for different fuel types

3. READ MANUFACTURER’S INSTALLATION GUIDE and ask your licensed HVAC or plumbing contractor / installer if you have any concerns – installation guides are usually very clear, with simple diagrams explaining all required clearances, type of required materials, etc.

Chimney flue diameter downsized with new metal liner pipe4. If you’re replacing an old water heater (check water heater inspection) and a furnace (or any combination of those), with new appliances that also require regular chimney, make sure that your chimney flue is evaluated. Flue gases temperature in older, low efficiency furnaces (78% and less efficient), was sufficient to elevate chimney flue temperature to the point which guaranteed proper draft.

When connecting a new, regular type (known as category 1 type gas appliances) furnace /water heater, with efficiency slightly below 83%, old chimney flue size might need to be decreased with a new liner. This is extremely important, and serves various purposes – properly sized chimney flue:

  • prevents acidic condensate from forming on the furnace / water heater chimney flue walls
  • colder gases in large size chimney flue will not have enough energy to travel all the way to the  top and discharge safely beyond the property (becomes critical during cold season), they will condensate on cold chimney flue walls, cause deterioration and corrosion of appliance metal vent pipes
  • allows furnace / water heater combustion process gases to draft efficiently beyond the property
  • prevents flue gases from returning into the house, which would create potentially hazardous conditions, possibility of Carbon Monoxide poisoning

5. If one appliance has been disconnected from the chimney previously serving 2 or more appliances, make sure that a professional re-evaluates your chimney flue. It may need to be down-sized to prevent flue gas condensation and to provide proper draft (typical condition when upgrading to a high efficiency furnace) – check this chimney flue sizing guide.

This video below explains in detail how to install a new liner inside the chimney. It is 8 minutes long, but you’ll get a good idea about the entire procedure – this is an extremely important and often necessary procedure.

 

Water heater improperly connected to chimney flue with T type connector - not permitted when induced / forced draft motor appliance connected to the same flue as natural draft applianceFurnace and water heater properly connected to chimney flue with WYE type connector6. If you’re replacing natural draft furnace (no motor assistance for exhaust gases removal), with an induced / forced draft motor equipped appliance, and your natural draft water heater remains connected to the same chimney flue pipe, make sure that water heater vent pipe connection is “Y”, and not “T” type.

“Y” type vent pipes connection is necessary to prevent exhaust gases from mechanical draft type appliance vent pipe, from being pushed back into the natural draft type vent pipe, and contaminate living space.

Possibility of such contamination is greater during the cold season and on taller, exposed chimney / for example – attached to the side wall of the house. Before the hot exhaust gases warm up the chimney flue and create proper draft, they often discharge through the water heater’s draft hood.

Broken seal on high efficiency furnace PVC vent pipe connectionHigh efficiency PVC pipe and water heater vent pipe in the same chimney flue - not permittedHigh efficiency furnace PVC vent pipes exterior termination When upgrading to, or having a high efficiency furnace installed, exhaust gases will be discharged through the PVC pipe, and not the chimney flue.

There are two types of venting associated with those furnaces – single pipe and two pipe systems.

Because high-efficiency furnaces venting system must be air tight, PVC vent pipe connections should be monitored periodically during furnace operation for any moisture / condensation. If such occurs on PVC joints, you should have this condition evaluated by a licensed HVAC contractor – connection will have to be resealed.

PVC vent pipes should not be inserted into the chimney flue if it is still used for other appliances venting.

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House Brick Chimney Problems & Leaking Masonry Chimney https://www.checkthishouse.com/71/chimney.html Sat, 03 May 2008 01:12:12 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/?p=130 house brick chimney problemsHouse brick chimney is one of the most important, and at the same time neglected components of our homes, because we don't understand their functions.]]> house brick chimney problems

House brick chimney is one of the most important, and at the same time neglected components of our homes, and I think… for a very simple reason; because we don’t understand them, and they are not blocking our way to the kitchen or bathroom, we just take them for granted and forget about them… just like many other things.

Because majority of problems I’ve encountered during inspections have been associated with older, usually masonry / brick chimneys, first section will cover this particular type.

Huge number of the Chicago-land properties have been equipped with brick chimneys (I’m pretty sure that also applies to other parts of US), and many of those are dating all the way back to the late 1800 and early 1900. With properties exterior maintenance and improvements, brick chimney walls often received nice dressing, or maybe not as nice patches of various sources, just to keep them standing and to avoid costly rebuilding process.

But rarely anyone even considers checking interior of the house brick chimney, what’s even worse, with furnace / boiler and water heater replacement, professional / licensed installers sometimes “forget” about old brick chimney evaluation and often required modifications, putting in stake customers life.

Chimney Safety Institute of America reported in 1992 that “all unlined chimneys, irrespective of fuel used, are very liable to become defective through disintegration of the mortar joints.”

House Brick Chimney Problems - Missing chimney crown, liner, heavily deteriorated interiorDeteriorated / partially missing top section of the house brick chimney liner Deterioration of mortar joints and bricks is a natural, unavoidable process. However, proper maintenance, and replacement of mortar whenever is needed and necessary, protects bricks surface, and prevents, or at least slows spalling / delamination.

Unfortunately, with older brick chimneys, several other factors accelerate this natural process, and without taking care of them, exterior maintenance provides only temporary and rather cosmetic solution. Because, older brick chimneys often lack:

  • brick chimney liners (metal pipe, clay tile or ceramic material surrounded with exterior bricks),
  • brick chimney crowns (usually piece of pre-manufactured or made on site concrete block sealing top of the chimney and preventing water / moisture penetration), and
  • brick chimney rain caps (made of concrete, metal or clay, sitting above the liner section protruding from the crown), acidic exhaust gases from fuel (gas or oil) burning appliances, and water / moisture destroy interior surfaces, and without proper action, this progressing process might create fatal results.

Deteriorated upper section of the house brick chimney linerDeteriorated, partially missing brick chimney linerHouse brick chimney interior, deteriorated, partially missing clay linerHouse brick chimney interior, no liner, heavily deteriorated, missing mortar Notice on the pictures showing brick chimney interior missing bricks and mortar, partially missing liner sections. All that material has naturally fallen inside the brick chimney flue, and could be blocking it, creating extremely hazardous conditions – with blocked venting, CO (Carbon Monoxide) might contaminate your house air.

Leaning brick chimney, caused by the attached TV antennaTall cinder block chimney with separating blocks in middle sectionI wouldn’t suggest you going up on the roof unless you feel absolutely comfortable with doing it! Under no circumstances trying to claim up the brick chimney – don’t ever attempt to lean the ladder against it!!!, leave examination of a inaccessible brick chimney to the professionals!

Heavily deteriorated mortar between the chimney bricksMissing brick chimney crown allows for water penetrationThere are a few simple steps, you can take to get some basic idea about the condition of your brick chimney:

1. Check the house brick chimney from exterior, look for any deteriorated areas, missing mortar / gaps or holes between the bricks, separation from building structure (side chimney with 3 exposed walls / one shared with the building), leaning

2. Step further away from the building, so you can see upper section of the chimney, you should be able to tell if top has a crown, or if there’s a flue pipe / cap installed. Sometimes, the flue pipe might be even / flush with chimney crown, or have only small piece installed on top of the chimney to support the cap… if you can only see the edge of the last, top layer of bricks, get a professional because your brick chimney might look just like one from the pictures in this paragraph.

3. If you have access to the base section of the house brick chimney (in the basement, crawlspace, or sometimes house exterior), look for a small metal door, it might be heavily corroded, but if you manage to open it, get a powerful flashlight and a mirror.

You should be able to see at least part of the brick chimney interior, up to the appliance vent pipes penetration, and hopefully determine if it is lined – don’t be surprised, if after opening of the door all you can see is bricks, mortar, clay tile pieces, carefully pull it all out if possible to get a better look at interior (use gloves or some tool to remove debris to avoid injury). You may also notice chimney wall cracks, which pose serious hazard, especially if there’s no liner installed behind the bricks, or if existing liner is also cracked.

Water leaking from under the chimney clean-out door, or at the brick chimney base usually has 3 sources:

  • condensation on brick chimney interior walls often caused by poor drafting
  • leaking underground section of the chimney – just like old home foundations, older brick chimneys underground sections have no damp / waterproofing installed, and are subject to deterioration / water penetration

missing chimney crown and / or cap

Single wall vent pipe in attic area improperly attached to the old house brick chimney, missing chimney linerPartially missing attic section of the house brick chimney, exposed linerHeavy deteriorated attic section of the house brick chimney4. If section of your house brick chimney is accessible from the attic, use it to your advantage, but be careful in the attic, many have no floor boards, you have to step on ceiling joists, sometimes covered with insulation – drywall or plaster will not support you!.

You might find missing chimney bricks, holes, improperly connected appliance vent pipes, cracked or just falling apart chimney. You might also see a chimney built on an angle (this is called corbelled brick chimney), which is normal and as long as it’s in a good condition (look for displaced bricks, cracks, missing mortar), there’s nothing to worry about – it was designed this way for purely aesthetic reasons, to come out at the center of the roof. However, installing a new liner in corbelled chimney might be difficult.

If you’re planing furnace and water heater replacement (or maybe you’ve already replaced it), or just one of those appliances, have your brick chimney inspected, make sure that its flue dimensions comply with new appliance requirements, and if necessary install a new liner. This is critical when replacing one of the appliances using chimney venting with a high efficiency appliance.

For example, you used to have a furnace and water heater venting through an old brick chimney lined with a large diameter clay liner. Even though an older appliance’s efficiency was lower, they wasted more fuel in heating process, discharging significant amount of hot exhaust gases through the chimney, elevating chimney flue temperature to the level which guaranteed proper draft.

If you’ve eliminated chimney vented furnace / installed new high efficiency furnace using PVC pipe for venting instead of a chimney, and now have only water heater hooked up to that old, liner-less or with oversized liner brick chimney, you’re creating a pretty hazardous situation.

Exhaust gases from the water heater will not be hot enough to raise brick chimney’s interior temperature to such level which would guarantee adequate draft force. During cold months, gas exhaust flow rate through the chimney might be reduced to the point, where poisonous gases return into the house. The conclusion is a very simple one –

Never vent appliances (also applies to fireplaces) into an oversized chimney – if there’s any doubt – have it inspected by a professional, and check this chimney flue sizing guide!

Do not allow small house brick chimney problems to become a disaster!

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Furnace Air Return in Forced Air Heating System https://www.checkthishouse.com/14/air-return-in-forced-air-heating-ac-systems.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/14/air-return-in-forced-air-heating-ac-systems.html#comments Sun, 24 Feb 2008 02:51:52 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/testhouse/?p=15 Poorly designed or older forced air heating, and air-conditioning systems often have only a single air return compartment.

With a single story home, such furnace air return installation is still popular, simply because it saves money and material.

However, single furnace air return configuration might not be as efficient as the one with individual air return ports installed in every room. You should also remember to have doors in all rooms undercut approximately 3/4″ above the finished floor surface to provide proper air circulation in home.

Sometimes, carpet installation over the hardwood floor completely eliminates this necessary gap under the door bottom edge. Single furnace air return systems are also noisier (noise from air returning to the furnace through only one opening) than the ones with returns distributed evenly through the house.

Single furnace air return in two-story residences

Usually installed on first floor becomes little more problematic. Such designs are very common in older houses, built when air conditioning wasn’t yet popular or available. For heating purposes it almost works, warm air naturally raises up, so upper floor should be warmer…, and as long as your house is not too “air tight” this is true.

However, if you notice that temperature on the second floor appears to be dropping, slightly open the window to release air pressure, and you’ll be OK. Over the years, air conditioning units were added to those air forced heating only systems.

Most of the time without any concern about proper sizing of ducts, and installation of an additional furnace air return on the second floor. That extra furnace air return would significantly help to optimize performance of the entire system.

Forced air systems AC/heating duct work is designed primarily for cold air distribution, because more cold air is necessary to lower room temp., than hot air to raise it.

Therefore, summer time on the second floor, and without the furnace air return duct, might be painful (you can always open the window to release pressure). The easiest way to improve this condition is to use part of the first floor closet, or any wall corner space, to install return duct between the basement furnace and the second floor area.

fFurnace air return should not be placed closer than 10' from any area of combustion, or should be located in a separate roomOne more furnace air return conditionthis time a safety hazard, is an installation of air return in close proximity to any source of combustion (process of burning fuel). Because each floor (including basement), should have at least one furnace air return port for proper circulation, such ports are often installed next to the furnace enclosure, on the furnace air return duct.

By code, and for safety reasons, furnace air return (in forced air systems) should not be placed closer than 10′ from any area of combustion, or should be located in a separate room. This condition doesn’t apply to high efficiency systems, and regular efficiency furnaces with sealed combustion chamber which often (not always) use combustion air from exterior.

Furnace air return compartment with a side duct and improperly open bottomFurnace air return compartment with a side duct and improperly open bottom - missing metal plateFurnace air return compartment warning information tagAnother furnace air return compartment safety issue – an item often forgotten by the furnace installers, and at the same time required by the furnace manufacturers is a bottom closure panel. Furnace enclosures are sometimes shipped with an open bottom for return duct attachment.

However, installation location might require return duct to be attached on the furnace side or rear, in which case special metal plate (bottom closure panel) must be installed – same hazardous condition as in previous paragraph – might cause bi-products of combustion, Carbon Monoxide to mix with and contaminate the circulating-air.

Go and check your furnace air return right know!

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HVAC Air Filters Type and Locations | Forced Air Systems https://www.checkthishouse.com/13/air-filters.html Sun, 24 Feb 2008 00:54:16 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/testhouse/?p=14 We notoriously forget to replace air filters in our forced air heating / air conditioning systems… Air flow starts deteriorating through the house, system seams to be operating, but it takes significantly longer to achieve desired temperature …

The solution might be simple – clogged air filter, or missing air filter, and in that second case, you might have a contaminated evaporator coil (part of air conditioning system). Air filters, usually come in two groups: electronic/electric and passive (reusable, electrostatic or disposable).

Electronic/electric – reusable filters, click on link for detailed information and maintenance instructions (this one is for American Standard Inc. brand, but principal is the same for most of them) – use caution when performing all maintenance tasks, parts of those filters require extremely delicate handling.

Operation of some units might be noisy and resembles sounds from mosquito / bug zapper (device with fluorescent, blue light that you hang on your back-yard)… which some people don’t like and replace electronic cells with regular, disposable filters.

Passive (reusable, electrostatic or disposable) – depending on type, should be cleaned or replaced anywhere between 1-4 months Location of filter varies significantly, but common areas to look for one are:

  • furnace blower compartment (depending on setup, it might be top, bottom or any side section of the furnace) – access requires compartment service cover to be removed – be very careful! – by removing blower compartment cover, safety switch located underneath should be activated and turn off the furnace / disable blower.

However, some older furnaces have no such device installed, or it could be broken / removed, compromised by taping it in constantly closed position, bypassing, relocating from designated position – in such case furnace / blower will not stop when you remove the cover, or might start turning during filter replacement.

Therefore, for your safety, before changing filter (s), turn the furnace off by switching thermostat from “on” to “off” position, and / or by turning off service switch, usually located in close proximity to the furnace (if you don’t feel safe, you can also disconnect power to the furnace by turning off the breaker or unscrewing fuse in the main electrical panel – assuming it’s been properly marked).

Large air filter installed in compartment located next to the furnaceAir filter located behind the main air return port grill compartment located next to the furnace enclosure

narrow slot installed next to blower compartment, sometimes with a cover

  • house air return grill – usually installed on one of the walls or ceiling, might contain filter behind its door (usually secured with screws or small latches)
  • in some of the attic installed heating / AC systems you might actually have to claim up to the attic in order to replace air filter – be careful!

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Air Conditioning Icing https://www.checkthishouse.com/12/air-conditioning-icing.html https://www.checkthishouse.com/12/air-conditioning-icing.html#comments Sat, 23 Feb 2008 21:55:10 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/testhouse/?p=13 Read more]]> One of the problems with home forced air air conditioning systems is icing, which you my notice during its operation on: exterior condensing unit (inside the enclosure), refrigerate lines, or evaporator coil (AC section inside the house, usually not visible without removing of the access panel).

AC lines icing, frost covered

Condition is usually associated with inadequate or lack of cooling, and might have various reasons, but first thing you should do is turn off your cooling system.  You can turn OFF your air conditioning system by:

  • switching off your thermostat
  • adjusting thermostat setting higher that room temperature – some thermostats out of calibration might require several degrees differential
  • if none of the above works, turn OFF the house AC power disconnect, which should be located by the condensing unit (exterior), or circuit breaker / fuse marked AC located in an electrical panel

and wait for ice to melt.

In the meantime:

  • make sure, that your filter is clean (replace if contaminated)
  • check if all air supply registers and return grills are open and clear
  • check air conditioning coil exterior for lint, dust contamination – clean it carefully if contaminated

After all visible ice has melted, turn your air conditioning system back on, check if the condensing unit (exterior part of air conditioning system) is blowing warm air (just put your hand above the top of its enclosure). Make sure, that there’s air coming out of the registers and monitor parts, where icing occurred before.

If air conditioning icing starts reappearing, turn your system back off, and contact HVAC professional because additional testing equipment will be most likely necessary to perform further evaluation:

  1. evaporator coil might be clogged
  2. system low or high on refrigerant (both might cause icing)
  3. bad fan motor (inside air handler and / or condenser enclosure)
  4. inefficient compressor
  5. temperature falling below 60 degrees Fahrenheit
  6. oversized cooling equipment  might be also responsible for air conditioner icing

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Refrigerant Line Insulation, How to Properly Insulate Refrigerant Lines & AC Foam Lines https://www.checkthishouse.com/11/refrigerant-lines-insulation.html Sat, 23 Feb 2008 20:41:09 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/testhouse/?p=12 Refrigerant Lines InsulationRefrigerant Line Insulation Refrigerant line insulation is partially responsible for the efficiency of your air conditioning system operation. Two different diameter copper refrigerant lines, run between the air conditioning system condensing unit (house exterior), and the AC coil (named after its shape) installed inside the house (sometimes crawlspace or attic) / contained within its own compartment. Suction refrigerant line This is a thicker copper pipe, carries cool refrigerant gas and has a temperature of approximately 40°F (4.4°C) / requires insulation. Liquid refrigerant line Thinner copper pipe carries liquefied refrigerant, [...]]]> Refrigerant Lines Insulation

Refrigerant line insulation missing on AC suction line at the evaporator coil

Refrigerant line insulation is partially responsible for the efficiency of your air conditioning system operation.

Two different diameter copper refrigerant lines (one approximately 1/4″, second 3/4″ – diameter depends on your system size and distances), run between the air conditioning system condensing unit (house exterior), and the AC coil (“A” coil – named after its shape) installed inside the house (sometimes crawlspace or attic) / contained within its own compartment.

Suction refrigerant line

This is a thicker copper pipe, carries cool refrigerant gas and has a temperature of approximately 40°F (4.4°C) / requires insulation.

Liquid refrigerant line

Thinner copper pipe carries liquefied refrigerant, its temperature is approximately 110°F (43.3°C) / does not require insulation but in some installations insulating liquid refrigerant line is recommended. A good example would be when running liquid refrigerant line through the attic area where temperature often exceed 110°F. Un-insulated refrigerant line will lower your air conditioning system’s efficiency.

In most cases the coil compartment is attached to the forced air furnace, but sometimes you’ll just have an air handler (some properties use hot water or steam heating systems, and separate forced air, central AC).

An entire length of the thicker / larger diameter copper refrigerant line (suction) should be insulated with vapor proof foam type of insulation (usually black or gray sleeve).

Older refrigerant lines might be wrapped with insulating tape in order to prevent condensation from forming on pipe surface during system operation. This is critical during hot, humid days, and lack of the refrigerant lines insulation often results in condensation forming up on their surface, and dripping onto the surrounding surfaces.

Refrigerant line should be sealed properly at furnace plenum entrance

Condensation on the refrigerant lines exterior sections is usually harmless if the unit sits on the ground, but the system will have to work harder, and waste energy to compensate for lack of the insulation.

Refrigerant lines insulation should be also installed properly at furnace plenum (ductwork inside the house) penetration, to prevent condensation / water from dripping onto the furnace enclosure and heat exchanger.

Lack of, or improperly installed refrigerant lines insulation might be responsible for corrosion, discoloration, could compromise internal components of the air conditioning / heating system, and significantly shorten its life span.

Lack of suction refrigerant line insulation on pipes running inside the wall / ceiling cavities, or through the attic will result in heavy condensation, could cause damage to your interior finishes and expensive repairs.

Get your refrigerant line insulation and help your system perform efficiently through the entire hot season.

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AC Wall Units https://www.checkthishouse.com/10/ac-wall-units.html Sat, 16 Feb 2008 00:00:49 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/testhouse/?p=7 Read more]]> Contaminated AC through the wall unit, missing air filter

Air conditioning wall units are typically installed inside the metal sleeves, permanently secured to the building wall structure. In most instances, they only require regular maintenance procedures like filter replacement, and cleaning, which should be performed on regular basis.

AC through the wall installation

Because wall units should discharge condensate (condensation that builds up on the coil, inside the air conditioning unit enclosure) behind the sleeve /  to the house exterior – proper slope of the installed sleeve, and air conditioner positioning inside the sleeve are very important.

The exterior section has to be slightly lower than interior to prevent condensate from dripping inside the property. Sometimes with older, corroded sleeves, air conditioning wall unit condensate will leak in-between the wall.

  • Lack of discharge on exterior during unit operation &
  • Moisture stains on interior or exterior wall

should be further investigated (lack of discharge might be also caused by undercharged, or not operating AC compressor.

If this is the case, set the unit to fan only position, turn it “ON”, and after listening of the fan sound for a few seconds, switch to AC position, if the compressor is functional (not necessarily cooling), you should hear significant noise increase.

Wall damage caused by seal problems around the AC unit sleeve

Deteriorated seals (usually caulking or silicon) around the sleeve at structure wall penetration (exterior), and AC units poorly insulated for cold season, are often responsible for interior wall damage around the sleeve / AC unit, in which case they should be serviced.

Sometimes, sleeve installation was improperly performed from the beginning, and the only way to avoid problems is to completely re-install AC wall unit sleeve.

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AC Condenser Disconnect & Proper AC Disconnect Grounding How To https://www.checkthishouse.com/9/house-ac-disconnect.html Thu, 14 Feb 2008 04:57:41 +0000 http://checkthishouse.com/testhouse/?p=6 AC Condenser DisconnectAC Condenser Disconnect | AC Disconnect Grounding Your house’s central cooling system ac condenser disconnect switch is a requirement and an important safety feature. AC condenser disconnect must be located in sight and not directly behind the condenser so it’s easily accessible. Depending on the manufacturer, enclosures have a disconnect handle located on the exterior or behind the small cover. Accessing of some older air conditioning condenser disconnect switches with a hidden handle might be difficult, they are often corroded, have padlocks installed with missing keys which might prevent emergency disconnect when needed. Therefore, house AC disconnect enclosure should be periodically tested for proper operation, and maintained accessible [...]]]> AC Condenser Disconnect

Your house’s central cooling system ac condenser disconnect switch is a requirement and an important safety feature.

AC condenser disconnects must be located in sight and not directly behind the condenser so it’s easily accessible. Depending on the manufacturer, enclosures have a disconnect handle located on the exterior or behind the small cover.

Accessing of some older air conditioning condenser disconnect switches with a hidden handle might be difficult, they are often corroded, have padlocks installed with missing keys which might prevent emergency disconnect when needed. Therefore, house AC disconnect enclosure should be periodically tested for proper operation, and maintained accessible at all times.

AC condenser disonnect typical location

Missing AC condenser disconnect and one is required in sight

Whenever a flexible type of electrical conduit (metallic liquidtight conduit) has been used between the AC condenser disconnect, condensing unit, and sometimes electrical panel, grounding wire is required inside that conduit and must be secured to the enclosures on both sides of this conduit.

There is usually one screw (sometimes two screws, just like on the first picture below) with a terminal to secure that wire.
Liquidtight conduit separated at connector, missing ground wire at the ac condenser disconnect boxMissing ground wire between service disconnect and the condensing coilLiquidtight conduit separating at the AC condenser connectionDue to the vibration caused by an operating compressor and a fan, or sometimes just a poor installation, conduit connectors might become loose, separate from the condenser and / or AC condenser disconnect. Therefore, the ground wire is necessary to provide a return path for fault currents and therefore allows the fuse or breaker to disconnect the circuit – in other words; it protects people and equipment from the electricity that has gone out of its intended path.

Other common issues with a house AC condenser disconnect enclosures:

  • AC condenser disconnect is loose / not secured to the supporting structure
  • Holes (missing knockouts) in the AC disconnect enclosure exposing high voltage terminals (critical with small children on premises)
  • Thermostat / control / low voltage wires installed inside the conduit carrying high voltage wires between the air conditioning condenser disconnect – AC condenser, and sometimes through the electrical panel.

Even if your cooling system appears to be performing properly, go ahead and check AC condenser disconnect for proper installation.

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