What I'm Seeing Now

head_left_image

Whistle While You Work

The house is old but the HVAC system is very new.  The compressor outside said 2009, so it is a good bet the indoor units are similarly new.  They were.

Entering the furnace room, not only was the furnace and AC equipment new, but so was the water heater.

Both exhaust flues were newer also.  And they both entered into an older double flue, which had been there for some time.

The double flue was very long, approximately 15', and while I am not a fan of exhaust flues hitting another at a 90 degree angle, it is permitted here.

However, I heard, we all heard, a low-pitched whistle!

I listened to the unit, took off the cover, and put my ear everywhere.  I could not locate the whistle.  My clients both tried and they could not either.

Standing there it seemed to come from the back of the unit.  But the position of two large, square return vents made it hard to get to the back side, about 8' from where we stood. 

But I leaned over anyway, as best I could.  What I didn't want to do was fall and crush the return ducts!

While I couldn't see anything, the whistle got louder, so I knew I was in the right spot. 

Something didn't look right, but from my angle I couldn't really see it.

So I stretched out and put my camera into position to snap a shot of the union of the two exhaust vents and behold!

LOOKING AT THE PHOTO, WE SAW THE SOURCE OF THE WHISTLE!

The newer flues met the old at a slight angle, and the assembly is too short.

You can clearly see a gap at the top.  But there is a large gap at the bottom!

It was very poorly put together!

The whistle is caused by the drafting air.  A draft up a flue is a good thing.

HOWEVER, THERE IS ANOTHER PROCESS CALLED BACK DRAFT!

While the furnace or water heater is operating, the heated exhaust moves toward cold and passes up the horizontal and then vertical flue toward the roof and outdoors and higher atmospheric pressure.  That movement is what caused the "whistle" we were hearing.

But, as the flow slows and that heated exhaust cools, the cold air from outside becomes heavier and heavier, and it in turn begins moving downward toward the furnace.  As it does so it also pushes any residual gases inside the flue toward the interior.

THOSE RESIDUAL GASES CONTAIN CARBON MONOXIDE.  IF THERE ARE GAPS OR HOLES IN THE EXHAUST FLUE ASSEMBLY, CARBON MONOXIDE BACK DRAFTS INTO THE HOUSE.  CARBON MONOXIDE ACCUMULATES INDOORS.

The house is empty and had been for some time, but I would love to learn about who used to live there.  Were they sickly?  Low levels, or persistent levels, of carbon monoxide will make you feel like you have the flu.  Did the kids miss a lot of school?  Did they have pets, or did the pets die quickly?  Carbon monoxide (CO)exchanges with carbon dioxide in the lungs instead of oxygen (O2).  It attaches to the red blood cells, PREVENTING THE RED BLOOD CELLS FROM ATTACHING TO AND CARRYING OXYGEN TO THE BODY.  The body absorbs the CO instead of O2 and eventually overloads the body, starving it for oxygen and causing death.  The smaller the animal the fewer the red blood cells and it becomes easier to thus suffocate.  Did they have plants and did the plants always die?  Plants are particularly affected by carbon monoxide.

My recommendation:  always, always, always check the exhaust tubing over gas appliances.  Check it carefully!  If it doesn't sound right, it probably isn't.  And there should be no holes caused by corrosion and no gaps.  The draft can be checked with the smoke from a blown-out candle.  It pays to check the flow of the draft now and then.  And you can do it!

AND WITH GAS APPLIANCES INSTALL AND REGULARLY TEST FULLY-FUNCTIONING CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS!

DOING SO COULD SAVE A LIFE OR TWO!  AND THE LIFE YOU SAVE MAY BE YOUR OWN!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 57 commentsJay Markanich • March 16 2011 06:37AM

Comments

Another great catch Jay. This one good have been a life saver. Nice to know you are on the job.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) over 7 years ago

Good morning, Jay. Nothing wrong with whistling while you work. Just make sure of who is doing the whistling...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 7 years ago

As always something interesting found on one of your inspections.  Something like this that is potentially life threatening is why a home inspection is such a good idea!

Posted by Navona Hart, Selling the Best Properties in CentralVirginia (Real Living Cornerstone) over 7 years ago

Thanks Randy, again!  I think it may have been - my clients were elderly.

I try not to whistle during home inspections Michael, unless I run across something really weird!

Navona - very definitely!  And inspections are a terrific idea!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Another great find, Sherlock.  this is really serious stuff and it's great that you caught it.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 7 years ago

Debbie - that's about as serious as it gets.  Maybe a really high-amp dangerous electrical connection would be worse.  But CO is insidious.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay, this was really a good catch. If it weren't for the whistle, who know what would have happened over the years. Your thoroughness probably save some lives.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 7 years ago

Michael - that arrangement was totally invisible to look at from the front.  The photo does that claim some justice.  I always turn up the furnace, or AC, to listen to it and in this case it proved really worthwhile.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay thank you for explaing in such good detail what to look for and possible effects.

Posted by Bob "RealMan" Timm, Bob Timm, Project Coordinator for Tivoli Homes (Tivoli Custom Homes) over 7 years ago

CO is a big, big deal Bob and so many don't pay attention to the dangers or even have detectors!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay, that is not a very good looking piping system and somebody is going to curse to high heavens when they try to get in there and fix it, probably after they disconnect and move the furnace.

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) over 7 years ago

I agree Ed.  Those ducts are really in the way.  And I would prefer to see a little bend in things so there is not the 90 degree union!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

YOu did a good joy Jay..and I know you enjoyed the Whistling too.

Such an important job that you do..

Posted by Ginger Harper, Your Southport~Oak Island Agent~Brunswick County! (Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage) over 7 years ago

Its too bad people dont think of how sick someone could get when they put these things in.  Glad you caught it.

Posted by Chuck Carstensen, Minnesota Real Estate Expert (RE/MAX Results) over 7 years ago

Thanks Ginger.  That was such a low whistle I don't think I could mimic it!

Chuck - it really was a poor and dangerous installation!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Good jab Inspector Jay.

Posted by Kenneth Cole, NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson (Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com -) over 7 years ago

A day in the life Ken.  Late tonight I have a roof leak to investigate that nobody has been able to figure out, including the builder.  Should be fun!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Wow I have heard a whistle in certain homes when the furnace is running before as well. Carbon monoxide is some scary stuff too so this is good to know!

Posted by Rosalie Evans, The Evans Group, Sioux Falls, SD Homes For Sale (Meritus Group Real Estate) over 7 years ago

This is why buyers should always get inspections. I wonder if the work was done after or right before the seller moved to prepare it for selling.

Posted by Retired Notworking over 7 years ago

nicely done Jay.  great example of why everyone should get a home inspection.  even buyers that are in construction or a related field can benefit from having an impartial eye look at the home.

Posted by Kevin Kueneke, San Diego Mortgage Banker (Caliber Home Loans) over 7 years ago

Jay, with work like this you should be a 'trainer' for aspiring home inspectors.  I just wish everyone in the field was as conscientious and persistent as you.

Posted by Karl Hess, on The Jersey Shore (Keller Williams Shore Properties) over 7 years ago

This is one of the reasons I like to watch inspectors while they work.  I have learned so much and the inspector I use regularly is so patient with my questions! Thanks for sharing Jay!

Posted by Jim Courtney, CRS, GRI, AHWD (OklaHomes Realty, Claremore Oklahoma) over 7 years ago

Jay - Great job, and I'm sure the buyer appreciated the discovery.  That's why they pay you the "big bucks."

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) over 7 years ago

There is always so much to learn from you blog, thanks for posting this.

Posted by Anne Hensel, Realtor - Broker - St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island (South Beaches Real Estate Professionals) over 7 years ago

Jay,

Very good post. I just learned something else from AR. This is why I became a member. There is so much information being shared.

Posted by Ron T. Weems Jr., Managing the details one home at a time. (Weems Property Group | KW North Sound) over 7 years ago

Nice catch! Love a thorough inspector...

Posted by Chris and Berna Sloan, Tooele UT (Group 1 Real Estate) over 7 years ago

Rosalie - any unusual sound during the furnace/AC operation should be investigated.

Don't know Colleen.  This house has been vacant for a while.

I agree Kevin.  If I was to by a home I would have another home inspector look at it.

Thanks Karl for your very nice words.  Home inspectors come with me now and then, but I have never thought of it as training!  When it comes to the furnace you really have to be conscientious!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jim - I tell my clients that we are partners in the inspection experience.  Many eyes and ears are better than two!

John - the appraiser came by while we were there, spent 5 minutes and earned more than I!  Inspectors don't get the biggest bucks! 

Anne - thank you!  Glad you stop by so often and can learn!

Ron - the learning is the biggest part of the experience!  Meeting others is another!

Chris - thanks and I hope all your inspection experiences are thorough!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Very informative post! I learn something every day around here. Hope everything turned out well for your clients.

Posted by Lizette Fitzpatrick, Lizette Realty, Lexington KY MLS - Kentucky Homes (Lizette Realty - Richmond KY) over 7 years ago
Great job, Jay. I wish you were working out here in California for my clients!
Posted by Howard Wilson (Wilson Than Real Estate) over 7 years ago

What a great article Jay!

Most people would have assumed that because the units were new that they would be safe. I bet your buyers were thrilled that you were their inspector!

If you hadn't heard the whistle they may never have known about the problems with the flue.

Keep telling us what you find! There is so much we can learn from each other.

Posted by Susanne Brown, I work hard to make real estate dreams come true! (RE/MAX Realty 9) over 7 years ago

I have to admit that I do whistle in the morning while looking at foreclosures going to auction. Keeps me busy.

Posted by Harry F. D'Elia, Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR (Real Estate and Beyond, LLC) over 7 years ago

Another great post!  Rock On!!

Posted by Rob Smith (Rob Smith Property Investigations) over 7 years ago

Seems to be the week for whistling. I posted a video of a whistling tap.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) over 7 years ago

Jay, you are the example of a good inspector who follows the whistle to the source vs one that just hears the whistle and moves on.  Your customers are fortunate to have you.

Posted by Kelly Young, Colorado Springs Real Estate ~ 719-226-0126 (The Platinum Group Realtors) over 7 years ago

I think it did Lizette.  Last I heard they were repairing it.

Thank you for that nice compliment Howard.  Overall though I am definitely an easterner!

Susanne - that is why I turned on the system.  You have to hear things as they are operating.

Good job Harry!  And be sure to send those exhaust gases up your flue...    ;)

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Rob - I said that once to an old Indian woman at the end of the inspection.  I didn't know what else to say to her!

Robert - is that a faucet?  I will check the post!

Thank you Kelly.  We try, we really try!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Excellent catch!  Wondering if the seller got any headaches or not.

Posted by Barb Van Stensel over 7 years ago

Great post and tip for future trainings !!

Posted by Cory Barbee, Broker (760) 563-4022 over 7 years ago

Jay,

Good post. And great info on  CO, cells absorb CO 200 times more efficiently than O2. It is the sleepy killer.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

I enjoyed the post today, thanks for getting it out to us.

 

Patricia/Seacoast NH & ME

Posted by Patricia Aulson, Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOME SERVICES Verani Realty NH Real Estate ) over 7 years ago

Barb - I would love to know, but they moved out a long time ago.

Well, Cory, I hope you can use it!

Donald - that's pretty deadly!  I got CO poisoning once on a car trip.  There was a hole in the floor and I got the brunt of the poison.  I was really sick!

Patricia - you're welcome!  I am glad you enjoyed it and hope you learned something!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

I had to read your blog when I saw the title, because I whistle while I work (unfortunate for my co-workers and friends). Your post was a sober reminder of the opposite... possible sickness or even death from carbon monoxide poisoning. I hope everyone is aware of this danger.

Gretchen

Posted by Mel Ahrens, MBA, Kelly Right Real Estate, Customized Choices for your Real Estate Needs (Kelly Right Real Estate) over 7 years ago

Gretchen - hopefully this won't dissuade you from whistling!  Unless you are mimicking your furnace...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay,

So glad that the unit was whistling while you were there and that you and your clients heard it!

Posted by 1 ~Judi & Don Barrett & Chassy Eastep - Integrity, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) over 7 years ago

Not good!!!  You said "Backdraft" and I immediately thought of that movie about fires.  But CO is worse, because you don't know it's coming and can kill silently!  Yipes!

Posted by Jeremy Wrenn, President, Wrenn Home Improvements (Wrenn Home Improvements) over 7 years ago

Hi Jay -- Wow, this is serious stuff.  When I saw that photo, I wondered if CO2 was an issue, and thanks for the gravity lesson.  Not good.  A great home inspector is never paid enough in my book.

Posted by Chris Olsen, Broker Owner Cleveland Ohio Real Estate (Olsen Ziegler Realty) over 7 years ago

Wow, Jay, that is a scary photo after you've explained it! I have to say if it had been our house I would have fouind that already because noises like that irritate me, so I would have went looking. Not saying I would have understood what I was seeing...

Posted by Peg Barcelo, The FlufftasticStager from Summerland, BC (Fluff My House! Home Staging Inc. 250.486.6369) over 7 years ago

I had a furnace today that I think was on dialysis. Very weird.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 7 years ago

Jay:

You really do bend over backwards to do your inspections.  Good catch.  It is so scary to think that carbon monoxide was accumulating in the house.  I recommend to my buyers that they purchase a CO detector.  It is worthy every cent they spend on it.

Posted by Evelyn Kennedy, Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA (Alain Pinel Realtors) over 7 years ago

Committed inspectors like you are what I look for ll the time.

Posted by Maya Swamy, Ph.D. Long Beach, CA - fundsavailable.com (Funds Available) over 7 years ago

Judi - that's why I turn it on - to listen.

Jeremy - odorless, tasteless - very silent.  You hear the stories every year in the news about this stuff...

Chris - CO2 isn't ever an issue!  The amount in our atmosphere is 1/3 of 1%!  In our homes not much different.

Peg - yes, but if you found a hole you would know what to do!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Steve - but they're not fun to inspect until they reach that point!

Evelyn - on this inspection you could have called me "Stretch."  I really bent sideways!  Very good advice on the detectors!

Maya - thank you!  There are a lot of great inspectors out there.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

I use my camera like a periscope too! It's like having an eye at the end of your hand.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

I was the Indian Rubber Man to take this photo Jim.  And I think I pulled something...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

So if there was no gap in the vent connector, that would have been a legal installation in your area?  That just looks so wrong.  I assumed that photo at the top left had been rotated 90 degrees, but then I noticed the bricks were right.  

'Round here the vent connectors need to enter the next vent connector at a 45 degree angle, in the same direction as the flow of the exhaust gas.  

Nice catch, by the way.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Unfortunately that's permissible for replacement around here Reubs!  I don't like it.  The 90 degree connection is okay with me if they go directly into the main vent stack, becausea they enter it at an upward angle, but then when the smaller diameter vent is higher than the larger one.

Remember, this is a replacement of the old vents and a new installation and in that jurisdiction you can mimic what's there.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

This blog does not allow anonymous comments