What I'm Seeing Now

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Gas Line Sediment Trap Or Escape Hatch?

So, is this a gas line sediment trap or escape hatch?  You decide.

The features list in the house said, "Newly installed HVAC system 2011!"  All true.  And done professionally!

Judging from the duct work the previous system was quite old.  Replacing it was only smart.  And good for my clients!

The sediment trap is the longer section of black iron gas tubing that is sticking straight down.

It has been called by various names, and there are those who split hairs and say that only the term "sediment trap" is correct.  But still, it is what it is.

The purpose is just as its name says.  Historically, when natural gas was first pumped into houses it came with sediment and moisture.  That could all get into and damage the appliance using the gas.

So they devised a trap, which you see to the left, to capture that as it would fall harmlessly into the bottom of the lowest section.  In the "olden days" they used to remove that section of pipe periodically to dump out the trapped sediment.  The extended pipe should be 3" minimum.

Fine.  Today our gas is cleaner and drier and there are those who say that the traps may not be necessary.  But still, most installation practices require them. 

I have spoken with plumbers who say they should not be used outdoors or in attics as the moisture trapped inside could freeze and cause the pipe to burst or move the nipple at the bottom causing a leak.  But still, most codes require them.  When I don't see a sediment trap present I note it for my client.

You can see the new piping here, new condensate line, new cables, new switch servicing the new humidifier and new condensate pump - new, new, new!  They did it right.

But wait!  What's wrong here?  This is a new system, installed by a professional because they proudly placed their company sticker, with installation date, onto the unit.  It also says, "Please call US to answer any future questions or to satisfy any future needs!"

So, again, what's wrong here?

Looking closely, as a home inspector is supposed to do, you might notice that the gas shut-off valve is between the sediment trap and the furnace!

If someone wanted to remove any debris from the sediment trap (and I have spoken with many, many plumbers who say there is no debris in modern times, but I digress) and dutifully shut off the gas valve before beginning, gas would still escape from the sediment trap tubing!

Obviously there is a way around this still.  The main gas line valve on the indoor manifold, or the gas meter itself, could be turned off to safely remove the sediment trap.  But that would turn off the gas to other appliances, and any pilot lights in the house, such as the water heater, and cause unnecessary work as they would all have to be relit.

The shut-off valve really should have been placed BEFORE the sediment trap.  This current installation might even indicate the valve was not correct from the start as this company mimicked what the previous installation looked like!  But I really don't know.

My recommendation:  when a home inspection is done, it is important to see the whole picture.  A little thing like this might go unnoticed forever, and maybe not even by the professional HVAC company, but it was not unnoticed on this inspection!  And at least it's a simple fix.  I guess that company is going to get called after all!

 

 

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 60 commentsJay Markanich • October 06 2011 04:35AM

Comments

Good morning, Jay. The moral of the story? Even though the "Pros" supposedly know what they are doing, they often don't...

Posted by Michael Thornton, Nashville Area - Photography & Videography (RadnorLake Video) almost 9 years ago

Michael - or they thought nobody would notice.  Imagine their horror now!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Jay - I agree with Michael; even some pros fake it at times. 

Posted by Carol Zingone, Global Realtor in Jax Beach, FL - ABR, CRS, CIPS (Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty) almost 9 years ago

Maybe Carol.  It could very well be they missed this completely!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

I understand but way over my head I would have never given it a second thought

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) almost 9 years ago

I had never seen nor heard of the sediment trap until about a year ago.  Most of the homes we've sold over the years havent had one.  But now it's a completely different story.  

Posted by Ralph Janisch ABR CRS Broker, Selling Northwest Houston to good people like you! (Janisch & Co.) almost 9 years ago

For sure, James, which is why you suggest home inspectors to your clients!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Jeanne and Ralph - I think because local jurisdictions began clamping down in recent years.  It might be that things became more lax as gas got cleaner and drier.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

So important to have a great inspector to find the things that we do not know to look for. Thanks for the info. Have a great day!

 

Posted by K.C. McLaughlin, Realtor, e-PRO, Homes for Sale - Cary, Raleigh NC (RE/MAX United) almost 9 years ago

K.C. - this is something often overlooked by people, including inspectors!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Thank you for the post. It shows that a buyer should hire a good home inspector.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) almost 9 years ago

Wow I would never have know the difference about something like this.  The pro does it again!

Posted by Debbie Walsh, Hudson Valley NY Real Estate 845.283-3036 (Shahar Management) almost 9 years ago

Jay, what an excellent (and simple) thing to look for to protect a buyers safety. I can't wait to get to my flood house and see what the plumber did on my new installation.

Posted by Bob "RealMan" Timm, Owner of Ward Co. Notary Services, retired Realtor (Ward County Notary Services) almost 9 years ago

Thanks Gita.  There are a thousand things to look for on a home inspection.

Debbie - it's a simple thing and logical once it's pointed out!  Hope you're feeling better.

Wow Bob, if your house flooded the plumber is the least of your problems!  But don't let him get away with this one!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Jay, does this require a County inspection? If so, you would think they would have caught it.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA almost 9 years ago

Great post! You could turn your posts into videos, they are so informative:)

Posted by Elisa Uribe Realtor #01427070, Opening the Doors to California Homes -East Bay (Golden Gate Sotheby's International) almost 9 years ago

Jay, many home inspectors would not have caught this one.  Kudos to you.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) almost 9 years ago

Jay, I find this whole sediment trap issue interesting.  Some inspectors and installers around here seem to think they are not required because "our gas is not dirty or wet."  That does not change the fact that the code still requires them and requires that they be on the furnace side of the gas shut-off.  I see them on gas fireplaces, gas water heaters and gas furnaces all the time.  I find it interesting that they are not required on gas ranges or gas dryers.  I have no idea why not.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Wow never heard of a sediment trap on a old HVAC system! I wonder how many even get cleaned...at all?! I am going to have to see if I can find one of these to check out next time I see a ancient furnace!

Posted by Rosalie Evans, The Evans Group, Sioux Falls, SD Homes For Sale (Meritus Group Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

So close, but no cigar.  I'm still waiting on the post "This house was perfect." ;-)

Posted by Justin Dibbs, REALTOR® - Ashburn Virginia Homes for Sale (Pearson Smith Realty) almost 9 years ago

Jay -- now that you have brought this up, I am going to have to go back and check and see if there is a sediment trap on either my water heater or gas furnace.  I know there is one outside beside the meter (but our winters generally aren't too cold - but something to consider.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 9 years ago

I don't know Michael.  I think any new gas installation requires a permit, but I am not certain.

Elisa - thank you very much!  The video would be pretty boring, but with all the stuff I have found it would certainly be epic!

Thanks Chris.  I had the same thing just today!

New water heater, with the old everything!  Apparently this has been this way for some time.

I hear the same thing too Charlie, but until the code changes the dryness and cleanliness of the gas is not the issue.  And I don't understand the fireplace/range thing either.  Look at how old the installation to the right is.  Brand new water heater.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Rosalie - I expect removing and cleaning them has not been on the plumber agenda for some time.

Justin - it's out there, but only because the inspector missed a million things!

Steven - you probably have traps, but check where the valve is!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Jay, it is one of those "issues" that most likely is not really much of an issue with today's gas supplies.  Since the gas meter has to be shut down to fix it, I usually recommend repairs as deemed necessary by the licensed plumber when they have the gas shut off for some other reason.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Cousin - I agree insofar as gas is different now.  My experience is not much, so I don't have anything to compare today's gas to!  But, like I said, until they change the rules the traps should be in place.  In this case, the repair will be made soon as the buyer will be wanting it repaired now.

xoxo Cousin Croakster

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Jay,  I do have an excellent heating guy.  I am way over my level of expertise here. 

Posted by Bonnie Vaughan, CNE SFR - Buyers/Sellers - Lackawanna & Surroundin almost 9 years ago

Excellent Bonnie!  Make sure your valve is on the upstream side of the gas!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

The devil is in the details...or the sediment...

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 9 years ago

In this case Sally and David, it is!  Oh, and the placement of the valve!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

fascinating.  i love your posts...i learn something each time out.

fortunately for us in california the gas we get is so clean and dry we don't need to collect the rubbish from it like the rest of you guys.  it seems your gas has chunks!

Posted by Michael Ford, California+Hawaii+Oregon almost 9 years ago

Location, location, location!   Isn't that the common denominator? 

Posted by Bill Warner, Infrared Thermal Inspector (BC Warner Inspections) almost 9 years ago

So is the code for the shutoff before the trap? Was the installer just assuming the trap would never be cleaned but was only there for code? Maybe it's time for code updates.

Posted by The Derrick Team - Indy Metro Realtors, Your Pet Friendly Realtors (Carpenter Realtors) almost 9 years ago

How interesting!  It makes sense once it's explained. 

Posted by Katie Munoz (Moving Forward Inc) almost 9 years ago

and that is why I am a Broker and not a Home Inspector - I had no clue.  That is why I always tell them to call someone like you.

Posted by Gene Riemenschneider, Turning Houses into Homes (Home Point Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

Michael - not really, we get the same gas you do.  And the code in CA requires sediment traps.

It is in this case Bill!  Valve here and valve there, and soon you have an explosion!

Derrick Team - yes, always on the source side so when the valve is turned off the gas stops flowing.  It might be time for code updates.

Katie - logic never fails!

Gene - best to call the people who do inspections best!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

In my area I see sediment traps on less than 10% of installed water heaters.  I usually judge an inspector's work by whether or not they call this item out.  I've had some dispute the need for it and not include anything on their final report.  Those inspectors definitely do not make my 'recommend' list.

Posted by Michael J. O'Connor, Eastvale - 951-847-4883 (Diamond Ridge Realty) almost 9 years ago

Sneaky Michael, vewy, vewy sneaky!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Hey Jay, I'm no stickler on the names, but I do agree; "sediment trap" is the only proper term :).  

Nice catch.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 9 years ago

Jay,

I learn something new everyday. Today, what I learned was from you. Thank you very much!

Jay

Posted by Jayson Holland, Jay Holland (Listings.com) almost 9 years ago

Good catch!

Posted by Marshall Brown, BSEE, CHI (Mid America Inspection Services, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Great information! I never heard of a sediment trap when I was living in the Northeast where the majority of homes have a gas heating system! Now that I am in Hawaii where homes do not have heating systems, I won't have the chance to see one soon.

Posted by Monique Ting, Your agent under the sun (INET Realty Honolulu, HI) almost 9 years ago

I kind of get the gist of this and that's after Goodgling and finding drawings to help me  I'm totally right brain!

Posted by Beverly Femia, Broker Realtor Stager - Greater Wilmington, NC Are (BlueCoast Realty Corporation) almost 9 years ago

There are the hair-splitters out there Reubs.  And I had the same thing the day I posted this one.  See #22 above.

You're very welcome Jayson.  I don't know why these things are so hard for plumbers.

Marshall - I have this a couple of times a month!  Don't know why - it's such a difficult installation.

Monique - nice picture!  I'll be right over.  Well, next time you see a gas installation you'll know what to look for!

Beverly - you are both-sides brained for sure!  But my picture is up there too!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Dear Jay,

Thank you for always teaching me something new. Very interesting. I am just getting used to having gas that does not come from a bottle.

Posted by Dörte Engel, ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland (RE/MAX Leading Edge) almost 9 years ago

I haven't seen a sediment trap in years, but I agree the shut off or line valve should be before the device.

Posted by Michael Singh,Broker (Singh Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

Dorte - if you mean propane, I see sediment traps on those systems too.  If you mean in beverages, well, now maybe you can cover your mouth when you burp (that's kind of a settlement trap...)

Michael - well, you should see them all the time!  The code has not changed.  But at least your valves are right!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

I didn't notice that until you pointed it out. Thanks for the info. I just looked & my own furnace is this way .... yikes!

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) almost 9 years ago

Jay,

Even I, who knows almost nothing when it comes to gas, knows to look for the sediment trap and shut off location.

p.s. check out my shout out to ya ;)

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Run for the hills Lyn!  RUN!

Or see if you can have another valve installed, if it really, really bothers you.  The likelihood that you will need to remove the sediment trap is fairly minimal, all told.

Don - well, logic is logic.  You guys don't have gas out there?

I will look for the shout out.  Where?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

To Charles - here in Minnesota, sediment traps are required on all automatically controlled gas appliances.  Ranges and clothes dryers are not automatically controlled- you turn them on manually.

Now why they're only required on automatically controlled appliances... I don't know. 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 9 years ago

Sure, Reubs, throw in ANOTHER wrinkle.  Sheesh...  Now you've just confused him more.

Don't you love the dryer that turns on automatically when you simply close the door?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Hi Jay.  Thanks.  You always contribute such educational articles.  And we can always learn something new.

Posted by Bob Miller, The Ocala Dream Team (Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty) almost 9 years ago

Thanks Bob!  Join my new group - http://activerain.com/groups/bestpractices

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Those dryers were certainly a lot easier to figure out.  I actually had to read the instruction manual to figure out how to properly use my new-fangled dryer.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 9 years ago

I would venture to say that 95% of the traps installed up here are done incorrectly.  As you pointed out, either no shut off valve or they put the trap so close to the ground that the cap could not be removed.

Once in a blue moon I run into a real pro that does it right.  It is a pleasure to see their work.

Posted by Stephen Stanczyk, Home Inspector - Puyallup WA (Safe Haven Home Inspections) almost 9 years ago

Reuben - I know!  On some home inspections you need a degree from MIT to turn on the dryer!

Steve - I saw it four times last week and once yesterday!  Logic is logic and the purpose of the trap is removal.  I think I remember you finding an improper valve on Christian's inspection too.  Wow, 95%?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Jay, I should've searched on AR for sediment traps BEFORE the plumber came today to replace my hot water heater that burst yesterday.  He INSISTED it has been a requirement here since 1998, but my home was built in 2002 and we bought it in 2005 with a full inspection.  I should've known to check here. 

Posted by Juli Vosmik, Scottsdale/Cave Creek, AZ real estate 480-710-0739 (Dominion Fine Properties) over 8 years ago

Did you have a sediment trap before and the valve was on the wrong side, Juli, or did it not have one and he wanted to install one?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Nice catch! These traps are still required around here. Very seldom do I see anything in them!

Posted by Wayne B. Pruner, Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI (Oregon First) almost 8 years ago

Thanks Wayne.  It is surprising how often I see this done improperly!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

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