What I'm Seeing Now

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No Matter The Code, Or General Practices, I Don't Like This

One of the most confusing, and changing, practices is how to exhaust a high-efficiency, direct vent furnace. 

But, no matter the code, or general practices, I don't like this. 

These are enclosed systems.  One recent practice that I don't like is that they take indoor air.  Always I would prefer to see outdoor air as they suck in a lot to make the system work.  Why take in so much indoor air when it is not necessary?

But, the exhaust is what seems so confusing.

The tubing pointing down is drawing air in.  The tubing pointing out is the furnace exhaust.

These are very efficient furnaces, re-burning the initial exhaust, so what blows out is very cool, about 105F.

I went to the manufacturer of this furnace to see what their installation instructions indicate.

The instructions have the normal stuff - don't exhaust within 4' of a door or window, not under a deck, not onto a sidewalk or patio, not onto vegetation, etc., - a lot of common sense stuff.

Lately I have been seeing these vents right beside or under doors and windows, and asked a County inspector about it and he shrugged his shoulders. 

HENCE MY CONFUSION!

This exhaust contains carbon monoxide, and while it might be discharging into the outdoor air, it can still be drawn back into the house, especially if it blows under a door!

But the exhaust location in the photo really bothers me.

The manufacturer website says this:  "6 feet from an inside corner formed by two exterior walls - 10 feet is the recommended distance."

Looking around the neighborhood, in this row of seven townhouses, 5 were vented exactly like this one.  And three of those were already lived in, so the County had extended the final occupancy permit and approved it.  Looking further there were many other townhouses so finished.

I don't like it because this is a small deck, 8'x10', and this discharge is just below face level if someone is sitting on a chair.  When the exhaust is blowing, I tested, you could feel heat at the end corner of the deck, so this exhaust is framed and directed back toward the deck by the house next door. 

Even if the code is interpreted to say this is alright, I find this installation unsafe.  Often in the code it says any question should refer to the manufacturer's installation instructions.  The installation instructions may say not to install this under a deck, but why is it safe to install it over a deck, and framed by an interior corner?

Sending this photo and my question to the County I got no answer.  (Hint:  I never do...)

My recommendation:  something might be "approved" but that does not mean it is smart.  And if in response to a question you are told, as were my clients, not to sit near a furnace exhaust when the unit is operating, well, THAT ANSWER IS SIMILARLY NOT SMART!

 

 

 

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 38 commentsJay Markanich • May 23 2013 03:56AM

Comments

Once the county has approved plans and specs, it's not likely to disapprove installation thereof. 

 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 5 years ago

Good morning, Jay.... this seems like common sense to me.... and Lenn's right about the local inspection dept. admitting they made an error in approving this installation....

Posted by Barbara Todaro, "Franklin MA Homes" (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) over 5 years ago

Now....you can invent the vent extension that will improve safety standards and prosperity hmmmm ?

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 5 years ago

I get it Lenn.  But I still don't like it.

They would never admit it.  But I would love to invite one of the inspectors over, sitting on the deck, and sipping a soda while the furnace rages Barbara.

This furnace improves prosperity S&D!  It saves lots of money in gas bills!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

I agree this is not the best location for the pipes, however there is very little CO present in the exhaust. I have a high efficiency gas boiler. When it was tested, a test of the exhaust gases was done. This SoP. My unit had 1ppm of CO. Truth is, as long as a gas appliance is functioning properly, there is very little CO present in the exhaust gas. We all know mechanical equipment always functions as it is expected. 

I think those pipes should be moved. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 5 years ago

Well, CO is CO and I am not sure how much exposure over time is dangerous Jim.  And I am not sure if your boiler's exhaust is the same as this furnace's exhaust.  But still, if the unit should not be discharged under a deck, or near a window or door, why do it in this corner, beside a small, sitting area?  Certainly the CO dissipates right away, but for me, it is dumb.

But, how and where could they move them without having a funny-looking, long tube?!

Again, dumb.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago
Jay - amazing how manufacturer instructions can be mis-interpreted, and this happens.
Posted by Carol Zingone, Global Realtor in Jax Beach, FL - ABR, CRS, CIPS (Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty) over 5 years ago

Jay you hit the nail on the head, 'common sense building'....  think before you do.

I have been attending many of these 'green building' seminars and much of what is in them is common sense and quality building practicies that we in the building trades already have been using for decades.

Posted by David Popoff, Realtor®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct (DMK Real Estate ) over 5 years ago

I don't know that this is a misinterpretation Carol.  The builder wants the tax credit for building an "efficient" home, and the efficient furnace is included in this criteria.  But it is a townhouse development - how do they do that?

This is how.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

For me, green means more money David.  Much of it is nothing new.  And much of it is faddish, and a feel-goodism.  "I'm doing my part to save the planet."  Get real.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

The pipes could be run under the deck or out another side of the house. No? As for exposure, 1ppm exhausted on nthe exterior is likely to disapate very quickly. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 5 years ago

Jay,

Maybe it's just me, but a shrug of the shoulders by a county inspector isn't an acceptable answer, especially where there is a potential safety concern.

Rich

Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 5 years ago

Jim - certainly when the house was being built, but now it would be a big job.  I saw one the other day which extended to the edge of the deck and blew downward.  That's okay in my book.  As to the dissipation, of course, if that's the CO amount.

Rich - you think?  If I am in a property when the County inspector shows up, he is supposed to throw me out until he is done.  A couple of weeks ago, he came to find me to ask a question...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

I had the same thought as Jim (#11), but I can understand that it may not be feasible at this point.

Posted by Kathy Sheehan, Senior Loan Officer (Bay Equity, LLC 770-634-4021) over 5 years ago

That would be the only solution Kathy, but at this point really, really difficult.  No way would the builder do it, because others would see, ask why, and want it too!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

I never like to see the exhaust and intake so close to each other, either. 

Posted by Alan May, Helping you find your way home. (Coldwell Banker Residential) over 5 years ago

Wow, it's hard to believe an HVAC installer wouldn't call this out. Or maybe he did and the builder didn't care.

Posted by Tammie White, Broker, Franklin TN Homes for Sale (Franklin Homes Realty LLC) over 5 years ago

They are supposed to be fairly close Alan, and on the same side of the house, but pointing opposite ways.

Tammie - it is the same installation on all the townhouses I saw so this is how they all decided to do it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

I have never seen a unit like that here, but discharging it in a corner like that with resrticted air movement doesn't seem smart to me. Why not plumb it up to the roof or somewhere it will dissipate instantly? It seems it could accumulate where it is. I'm not hanging out on that deck!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 5 years ago

Sometimes even a correct installation does not pass the commong sense test.

 

Posted by Marc McMaster, Putting my clients before myself (RE/MAX Centre Realty) over 5 years ago
I think the old saying is, "Common sense ain't so common."
Posted by Melanie Narducci, Your San FranciscoBay Area Real Estate Expert (Hillscape Properties, Inc.) over 5 years ago

I agree with you and the other commenters. I think it's also very ugly. There must be an attractive way to enclose the tubing, and I would think it might be done in a way that helps with the venting.

Posted by Brad MacKenzie, Turning Houses into Homes on the South Shore (Brad MacKenzie) over 5 years ago

Jay:  I totally agree with you.  When I was appraising, I'd see instances such as this.  They'd leave me scratching my head and doing a bit of investigating of codes.  It left me with the impression you have.  And I'll add, that just because the building codes are written a certain way doesn't mean they are right or safe.  And just because someone's a building code inspector for a municipality ... well, you know the rest ...

Gene

Posted by Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi, 708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience (NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656) over 5 years ago

Haven't had to deal with a furnace for many years. Pretty happy about that. We do have natural gas heaters. They all vent thru the roof. Takes the guess work out.

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max Southern Realty) over 5 years ago
And this is just another reason buyers need a real estate agent AND inspections when building and buying properties...
Posted by Evelyn Johnston, The People You Know, Like and Trust! (Friends & Neighbors Real Estate) over 5 years ago

Jay, common sense is becoming less and less common.  That doesn't even look right, much less safe.  I guess we'll wait until we have a body count to make changes. 

Posted by Mike Cooper, Your Winchester, VA Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 5 years ago

Im curious as to what the outcome of this particular inspection was? Did the buyer purchase the home with the knowledge that you gave or did they ask for the problem to be resolved?

Posted by Micheal St. Peter (The Bayshore Group) over 5 years ago

Jay -- they really don't need any kind of screen to prevent animals from getting in those pipes?

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 5 years ago

I can't say that I've ever seen this system in place, but I would follow the rules of where to place the intake and exhaust Jay. 

You sounded surprised that the County din't do something smart.  :)

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 5 years ago

As in all government,t it is approved when the manufacturer or anyone else pays there way to get what they want. Of course there are no return phone calls since the powers are involved. Look around at what is going on & nobody really cares.

Posted by Jimmy Faulkner, The Best Of St. Augustine (Florida. Homes Realty & Mortgage) over 5 years ago

"something might be "approved" but that does not mean it is smart" -- great line Jay!

Posted by Erica Ramus, MRE, Schuylkill County PA Real Estate (Erica Ramus - Ramus Realty Group - Pottsville, PA ) over 5 years ago

I didn't understand it Fred and this is the first time I have seen multiple units with the same dumb installation.

I agree Marc, not for me anyway.

Nail hit on head Melanie.

Brad - believe it or not that is the proper venting technique.  It's just the location that I don't like.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

All agreed Gene.  To me this is an invitation to a possible problem, but maybe I am just skitterish!

Bill - these are super efficient.  Mine vents through the roof, but not anywhere as efficient as this unit.

Evelyn - that is corrrrrrrect on both accounts!

Mike - it's right as far as the installation goes.  But I hope there's no body count!

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Michael - I have not heard since, but as all the other houses are the same it is a zero chance the builder will do anything different.

Steven - a screen on the intake is a good idea, but the exhaust should not have one as it can accumulate condensation in the winter and freeze shut.

Tom - they seem to be creeping away from all the common sense installations that came with these systems when they were new a couple of decades ago.

Jimmy - you mean the code makers can be influenced?     ;>)

Thanks Erica.  Just calling them like I see them!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Jay, Yeah that is just poor placement. You have to wonder sometimes about these installers.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Here is a case where the code, and/or practice accepted by the County is simply inconsistent with good building practices Don.  I doubt any County official would want this beside his deck and kids!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

 

   Good catch, Jay.  The few that I have dealt with have all been vented through the roofs, just like the plumbing vents.  That was one of the attractions for builders in that the smaller pipe is much easier to route up through the walls then the larger, conventional 'B' vents.

   For the county to ignore this is just stupid on their part, especially after you have pointed it out to them.  This would seem to put them in a position of liability if something (as it inevitably does) goes wrong, since now they have prior knowledge.  The installation instructions should get the manufacturer off the hook and leave it all on the contractors (and now, the city or county?).

 

Posted by John J. Woods (Aardvark Appraisals) over 5 years ago

I have to wonder when a whole neighborhood is like this John.  They didn't used to do that in the old days, like, um, last year.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

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