What I'm Seeing Now

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I Was Called To Figure Out A Single HVAC Problem The Builder Could Not

This happens now and then - I was called to figure out a single HVAC problem the builder could not.

It's the end of the AC season.  The builder suggested this homeowner call somebody to determine what the problem is so they can fix it permanently.  The one-year warranty deadline is coming up.

What had been happening is that the drain pan under the basement HVAC unit had overflowed and flooded some of the basement.

The builder's HVAC subcontractor was called.

They determined there was a clog in the drain line, so they unclogged it.

But why didn't the electric float in the drain pan turn off the AC unit when the pan filled with water?

They hadn't thought about that.

So they replaced the float.  But they warned him - the float can fail again.  And if it does, the basement will fill up again.

But, the buyer wanted a permanent fix.  Can you imagine, there might be a way to permanently fix this problem?

The subcontractor said it could not be fixed permanently.  But, they challenged the homeowner that if he could find someone who had a permanent fix they would come back and do it.

THE HOMEOWNER DOES NOT WANT THE DRIP PAN TO FILL UP AGAIN.

Is that possible?  He called me. 

Over the phone I said it was possible, but I would need to see the basement.

In the basement I had the solution in 2 seconds.

Literally.

Best Practice says that a drip pan under an HVAC system should be made fail safe with not only an electronic float to shut off the system, but an independent drain connected to the pan.

Here the pan was connected to that independent drain, but it was capped!

All they have to do is extend it to and drain it into the sump pump pit, located on the right.

PROBLEM SOLVED.

Can I state the obvious?  Gravity works every time.

I did have some fun and open another can of worms.  I suggested that this solved the HVAC problem but not the basement flooding problem. 

Their eyes showed their disappointment!  But, I said, they are doing the right thing. 

See the battery back up to the sump pump?  That is the right thing to do!  If the electricity goes out they have a sump pump still!  But if the sump pump fails they will have another flood.

To that they actually laughed!  If it isn't one thing, it's another!

The wife said that they have been trying to get this figured out for months, and here I solved the problem when I walked into the room.

She said I am a "super hero."  Aw, shucks.

My recommendation:  sometimes all it takes is a home inspector!  Was that enough horn tooting?  Seeing the obvious is seeing the obvious.  Well, you know the old saying, sometimes you can't see the obvious for the trees.  Or something like that.

 

 

 

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 22 commentsJay Markanich • November 22 2013 03:22AM

Comments

Not hard to figure out.  Experience gives an inspector OR a real estate agent a certain degree of facts upon which to draw.

No guessing necessary.  Just observe, evaluate, determine and advise.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 4 years ago

Well I'm sure glad they had superman's phone #.  Ironic that you could solve so quickly and the others had no clue. - Debbie

Posted by Women of Westchester Working Together, Women helping Women get ahead (Women of Westchester Working Together) over 4 years ago

If they were the reported experts in the field it just astounds me they couldn't figure it out. 

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) over 4 years ago

Lenn - my comment that gravity works every time will appear in tomorrow's post as well.  And again, "they" couldn't figure it out...

They got it from a neighbor Debbie.  I had been to their house too, and figured something out there.

James - the solution is so simple, I actually laughed when I walked into the room.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Unfortunately not everything that gravity does is positive.  Just saying 

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) over 4 years ago

What I find difficult to understand is why the HVAC installer and the builder couldn't have figured this out?

Posted by Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales) over 4 years ago

Right Cindy.  I ALL flows downhill...

That, Gabe, would have gotten you a check on the old $64K Question TV show!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

 Good morning, Jay.  You are right, gravity works every time. Needless to say, water and other things do flow downhill.

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 4 years ago

You see the switch or the the drain is all that's required. They were just following the minimum. Minimum effort gets less than minimum results. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 4 years ago

They couldn't figure out the drain pan needed to be plumbed? Ayyyy carrumba! 

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 4 years ago

Jay, I don't think I have ever seen a sump pump with a screw on cover--cool

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 4 years ago

it is funny how sometimes the tradespeople are so used to doing things one way that they can not see any other solutions .. good thing you have another view .. hope they recommended you to many of their friends ... being a superhero and all    :)

Posted by Lehel Szucs, REALTOR of choice (All Seasons Real Estate, Inc.) over 4 years ago

Like I said to Cindy, Michael.  It just works!

Agreed Jim, as we often do.  And if the secondary drain line is present the switch becomes extraneous.

I had to wonder Fred.  This is so 101.  I laughed when the contractor challenged a permanent solution.

They are almost all like that here Charlie.  Only the very old ones are not.  Those pits are often used for radon remediation here.

Lehel - I should be recommended by everyone, exclusively!  Oh, um, I mean, well, we try to do our best!  And I seldom feel superheroish.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Wouldn't the untrapped hvac drains violate the enclosure?

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 4 years ago

I don't know what you mean by violating it Charlie.  Out here less than 1/4 of the HVAC drains have traps.  And this is a condensing furnace and that drain isn't trapped either.  All the tubes entering the sump have putty to seal the hole.  If it was to be used as a radon remediation pit all that would be caulked with an epoxy they use.  This drain pan is, as you see, 4' or so from the pit and the water wouldn't have a trap, necessarily.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Hi Super jay.

I have found these drain pans sealed off and with no drain line from them. holding water from the A/C drip too.

Crazy what we find. good for you getting the job done.

Have a good day in Va.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 4 years ago

Sometimes the old can't see the forest for the trees becomes very evident. And they say there are no more heroes around.

Posted by Wayne Johnson, San Antonio REALTOR, San Antonio Homes For Sale (Coldwell Banker D'Ann Harper REALTORS®) over 4 years ago

Thanks Clint.  This was an easy one.  I did laugh a bit when I entered the room!

Wayne - I don't know where the heroes are, but I really like doing home inspections!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

I guess what I was thinking is that all the gas could be sucked back into the house up through the open drain lines.  No?  As you know, I am no big fan of the whole radon thing, but I was under the impression that they were to be as closed a system as possible and the opening being to atmosphere.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 4 years ago

I see what you mean Charlie.  You are right, if the drain lines go into the pit it cannot be used to remediate radon.  But very often, on new construction, the radon pit is used for the "passive" system, and then all that has to happen is install the vent fan.  The fan can be turned on and off at will, with a switch nearby.  So if work has to be done to the sump pump it can be, and then the radon fan is turned on when done.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Things like that make me wonder about some of the builders, contractors, and subcontractors out there. Those battery back ups are a must with finished basemements with sump pumps!

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) over 4 years ago

This is the one I recommend on every one of my reports when a house has a sump pump Jeff:

http://www.basementwatchdog.com/basement_watchdog_bigdog.htm

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

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