improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

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acalia
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improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by acalia »

The furnace installed by the previous homeowner may not be to code. Records show a permit was started for the work, but the final inspection was never done. The home inspection report included the furnace but did not note that the install may not be to code.

Is the previous homeowner, the original HVAC contractor, or the home inspector responsible in any way? Or should I just start a new permit, and hire a new HVAC contractor to fix the issue myself? Or should I just use the furnace until it requires replacement?
Last edited by acalia on Fri Jan 22, 2016 8:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Rodc
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by Rodc »

What issue needs to be fixed?

Is there a real issue or are you just concerned because there was no final inspection?
We live a world with knowledge of the future markets has less than one significant figure. And people will still and always demand answers to three significant digits.
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Raymond
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by Raymond »

Did the previous owners shuffle off this mortal coil due to carbon monoxide asphyxiation?

I take it that you have already purchased the house and are living in it.

If I were in your position, I would have an HVAC specialist (not the one who did the original work!) check the system.

Waking up dead is such a drag :twisted:
"Ritter, Tod und Teufel"
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acalia
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by acalia »

The furnace has been working just fine. However, it sits in a closet with a vented door, through which CO may leak from (which appears to violate current building code). None of the smoke detector/CO alarms have ever gone off though.
Rodc
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by Rodc »

If you are concerned I would start with contacting a local HVAC company and have them come check it.

You will not feel safe until you do that so you might as well get it done.

They may be able to give you much better advice than anyone here because they will know if there is a real problem, if there is they will know how to fix it. If it is not to code, or even if it is but it needs an inspection, they will likely know the local inspectors and whether or not they are easy or hard about these things.

I would note that my furnace sits right out in the open where CO can go wherever it wants. I further note that there has to be a source of air for the burner, which would seem to be a natural passageway for CO. I have no idea what code might be so a vented closest sounds pretty normal to me. Is there a specific reason why you think this violates code?
We live a world with knowledge of the future markets has less than one significant figure. And people will still and always demand answers to three significant digits.
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acalia
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by acalia »

I think I'll have it checked.

But if it isn't safe, and needs to be fixed, is there anything I can do?

If it's safe but not to code, is there a reason to get it fixed anyways, or should I wait until the furnace needs replacement?

Third possibility -- if it is safe and to code, should I get a permit for it?
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Epsilon Delta
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by Epsilon Delta »

acalia wrote:The furnace has been working just fine. However, it sits in a closet with a vented door, through which CO may leak from (which appears to violate current building code). None of the smoke detector/CO alarms have ever gone off though.
It's possible that it was up to code when installed and the code has since changed. Just one more variable you'll want to check.

(There is normally no requirement to change things when the code changes. It's almost certain that a house with wiring over about 10 years old is not up to current code.)
123
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by 123 »

In many areas the local natural gas utility company will do safety inspections for gas appliance, probably for no cost. I would call them up and get an inspection done if possible. If you initially start dealing with an HVAC contractor there's a stronger likelihood that they'll start off telling you that you need to totally replace things, they're in business to make a profit you know. The local utility service person is more likely to give you an objective opinion and may even offer improvement suggestions if pressed.
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Rodc
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by Rodc »

123 wrote:In many areas the local natural gas utility company will do safety inspections for gas appliance, probably for no cost. I would call them up and get an inspection done if possible. If you initially start dealing with an HVAC contractor there's a stronger likelihood that they'll start off telling you that you need to totally replace things, they're in business to make a profit you know. The local utility service person is more likely to give you an objective opinion and may even offer improvement suggestions if pressed.
Good idea. If oil instead of gas that won't work.

If it's safe but not to code, is there a reason to get it fixed anyways,
I would at least strongly consider getting fixed. Who knows what an insurance company might try if heaven forbid it turns not to be safe even though you thought it was. Or something might come up when you go to sell.

That said, I have wiring in the basement I did without pulling a permit many years ago when I had a lot less money and a lot more time to do these sorts of things.
We live a world with knowledge of the future markets has less than one significant figure. And people will still and always demand answers to three significant digits.
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GerryL
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by GerryL »

123 wrote:In many areas the local natural gas utility company will do safety inspections for gas appliance, probably for no cost. I would call them up and get an inspection done if possible. If you initially start dealing with an HVAC contractor there's a stronger likelihood that they'll start off telling you that you need to totally replace things, they're in business to make a profit you know. The local utility service person is more likely to give you an objective opinion and may even offer improvement suggestions if pressed.
I'm in a similar situation. Some years ago I had a high-efficiency furnace installed. The pricing was good, but once the work was done the guy I contracted was totally unresponsive. I literally called his answering service every week for 3 months and never got a call back. (I was calling with a question and to let him know that his people had left a jacket and some materials at my house.) A few years later I had someone from another HVAC company come out to do a periodic check. This person informed me that the furnace was 1) a bit too powerful for the size of my house (so, no I should not close off the spare room in the winter), 2) not level and 3) does not appear to have been permitted. Yeesh.

Of course, they could fix the leveling and permitting problem for me ... for an unspecified price. The idea of having the gas company come out for an objective look-see might be the right thing to do.
SimonJester
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by SimonJester »

First question is this closet in a hallway or in a bedroom? If it is in a bedroom then this is a safety issue and the furnace will need to be relocated. If the furnace is in a hallway closet or utility room with the ventilated doors then it is likely the code changed at some point to disallow this.

If the furnace otherwise safe and not located in a bedroom I would wait until the furnace need replacing and replace it with a high efficiency unit. These will draw their combustion air from the outside.

Make sure you have CO detectors on each level of the house and put one outside the furnace closet.

As for your recourse, your home inspection pointed this out and should have caught the permit issue. However you went forward with the purchase of the house so you have little recourse now. This would have been something to bargain with during the negotiations.

I am in the same boat as my furnace did not pass the final inspection due to the improper drain on the whole house humidifier. Its not a safety issue so I will fix it once I replace the furnace, Its been 15 years so Im in no hurry.
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin
BIGal
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by BIGal »

Agree with those who recommend having it checked by a professional. Vents in the door provide air for combustion. CO doesn't "leak" it is the result of incomplete combustion and will be disbursed through the vents...assume you have forced air. CO is NOT something to mess around with....it can kill and will, given the right circumstances. You may also call your gas supplier and get their advice. Do it now, do not wait.
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ClevrChico
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by ClevrChico »

I lived in an apartment for years with the furnace in a hallway with a vented door. It was non high efficient, so it needed inside air for combustion.
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jimb_fromATL
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by jimb_fromATL »

acalia wrote:The furnace has been working just fine. However, it sits in a closet with a vented door, through which CO may leak from (which appears to violate current building code). None of the smoke detector/CO alarms have ever gone off though.
That's not necessarily a code violation. Typical building codes do require that fuel-fired units like furnaces, water heaters, and boilers that are to be installed in a living area must be certified as suitable for it ... and installed with correct venting. There are typically also requirements for the size of the enclose space and spacing between the units and the walls. There are often more stringent requirements in large multi-unit and/or high-rise buildings.

It's even less of a hazard with modern high-efficiency units that bring in outside air for combustion instead of depleting oxygen from the living area. Chances are your unit is suitable and up to code; so as long as it is installed with correct venting, you probably don't have a case against anybody to do anything about it. Just make sure you have a couple of working carbon monoxide detectors to make sure that you'll know if anything does go wrong. A smoke detector is not enough.

Here's one of many articles on the subject: link ... And another

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Saving$
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by Saving$ »

I'll offer a fourth possibility - two versions - It was permitted, inspected, everything is fine, and the jurisdiction does not have sufficient resources to close out permits; they are mostly concerned with getting their funds and inspecting, so unless an install fails an inspection, the permit stays open when searched online. The other version of that is they are only concerned with getting their permit fees, and don't have sufficient resources to inspect, so they dont. Same result - permit stays open online. This often applies to trade permits such as HVAC, plumbing, roofing (as opposed to whole building permits).

I would NOT call an HVAC company and ask them to tell you what is wrong with it. I guarantee something will be "wrong" with it so they can charge you to fix that. Call the local gas company and ask if they will take a look. If not call an HVAC company for annual maintenance at the change of season. Be there when they do the service call, and once the tech is there, casually ask if everything looks safe and ok. DO NOT make a big deal of this, do not share your concern, do not tell them about the permit.
whomever
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by whomever »

" However, it sits in a closet with a vented door, through which CO may leak from "

This doesn't sound right to me for two reasons:

1)For at least some furnaces and water heaters - ones that use indoor air for combustion - code *requires* venting of some sort, e.g. louvered doors.

2)Even if you have a sealed combustion furnace that doesn't need makeup air (because it pipes combustion air from outside), if the furnace leaks CO because of some malfunction (rusted heat exchanger?), I'd expect the CO to leak around any door. CO can leak from garages into the house, for example, even with solid weatherstripped doors. And if it's a forced air furnace, some failures will have the furnace blower moving the CO all over the house via the ductwork.

Many furnaces are installed in basements w/o any type of enclosure at all.

My sense is that CO is best protected against by a CO detector, not a particular door on the furnace room.

I'm certainly open to knowledgeable correction!
betterfinances
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by betterfinances »

acalia wrote:The furnace installed by the previous homeowner may not be to code. City records show a permit was started for the work, but the final inspection was never done. The home inspection report included the furnace but did not note that the install may not be to code.

Is the previous homeowner, the original HVAC contractor, or the home inspector responsible in any way? Or should I just start a new permit, and hire a new HVAC contractor to fix the issue myself? Or should I just use the furnace until it requires replacement?
No, the previous homeowner is not responsible. You bought the house, you get what you bought. If it was not to code, your home inspector should have caught it and made a note. If it is an omission from the home inspector, you can sue him for an omission, I suppose, but I doubt that you'd win.
chonp3
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by chonp3 »

I worked in the heating trade for many years, often a louvered door was necessary to provide make up air for combustion. The lack of a louvered door could be the code violation. I wouldn't worry about it. Install a CO detector, have your gas company check it out for free.

If there was something obvious, the home inspector would have flagged it. A lot of furnace installations are not permitted. If it bothers you, have a contractor come out to change filters and give it a once over.
krannerd
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by krannerd »

acalia wrote:The furnace has been working just fine. However, it sits in a closet with a vented door, through which CO may leak from (which appears to violate current building code). None of the smoke detector/CO alarms have ever gone off though.
I suggest getting a CO detector with a display that will read low levels of CO. A typical alarm will only sound after extended exposure to elevated levels....like 400ppm for 15 minutes...which is really crisis level.

http://www.kidde.com/home-safety/en/us/ ... ms/c3010d/

I have purchased the product above to measure CO near my 45 year old boiler. I have standard alarms elsewhere in the house, but use this one to monitor the boiler room. This unit can read down below 30ppm....as low as 9ppm, I think. It is $50 spent to make me feel safer. So far...no detectable readings.
closetoreality
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Re: improper furnace install from previous homeowner, what now?

Post by closetoreality »

That furnace could be 2 feet from your bedside and you should be just fine.

Carbon Monoxide is an issue when the air/fuel mixture is off which creates higher levels of Carbon Monoxide. It is considered an incomplete burn.

The other issue is when someone has a cracked heat exchanger (if forced air).

Have it inspected yearly for these & make sure the exhaust is vented to spec.
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