The Silent Threat
In this post I’ll talk about a condition I came across at a recent home inspection. A qualified HVAC contract can easily correct this problem. BUT just because the fix is easy doesn’t take away from its importance. I’m sure most of you know about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide ( CO ) and the importance of keeping it from occurring. Most though do not know how to spot concerns with combustion appliance installations to know if it’s safe or not. Including in this case apparently the installer of these appliances. As with all of my post this is not meant to be an all encompassing article about combustion appliance installation. Rather it is to outline the concerns present at this particular inspection and the value of a home inspection preformed by a professional home inspector.
In the first two pictures you see the furnace and water heater, which are installed inside a small closet in the kitchen. Appropriately the closet has doors, so you don’t have to look at those unsightly appliances. These doors here are what cause the problem. These appliances need air to burn, not to just burn, but to burn as close to complete combustion as possible so the lest amount of CO is produced. They also need air to carry what products of combustion are produced up and out of the flu. For that Ventilation has to be provided (The V in HVAC). An attempt to provide ventilation was made. However even though I was unable to operate these appliances due to the gas being shut off to the home, there were plenty of signs of a problem.
A closer look at the water heater shows at least three signs that the WH is not burning and exhausting properly. First looking at the draft hood, you can see a build up of black soot. The presence of the soot indicates that 1. the WH is not burning properly. Black soot should not be produced when properly ventilated. 2. The soot being on the outside of the draft hood indicates that the products of combustion are not being carried up and out of the home through the flue. Proper ventilation provides the air needed to carry these harmful gasses up and out of the home. The third sign ( and this may be kind hard to see ) is the plastic rings on the top of the WH where the water lines go in, are melted. This also indicates that the hot gasses are escaping the flue pipe and entering the living space.
Like I mentioned this can be fixed relatively easy. Ventilation can be provided by bringing air in from the exterior, or air from the attic space, or better and larger vents in the closet doors. here you see the ventilation that was provided for these appliances. And now you know was not nearly enough.
Outlined in this post are just a few of the numerous conditions that could be lurking in the air. But as I have pointed out many issues if handled appropriately and in time are not problems to be scared of. It is important to remember, anything in, on, or around a house can be fixed. The intention of a quality home inspector is never to scare you or point out reasons you shouldn’t buy a particular house, rather it is to arm you with as much knowledge as possible for you to decide if this is the right house for you, and to keep you safe. For, often times less than the cost of one months mortgage payment, a qualified home inspector will perform a comprehensive home inspection and report to you all the information needed for you to make the best, and most informed decision on, likely the largest monetary investment of your life.