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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Default Over heated Home

    I have a past client who had a problem with a furnace installation. This client lives in Phoenix for the winter. The furnace failed and contractor installed a new furnace and didn't wire the thermostat correctly. My client left for the winter. It was a propane system and the propane company suspected an issue with the system when they made the monthly delivery and found the tank empty. They fill the tank, noted it was empty and came back a month later to find it empty again. They called the owner suspecting a leak. Heating contractor was called back and no leaks were found. Propane company refills the tank and same thing happens. Owner has a friend go into the house to find melted candles, furniture split, cabinets warped etc. The house is pretty well insulated and they close drapes etc. for the winter while it is vacant.

    I know the house experienced a 90% furnace running non-stop through 500 gallons of propane 3 times. I am now being called into to inspect the house and identify damage done this these events. Anyone have experience with this situation and have pointers for this inspection?

    Thanks

    //Rick

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    Rick Bunzel
    WWW.PacCrestInspections.com
    360-588-6956

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    No. San Diego Co., CA
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    Default Re: Over heated Home

    Rick, you said you are inspecting the damage on behalf of clients, who are the home owners. Wouldn't this be an insurance claim with an adjuster assessing the damage also? Of course that's not to say that you could not perform an inspection but surely that would be limited to what your State's (and any professional organization you may belong to) s.o.p. which would not include many areas in an insurance claim i.e. Cosmetic, loss of use etc. Furthermore, there could be other aspects of this inspection which might warrant invasive probing and not permitted pursuant to your State law.

    Seems to me there would be a claim against the thermostat installer but proving that would need an expert in that field to determine what was done incorrectly during installation. Being that the tank was filled three times, using 1500 gallons of propane, some degree of liability is passed back to the owners for not recognizing and acting upon the issue sooner. I would be extremely careful about how deep you want to get involved. This is potentially waaaay more than a home inspection and something you may not be legally qualified to perform.

    I have performed somewhat similar services in the past but not as an Inspector, just as an authorized Agent for the absent owner, overseeing the claim.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    Caledon, Ontario
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    5,005

    Default Re: Over heated Home

    One thing that comes to mind about insurance. Up here most insurers if the house is vacant for a period of time will require that someone come in and check the house every other day or third day to ensure all is okay, no burst pipes, roof leaks, broken into...

    So wouldn't the insurance be null and void since no one seems to have lived up to what the insurance policy dictates?


  4. #4
    Join Date
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    New Mexico
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    Default Re: Over heated Home

    Are they flying you from Washington to Phoenix to do the inspection? I would think that unless someone changed the thermostat, it would be pretty easy to prove what was wrong as soon as you got another propane delivery.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  5. #5
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    Maryland
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    Default Re: Over heated Home

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Robinson View Post
    Are they flying you from Washington to Phoenix to do the inspection? I would think that unless someone changed the thermostat, it would be pretty easy to prove what was wrong as soon as you got another propane delivery.
    You have it backwards. The house is in Washington that has the damage. It was left unattended over the winter while the owners were in Arizona for winter.

    Why someone would leave the property unsupervised is a question in and of itself.

    $20/week for someone to take 5 min to check the house would have been a good decision in retrospect.

    Last edited by Garry Sorrells; 04-19-2014 at 10:39 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
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    NY Finger Lakes Area
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    206

    Default Re: Over heated Home

    .........was the burner orifice converted to be used with propane? If it was set up for natural gas, propane consumption would be extreme. This would not explain the aspects of overheating however......Greg


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Lancaster, CA
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    153

    Default Re: Over heated Home

    Wow, interesting! Safety components of furnace likely only components preventing total disaster. However, I think what those exact temperatures were, when heat was cut off on the furnace and what room temperature and for how long would be interesting... pyrolysis in the form we would most often see probably couldn't have occurred, however... some smart people may figure out what/how much thermal decomposition has occurred and to what.

    Any guesses as to how hot? Easy to see where home could have been 140 +, furnace cutting out higher, but just a wee bit of loss in home. Crazy stuff. I've heard similar in regards to vacant homes in regards to insurance. As far as Propane, the first or second time, shame on HVAC guy... third time??


  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Over heated Home

    I was under the impression that if the propane runs out the supplier has to enter the house to ensure the pilot/furnace is operational?

    Sounds like a number of corporate entities could be facing a law suit if someone does not admit liability and the insurance will not cover the matter.


  9. #9
    Join Date
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    Bennett (Denver metro), Colorado
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    Default Re: Over heated Home

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond Wand View Post
    I was under the impression that if the propane runs out the supplier has to enter the house to ensure the pilot/furnace is operational?

    Sounds like a number of corporate entities could be facing a law suit if someone does not admit liability and the insurance will not cover the matter.
    Propane company lights the water heater pilot and the furnace if it has a pilot light.

    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

  10. #10
    John Williams's Avatar
    John Williams Guest

    Default Re: Over heated Home

    Had a similar thing happen with one of my customers. They hung a picture in the dining room and the nail they used went through the t-stat wire.


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Anacortes, Washington
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    Default Re: Over heated Home

    Let me clarify - the owner wants the damage documented by a licensed professional. He does not want to make a claim with his insurance company because he paid for a new furnace and clearly the new installation was faulty.

    Regardless of whether the propane company should have or should not have refilled the tank is a moot point. This client wants documentation as to the damage that occurred when the furnace ran full bore through each propane tank. So back to my original question outside of the melted candles are they other things I should be looking for?

    Rick Bunzel
    WWW.PacCrestInspections.com
    360-588-6956

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    No. San Diego Co., CA
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    562

    Default Re: Over heated Home

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Bunzel View Post
    Let me clarify - the owner wants the damage documented by a licensed professional. He does not want to make a claim with his insurance company because he paid for a new furnace and clearly the new installation was faulty.

    Regardless of whether the propane company should have or should not have refilled the tank is a moot point. This client wants documentation as to the damage that occurred when the furnace ran full bore through each propane tank. So back to my original question outside of the melted candles are they other things I should be looking for?
    Yes, a way out...

    If he wants documentation it's for one purpose only, a claim of some sort against the installer. If the installer balks, as he is likely to do, the case may end up in court with your expertise and documentation called into question. As I said before, make sure your 'professional license' covers you before you provide any damage assessment whatsoever and that you are qualified to provide an opinion. In any event, a claim of damage against the installer is likely to be referred to his own insurance company, who will, in turn attempt to mitigate any liability by involving the homeowners home insurance company. Good luck anyway.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Over heated Home

    Ian,

    From a legal standpoint why would this inspection be any different from a presale inspection? We look at condition and document that condition. This is well within any of our scopes of practice. Any of our inspections could end of in court. If I end up being deposed or in court, my rate goes up. I always approach my inspection as if they will be questioned by a competitor or an evil lawyer type!


    //Rick

    Rick Bunzel
    WWW.PacCrestInspections.com
    360-588-6956

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Over heated Home

    I suggest you look around for other plastic things that have been softened. Candles melt in hot water, at perhaps 140 degrees F. Pop bottles and water bottles shrink in my dishwasher at perhaps 160 F. (Polyethylene bottles, like dish soap bottles soften at various temperatures and won't help much.)

    If you find softened plastics (and maybe even if you don't), then you will want to look at the electrical wiring. Softened insulation tends to shrink, pulling the insulation away from the screw terminals, and could also allow the wire to push through the insulation at tight bends. (NMD 60 is only rated to 140 F.)


  15. #15
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    No. San Diego Co., CA
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    Default Re: Over heated Home

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Bunzel View Post
    Ian,

    From a legal standpoint why would this inspection be any different from a presale inspection? We look at condition and document that condition. This is well within any of our scopes of practice. Any of our inspections could end of in court. If I end up being deposed or in court, my rate goes up. I always approach my inspection as if they will be questioned by a competitor or an evil lawyer type!


    //Rick
    Rick
    It' very different from a pre-sale or pre-purchase inspection. The fact that you are specifically looking for damage with a specific cause puts you in the area of 'expert' IMO, and beyond the scope of a typical home inspection. Much the same as a Fire Marshall investigating the root cause of a fire and very different to his inspection of working fire alarms.

    Ed. touched on one aspect - NMC. After you have done your thing, are you willing to stipulate that everything is sound and the wiring was not compromised in some way even if you didn't find anything wrong because you did not perform exhaustive testing (as perhaps an expert might). Who knows what might occur months or years from now. But that's just one area. The very fact that you are seeking information indicates you are not an expert and your investigation/inspection and opinion could be called into question without the experience to back it up. Damage assessment is not a home inspection and may not comply with your State's inspection mandate.
    You certainly could perform a limited service for the client, given that you have inspection training and experience but not under the authority of your HI license. Refer to your State's regulations and see if your intended 'inspection' falls within guidelines.

    Last edited by Ian Page; 04-22-2014 at 09:03 PM.

  16. #16
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Over heated Home

    Ian,

    You bring up a good point, we aren't specialists, we are generalists. My agreement stipulates that I am doing a visual inspection and its not technically exhaustive. I will make sure that my client knows I am not bringing my x-ray glasses. I am a firefighter with many years of experience which gives me an advantage as I have seen what fires do to homes.

    //Rick

    Rick Bunzel
    WWW.PacCrestInspections.com
    360-588-6956

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    No. San Diego Co., CA
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    562

    Default Re: Over heated Home

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Bunzel View Post
    Ian,

    You bring up a good point, we aren't specialists, we are generalists. My agreement stipulates that I am doing a visual inspection and its not technically exhaustive. I will make sure that my client knows I am not bringing my x-ray glasses. I am a firefighter with many years of experience which gives me an advantage as I have seen what fires do to homes.

    //Rick
    Rick, you certainly bring a little more insight and experience than many. Just be careful not to go beyond your expertise level and, if necessary don't hesitate to make referrals. Good luck...


  18. #18
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Over heated Home

    Another thing accurred to me today: The wax toilet seals have probably melted away.

    Don't flush


  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Anacortes, Washington
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    Default Re: Over heated Home

    Wax Rings! didn't think of that one!

    And that why its a value to be on this board and for all inspectors to contribute!

    //Rick

    Rick Bunzel
    WWW.PacCrestInspections.com
    360-588-6956

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