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  1. #1
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    Mar 2007
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    Spring City/Surrounding Philadelphia area
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    Default Fireplace Had It's Own Air Handler Unit

    I looked at a house today that had a wood burning fireplace insert that had it's own air handler unit to help supplement the gas furnace. Even though it had it's own air handler, the supply duct coming off of the air handler was connected to the gas furnace supply ducts. Unfortunately, the area in the basement where the installation was happened to be too tight to even get into for adequate observation or picture taking. The date code on the air handler was equal to the age of the house so it appears to have been installed at the time the house was built.

    Now the furnace and fireplace each had their own flues. But I don't know what type of issues could arise from having a supply duct system for a fireplace directly tied in to the supply ducts for the gas furnace.

    Thoughts?

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Chicago, IL
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    Default Re: Fireplace Had It's Own Air Handler Unit

    Any chance you were looking at HRV connected to a fireplace, as on page 88 here?

    http://tinyurl.com/29g3j3
    http://www.efficiencyvermont.com/pag...Appliances.pdf



  3. #3
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    Mar 2007
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    Default Re: Fireplace Had It's Own Air Handler Unit

    Looks similar but this unit was directly connected to the gas furnace supply ducts.


  4. #4
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    Mar 2007
    Location
    Near Philly, Pa.
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    1,632

    Cool Re: Fireplace Had It's Own Air Handler Unit

    This is a growning trend for mfrs. to add hot air ducts to supplement the heat in the house. Some are intended to dump air into the room(s) while a few actually connect to the return trunks. There are several problems with this setup.

    The air coming in this bootleg branch is not steady or predictable. Sometimes you have very hot air while other times nothing at all while still you may have cool air being drawn in. This totally screws up the delta T or temp. differential across the heat exchanger. The furnace is set up and tweaked base on the temp. and static pressure of return air. If you pump alot more heat into the return, then it is harder for the furnace to strip heat from the furnace exhaust. Temps rise and components, such as the heat exchanger, may fail or at least have their useful lives shortened. Just to refresh, a cracked HX can draw CO into the home. At the very least, the furnace will not always deliver its optimum performance due to the delta T and delta P swings. Delta P is the pressure gradient. Properly set up, a tech does a "duct traverse" taking pressure measurements in a grid pattern to insure proper air flow. They do all their manual J calculations on duct sizing, materials, take-offs, etc. then somebody throws all that out the window by tacking on a warm air intake into the return. If they attach it to a warm supply, it can create backpressure at the coil & HX. When the heating season is over, someone must remember to close off that circuit so it doesn't participate with cooling cycles. If the return air is too far out of whack, it can lead to failure of the air handler fan. If the Fp draws air in directly from outdoors, dirt and bugs can enter the system not to mention moisture and odors.

    These are not tested or listed as a system with any furance and should not be allowed. I'll bet there was no AHJ inspection but if so, he should have flunked it. Also, if the Fp guy is installing it, he could be in legal trouble as most parts of the country require HVAC licensure to do such work.
    You get the idea.
    HTH

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

  5. #5
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    Mar 2007
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    Chicago, IL
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    Default Re: Fireplace Had It's Own Air Handler Unit

    Interesting. Thanks.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Fireplace Had It's Own Air Handler Unit

    Thanks Bob. The entire setup just didn't seem right.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Houston, Texas
    Posts
    292

    Default Re: Fireplace Had It's Own Air Handler Unit

    Interestingly, there are controls available for the HVAC system that could be used to prevent the issues that Bob talked about under these circumstances. These monitor things such as outlet temperature from the furnace or evaporator and will turn off the burners or condenser units when the outlet air reaches critical temperatures.

    Of course, the fireplace contractor who set up the system Nick described probably did not installed any ancillary controls of this type. These kinds of controls are used to prevent problems when there are several duct zones controlled by multiple thermostats. Under circumstances when only one small zone might be in operation off of a larger system, the temperature drops (cooling) and rises (heating) can easily get beyond acceptable ranges.

    The fireplace contractor would definitely need to be working with a qualified licensed HVAC contractor in order to make a setup like Nick described function properly and not create other problems.



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