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  1. #1
    Christopher Kovac's Avatar
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    Default Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Hi Everyone,

    This is my first post to Inspection News so thanks in advance for any and all feedback!

    I ran into a 2 year old Heil furnace yesterday at an 1850's farmhouse that had a plastic power vent going to a metal sleeve into a brick chimney. The roof pitch was too steep for me to get on to see inside the top of the chimney and I couldn't view any kind of cap at any angle from the ground with binoculars. Has anyone seen this kind of installation before?

    Thanks in Advance,
    Chris

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Quote Originally Posted by Christopher Kovac View Post
    Hi Everyone,

    This is my first post to Inspection News so thanks in advance for any and all feedback!

    I ran into a 2 year old Heil furnace yesterday at an 1850's farmhouse that had a plastic power vent going to a metal sleeve into a brick chimney. The roof pitch was too steep for me to get on to see inside the top of the chimney and I couldn't view any kind of cap at any angle from the ground with binoculars. Has anyone seen this kind of installation before?

    Thanks in Advance,
    Chris
    It is wrong. Every single Cat IV furnace I have seen requires a PVC or ABS plastic flue pipe. The reason is that the flue gas is very corrosive and cool. A metal pipe will corrode away and it will also cool the flue gas even more, so it will not vent properly. I'm betting that you will not find a pipe in that old chimney and that it is just dumping out into the chimney.

    Last edited by Scott Patterson; 09-27-2007 at 01:41 PM.
    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Welcome Christopher!
    Nice find. That is bad news!

    "There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception." -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)
    www.ArnoldHomeInspections.com

  4. #4
    Christopher Kovac's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Thanks for the quick and great feedback!

    Chris


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Chris,

    Check the owners manual, for a condensing furnace it will say this, or something very similar:

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    Exclamation CO hazard!

    Cat. 1 venting is not approved for positive flue gas pressure. CO can blow out of those seams or chimney! I would Red Tag this and shut it down. Better make a call in the morning. Condensation and corrosion aren't the only reasons for PVC.

    HTH and welcome!
    Bob Harper
    Certified Fireplace Inspector
    Certified Master Hearth Professional

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Chris,

    You'll find the Cat IV listing that Scott referred to on the data plate that you took a picture of. Cat IV = plastic every time.

    Welcome!

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  8. #8
    William Brady's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    just a question?? Do you turn on the furnace and if so did you do any testing for CO. This is an old home the install is wrong I know. First things first however. If I got a positive for CO I would be making a big deal right their however if not then I would simple be pointing it out and informing everyone of the potential problems associated with it. Licensed contractor needed etc.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Quote Originally Posted by William Brady View Post
    just a question?? Do you turn on the furnace and if so did you do any testing for CO. This is an old home the install is wrong I know. First things first however. If I got a positive for CO I would be making a big deal right their however if not then I would simple be pointing it out and informing everyone of the potential problems associated with it. Licensed contractor needed etc.
    I do not test for CO, I did when I started but I quickly discovered that it testing for CO and reporting the results can lead to issues down the road. Testing for CO is well outside the scope of a home inspection.

    If you do test for CO, I would advise you to do so outside of the view of your client and use the results only as an indicator that something is possibly wrong. I would also advise you not to report that you tested for CO.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    William:

    I also use to measure for CO. I found was that by doing so more issues were raised - like when the HVAC guy came out, didn't have the proper equipment, didn't know the proper protocol or was just plain stupid. In other words he couldn't confirm what I wrote. I also had fire departments not understand protocols - yikes!!!!

    With good solid training you can go far beyond SOP like Scott said, but you also are beyond what the contractor bubba understands. And since so many people put absolute faith in the HVAC guy you can come away looking like a smuck. Sorry to say I have found that keeping the HVAC inspection fairly simple has its advantages, whether I like it or not.

    This is not to say that I discourage advanced knowledge. On the contrary......

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  11. #11
    William Brady's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Scott and Eric please help me out here. When the frunace is running you don't run let say a TIFF around to is if there are any leaks?? or gas. What happend when doing that got you in trouble if thats the right term. I was taught to use the TIFF so I would love to know the other side of that issue. Thanks.

    Bill B


  12. #12
    William Brady's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    One other thing sorry about the double post but I have read many post here about code issues where guys go on and on about code and it seem to me that that goes way beyond the scope of our HI's. Here we are taking about a check to see if there's a leak in some vent pipe or ges pipe for example. OK I'll stop now and wait to hear back from you guys.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Quote Originally Posted by William Brady View Post
    When the frunace is running you don't run let say a TIFF around to is if there are any leaks?? or gas.
    A TIFF is used to detect combustible gas leaks (e.g., natural gas), not CO. (Some models may also detect CO but mine only detects combustible gas.)

    "Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand." Leo Durocher
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Quote Originally Posted by William Brady View Post
    Scott and Eric please help me out here. When the frunace is running you don't run let say a TIFF around to is if there are any leaks?? or gas. What happend when doing that got you in trouble if thats the right term. I was taught to use the TIFF so I would love to know the other side of that issue. Thanks.

    Bill B
    IMO, a TIFF is about as useful as an empty bottle of water. Just breathing on a TIFF can set it off. Sticking it under your armpit can set it off. A big lunch from Taco Bell and it is useless! I prefer to use what is on my face, my nose. The battery is always charged and ready to go. You will find that many of the experienced inspectors seldom use an electronic gas detector. If it has a gas leak you will smell it.

    I never got into trouble not testing for CO, but I have seen inspectors in a very uncomfortable postion when asked their SOP for testing CO by a unfriendly attorney.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  15. #15
    William Brady's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Thanks for the two about posts. Bruce my does both and Scott not all of us and not me in particular are as experienced as you and I have a good wiffer to but this meter is designed to do just that detect CO and gas isn't that the protocol that I would say I use during my HI's. I guess I can detect gas but I am not that sure I can detect CO and I want to do the job for my client and at least tell them that suspect something is going on. I am still not sure of how this is supposed to be done. Can you guys please be more specfic..


  16. #16
    Jon mackay's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Personally,
    I believe that all home inspectors should have a CO detector on their belt. You don't necessarily have to say you checked for CO but if it registers a measurable amount, you can definitely say so.
    I use mine to alert the presence, not the absence.

    An example of its usefulness:
    I had a homeowner tell me before I even started an inspection that I should not expect to find any smoke or CO detectors because they kept going off and she assumed it was paranormal (She also had young children in the house).
    When I turned the boiler on, I detected a very large amount of CO in the entire finished basement. The cause turned out to be a tree branch that had fallen into the flue and then was covered with leaves completely blocking the flue (something I surely would have found anyway). The water heater also vented to this. Also, the homeowner smoked so that busted the paranormal myth about the smoke alarms also.

    Anyway, it just makes sense to me that you can't be too safe, even if you don't report on it...


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon mackay View Post
    I had a homeowner tell me before I even started an inspection that I should not expect to find any smoke or CO detectors because they kept going off and she assumed it was paranormal (She also had young children in the house).
    That's like saying you don't wear seat belts when you drive because they keep you in your seat.

    YEAH, WELL ... DUH!

    That woman needed to have her kids taken from her for a few days and be told they were in the hospital due to carbon monoxide poisoning, may that would get her to start thinking about things in the right perspective ... nah, wouldn't do any good. Darwin Award candidate there.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  18. #18
    Jon Randolph's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Breedlove View Post
    A TIFF is used to detect combustible gas leaks (e.g., natural gas), not CO. (Some models may also detect CO but mine only detects combustible gas.)
    A tiff will detect CO as well as many other gasses, not just combustible.

    Try this tip on gas furnaces. Fire the furnace upo and let run for a while. Ensure that the burner is currently lit and speed up the tiff a bit so that the ticks are faster than normal. If you stick this into the path of moving air (try fanning it with cardboard) it will slow down. If there is CO present, it will speed up. Unfortunately this also will detect styrofoam, plastic etc. in the ducts. I do carry a digital CO detector that I use if the Tiff detects anything to verify if it is actually CO and provide the buyer and HVAC tech with an actual numerical reading at the time of the inspection. If the Tiff detects something but no anctual CO is detected, it may be time to clean the dicts and retrieve the vintage hotwhells, barbies, etc.

    As far as the high efficiency furnace venting. Don't forget about the fact that these are condensing furnaces and will coat the cool chimney, flue, ets with the corrosive condensate and cause possible moisture issues with the chimney and/or any surrounding objects as well as possibly leak CO due to the power vent feature.


  19. #19
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    Exclamation TIFF 8800a sniffer

    Jon, if you are referring to a TIFF 8800a, it does NOT sense carbon monoxide. I don't know where you are getting your information but it isn't from TIFF. FYI, Barcharach uses the same sensor tip on their Leakator 10. These sensors respond to hydrocarbons, moisture and heat. If your TIFF is speeding up and later confirm CO with an analyzer, the TIFF may have been sensing aldehyes, which are often present with CO.

    You are using a very dangerous approach my friend. I suggest you rely on a calibrated CO analyzer for CO and leave the TIFF to sniffing combustible gases. Yes, it will give false positives such as soap bubble solution, pipe dope, silicone caulk and a number of other things. Do your homework and read the manual from TIFF. Also, it cannot quantify whatever it is sensing.

    FYI, TIFF uses heptane for calibration so the meter will sense methane only down to 50 ppm. Many other brands can sense 10-20 ppm, which is about the level most noses can smell the gas odorant.

    HTH,
    Bob

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    William,

    I use the Tiff all the time. BUT, as already mentioned, it can be very misleading and set you down the wrong path. For example, your run the A/C, then run the heat and check the registers with the Tiff. It most likely is going to sound off and mostly likely because of the water vapor from the evaporation of water on the condensing coil.

    For gas leaks I use the Tiff. If it sounds, I use my nose and if I still have a question I will use Sherlock Leak Detector - what our local gas utilities use. I've had the Tiff scream and the Sherlock not have one bubble - end of story - false meter reading, no significant leak.

    You can load up all you want on meters etc but you have to understand how to use them and know what their limits are. The same holds true for carbon monoxide. Attend a qualified class on CO. It will knock your socks off and give you knowledge that a vast majority of HVAC techs don't have. Seriously.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Eric,

    Who provides a "qualified" CO class?

    Thanks


  22. #22
    Tom Munds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    I hope I'm in the right section. I was told that the TIFF 8800 was "The cats whiskers" good and indispensible. My report actually askes what tyype of detector I used and where. Are you guys telling me I could have spent all that money on a different or better product...Crap!


  23. #23
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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Thomas View Post
    Eric,

    Who provides a "qualified" CO class?

    Thanks
    Jim Davis with NCI National Comfort Institute Inc. : Performance-Based Contracting is the man you need to contact.

    Measured Performance more than just a buzzword

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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Carbon Monoxide Safety Association (COSA)
    The Carbon Monoxide Safety Assoc


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    Default Re: Plastic power vent to metal vent at brick chimney

    Michael,

    I've been to Bacharach's class twice. It's been a few years since and to be honest, I don't know if they still offer them.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

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