New furnace in older house - What else to consider - How to do it right. - Part 1

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Posted by: from Maple Ridge
11/1/2012 at 2:22:29 AM

We are tenants in an about 23 years old house which is heated by a furnace of the same age. The basement downstairs is also rented out. In the first winter when we used the heating system we recognized it was not very efficient. Our monthly gas bill was more than $300 while we had the furnace running only for about one hour in the morning and then for another seven to eight hours in the late afternoon (3PM) until night (10-11 pm). In total about for 10 hours daily.

The tenant downstairs works at night time and sleeps during the daytime. He needs heat when we are in bed and we need heat when he is sleeping. Therefore the basement was equipped with built in electrical fan heaters which works really well for him. We also sealed all the heating duct-outlets in his rooms because his Filipino wife, is cooking every day a couple times and the smell in the whole house is just terrible.

Now after request we finally get a new furnace however our landlord is more looking to get it as cheaper as possible rather than proper working. But it makes no sense to me to spend any amount of money for a non properly working furnis change.

Here's the situation:

The system system takes right now the air for burning the gas and the air which will be heated up from the basement. As far as I understand, the fresh air for the "fire" will be in the future taken from outside. However the to be heated air will be taken from the basement (there is no real return rather than the air while it'll be taken right where the upstairs return connects the furnace) as well as from our living space upstairs. That means the stinky air from downstairs will be mixed with our air and blued in our living space.

Furthermore we have only one return upstairs and this return is placed in a wall in our kitchen. So when the kitchen door is closed, (there is only a gab from 1/2 inch underneath the sliding door) how can the air from all the other rooms "travel" to this one return? For example our bedroom is very far away from our kitchen. There is another fake return in the hallway right over the furnace room however this return is only a hole in the drywall. The ceiling in the furnace room is missing so it actually works like somehow like a return. However this is a direct connection to the basement and every smell comes right away through this return out.

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Date/Time11/1/2012 at 2:48:39 AM

New furnace in older house - What else to consider - How to do it right. - Part 2

I begged the installer to go upstairs and have a look at the situation and to inform himself how many and big are the rooms, where the outlets and where the returns are located hand how many. I also to hold him the current situation however he responded this would be not necessary and we only would need one return and this one in the kitchen would be fine. Everything will work.

The whole "site inspection" takes only about 10 minutes and was held in the furnace room. Thereafter the deal was settled. I guess he was the cheapest bidder wit his announcement of $5.800. and "no hidden cost."

When I visit my clients I spent often more than 1.5 to 2 hours to check the situation, advise them what is necessary and what is possible and also what options are available and how much these options will cost them. Thereafter I prepare an individual and explicit for my customers situation fitting estimate.

So please fellows enlighten me. My gut and my common sense tell's me, the whole thing is useless. My landlord could also open the window and throw the money out of the street. The effect/result would be the same. Am I right ? If whished I can provide you with pictures.



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Date/Time11/1/2012 at 12:47:29 PM


From what I've read so far it sounds like you have a lot of return air issues, a very simple way of checking the return air operation is by placing a tissue over the return air grille while the furnace fan is running, the tissue should remain on the grille, if it falls off then that return is not drawing enough air. Insufficient return air can also starve the supply air the same way a dirty filter will, also this will cause the furnace to run hotter as well as the electrical components to heat up.

Return air in many times during basement renos (ie: installing basement apts) is overlooked and in some cases never connected properly. There should not be a return air in any kitchen or bathroom. There should be one in the living room/dining room area, one in main hall area near other rooms, If the home is a 2 storey there should be a return on the second floor landing or in the master bedroom. As for the basement it needs to have a functional return in at least the living area of that basement apartment.

A new furnace if they replace the existing will have an option for a fresh air intake for combustion, in your case it sounds like that would br good if the furnace area is tight, also consider the gas hot water heater has combustion also so in some cases were the room is air tight we would install an outside air vent for the water heater.


Dean Jamieson

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Date/Time11/1/2012 at 1:55:55 PM

I agree with Dean below.

You have an issue with not enough return air. I'd also be willing to bet your basement tenant either doesn't use the range hood while cooking or its ductless or its not vented properly. Check the filter on the furnace. In my experience, landlords don't enter the space often and almost never change the filters. As a landlord myself, I would be checking and balancing the system before replacing the furnace itself.

Pat Vale

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Jason from Airrite in Kelowna
Date/Time11/1/2012 at 4:37:19 PM


One thing to make sure is that you have your air ducts cleaned before new furnace is installed. Also must old houses have the same cold air intakes as you are saying and it does work okay.

Just thought id help out.



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Date/Time11/1/2012 at 5:59:22 PM

Thank all for your responses. Jason - we had last fall a duct cleaning guy here bat was he "performed" was just a joke. He had an about 10 inch long pressure handheld device and was blowing compressed/pressurized air the duct-canals in each room. He reached with his instrument about 10 inches deep. Furthermore he used a fan/blower (on one side sucking and on the other side blowing) outside the house with a flexible hose which he was holding on the feed-duct-canal and I guess also on the return duct-canal for a couple seconds. The whole cleaning session took about 20 minutes.

I saw in a season of Mike Holmes how guys were cleaning the duct-work. They had an industrial vacuum cleaner with a long hose and a rotating brush and also a mounted camera on it. So these guys could actually see what they are doing cleaning each duct canal. And I was expecting this where I called the cleaning guy. However I learned from this mistake. Cleaning isn't equal cleaning. It's the same like tile-setting isn't equal tile-setting.

Cheers Bertram

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