Columbus Ohio real estate

Furnace Filter: Sucking Wind

It's nearly 9:00  PM EDT on Friday, November 4, 2011... the first Friday of November.  I needed to post a Furnace Filter Friday post at some point today...  Wouldn't you think being November I'd find a good furnace post from a home inspector in November? Nope James in CT wrote about air conditioning this week.  The East Coast was hit by that  freaky "Nor’easter" last weekend...  

The point of Furnace Filter Friday is just to remind you to change your furnace filter regularly.  Monthly?  That's between you and your furnace / air conditioning.  Pay attention to what James finds out about the furnace filter in this attic air conditioning unit.  Size matters. 

While our area is a bit differernt, than Jame's market, we seldom have the AC unit in an attic he points out something important for home buyers and sellers to remember: the home inspector is not able to run an air conditioning unit in cold weather.  A good home inspector  should do a good visual inspection of the exterior unit and the blower. In Central Ohio usually the blower for AC is the furnace as well and usually it is in the basement. 

Thanks to James Quarello for allowing his post titled "Sucking Wind" be Re-Blogged.   


Air handler in Connecticut atticOne item I’m sure no one is thinking about right now here in Connecticut after the horrific Nor’easter blew through is Air Conditioning. That is unless you’re a home inspector. The unfortunate consequence of cold weather is air conditioners can not be run to test their function. The inspector must perform only a visual assessment of the equipment. Occasionally that is more than enough to spot problems.

Climbing into an attic during a recent inspection I found the A/C systems air handling unit. Giving it the once over quickly I noted a large of amount of cloth “duct tape” on the end of the unit.

Gray cloth duct tape is not actually duct tape at all. Real professionals never use it, because the adhesive is weak and deteriorates quickly, especially when it gets warm.

Huge gap between air handler and return ductWhen I see cheap duct, the first thing I think is, Uncle Bob has been here fixin’ things…again! The end of the unit where the tape had been oh so professionally applied is the return duct. The return is very important. This is where the air from the house is sucked back through the air handler over the cooling coils and back out to the house. With air conditioning the system basically works off the return. The heat from the air is removed by the coils and sent out to the exterior by the coolant.

As everyone who has every set foot in an attic in July knows, it’s hotter than Hades up there. So what do you suppose happen to the duct tape?

Yes, it came unglued, not unlike the inspector when he finds a repair like this one. The other and bigger issue is the air handler is now sucking return air not from the house, but the hot attic. The A/C system for all intents and purposes is swimming against the tide. A portion of the cooler air from the home coming through the return is being lost to the attic, while the hot air in the attic is pulled across the coils into the house.

The system efficiency has hit the basement, while the homeowner’s electric bill has undoubtedly gone to the stratosphere.

Air filter does not fit return grill opening.One other interesting discovery was the air filter inside the return vent in the hall. It was about four inches too small. If this had been the way the system had been filtered for sometime, couple that with the unfiltered air house the coils in the air handler must be clogged with a lot of dirt, once again a hit to the efficiency.

The best part was an estimate for a new system from an HVAC company shown to me during the inspection. It said the system was too small and did not provide adequate cooling. I think the latter part is true at least.

I think the lesson here is before thinking something needs to be replaced because it appears to be functioning poorly, you may want to have an unbiased party take a look at the system. 


James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
2010 - 2011 SNEC-ASHI President
NRSB #8SS0022
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

To find out more about our other high tech services we offer in Connecticut click on the links below:

Learn more about our Infrared Thermal Imaging & Diagnostics services. Learn more about our home energy audits, the Home Energy Tune uP®.

Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.



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Comment balloon 3 commentsMaureen McCabe • November 04 2011 08:48PM
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