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Let's Play Stump the Chump!

December 31, 2012

Send in your stumpers!
You know - that problem house, symptom or combination of symptoms that confounded the homeowner and challenged all your building science savvy to solve. Send BPI a description of the problem – and the solution, which will be kept secret. If it's a genuine stumper, it may be published in the next HVAC2HP e-newsletter. Send stumpers to mkandel@bpi.org.

This stumper is reprinted with permission from BPI. 

Answer to Last Month's Stumper:

Readers will recall that Jamie replaced two broken air systems with Carrier® hybrid systems only to find that after the project was completed, all the registers in the house started sweating, with the humidity level over 70%! All equipment was installed correctly, air volumes were right, the equipment was perfectly sized, all duct work was sealed (with less than 10% leakage).

Despite the gaps in information, we received several creative responses to the puzzle. Dean Smith of Santee Cooper in Moncks Corner, South Carolina came closest, guessing that the customer had the system's fan in the "on" position and the blower motor was picking up the condensate from the wet coil, which was being distributed back into the home. Well done, Dean!

Jamie reveals what was really going on. When he went back to the house on the second visit, he visually inspected the duct work to make sure it wasn't pulling in excessive air and humidity from the attic. But when he lifted the scuttle hole hatch it started to float; there were two full size attic exhaust fans in a 6,000 cubic foot attic. They put the entire house on such a negative pressure, they were sucking in moisture from the outside. Says Jamie: "It was like having a blower door on 24/7". Important note: The first time Jamie visited the house for his initial assessment of the broken central air system, it was a cold and rainy day, so the attic fans weren't running. To solve the problem, Jamie disconnected one attic fan and turned the other one to 120 degrees so it would only turn on in extreme heat.

This Month's Stumper:

This month's stumper comes from Marc Sardino of Comfort Home Improvement in Syracuse, New York. The owner and inhabitant of a 1,900 square foot colonial home built in the 1990s called with a complaint of moisture build-up in their home. The problem was so severe that water was dripping from most of the insulated walls in the home. Upon inspection of the attic, a massive mold issue was discovered on the roof deck and gable walls. The attic had been insulated and air sealed by another company, whose work appeared to be done correctly. The home had an older natural gas furnace (installed in 1999), dry basement and there were proper gutters and drainage around the exterior perimeter of the house. What could have caused the moisture problem in this home?

Marc Sardino Home Audit Department Manager with Comfort Home Improvement Co. in Syracuse, New York. He started with Comfort Windows 8 years ago as an insulation installer, but took on the responsibility of Home Audits shortly after. Since, Marc has conducted over 1,000 audits and test outs.

Think you know what the problem is, as well as the solution? Send it to mkandel@bpi.org.

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