Old fashion heating systems leave tracks

Oil fired heating plant (furnace or boiler system) needs maintenance by a good oil burners service man. There are a lot of service men but only 1 out of 10 Service men are really any good, and of these 1/2 of theses guys are great. With a good burner system and a great service man these heating plants will run great for years. An inexperienced service man will miss the tell tail signs the heating plant needs help. The picture below could tell a heating man what is happening before he even gets to the heating plant.

The picture you are looking at is not mold but instead it’s dirt. In this photo this house has hot water heat. There is no air filtration system in this house, as small dirt particles migrate into the wall mounted radiator (baseboard heat) heats the air as it passes by but the dirt is charged with static electricity than the particles are carried up the wall with the warm air. This is where the charged particle bond cooler parts of the wall. The framing of the house keeps the sheetrock cooler directly in front of the studs in the winter and warmer in the summer. This also happens with electric baseboard heat. Using an air purifier such as a Honeywell 17000 HEPA Quietcare Air Cleaner works great removing all the particulate in the air.

Exhaust fan problems I presume?

My heating contract was called into a house that was about 8 years old. The homeowner had a unique problem. In the master bedroom was located on the 2nd floor the toilet bowl was frozen and the bathroom temperature was 70°. The contractor though at first this was a joke. The owner insisted that he wanted the problem fixed. With a little bit of looking around the contractor saw the bath fan right above the toilet bowl. But the real problem was in the attic the exhaust vent from the exhaust fan was not insulated. With the out side temperature of –20F below. What happened the air inside the exhaust pipe being cold (and cold air is heaver than warm air) dropped from the ceiling fan and fell into the toilet because the husband left the toilet lid up the night before, Allowing the cold air to collect in the toilet bowl and actually freeze the water.

Another job site the homeowner had a new roof put on 6 months earlier and had the attic reinsulated. The first cold morning about –15 below 0 with a hot shower the ceiling fan started dripping water. So he called out the roofer to fix the problem, it was not the roofing but instead the exhaust fan piping again was not insulated. While the high humidity was being blown out and the metal piping was below 0 the humidity was condensing rapidly on the piping, then run back into the ceiling fan, through the vent louvers and end up dripping to the floor.
You have to insulate the entire exhaust vent to the exhaust point.

You need fresh air in your house.

New houses need fresh air

The answer will move to action. A person will breathe in and vent per breathe 1/2 liter in quiet breathing to 6 liters or 1.58 gallons per minute.

Each person takes between 4 and 10 million breaths per year. The max volume of air that we take in and breathe out is called vital capacity. It’s about 4800 ml or about 5,000,000 gallons of air.
Each day, a person takes between 11 thousand to 28 thousand breaths per day per person or in other words about 13,698.6 gallons.

Calculates to 1,831.23 cubic feet per person must come into the house per day.
With this understanding, by tightening up our houses we need to bring in fresh air or we are going to poison our selves with our own exhaust air (CO2).

Installing an air exchanger into a new home is not an extra item that the state is forcing on us to do, but instead it is for our protection.
Having the Air Exchanger running 1 minute per hour per person in the house plus running it to remove humidity in the bathrooms while showers or hot tubs are running help stabilize the humidity in the entire house.

Wet floors next to exterior walls

Comment: from a reader
I had hardy board siding installed on my house when we had it built 6 years ago and we have had a problem with moisture along the walls on the interior floors. the builder installed the hardy siding against the house wrap and the back side of the siding was not sealed or primed. do you think this might be our problem? The problem is only on the exterior walls inside the house.
The house is six years old, located in Mississippi Our location has had two rain falls in the past two months. The relative humidity for this time of year is the highest @ 70% t0 80% on the outside of the house. I am not sure what the humidity would be on the inside. We leave the heat and cool pump set on 75% when we leave and set it at 73% when we are home. The temp outside 80-90% during the day and 60-70% during the night. Paper back roll insulation in the walls and blown in insulation in the ceiling. We
noticed the problem when the house was a year old, we have re-caulked everything on the exterior, we have painted the exterior again, we have sealed the brick on the bottom portion of the house, I have set the fan motor on the heat and air to low, so it would run longer.


I’m assuming that the house has a go air conditioner with the power to drop the house temp and to maintain it at 72°F when the outside air is 110°F . This problem occurs mostly when the inside temp is at 72° to 95°, if so than what is happening is to much humidity from the outside is coming into the house though Fresh air intakes(makeup air) for the appliances and or exhaust fans as well as an air exchanger. What is happening with the Air conditioner it sounds like it is to large of a unit. When the air conditioner runs constantly(45 minutes per hour) it has the ability to remove the water from the inside air. But if the AC unit only runs 15-25 minutes per hour and make up air coming into the house, this excess hot air coming in to the house brings with it a high concentration of water in a vapor form.

Now the hot air carrying humidity is in the house it rushes to the ceiling , while the AC unit is running dumping cold air into the house. ( A quick lesson in physics; Hot air is light and rises and cold air is heavy and drops to the floor) As the hot air looses its temperature it must loss volume of water its holding to do this it has to condensate on something cold. In a house it is the A- coil inside the furnace. but if the temp inside the house is already cool and the AC unit is not running the A-coil in the furnace is warm now the air has to find a cooler surface to condensate on. In this house it is the floor next to the exterior walls because gravity is holding the coldest air at the floor line. The exterior wall location is because the heating and cooling supply ducts have already dispensed the cold air there now making condensation.

The solution
1. Run 1-3 dehumidifiers I now they are ugly and noisy
2. Down size your AC unit and install a 2nd AC unit in the Attic for 90° + days this will allow you to run your primary AC unit in your furnace longer and remove the excess humidity from the house.
3. If you have a air exchanger run the fresh air through a dehumidifier before bringing the air into the house. You can do this with any fresh air intake flex tubes.
4. Keep the house doors shut as much as possible A max. of 1 door opening per hour, 10 second open.

The siding is not the problem. the house wrap is not helping. In hot climates you must protect the house (wood structure) from excess humidity. That means you must seal wall sheathing surface with something that will not allow moisture to pass through even if the siding is nailed on. that means all nails and nail holes must be sealed. Than a layer of moisture control fabric must be installed that removes the excess humidity. tarpaper works best. The insulation with the paper on it is not good because it has the ability to hold the humidity in the stud cavity. In hot climate locations fiberglass, or mineral wool insulation is great because air can pass through the insulation allowing the stud cavity to dry out. Do not use poly on the inside walls in a hot climate because you will trap humidity in the stud cavities and will rot out your structural walls.

What is zone heating?

Zone heating is isolating an area of a building, than control the temperature separate from the rest of the house or building.
For example; Let’s look at a large 2 story home with open staircases (no door). This causes a problem hot air is much lighter than cold air, so any heat pushed in to the basement from a furnace on this 2 story home in a few minutes finds it’s self migrating to the 2nd floor while at the same time the cold and on the 2nd floor rushing down the stairway to the basement. Having zoned heating helps to control this chimney effect in a tall house. While main floor may be at a comfortable 68° the 2nd floor could be 10-15 degrees warmer and the lower level 10 degrees cooler. Heating and cooling different levels as needed is called zoned heating and cooling.

Heating sizing your ductwork

duckwork-01.jpgTouch on picture to enlarge

Supply pipe as follows to each area
30-48 SF 4” round pipe
50- 80SF 5” round pipe
81-150SF 6” round pipe
If you are more willing to use Flex pipe rather than steel round pipe up size the flex by 1” in diameter because of the resistance in the flex piping.
Using a lot of flex tubing for supply and returns only decreases the quantity of air trying to be moved.
Trunk lines (ductwork, metalwork, etc. has many names) are size according to the supply pipes they are feeding
On any square style duct allow 16” of air for resistance in the ductwork
4” pipe needs 10” of air
5” pipe needs 13” of air
6” pipe needs 16” of air
7” pipe needs 19” of air
If we have a 12”x 8” size duct this will supply 5-6” round pipes, 8-4”, 6-5” or a combination of sizes
If you try to install more pipes than what a trunk line can handle the longest round pipe runs will get little to no air movement.

Heating locating and placing Supply and return air vents

Locating your supplies, as follows never exceed a 150sf area with 1 supply and 1 return air vent.
Most bedrooms and small dining rooms fall in this category.
In kitchens and bathrooms only supply the room with air never install a return air in these areas. Reason the smells of the kitchen will go through the house faster. In the bath an exhaust fan will be running allowing it to work effently removing the excess humility or smells. In a great area on the top floor always place 10% of return air at or close to the ceiling, removing the excess heat in the summer and recycle the heat in the winter.
Any room having a closet on exterior walls with a square footage larger and 10SF requires a supply vent.

Roofing is one area on the building that no one pays attention to.

This area of the building can save you a lot of money down the road if done correctly
For Example:

  • A low sloped roof creates a lot of heat in the attic pace oh about 25° and by adding dark colored shingles you can raise the temp 25°-75° hotter.

    With this type of roof you need a lot of air moving in all the truss/rafter spaces from the eve (soffit) to the ridge (peak) of the roof to do this a continuous vent installed in the soffit works great allowing air into all the truss/rafter spaces.

    The next thing is to keep a minimum of 1″and more is better of air space form the roof sheathing to the insulation install a spacer to maintain this area.

    At my place a have minimum of 14″of air space making my roof attic stays within 5° of the exterior temp. Keeping the shingles cool, that will lengthen the life of the shingle as well as the roof sheathing.

  • By changing the roof slope from a 4/12 (12 inches horizontal and 4″ vertical gives you the slope of the roof.) to a 5 or/ a 6/12 pitch you create in the attic a chimney affect making the attic work for you it actually pulls the air from the soffit vent and draws it into the attic with much more ease, as long as you give it a way out.

    I personally like wall vents for attic areas, and they give charm to the house at the same time.

    If you can give it 1 square foot of air for every 250 square foot of roof, this will work great most guys install roof vents as to code 1 vent every 250 SF of house.

    Remember you may have big overhangs that have to be cooled and the vents they are using only let out 61 qubic inches of air they are short by almost 2.5 times more vents are needed.

  • Note all roofs are required to be vented garage, porch, even unfinished areas need venting, this will shave our roof and make it last longer.
  • Changing your design of roofing to a wood shingles, shakes, or even tile roofing, will cool down the attic space.

    The asphalt type shingle absorbs heat and is designed that when the heat hits it, it re-melts the shingles into a uniform sheet of rock and tar.

    On a wood shingles the wood acts like insulation and repeals the heat. A wood shake is a little different oh it repeals heat but it also has air gaps around each shake making the even cooler.

    In doing so you can put in a smaller AC conditioner saving you on electric costs in the future.

  • There are new products out there that create electricity or heat your water for your house ether by water or electric solar panels with shapes and sizes no longer matter.
  • Water leaks cause by circulating pumps

  • You can minimize hot water circulation leaks by installing a pump timer and water flow gauge / regulator. What is happening inside the hot water circulation pipes is that rushing water is eroding the copper pipes. Copper has a natural ability to create a protective skin that will minimize this erosion. This protective skin is naturally created when the water is not rushing over the surface of the pipe and is created in 5 to 10 minutes. This protective skin will last up to an hour before it has to be regenerated again. By installing a timer that runs 50 minutes and turns off for 10 minutes and then back on each hour, you will help the hot water circulation system extend it’s life.
  • The other major factor of hot water circulation leaks is that most pumps are installed over sized moving way too much water.

    The best way to solve this problem is by installing a water flow gauge that will tell the plumber what the water flow rate is through this hot water circulation line and then adjusting flow to meet the minimum flow requirement and there by minimizing the erosion factor.

  • Note:
    If you have additional pumps on the circulating hot water line, get an electrician to have these circulation pumps wired together and install an electric timer that can shut these pumps off for a period of 10 minutes out of each hour at the same time.

    If you have a single pump, which is often the case, the electrician can tie in a programmable timer for this single pump.

    Future Benefit:
    A water flow gauge gives the plumber servicing an immediate tool in determining if the circulating pump is working properly thus saving trouble shutting time.

    There is no accurate way to tell if a circulating pump is moving enough or too much water short of a water flow indicator.

    A secondary benefit that results, if you have a thermostatic mixing valve, you can now determine if that thermostatic mixing is working properly.

    Final note:
    These preventive maintenance steps will not eliminate hot water circulation line leak(s), however these timers will greatly reduce the erosion effect that is occurring in the copper pipes and thereby minimize the number of service calls required to fix these leaks.

    Tried of wet floors by the entry doors

    Are your entry floors wet and slippery from kids and adults tracking ice and snow in from the out side. If your basement under the entry floor is open you can install electric heat in the floor joist area.

    Install an electric heat thermostat on the entry wall then install the electric heater in the floor joist under the entry and wire it into the electrical panel.

    (Use a 220-volt heater) Set the thermostat about 5 degrees above the room temperature this will dry the floor out and dry the boots and shoes.

    If you set the temp higher you only waist electricity.