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Archive for January, 2013|Monthly archive page

Lingering Smoke Smell From Fireplace / Dripping Bathroom Exhaust Fan / Should You Wrap Your AC Unit? / Condensation on Interior Windows

In Q&A on January 29, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Q:

I have a problem with the fireplace in my Bloomfield Hills home. I burn only man-made logs as do many of my friends but they do not experience the smell I am having. I keep the glass doors open when burning the log and clean out any remains after a day or so but still have a lingering smoke smell. I have used the chimney cleaning type log in attempts to correct this problem. What can I do?

A:

Numerous factors could be causing your problem. By the process of elimination I’ll attempt an answer.

Next time you use your fireplace leave a window in the room open slightly. If it stops smoking call Xavier Inc. at 734-462-1033 or www.equiliz-air.com. Jimmy has an inexpensive product that provides clean make-up air and to stop your problem.

If it still smells, have someone inspect the chimney cap and wash. That’s the top of the chimney where the yellow or orange colored flue liner comes through. If it is cracked (and they usually are) or not built properly, moisture cab get down in and around the flue causing a smoky, sour odor to linger for several days. Sound familiar?

Q:

I have a ventilation fan in my master bathroom that vents through the attic to a sidewall of the house. The problem is that during cold weather water drips from the fan onto the bathroom floor. I went into the attic to make sure the vent tube is not angled toward the ceiling and found a puddle of water collected inside the tubing.

A:

The fan is exhausting condensation. That moisture is condensing when it gets in the cold attic.

First and easiest step is to wrap the entire vent pipe with insulation. Wrap it with R-19 fiberglass. Do not wrap it real tight since fiberglass is most effective when fluffy with air pockets. You can secure it to the exhaust pipe using wire or duct tape.

If that does not solve the problem, relocate where your vent pipe is exiting the attic. Possibly the sidewall it is currently going to has the wind blowing the condensation backward.

Q:

I wrap my whole house air conditioner unit in the winter to protect it. My neighbor said you told him not to do that, why?

A:

What are you protecting it from? The elements? It was built and designed to be outside in the snow, ice, rain and wind.

If you wrap it, the wind cannot circulate air and the unit will rust prematurely. More importantly, covering it will provide a nice nesting place for mice and chipmunks. To rodents, the red and black wires look like licorice and they gnaw on the wiring. Plus, you’ll have to clean out the fecal mess in the spring.

At the most, put a piece of plywood on the top of the unit and hold it in place with a couple bricks. That should keep it clean enough and protect it from falling icicles.

Q:

My windows have heavy condensation on them in the mornings. I have never experienced this before. My three-bedroom, 40-year old ranch is on a crawl space with no humidifier. All the windows have storms on them.

A:

Physics teaches us that hot goes to cold. That being said, warm moist air in your house collects on the coldest surfaces. In your case the windows. I expect you’ll find frost on the underside of your attic as well.

Since you don’t have a humidifier to add humidity, you need to ask yourself where is the moisture coming from?

Here are the most likely sources for your house:

  • The crawl space is culprit #1.
  • Do you have and use kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans? Are they vented to the attic?
  • How many plants do you have in your house? They need and release tremendous amounts of moisture.
  • Do you have any aquariums?

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Fiberglass vs. Cellulose Insulation / Regulating Heat From a Radiator / Quieting Ductwork Noise / Sticky Situations

In Ductwork, Insulation, Radiators on January 8, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Q:

I was wondering if you could shed some light on my insulation problem.

I have a 12’ x 20’ kitchen nook off the back of my house. It is built over a cement slab with cinder block sides (approximately 16-inches deep). The only way to get under the nook area is via the rafters in the basement. In the winter when we walk in the nook, the ceramic flooring is cold and the nook in general is much colder than the rest of the kitchen area. There are no duck work runs from the main basement into the nook area for vents in the upper nook area.

I would like to insulate under this nook but I am nook sure how to go about it. I was going to blow insulation in from the basement. Is this the proper way to do it? If so, should I fill in the area completely or leave some are for breathing?

A:

You have two choices. The first is to dig down around the entire perimeter on the exterior. You then install insulation directly to the block walls and cover the insulation to protect it from UV rays and damage.

My second suggestion (and also my choice) is to have an insulation company blow insulation into the crawlspace and onto the perimeter walls. Ideally, the insulation should completely cover the block walls as well as the band joist on the top of the walls. It should extend into the crawl a minimum of 12-inches. I wouldn’t fill up the entire crawl with insulation. It wouldn’t make the floors any warmer and if any work were ever needed under that nook, it would be a nightmare as well as a mess. Last, you might reconsider purchasing those big pink fuzzy slippers.

Q:

I’m hoping you can help me with my chimney problem. The fireplace in my old cottage in Bay View seemed to be leaking smoke in a bedroom on the second floor several years ago. In addition, when I started looking into the situation I was told that the furnace that I had installed ten years previously should not vent through the same chimney. I checked out several options and decided to have a metal chimney liner installed. The installer said that the chimney was small inside but was large enough to have two flues, one for the furnace and one for the fireplace. Since the liner was placed, there has been smoke coming into the living room. He came back once and adjusted the liner, but that made the smoke worse. He doesn’t seem to have any other ideas. We want to use the fireplace. Do you have any suggestions on how to fix it?

One of the options I didn’t pursue because I thought it would be unnecessarily expensive was to replace the furnace with a high-energy furnace that could be vented outside of the cottage so that the chimney would be dedicated to the fireplace. Now if I do that, I guess I would have to also replace the stainless steel liner as well. Do you have any suggestions other than installing a gas log? We love to have a wood fire at the cottage.

A:

If I understand your letter, everything about your chimney is not only illegal, it’s unsafe.

Without going into all the details that could take up this whole page, you need to get someone out there before you use the fireplace.

When I started building houses, my dad warned me that if the fireplace, which includes the firebox, smoke shelf, damper, flue, etc. is not done properly, it’s worse than having no fireplace.

First, understand the furnace and fireplace can never share the same flue, that’s unsafe.

The guy you hired, I think, installed two metal flues into the old masonry flue and that’s not good. By doing so, he reduced the flue size of the original flue so the fireplace backs up into the living room. That’s also not good.

I think your original masonry chimney leaked smoke into the second floor bedroom because it was not lined and produced a potential fire hazard.

I think the option you didn’t pursue, was installing a 90 plus efficiency furnace that was needed. But I also think you need to check into having the chimney cleaned and inspected. It may need to be relined properly or rebuilt. Cha-ching!

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