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remodel101 02-07-2007 04:06 PM

Attic Furnace
Hi, I am a new member and am glad I found this site. Perhaps someone can help me with a problem that I am having with my furnace.
I live in Michigan and recently purchased a house. A deciding factor in the purchase was that a new furnace had been installed, albeit, it was in the attic. This attic furnace has been a problem. It creates ice dams on the roof and causes it to leak. I have been getting water inside the house because of this issue. The furnace was originally in the utility room, so now that the room is empty of a furnace, it is too cold to utilize. I have to run an electric heater to keep the room warm if I want to do any type of a project. Worst of all, the furnace runs constantly when the weather is cold, even though the thermostat never registers above 64 degrees. For the past few days the weather in Michigan has been frigid with tempertatures 10 degrees below zero when you factor in the wind chill. In frigid weather the house is extremely cold although the furnace is running, and running, and running and running. A few times I set the thermostat at 60 degrees just to stop the furnace from running. Doing that proved to be a mistake because it was almost unbearably cold. My November and December heating bills were astronomical, and that was before the recent cold weather moved in! The attic furnace is horizonal, but I would like to have it moved back to the utility room, which was the original location for the furnace. (Originally there was a boiler furnace in the utility room.) Even though the current "new" furnace is low effeciency, I will need to keep it because right now, paying off the high energy bills has taken a priority. There is not enough room to lay the furnace horizonally in the utility room. Can it be installed vertically.
The house does not have a basement, but has a crawl space. The duct work for the furnace runs through the attic. Any advice you have would be helpful.
Thank you.

elementx440 02-07-2007 09:42 PM

Where's the cold air return coming from? Cold air sinks, to the basement... that's where the return should be coming from. is the attic insualted, are the ducts?

And how is the furnace "causing" a leak? I figured it had a passive role, perhaps the installer caused a leak?

no you can't change the orientation of the furnace, for many reasons, like the position of your burners, to the fact that dangerous exhaust wants to flow 'up'

glennjanie 02-07-2007 11:00 PM

Welcome to the Fourm, Remodel:
All new furnaces are required to be high efficency since the late 80s; federal law requires them to be at least 78% efficent.
There has been a brand on the market Janitrol, which could be installed in any position. I don't know if it is still being sold but it worked just fine because it was an induced draft furnace.
The federal government also encouraged installers to figure the size of furnaces more closely. During "normal" weather they should do a good job. However, when the tempreature dips 20 degrees below the normal the furnace should run constantly and may even loose a few degrees during the night or in high winds. We used to size them with "pull down" power to keep the house toasty anytime, even when people are fanning the outside doors. Now pull down is out and efficency is in; the larger furnaces would short cycle in normal weather costing the homeowner extra money.
Ceiling ducts have never been very good; they get lots of complaints. I have to agree with Elementx on a few things: is the duct system insulated, including the return air duct? is the duct run in flex pipe? you could insulate the rafters above the furnace to eliminate the roof problem, or you could put some heat tape on the roof to keep the ice melted.
Just some suggestions you can work with; we really need more information to pinpoint any problems, maybe even some pictures.

remodel101 02-08-2007 03:58 PM

Glenn and Elementx440, thank you for your response. I will upload some pictures, but first I have to attend to another problem that I just discovered this morning. I did put a portable heater in the cold utility room where the furnace was previously located, but perhaps too late. At around 2:00 a.m. I discovered that the water pipes in the room were frozen.
Elementx, regarding the furnace "causing a leak" what happens is that when it snows, the furnace causes the snow on the roof to melt. This cold water trickles down the side of the roof until it gets to an area that is not affected by the heat from the furnace. The water refreezes and backs up under the shingles and causes a leak. I have had the roof repaired repeatedly - with the roofer resealing shingles. The last time I contacted him, he refused to come. He felt that with the roof situation the way it is (pockets of water, ice dams), it is a lost cause. As I stated, I just recently purchased this house, but I never met the previous owners. They lived in the house for less than two years and were the ones to put the furnace in the attic when they had central air installed. A neighbor told me that they stated their reason for moving was "The house is too expensive to live in." The problems that I am having seem to either directly or indirectly relate to the furnace being in the attic. My heating bill for the month of December was one half of what I pay for the mortgage, and I am not living in a large home. The huge heating bill added to frozen pipes, a leaky roof, and being constatnly cold is very disheartening.

elementx440 02-08-2007 09:23 PM

Well I'd get right on solving this $500-1000/month problem! You really need to post a dozen photos or so, they are worth a thousand words!

I'm no expert in the trades, but my dad is an hvac tech and I grew up helping him on installs (mainly holding the flashlight as a kid, but i learned a lot). something is really wrong, pipes are freezing in the basement? how warm is the air coming out of the vents? what's the temperature of the attic/top floors of the house relative to the basement? You could try closing off the upper registers to get more pressure to the lower ones. Have you looked inside your furnace? Is there a nice healthy blue flame? Is the blower motor moving air?

How big is the house? Whats the BTU rating on the furnace? Who's to say they didn't put an undersized furnace in, and drove themselves out of the house due to overrunning the thing...just because it's new doesn't mean it's correct?

All in all if you're wasting this much money monthly, you can't afford NOT to call a technician to come out and diagnose the problem for you asap!

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