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Mrs. Incredible 01-20-2009 03:43 PM

Question about furnace vent pipes
Hi, I hope someone can help me. I bought a new townhome two years ago. It is a new development that was built very cheaply, so much so that furnaces are malfunctioning, pipes are freezing and breaking because the heat is inadequate, etc.. The furnaces are in the attic with heat coming out of ceiling vent on all three floors with no returns. They undercut the doors and call that the return. My question is is it legal to have white PVC type one pipe coming out of the furnace and up through the attic roof which I beleive is a venting pipe. Actually all of the house has PVC piping, kitchen and baths. IT appears that the pvc pipe leads to the outside and my brother in law thinks that it might be illegal. We actually got a notice from the "management company" that we should keep the cabinet doors under the kitchen sink open to keep the pipes warm (impossible to do since the heat coming out of the ceiling is immediately sucked up the stairwell to the second and third floors) and we shold keep our water faucets running. Also these units were built on concrete slabs so it is nearly impossible to heat the first floor. I live in the northeast and the temp has been in the single digits. I think my neighbors pipes froze this past weekend and that's why those notices went out. These units are only three years old. The developers will not answer our questions and I beleive may be going bankrupt.

inspectorD 01-20-2009 05:44 PM

Get a licenced Mass. Home inspector. Contact the American Society of Home Inspectors, ASHI website and look for an inspector in your area. We have seen plenty of unprofessional work around here in NE the last few years.
For now you need to section off the two levels. Try installing a blanket at the bottom of the stairs to keep the lower level warm. The upper level may get chilly, but will be ok since the heat will rise through the floor. If you have an attic hatch seal it off. You may have no insulation at other points also, this is why I recommend an inspection to see what to do next.
Good luck.

glennjanie 01-20-2009 09:34 PM

Welcome Mrs. Incredible:
Yes the PVC furnace vent is legal on most 90% or more efficient furnaces and the PVC water line is also legal in all areas I know of. The undercut doors has been used in many instalations. Your supply register is probably a 6" round duct furnishing 100cfm (in threory) and a cut of 2" off the bottom of the door will accomidate that much air; you just loose all privacy.
Check to see if the duct system is made of flex duct. If it is, changing to round galvanized pipe ducts with sleeve insulation will considerably improve performance. Most ceiling registers are round with concentric circles. Those circle fins are designed to make the air blow across the ceiling and then down the wall. Take the fins off and the air will blow directly to the floor, giving you more heat. Then you can leave the cabinet doors open and get some heat to the pipes. If that doesn't work, a 100w light bulb will warm the space enough to close the doors. Caution: make sure the light is as far away from anything combustible as possible.
These are some 'stop-gap' measures and InspectorD has a valid point in getting the inspection. It would be well worth the money.

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