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Phil, Mechanical Engineer
Category: HVAC
Satisfied Customers: 8012
Experience:  Retired HVAC/ Electrical & Boiler contractor. Industrial
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We bought a newly built energy star efficient home in July 2011 in Orlando Florida. The pe

Customer Question

We bought a newly built energy star efficient home in July 2011 in Orlando Florida. The permit was granted April 23,2011. It falls under the 2.5 version for Energy Star. It is 3,640 sq ft. Downstairs is block filled with loose foam. The 2nd story & the attic are spray foamed. No attic ventilation w/ the air handler up there as well. There's an unusually long fresh air intake that is not filtered in anyway and is only 4". Originally it was natural fresh air, (Which was nothing coming in at all). Finally in mid March of 2012 they installed an aprilaire fresh air damper (This hardly ever worked, first they installed it wrong on 2 separate occasions & once it did work, it stopped working so many times due to the size of the house & 5 bedrooms. We also have a gas oven/range with a range hood that is not vented to outside. Our windows are double pained low e. We have 1 unit. Originally we had a SEER 13 until Mid March 2012. Now it is a Seer 15 w/ 2 zones & 2 thermostats. This is ES standard?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: HVAC
Expert:  BillyHvac replied 1 year ago.
are you asking if the system is compliant or if there is a defect in the design?
Use reply
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I didn't have enough room originally to ask the complete question. I am wondering if the ventilation and hvac system is up to code and is it compliant with the Energy Star Efficient 2.5 or 2.0 program for the ventilation and hvac section. I have already come to the conclusion that design is insufficient with the carbon dioxide levels that range from 1700 to 2300 and particulate matter in the 6 digit range.
Expert:  Phil replied 1 year ago.
It will be an engineering project to look your house plans over in detail, and calculate the infiltration and etc, against the ventilation system you have, and HRV or ERV... and then research the code and give you something you can take to court etc. I would want a very significant extra to do that. However I do not recommend you take that approach.
Let me know if you would like to know I would approach it, considering my 51 years in the business and knowing the ropes on how to handle contractors and builders.
We can go from there if you wish, for the amount you offered.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
There is neither HRV nor ERV mechanical ventilation. There is an undersized, completely unfiltered "natural" air fresh air intake vent that is 4" in diameter, supposed to be 6" according to plans. It is not run according to the manual j either. It is run at awkward angles and is run so far from the attic hvac on the wrong side after the filter, across the house, through the garage and the intake vent is less than 10 feet above the heat pump and natural gas pool heater. I have gotten conflicting information regarding codes, ashrae std 62.2 and the Blue Star Energy Efficient program standard for April 23, 2011. Trying to find codes or standards that would relate to filtering the fresh air intake, any codes or standards for combustion cooking appliances in a spray foamed insulation, overly tight home. Unfortunately, we have had to move out of this home that we still own and rent a home, which by the way is not spray foam and utilities are much less each month!
Expert:  Phil replied 1 year ago.
Hello again,
So far it sounds like you have done a better job of sorting this out, and at no cost than any of us here could do for the money... that research could take a day or longer... and still not do you any good after all this time.
One of our attorneys here might help, but still the hassle might not be worth what you can gain.
In Florida with the high humidity levels you should really have an ERV ... then beyond that depending on the occupancy a legal type ozononation uni to clean the air and increase the O2 levels.
This short of shoddy work is not uncommon in the area, the techs there are paid in the range of $15 to $20 an hour, on the west coast for example the rates are at least double that, sometimes triple.
There are some good outfits in Florida of course but obviously the company that put in a 4" fresh air intake without an ERV was not one of them.
What you can do is provide the indoor pollution documentation to the general contractor and photo's of the 4" outside air duct along with a note saying that you have *just discovered* this mess and will be filing a claim against his contractors license bond unless he can bring the indoor air pollution and fresh air provisions up to code...
Let him sort it out. he might be inclined to force his HVAC contractor to make it right... spending a lot of money gathering all the right paper work may not the most efficient way to do this.
I recommend that you post his question along with my remarks to our consumer affairs legal people here on Just Answer.
That is how i would approach it.
However, you should still probably fit an adequately sized ERV, possibly at least a free standing electronic air cleaner or an Alpine ozonation system at your own expense, all that is above an beyond what most spec homes come with.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
While I do appreciate your input and helpful advice, my original question was and still is was the hvac system and ventilation done up to code and standards for the time that the permits were pulled. There is a lot of conflicting or unclear information on these issues from different experts and I was hoping to get some clarification. We have a team of lawyers, engineers, numerous IAQ reports, and a complete forensics report by an Industrial Hygienist. As I am quite sure that the lawyers are working hard, for my own peace of mind, I would like to be proactive. I pretty much had to build my own case before lawyers would even consider taking the case. For the hvac and ventilation system itself, once we decide what we are going to be able to do with the vacant house, that will be an issue for a later date.
Expert:  Phil replied 1 year ago.
Hello again,
Anything the teams of lawyers and engineers and hygienist could produce would beat what I could afford to put together for 20 bucks.
On balance you might be able to solve the problem for a fraction of what you would have to pay these people or have already paid them by fitting an adequately size ERV system, and an electronic air cleaner.... for under $8,000 in most cases.
The Florida law does not require any of those, it is not entirely likely that simply having a 6" outside air intake with 50 or 100 CFM of air flow would solve the indoor air pollution problem you are having either.
I am not sure that your decision not to live in the house would bolster your case when the option to leave a window open an inch or two remains.
Anything that moves air in or out of the house such as bathroom or kitchen exhaust fans or air leaks in the duct work, will bring fresh air into the house.
In Florida even slight increases in outside air infiltration can have drastic adverse effects on your electric bill.
In the long run it may be found that nothing short of an ERV system would have economically prevented the problem you are having, and it was not likely required by law in your county at the time.
Leaving the too small outside air intake duct a costly mute point even though the installer was wrong wrong wrong.
Your attorney might inform you that the damages you could be awarded might well be limited to the magnitude of the error... and range of options you had available to air the house out by other means.
Good luck with it.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I appreciate your advice, but unfortunately we had to move out for health reasons due to other negligence by the builder and subcontractors. Our case is not construction defect. The insufficient hvac system further aggravated the problems. Yes, opening a window may solve airflow issues. However, when there are weeks at a time while orchards nearby or clearing of land brings much smoke into the house, it's not such a healthy option. Or storms that come through daily during certain seasons that fill the sills and run down the walls, also not a good option in florida. I would certainly turn back time and opted for health over energy efficiency anyday! I will keep searching for my answers.
Expert:  Phil replied 1 year ago.
Hello again, there were huge issues with Chinese sheet rock in Florida (and other states) a while back... it was quite toxic... there have been class action law suits.
You can have energy efficiency and clean air at the same time with an electronic air cleaner (fits into the return air duct ($2000 for the unit plus installation, you can add charcoal filtration to absorb much of the unwanted gasses, and an ionization system that will cause many of very few particles that get past the electronic air cleaner, to stick to the walls and floor... none of that will affect your operating costs.
You can fit an ERV to get 150 cfm or so of filtered fresh air into the house as well, that will not significantly affect your operating costs.
Water running down the walls at the windows however is another issue.
Shoddy workmanship is common, a good window man could fix that however, along with some problems that you may not have spotted yourself yet.
If you would like to rate my input so far positively, let me know, I will put the rating box up for you. It is how I earn a living and will not affect your charges.

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