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  1. #1

    Condensate poisoning theory

    I am a homeowner that basically has a commercial building with 5 separate HVAC zones, with 3 1997 Ruud 90's installed in a large equipment room in my basement. I have been dealing with health problems that have substantially wrecked my life starting in about 2002. It began with fall sinus infections and soon became non-stop. In the last year I discovered a way to keep the infections at bay but still started feeling a worse as soon as fall hits. I would feel better when out of house for a few days and then sick within a day of getting home. Allergy tests, Mayo Clinic, specialists; all no help. No mold problems. Seems like a sick home with no explanation. This last couple of weeks when it finally got cold in the NW, I was getting headaches that lasted all day and started searching for answers, looking primarily in the equipment room.

    The first thing I noticed was a huge white mass in the drain opening that the 3 units flu condensate drip into. 2 units were discharging and draining through a small opening in the mass and the 3rd didn't drain even after running for quite a while. I poured a few pitchers of hot water down the drain and washed out most of the buildup but soon had a huge headache. I also pulled the hoses from the built-in traps and verified water was draining through them. A few hours later I had a tech out that gave a cursory check that the units were running right and said not too worry about the lack of condensate because different rooms have different moisture content. Now that I understand how the furnaces work much better than I did a few days ago I realize how stupid that comment was. He had a sales guy with him because we are exploring replacing my 2 90 cfm ERVs that I think provide maybe half the fresh air I need in the house. Within 10 minutes they were both tearing up and the tech was having a breathing reaction and wanted to get the heck out. It was a weird smell, almost like a cleaning product, but they hadn't smelled it before. The room is served by two large fresh air ducts for the 2 water heaters so it seemed strange the odor wouldn't clear quicker.

    The company's solution was to send a top tech with pressure gauges to see if there was a negative pressure situation and back drafting or something similar. I said I thought we would find something much simpler but did the test and found no problem. I'm was still having problems at certain times of day, seeming to get worse with heat cycles. We started thinking CO problems even though my home monitor didn't show anything. I rented a handheld sniffer and verified no problem. Today, I decided to check the furnace myself and inspected the cooling pan, took the inducer fan off, and pulled the bottom of flu and all hoses off. The flu drain hose was full of wasps and wouldn't pass water until I flushed it hard. Seems like a big problem but the system still runs fine and that is a sealed system so it didn't make sense have the vapor could get in the house even if it was evaporating. Study the install manual more. Ruud had a warning not to connect air conditioner condenser drain to the flu condensate drain because of problems if those drains plugged. Look at my install and that's exactly what they did to save short PVC runs. But why the warning, what could be the problem?? I'm not totally sure but have a theory that may not even require drainage problems. The first problem is the acidic water cooking off and not draining and somehow entering the circulating airflow. The second is the venturi effect sucking air up the condenser drain that sucks condensate vapor into the airflow. I just cut the PVC drain and capped it and will reroute before summer and am anxious to see health improves over time.
    I'm curious if anyone has seen similar installations or the health issues from condensate. Thanks for reading my novel.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    4,607
    most 90% furnaces that have a ac coil are drained together ,its doubtful that this is the cause of your situation.
    We really need change now

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
    Posts
    67,712
    All manufacturers recommend not connecting the 2 drains to prevent byproducts of combustion from getting into the air stream. Most however allow it if there is an additional trap installed on the A/C drain line before it connects to the drain line of the furnace.

    I think you need a service tech that isn't concerned about selling you new units to come out and investigate your furnace room/utility room's possible combustion air problems.

    Post pics of the furnace returns, the water heater and furnace flue pipes, along with the air vents for combustion air.

    While we may not be able to help even with those pics. They may go a long way into giving you some insight into the problem, or who to call next.
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Minneapolis, MN
    Posts
    724
    We would take a sample of the air in the plenum with combustion a analyser.

    I have had a sinus headache for a year, work on all kinds of boilers and furnaces and find no problems short of bad combustion, which gives me an instant headache. Condensate from combustion is of no concern to me, but an AC condensate pan is one of the most neglected pieces of equipment in any residence and should be disinfected annually.

    No, I have not done mine this year...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    MONTANA
    Posts
    3

    Is CO (carbon monixide) your problem

    This is the Ask Our Pro's forum, and only Pro members that have been vetted by the AOPC may post advise, commentary, or ask questions of the OP here. Please apply to the AOPC today, thank you.

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    Last edited by beenthere; 01-26-2013 at 04:29 PM. Reason: Non Pro * Member

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
    Posts
    67,712
    theserviceguy, this is the Ask Our Pro's forum, and only Pro members that have been vetted by the AOPC may post advise, commentary or ask questions of the OP here. Please apply to the AOPC today, thank you.

    You can find the rules for posting and qualifications here.

    Your post has been deleted.
    Further infractions may result in loss of posting privileges.
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