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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    5

    Free return duct vs air duct return?

    We purchased our house last january. Our central heat/ac unit has had numerous issues from the beginning. The ac guy that our builder keeps sending out seems clueless. Anyway we finally broke down and got a second opinion from an outside ac service business. They looked at our system fixed a few things and told us that it is missing a key thing for the unit to run efficiently.

    Rundown of our house-1595 living square feet- 1595 unfinished basement. All rooms are located on top floor. Basement is where the ac handler is located. We have a vent in a hallway closet. This is our return vent. This vent runs to a hole in the floor and thats it. The ac guy said that we should have duct work that runs from the hole to our handler unit. He said what we have now is a free return system. He said it is not efficient for heating in the winter.

    When we contacted our builder, he stated that the return system we have is fine for our house. Who is right? Should we have duct work that runs from the closet return system to the handler or not?

    Any opinions would be appreciated as we cannot find any info on the internet.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Office and warehouse in both Crystal River & New Port Richey ,FL
    Posts
    18,836
    Not sure what you are saying.

    Is there no duct from the return of the unit in the basement,to the return grill on the first floor?


    Any supply ducts in the basement?
    Last edited by dash; 09-13-2008 at 12:36 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Naples, Fla.
    Posts
    1,403
    There are number of variables at play.

    1) If your basement is not isolated by an insulated floor.. the "efficiency" aspect my be null.

    2) Was the installation inspected - various codes need to be addressed.

    3) In terms of 101 creature comfort, yes a return vent should be in every bed room.

    4) I would address the IAQ while the system is new.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    5
    Is there no duct from the return of the unit in the basement,to the return grill on the first floor? No there is no duct. Does there need to be a duct?

    Was the installation inspected - various codes need to be addressed. Yes it was inspected, but that is also a touchy subject. An inspection was done 6 months after we moved in. The county inspector didn't even look at the system. The ac guys we called were the ones that caught it. Then we called the county inspector and he said it was code to have the air duct return in our house. But our builder doesn't want to fix it because the county inspector didn't catch it in the inspection. Our home warranty runs out in 2 months. By the way the house is newly built, not old.

    [I]
    In terms of 101 creature comfort, yes a return vent should be in every bed room. We have an air vent (blows cold or hot air out into room) in each bedroom. Should there be another vent in the bedrooms?

    Seems our inspector gets paid to just sign things not actually inspecting things. We have already filed a complaint with the consumer affairs board in our state. We just aren't sure what should be in the house and what shouldn't as far as the heating and cooling duct work.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    6,837
    The simple fact is, the builder uses the absolute cheapest bid company he can find. If one bid is $50 less than another, the low bid gets the job. What would be a real eye opener would be to have a company that does NOT do new construction give you a quote on an entirely new system and compare that to the allowance for heating/cooling in your builders price. I'm sure there'd be a significant difference in price, on the order of several thousand dollars. That being said, it begs the question, "What corners were cut to get such a low price?" The answer is, many and chief among they is the fact that you have a hole in the wall that's not connected to your air handler. You didn't state if you have a separate heating system or not and you didn't state whether the basement is finished or not. FYI, our company wouldn't even consider installing a system without a dedicated return air trunk all the way from each return air branch. The comment about comfort in the bedrooms from someone else refers to operation when the bedroom doors are closed at night. If you're feeding in supply air under pressure and there's no or insufficient return air in the bedroom then the supply air will be reduced due to the build-up of air pressure in the room.

    My guesstimate from afar is that your discomfort comes from more than just the return air. I'd bet there was never an actual room-by-room Manual 'J' calculation made to properly size and balance the system in your home. So instead of banging your head against the wall asking the GC to spend money without specifics, start by requesting a copy of the Manual 'J' calculations for your system. If he can't supply them, and I'm betting he can't, then hire a company to do one for you. Once armed with that documentation, you'll know what your problems are and be able to speak with authority when negotiating repairs with your GC. Our company offers such calculations and consulation for a price. We also do the calcs for every single job, whether new install or replacement and never have a problem with system balance.
    If YOU want change, YOU have to first change.

    If you are waiting for the 'other guy' to change first, just remember, you're the 'other guy's' other guy. To continue to expect real change when you keep acting the same way as always, is folly. Won't happen. Real change will only happen when a majority of the people change the way they vote!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Office and warehouse in both Crystal River & New Port Richey ,FL
    Posts
    18,836
    If it's code,all you have to do is invite the inspector back.


    That may not be the only issue.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Round Rock
    Posts
    3,560
    You said you are having numerous issues. What issues are you having specifically? Correct me if I'm wrong, but you have an air handler in the unconditioned and unfinished basement. You have a grill cut into the floor above the basement. It is pulling air through that grill across the basement into the air handler with no affixed ductwork between the 2 points. Since it is pulling air through an unconditioned area, that is not really a great idea. It seems that maybe you bought a house from a bad builder, which there are lot of them out there. He's probably not going to do anything easily and maybe not ever. A lot of builders go bust do to crap like this, when you put too much pressure on them. I would pay to fix the problems so that you have a properly functioning hvac system, then try to do whatever you want to the builder, in the meantime, you are uncomfortable and not wasting energy heating and cooling your house. The whole inspection, lawsuit, filing charges thing is great, but chances are you will not ever get anything out of it and if you do, it will be a LONG and drawn out process.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    5
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but you have an air handler in the unconditioned and unfinished basement. You have a grill cut into the floor above the basement. It is pulling air through that grill across the basement into the air handler with no affixed ductwork between the 2 points. This is exactly our problem.

    I'd bet there was never an actual room-by-room Manual 'J' calculation made to properly size and balance the system in your home.
    Actually, the outside ac company we called did the calculation. They were the ones who initially brought to our attention the ductwork problem between the grill and the air handler. They also installed grates within the existing ductwork to control air flow which our builder had left out. They said $15 in parts left out in the initial installation, cost us $100 in labor and parts later.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Round Rock
    Posts
    3,560
    Quote Originally Posted by hkropog View Post
    Actually, the outside ac company we called did the calculation. They were the ones who initially brought to our attention the ductwork problem between the grill and the air handler. They also installed grates within the existing ductwork to control air flow which our builder had left out. They said $15 in parts left out in the initial installation, cost us $100 in labor and parts later.
    What grates are you speaking of? Did they not install grills in your home or did they ad manual dampers? We never install manual dampers and almost never have any problems resulting in needing these. Maybe on some rare occasion where somebody wants more or less air to an area due to individual sensitivities to air flow. So what EXACTLY are the problems you are having? You have still neglected to tell this.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Shelby Twp MI
    Posts
    820
    That's just bad all around. You need to have ductwork connecting the two points, period. That is just lazy on the part of the installer. You need to call another company (or two) to have the rest of the system checked out, including the furnace and air. If they took short cuts on the duct work, more than likely they took short cuts elsewhere. I for one hate to see centralized grills, more less a system like that. What are the other problems?
    Jim

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    5
    The main issue is the ductwork missing from the return grate to the air handler. The other issues we had were fixed at our cost. We had a condenser pump with the line going straight up and the condenser pump wouldn't work (that has been fixed). We also had issues that each time we changed seasons the air wouldn't work. Example: When it was summer the air would cool, but when winter came the heat wouldn't come on. The cool air would still come on. The builder would send the ac guy out and we would think it was fixed. Then when we had to switch again in summer to cool again only the heat would come on. That has been fixed (hopefully) by the ac guys we called outside of the builders guys. We also have been told that the board on our outside unit looks like it might also be bad, but that is under warranty we are told. So we are looking into that right now. The main thing we are trying to find out is if we should have ductwork from the central grate to our air handler. Builder says no, outside ac guys say yes. Also should we have returns in other parts of our house or is one return sufficient for a 1600 square foot house if the basement remains unfinished?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Shelby Twp MI
    Posts
    820
    You should have them in all your rooms except bathrooms, utility, and kitchens, all other living spaces should have them. Centralized returns just don't promote good air circulation. Ideally, they should be up high so that the air doesn't stratify in your house. You want constant movement. By all means, have it ducted to the air handler.
    Jim

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Office and warehouse in both Crystal River & New Port Richey ,FL
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    18,836
    In our area the inspector would enforce the code.


    More then one return isn't absolutely needed.However a retun "path" is needed .This can be under the dorr,jumper return,or thru the wall grilles.

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