Family very sick after installation new HVAC and Clean Effects
Well, last Thursday we had installed a XLi16 SEER 2-speed system from a local Trane authorized dealer (we are in Pensacola, FL). I interviewed and compared 10 different quotes, because, well, what the heck?? I had the time and the weather is really great right now!! I went with this dealer because he was the only one that requested a formal load calculation to be performed by our local electric company, and his prices were in line with everyone elses, and he seems like a very nice, likeable person.
Just after showing me the generals of the system, and after completion, he set it the fan on 'auto' and since the nights were a little cool outside, we set the heat to 72degrees. The next morning we were so sick we couldn't barely open our eyes and our throats were dry/scratchy. I thought it was a cold coming on or something. We went out all day and evening (Friday was trick-or-treating) and felt better by the end of the day. Saturday we woke up so dry I could barely talk at all and had to use a ton of eye-drops and take 2 showers just to clear my sinuses. I turned off the 'auto' fan and just had the heater set really high so it wouldn't come on, and opened all the windows. That helped because it's so humid here.
Sunday same thing.
Monday we were so sick and so DRY, that I thought it's got to be the new HVAC system taking out too much moisture. Then I figured, hey, we haven't been sick, we haven't been around anyone sick, and we are all pretty healthy. (we don't have any other allergies except I'm allergic to cats) No asthma or whatever else. So Tuesday morning I called the dealer and told them how sick we were and help!! They came out and suggested we turn off the clean-effects filter just to see if we might be allergic to ozone. We turned it off, and within 4 hours we were much much better. One shower and I cleared up my sinuses, we went outside for a walk, went to sleep and Wednesday woke up, called the dealer, and said we don't want the cleanEffects air cleaner since it caused us to get so sick. They say it cannot be removed!! Is this true?
Also, even though their description included "modifications to heater closet" , when they started to install the clean-effects filter, they told me I had to pay a carpenter about $400 to widen the doorway and add a new door to the closet, since it was 1 inch too narrow. I paused, and then asked them just how worth is that? I didn't really want to pay extra $400 just for a filter. They assured me it was SOOO worth it.
NOw that I know we got sick from the clean-effects filter, and after the dealer said the Trane representative said we would just turn it 'down' to the lowest ozone setting, my doctor has said that that would be stupid. If we're allergic to some, then we're allergic to 'a little'. Dealer doesn't want to remove it or refund. What should I do??? I've written an email question to The Trane web-site and am awaiting a response. (Other than this, we were happy generally with the Dealer and with Trane, so far at least!!)
Do I have to pay for this? (actually, we already put it on credit card) The filter cost $1000 (in addition to $400 closet door, which has not been done yet, and the inspector has not approved everything yet, because a couple of holes have to be patched in the base wood panel holding up the unit in the closet) Thanks for any help!!!
An Army Mom & Wife
tell your installer to go through the installer set up and turndown the power level look in the paper work that was left with the air cleaner and it tells the process it could help
There are many ways to answer this question and I am not trying to be a smartass.
Originally Posted by ArmyMom&Wife
If it were me (and we just have your side of the story right now) I would somehow remove the clean effects from your system ,put a high efficency filter in the system like spaceguard and refund you the difference.
But there would also be ductwork modifications to be made to do this.
Keep the lines of communications open between you and the dealer and Trane.
Also maybe get a letter from your doctor to present to interested parties would move things along, although when someone tells me they are getting sick.............. I usually find a way to get something done especially on a new system that I just installed.
Thank you both for your responses!!
I'm not sure I understand what you're saying, with me knowing nothing about Hvac and my dealer being the professional, he's bound to ask me why should he turn down the "power level", WHAT power level to what?? The electrical power?? makes no sense... some other power level? and to what effect would it benefit? I'm very confused by your answer.
Are you saying that it IS possible to 'somehow remove' the filter, and that would then mean that my dealer just doesn't feel like doing it? Also, the only ductwork modification he had made,(that I know of) since we have a 3200 sq ft house and went from a 3.5 ton to a 5 ton unit, was he added 2 extra ducts in the far end of the house in our master bedroom and bath, because I never seemed to get any air over on that far side of the house.
Also, I don't know what you mean by "his side of the story"....I don't know how to ask him 'his side' other than he told me we should try turning down the output of the clean-effects filter so it only produces a little bit of ozone....(maybe that's what catmanacman is talking about?) but that is what my doctor says makes no sense....if you're allergic to something it doesn't matter the quantity, it's the quality, and allergies to something mean allergies to any amount of that something.
The other thing my family and I are noticing is that the air is stale/dry, but we are at least not sick. This is definitely more stale/dry and uncomfortable than our previous unit, even though it leaked and was an old system, and was very very inefficient, the air was not this stale. I have kept the windows closed now for over 15 hours, and I'm starting to notice how stale the air is. It's not bad once I air out the house, because right now outside is pure heaven...a cool 65 degrees and clear/sunny.
I'm not trying to be a pain, but having just laid out 3 months of my husbands salary, for a (hopefully) once in a lifetime investment, I need this to be really great....not just a so-so system that makes me want to sleep in someone elses house and not mine. I've never been so frustrated with a purchase before!!
Thanks again for your reply's.
To confirm it sounds like you have heat pump.
Was this the first time you used heat (old or new season) this year?
Two varaibles here:
(1) Humidity - you have new system that might be much better than old system at removing humidity. You are using heat for possibly first time this season. Your new system may be really drying out your air which may give symptoms you mentioned (at least they do in my house). When you open windows not only are you getting fresh air but you're incresing your humidity level.
Do you have way to measure humidity (if you have T803 thermostat, it may be displayed in lower right). If not consider going to Radio Shack and buy a humidity meter (hygrometer). You can get one that also measures temp for around 20. Won't be scientific accurate but will allow you to observe how system affects humidity.
(2) Ozone - yes the CleanEffects will produce ozone and some people have sensitivity. I'm surprised that ALL members of family are affected. I have CleanEffects and for 13 years prior I had Trion EAC which produced even more ozone. I was the only one who detected it, but it did not affect me. The smell will remind you of the outside smell just after a rain/lightening storm.
From another post, there is supposedly a Trane kit that will convert a CleanEffects to a Media Filter as the cabinets are the same size. Your dealer should be able to do this but he'll be very reluctant to eat the cost. He may be able to work a deal with Trane.
The truth is based on how many things changed, you really haven't proven that its the CleanEffects, it might be the lower humdity. I am not defending anything. But when diagnosing something, you must take into account that multiple things have changed. Such as humidity, ozone, seasons. Thats why its important to get a way to measure humidity.
P.S. An EAC (such as CleanEffects) works by creating a high voltage (about 9600 Volts) to electrically charge and then collect particles. One byproduct is that the high voltage may create ozone when the high voltage causes the oxygen (O2) in the air to convert to ozone (O3). Ozone can be created by other sources such as motors in hair dryers, power tools, etc. So there is already ozone in your air. The CleanEffects has three voltage levels. If I remember right there are 9.6kV, 9kV, and 8.4kV. The default factory setting is 9.6kV. The level can be reduced to 8.4kV thru the front panel buttons if an occupant shows a sensitivity to ozone. Instructions are in the Users Guide, but I suggest that the HVAC tech should be willing to come out and adjust it for you.
Going from a 3.5 to a 5 ton system without major duct changes will more than likely make things much worse as far as air flow than better. Did the load calc specify that you needed a 5 ton system? Was the 3.5 ton duct sized to handly a 5 ton system. Not being there and knowing how the ducts are layed out one can only guess as to why the house is so uncomfortable even after the filter was turned off. I woud venture there could be duct and building envelope leaks that are causing your problems.
As for the filter problems, what kind of guaranty was given with your new system? We have a 100% satisfaction guaranty and if the job was not to your satisifaction we would make it right on our dime. You should not be left hanging with no filter system and if the current one was making you sick then we would replace it. It all depends on if this dealer wants a happy customer or not.
As said above we are only hearing your side of the story and not the dealers from him. Its not that we don't believe what you are saying as much as there are 2 sides to every dispute. Hopefully you can keep working with them and get this resolved.
Its a good Life!
A new system installed properly would have less leakage thus possibly have less outdoor air being added to your home. This is the way it is designed. That said, the less dilution of the indoor air can mean a couple of things. First is the CleanEffects can be an irritant as it is know to be for some people. Second is that there may be other contaminates inside your home that had been previously diluted by an old AC system that now are more concentrated. Regarding the humidity or lack of, this could also be a sign of a properly installed system that isn't letting in extra outside air.
To fix your concerns- First: I would have the CleanEffects taken out and a regular media filter installed. This will elliminate your concerns of ozone. If the symptoms presist then I would consider having an external air source merged with your system. This is a duct from the outside that is conditioned before it enters the house. If your house is older with old windows ect. then this may not be necessary. This would add the outside air your old system erroniously added but in a good way. This may not be needed.
Second: If your humidity is still to low you can look into a humidifier. This seems an unlikely step as you are in a humid climate but who knows?
Thirdly: As m kilgore stated, adding a ton and a half with only 2 duct added probably isn't a proper setup. Have the installing contractor give you the static pressure reading and post back. I can't think of how this could cause your problems but it could effect your comfort and more importantly the efficiency of the system.
Originally Posted by wraujr
I'm excited to learn how a heat pump heating system removes humidity from the air.
Originally Posted by gary_g
Perhaps you should have read the instructions before calling.
Maybe by not having a leaky return duct in the attic?
Originally Posted by gary_g
The point is "Your new system may be really drying out your air which may give symptoms you mentioned" or maybe to make you all feel better I should word it as"
"The installation and operation may have lowered the humidty level in your home resuting in your dry eyes and throat which can result from dry air"
The how and why is really unimportant so stop confusing the poor woman.
My wording is not technical, obviously.
The system has changed therefore the humidity level MAY have changed. So simply put,
What is your current humidity level??
It is stupid and reactionary to pull something out without checking all other possibilities. Especially since ozone reaction varies greatly from person to person and ALL family members are not well.
or how about this:
Was new insulated ductwork installed that could be putting fumes such as glue/mastic/etc. into the air???
wraujr, Last Thursday, day of installation, dealer turned on the air-conditioner during the daytime to show me it worked, but by the time he left Thursday evening, he turned on the heat set at 72, since it is cool here at nite, and he left the auto fan running,...so yes this is the first time we've used heat with the system, but we started using heat about 1 week before that with the old 3.5 ton system as that's about when the nites started turning cool.
In fact, I distinctly remember feeling very good in our house that last week with the old system, and for the previous month with the old system in cool mode, because a little more than a month ago we got 18 pounds of coolant (the older type coolant being phased out, I was told) pumped into our system, because it had a leak. The older system was a 'Ground Source' Geo-Thermal unit with miles and miles of copper tubing running under the drive-way and under ground, and no-one, not even the 'geo-thermal' experts in town were willing to dig up my entire yard to find the leak. The reason we knew we had a leak was because my cooling bill jumped this summer from $200 to $300 and we were'nt even home this summer!... we had set the thermostat to 82 degrees and left for 6 weeks. When I got home and saw the unit was running and running and running without really cooling and without removing much humidity, (yes it's terribly humid here!), we called and the company put in 18 pounds of freon, and told us to get a new system.
As far as humidity, I was very surprised at the end of the day on Thursday when I asked him 'where is the humidity controller?" He said there is none on this unit, but that I didn't need it. My heart sunk to my gut, as I had told him I wanted humidity control, and EVERY other company that gave me quotes (from different brand names) all said I could control the humidity. He said this unit will far surpass removing moisture than my old unit, and I had no doubt about that, I just wanted to be able to control it. He said that that wasn't possible with this unit.
I know that I personally like the air a bit more humid that most people, as I HATE making trips out to Arizona to see family because the air there almost hurts!! My fingers and feet actually dry out and crack when we travel out west, and my nostrils always feel too dry out there.
Yes, maybe it's unusual that my son and I both reacted very badly at the same time for the same period, and then we both felt better once he turned off the green light on the filter, but we did! We didn't smell ANYTHING, as we were woefully plugged up.
The dealer was supposed to come out here yesterday, and told me, when he turned off the clean-effects filter the day before, that if I needed to add a humidity controller, then he would add one. Well, when he didn't come out yesterday (Wednesday), I called him, he said he talked to Trane and I don't need a humidity controller as this is the humid Panhandle, but that they would come out next week when they can to turn the air cleaner on, but at a lower level. I insisted that he at least measure the humidity because it feels so darn DRY in here and I have to open the windows. He said he would try to borrow an instrument that measures humidity, as he doesn't have one, and bring it out next week.
The Project Summary sheet from Gulf Power has the following info:
Winter Design Conditions: Outside: 28 deg Inside: 70 deg Summer Design Conditions: Outside 95 deg Inside: 75 deg Relative humidity 50% Moisture difference 53 gr/lb
Structure 48733 Btuh Ducts 5950 Btuh Equip Load 54683 Btuh
Infiltration Method Simplified, Construction qulaity: Semi-loose
Area 3077 Volume 29298 Air changes/hour (heating .43) (cooling .23 ), Equiv. AVF (heating 210) (cooling 112)
Latent Cooling Equipment Load Sizing:
Structure: 5265 Btuh Ducts 1202 Btuh Central vent 0 Equipment latent load 6467 Btuh Equipment total load 43042 Btuh
Req total capacity at 0.70 SHR 4.4 ton.
Should I have Gulf Power come out again and test this new system? (I don't even know if they do that)
The dealer told me that the only thing he did to the ducts was add the two new vents at then end of the house, where I wasn't getting much air at any time of year, before.
As far as 'guarantee', I guess I'm an idiot because I didn't really get any. Just the invoice with a Description of the following:
Installation of 5 ton Trane air to air heatpump system. Includes removal and disposal of existing sytem, electircla for heater and air conditioner, modifications to heater closet, lineset, condensate, float swith, thermostat, 30 x 12 filter grille, slab for condenser, add 2 ducts in master (1 in bedroom, 1 in bath), labor, tax and permit
SLi16 SEER 2-Speed System WARRANTY:10 Year Compressor, 10 Year Parts, 1 Year Labor
Trane CleanEffects air cleaner added to any system.
The only recource I might have, is to contest it with my credit card company. I don't want to do this, I want him to fix it. I really like the guy, I think he and his people are incredibly nice and want them to fix it. I suppose it's rare for everything to go so smoothly that you never have to go back to make adjustments?? So maybe this is normal? Well, okay, getting sick wasn't normal, but we are over that now. I feel really great today, other than dry skin and dry eyes, and a tad sweaty when I got cold and turned it up two degrees last nite, my skin was sweating but my nasal passages were dry. (No this is NOT normal for me!) At 70 degrees, we were just a bit cold, so I turned it up to 72....but what's not so great is that the air doesn't seem nice, it's just stale.
Daltex, this external air source added sounds interesting. Our home is older (17 years) with older windows, and I know they leak more than they should, as the past 2 winters we have always had bad drafts on the north side of the house, but to replace them is something we just cannot afford.
I will definitely ask the installing contractor to give me the static pressure reading and post back. I so appreciate all of these suggestions!! Thanks you guys! I will post back as soon as something happens.
You can have the contractor add a by-pass humidifier to the air handler ductwork. Should be a fairly inexpensive install. Maybe he can do it at cost since you thought you were getting a humidifier.
Best to you.