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  1. #1

    Help - can't breathe in my house

    Hello,

    I am new to this forum. I sought this forum out on the web due to problems breathing in my house. For several years now I have not slept well due to awakening with nasal congestion. I now sleep very near my window, with the window wide open. The same thing happens in my main-floor home office, I need to open the window.

    I also notice it happens when I turn up the heat. Therefore, I rarely turn up the heat much, we usually are a bit frozen in the winter as a result of keeping the heat down and windows open.

    Basically, what I'm seeing on this thread is advice on whether HRV and/or hepa is a worthwile investment.

    I don't know if it is so hard to breathe in my house due to inadequate fresh air intake or not, but it's certainly one of the first ideas that comes to mind. The nasal congestion issue is severe, and is only in my house, or in some hotel rooms also.

    If I step outside, or open the windows wide open, I immediately breathe fine. I therefore don't know to what extent I have sinus problems and/or to what extent I should instead blame my house for being too tight and maybe being too dusty due to wall to wall carpet and lots of furniture and toys and whatnot to collect dust in the home.

    I had one company come out and they proposed an HRV fresh air intake system, along with a Hepa air filter. The HRV quote = $x and the Hepa is also $x so $x total. My home is 2,500 square feet.

    To me this is an expensive "experiment" in trying to fix my breathing problem. Mind you, my problem is severe - not a day goes by that I don't have a problem breathing or sleeping, and the problem is remedied so well by opening the window, that it seems there must be something wrong with my indoor air. I don't know if it's just dust, or if my 20 year old carpets should simply be replaced before entertaining HRV's or what.

    My other big concern is about piping the HRV unit through my existing furnace lines and the furnace channels that come through my floors. I had them cleaned, but I know there's still plenty of construction debris and dust in there.

    I know that in commercial buildings, I don't normally notice floor vents - I normally see overhead vents where the fresh air is pumped downward toward the occupants' head, rather than upward from the floor. Is this an issue in a house? Would I need overhead vents in my house to make fresh air effective? Would fresh air from outside still be fresh by the time it runs through my existing/presumably somewhat dusty hvac pipes/vents?

    Would it be reasonable to try to negotiate with the hvac company to give some sort of guarantee that I would be happy with the end result, as measured by my actual ability to breathe better, and if not satisfied, have them unhook it and maybe just charge me a reduced fee for time and labor? Would it be worthwhile to try the fresh air/HRV unit and postpone the hepa filter until I see how good the HRV unit works or is the hepa unit really indespensible?

    My current setup is an 80% furnace (Carrier) about 1 year old, with a Honeywell electronic air cleaner, also 1 year old.

    Perhaps I should also add that I have "carpet ghosting" I think is what it's called. Black streaks along the wall-edges of the carpets. I'm told this is due to excessive negative pressure, where the outside atmosphere is trying to suck the air out of my house, and is pulling the particles through the cracks between floor and wall, and hence buildup of black streaks there. This makes sense to me, but as a layman, I really don't know. But the remedy/proposal is supposed to have net positive airflow pumping into the house.

    The proposal also mentions mounting the hrv unit either in the crawl space or in the attic (they prefer to mount it in the attic), but I'm not clear on whether I should insist on one or the other mounting locations. All I know is that I have existing ducstwork in my crawlspace, but have never seen any ductwork in my attic, so I'm a little perplexed about an attic installation.

    I'm really going nuts about the breathing problem. We've contemplated selling our house, which is one big reason I've hesitated to experiment with the $x proposal, but maybe if I could have some good advice on the matter, it might help me make a decision on how and whether to proceed with the proposal.

    I wonder whether attempting the fresh air intake route is the place to start, or does it seem odd that my house is so hard to breathe in - how likely is it there is some sinister pollutant (dusty carpets or some sort of mold.....I've inspected everywhere I can see, and I don't see any mold), and I had my crawl space redone with new vapor barrier and hung up the insulation batts that fell down, and there was reportedly only mold on the mud under the vapor barrier but not on my home. I just don't know how prevalent this type of issue is, and whether these symptoms more likely denote a problematic pollutant, or just too tight of a house that needs more fresh air pumped in.

    Thanks - I appreciate any knowledgeable input on this matter. Please ask me questions if I left out any pertinent details.
    Last edited by jrbenny; 12-12-2008 at 08:55 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Hangin out with you losers
    Posts
    1,043
    First get the unit checked to make sure it is installed properly
    What if you have a minor problem with the install causing all this.

    second try a room humidifier if that works go for a whole house model
    I have had this complaint before and it almost always turns out to be humidity related.
    I am a big fan of the April Aire 600, parts are easy to get and cheap filters.

    I dont know if I would jump on a HRV just yet like you said how do you know its fresh air related?
    Got any gas cans in the garage?
    Wife using the cheap bleach again?
    How long has this lasted?
    Does it come and go?
    Ever had a C.O. Test done?
    Any reason to suspect radon?
    See any new mold?

    I know I am rambeling here just trying to eliminate all other possibilitys

    Let us know what you come up with


    By the way we love pictures of installs
    I remember my first day,It was fun!

  3. #3
    Scott, this has literally gone on for years, and it is an every-minute, every day thing. No gas cans, no bleach. I've complained to the furnace guys I bought the furnace from and they've inspected it carefully a couple times and have gone into my crawl space a couple times, and they are the ones who cleaned my hvac ductwork too. They are the ones recommending fresh air hrv unit with hepa air filter.

    I've tried humidifer, it does absolutely nothing. Opening the windows is what works. Running a fan with windows closed does absolutely nothing also. There's clearly something in my house that does not agree with my sinuses at all.

    I have a co detector - one of those units that is supposed to alarm, like a fire alarm. I test it periodically, it works. It's never alarmed before. I've taken it to different parts of the house, no alarm.

    I don't know whether there's a reason to suspect radon or not. Is nasal congestion a symptom of a radon problem?

    My nasal congestion problems predate my new furnace. Also, I had my whole house carpets professionally steam cleaned, but that did not help the breathing problem either.

    I don't see any mold at all.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    SE Michigan
    Posts
    18,223
    Have you talked to a psychiatrist?
    To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.
    -- Confucius

  5. #5
    I'm not aware of any shrinks that are particularly knowledgeable about indoor air quality, otherwise I would.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    SE Michigan
    Posts
    18,223
    Quote Originally Posted by mark_in_WA View Post
    I'm not aware of any shrinks that are particularly knowledgeable about indoor air quality, otherwise I would.
    Phobias...looky here, I aint even a shrink.

    Air- Anemophobia.
    Air swallowing- Aerophobia.
    Airborne noxious substances- Aerophobia.
    Airsickness- Aeronausiphobia
    To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.
    -- Confucius

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Posts
    11,808
    no comment on symptoms but there is nothing written in stone that says you have to hook up an HRV for your furnace ducts.

    You could get a 120 CFM model and have it blow 60 CFM in your bedroom and 60 CFM in your office. Directly duct it to those rooms.

    Put the supply up high aimed so it does not fall on your bed or desk. If you get below freezing there I would not put it in the attic, they make condensate that will freeze.

    Also if it gets cold there, the air coming out of the HRV will be significantly cooler than room temperature, you could get an electric duct heater with an SCR control to have the air warmed to room temperature

    No one is going to guarantee it cures you, all they can guarantee is it will give you so much fresh air.

    maybe you want to find out what the real problem is --get tested for allergies, or get a Certified Hygenist in there and have him run the full monty on the tests. The hygenist will cost about double the HRV install
    The way we build has a greater impact on our comfort, energy consumption and IAQ than any HVAC system we install.

    http://www.ductstrap.com/

  8. #8
    ok, so it sounds as though you believe it is beneficial to have the fresh air coming in from the ceiling rather than the floor, is that right?

    As for ducting, is that difficult for an existing home? I imagine they would have to cut into the drywall and run some pipes up through the walls.

    I thought the way hrv's were supposed to work was they were supposed to get the incoming air heated up a bit so it feels pretty close to room temp. I thought that's why it's called an hrv.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Posts
    11,808
    well maybe when it is above freezing they recover almost all the heat but when they get below freezing maybe they are recovering only 70 per cent of the heat.

    if it was drawing in 0F air from outside and exhausting 70F air, recovering 70% would mean like getting back 49 degrees so if you want 49F air fine don't worry about the duct heater

    Commercial building, running air conditioning, supplies in the ceiling, supply contains some fresh air, yes ceiling is effective as the cool supply air is going to fall down to the breathing zone

    Same commercial building but in heating mode, it becomes less efffective ventialtion because the heated air is going to stay at the ceiling not mix as well


    warmest air be at ceiling in heating so blow the hrv air up there it will be cooler than the ceiling air and tend to fall and mix, that is why i said do not aim it at the bed or desk as it will feel drafty. If the duct heater does not heat the air warmer than the room air it will still mix.

    Run a ceiling fan pulling air up in your rooms and the fresh air mixes well no matter where you supply it

    dedicted ducts will cost more, i cannot see from here how difficult it would be

    easy to come up in a closet

    Maybe you do not have fire stops in some framed walls and you cut out the bottom plates, oval some 4 inch round a bit and it slides up the wall. 60 cfm is a bit much for the blower of an HRV to push through 4 inch
    The way we build has a greater impact on our comfort, energy consumption and IAQ than any HVAC system we install.

    http://www.ductstrap.com/

  10. #10
    How relevant is the hepa air filtration really? I mean, I guess the point of that is perhaps to filter out the allergenic particles from the outside fresh air, before bringing it inside of the house. Because as far as I can see inside, there is dust everywhere in my house, so I doubt a hepa system is going to really do anything to reduce the amount of dust I have in my house.

    Is the hepa system really worthwhile? Is it used in commercial structures?

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Posts
    11,808
    hepa get used in clean rooms, hospital operating theatres, recirculating fume hoods and bilogical safety cabinets, as well as wherever hypochondriacs roam.

    you mentioned expensive experiments, the experimet you should take is getting tested for allergies and getting a hygenist in your home to test whatever you are breathing inside your own home - maybe you can't filter it or you can't dilute it enough, maybe you need to absorb it or kill it

    Will an HRV give you plenty of fresh air - answer is yes

    will hepas clean the air - answer is yes

    will they cure you - can't say, it depends on what is actually bothering you
    The way we build has a greater impact on our comfort, energy consumption and IAQ than any HVAC system we install.

    http://www.ductstrap.com/

  12. #12
    thanks for your time Carnak, appreciate it!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Posts
    11,808
    you're welcome
    The way we build has a greater impact on our comfort, energy consumption and IAQ than any HVAC system we install.

    http://www.ductstrap.com/

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