Clean vs replace Amana heat pump system & return plentum duct in 2 story house fire
We had a house fire due to electrical in carport 2 months ago. Over half of the home was a total loss. The 2 story sustained heavy smoke damage and all the central roof decking and trusses were burned due to the roof ventilation being torn off during the fire.
We have a 1 year old Amana heat pump with a return plentum that was running with the heat on until the fireman disconnected power. The condenser unit was outside and was in close proximity of the fire. We looked inside the duct and floorspace and it is black. Because our insurance adjuster has been slow to handle the claim, the entire system has gone 2 months with oily soot as well as hard freezes, snow, rain and now very warm days. He just told us that he is only approving the unit and duct to be cleaned vs replaced.
Our concern is that there may be corrosion within the system especially since it was running during the fire and the amount of time gone by. Once we settle the fire claim and the check is signed should the system have problems we will be on our own. We need advise, please!
Too bad you have such a good fire department... things might have been simplier if it all burnt to the ground.
I'm not a pro, but I would think the coils could be removed and completely cleaned with cleaning solution. I'm not sure they could be cleaned adequately in place.
If there isn't any cosmetic damage to the condensor unit, the temperatures inside likely didn't get hot enough to damage any wiring. the internal safties (high pressure limit switch) would have shut down the unit before any damage occured from running in high ambient conditions.
The real challenge I think will be cleaning out the inside of the ductwork adequately. That being said, the owners before us smoked and we managed to remove all traces of them smoking without cleaning our ductwork.
If you have a good quality MERV 8 or 11 media filter in there, there might be very little soot in the supply side and on the coils, so you only need to clean the return plenumn and ductwork.
Personally I'd want to system replaced as well... but the insurance company will tie this up for months. Get several quotes from reputable and certified duct cleaning companies and see how they'd address the issue.
Have a contractor test the oil in the unit, and run it to see if it still works properly.
Thats the only way to know.
Thanks for your response. If there is a safety switch to shut it down it did not work because it was running full force until the fire cut the power supply to the house. In fact they were amazed that it was running! Isn't there a lining and insulation that would need to be removed to get to the coils?
In reading OSHA's fire damage guidelines, they indicate the probablility of corroision within the air handler and condenser unit whenever oily soot deposits are left unattended. I am not so worried about the condenser so much as I am the handler.
They want more to clean the hvac than it does to replace. So you have a good idea. Tell the cleaner it's an insurance claim to assure an even higher estimate and get 3 estimates.We have discovered first hand how those cleaning people operate. We are in the wrong line of business! Amazing what they charge for only a little water and tide! The other problem is they will do and say anything and for their benefit of getting to clean your stuff and then charge you a arm and 2 legs for it. Guess what, it still smells of smoke and it may not run after a week. Thanks for your help and your time.
If hte outside air temp being drawn into the outside unit was under 80F and the air across the indoor coils was under 85-90F... it probably would just keep running without cutting out.
Originally Posted by curiousg
The oil/soot often has organic compounds that combined with humidity are corrosive or acidic. Galvanized ductwork doesn't take much to rust... and the air handler cabinet is just painted sheetmetal.
The coil in the air handler is easy to access... a few sheet meatla screws need to be removed to take off the access panel on most coils. Also, I should correct myself, it can be cleaned pretty well in place with the right equipment. Again, if you have a descent filter they probably aren't that dirty.
It was 16 degrees that night and after 7 fire trucks hosed inside out several hours, what structure left standing was iced over. So that may very well be why it continued to run. BTW, we were not sure about getting an Amana when we purchased a year ago but we were very pleased with it. And yes, it would have been better if they were not so good at their jobs but I have to say they went over and beyond saving some new furniture and keepsakes. We were almost finished with the kitchen remodel and the granite was being delivered 2 days after the fire.
Yes the duct and floorspace is a real problem since the adjuster did not understand how a return plenum works. My husband had to educate him with a ladder and a flashlight. As for me, I have a can of something that I would love to educate him with and may get the pleasure before it's over with!
Thanks Guys, have a great day! It's pouring down rain here in GA.