First Home=Time to care about energy usage.
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Easton, PA
    Posts
    21

    First Home=Time to care about energy usage.

    We just bought our first house this past winter. It is built in 1979, split level with 3 floors. Roughly 1900 sq. ft. including garage.

    So the heating is a Trane XR80, it has a Trane A/C I think is XR14 but unsure of the capacity. My main focus right now is the heat, I'll make new thread in the summer.

    It seems it follows the design I hear a lot of negative things about(for a house at least). There is 2 very large return grates, one on the lowest level and the other at the highest with no dedicated room returns. There is very little flow out of the vents in every room except the bathrooms which feed right off the main feed duct. Our master bath literally blows you away as well as the 1st & 3rd floor bath. The 1st floor which is always 5-10 degrees colder recieves hardly any flow. Now it is partially underground on a slab foundation so I am not sure if that is an issue. The only way I can get a somewhat warm first floor temp is to run the fan constantly.

    If I do that I usually get 65F when the stat reads 72F in our living room. Our living room is a cathedral ceiling as well so it is always warmer in the dining room & kitchen because of this. In our bedroom someone had the brillant idea to run a uninsulated duct under the floor from the soffet outside to bring in air for the furnace & hot water heater. In doing this our bedroom is usually 5 degrees cooler by default depending on the heat cycling. I can also feel cold air from a light switch by the bed when the fan is on so I also think I have a leaky duct.

    It seems to fix a lot of this would be a whole system redesign which I am not really ready for financially and well I don't want our house torn apart as well.

    Would a contracter really be able to help with any of this outside of that or is that really my only option?

    FYI the heat/cooling was installed in 2002 so it is fairly new. I will glady offer pictures if anything needs to be clarified.

    I should also note while our gas bill wasn't outrageous I don't want it to be. Average over 2 months is 84 therms/month which also includes the hot water & cooking gas.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Cedar Grove, Wi-Sheboygan
    Posts
    1,582
    You probably have a porrly designed duct system and it's also probably very leaky and could probably benefit from a rediesign, and then having it properly sealed. As to the porr air flow you currently are experiencing could be from dirty filters, dampers in certain supply runs either closed, or not opened or could also have dis-connected dust runs to rooms where theres poor air flow. If your a handy guy you can investigate some if not all of this yourself and see what you have, and also might want to investigate the dwelling at the sametime and see how much insulation you have and where the major airleaks are. Take a peek up in your attic as well to see how much insulation is up there as well, should be min. R-50.

    Another option you have, is to call your local Gas/Elec. Co. and see if they don't offer a home elvaluation fro a min. fee or in most cases free where they will do a blower door test, and also provide air sealing, insulation work on the home for a modest fee supplemented by our Gov't and is mostly based on ones ability to pay and also based on income and the total number of persons in the home IMO that should be your first item on your list. Not sure if you hired a inspector prior to buying the home but you might want to read over his report if you did as he would have on there items to repair/fix or items that need attention.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Easton, PA
    Posts
    21
    Update:

    Well I was wrong about the outside A/C it is an XR12. The casing is weather beat though. Like I said doesn't matter till summer although based on the below ground design I don't think cooling will be an issue.

    The duct work returns are free & clear from what I can tell just dirty. The feeds are all open and get this. The bathrooms I spoke of before that recieve way more airflow than the other living spaces. Well on the first floor if you close the bathroom door with the vent open the downstairs temp raises by almost 4 degress. So instead of a steady 64-65F while the rest of the house sits at 72F you get 67-68F. I am measuring this with a wireless thermometer in the den which is the farthest room away.

    There were also manual dampers put in the supply & return ducts right off the furnace. They were both open just an odd place to have them. Right now there is a washable plastic mesh filter that kind of woobles in the return duct. It is not a snug fit.

    What filters should I use? In our apartment they used the 3M allergen filters at our request but those were new systems that seemed to handle it fine. All the vents had equal airflow no matter what. I am not sure this would.

    I haven't check our home report yet but believe the attic had R-30. I know from our recent pellet stove install that the outside walls have fiberglass toped with pink foam sheeting, then siding. Considering the age I don't think plywood on the exterior and a moisture barrier were used. The report really didin't mention anything else that would require a fix beside bathroom fans venting to the attic.

    My local utils don't offer much but this summer I intend of getting a blower test done.

    I also have a question about 90% condesing furnaces. Do they need to be vented PVC or could a steel pipe be used as well. Currently that is how I am setup. A steel pipe straight up to the roof which the hotwater heater shares.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    523
    If you are using the high end 3m filters, well just throw them away. They are too restrictive to air flow and in combination of a poorly design duct system its flaws will be shown even more.

    I would RECOMMEND the installation of an air cleaner for good air cleaning with minimal pressure drop across it. But start by just removing the filter for a few minutes and comparing the before and after of the air flow through vents.

    If an air cleaner is out of the budget and you feel the need to use a pleated filter I would recommend the "middle of the line" filters. They are pleated but not as tightly pleated. You'll see the difference at your local home store.

    Yes, a 90%+ furnace requires PVC venting. Newer systems with multi stages, variable speeds, modulation, etc will help some with comfort as they provide longer run times and will provide more "even" comfort through out the home. However a system is only as good as the ducts its connected too. A proper evaluation of the duct system is required to see what is possible without "tearing" the house apart.

    As as far as the A/C is concerned, if you post its model number we can tell you its tonnage....

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX
    Posts
    11,274
    The manual dampers you saw at the furnace are called "balancing dampers". They are used to balance airflow throughout the duct system, which is what your system sounds like it needs.

    Find a contractor who specializes in testing and air balancing (TAB); for residential, a contractor certified by the Comfort Institute or National Comfort Institute or similar stands a good chance of understanding duct design, layout, and air balancing.

    The air leaking around your light switch is probably not from ducts directly. If you have ducts in an attic or crawl space, and they leak, this can pull air into your house through light switches, outlets, and other cracks and gaps in construction. This is known as infiltration. This makes your house harder to heat and cool, and more expensive to do it. Fixing duct leakage goes a good ways toward lowering your comfort costs.
    • Electricity makes refrigeration happen.
    • Refrigeration makes the HVAC psychrometric process happen.
    • HVAC pyschrometrics is what makes indoor human comfort happen...IF the ducts AND the building envelope cooperate.


    A building is NOT beautiful unless it is also comfortable.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    4H: Hot, Humid Houston H.O.
    Posts
    3,304
    It is worth noting that "3M Filtrete" is a brand name which applies to a range of filters, some of them more restrictive than others. I hear people damn them just by the name, when I wonder why professionals do not measure static pressure and judge based on whether they create a problem. I'm a homeowner and have measured static pressure with Filtrete and other brands, with tons of surface area (filter face airspeed well under 200 fpm) they do not create a problem in my system. But surely high restriction filters would be a problem in systems with skimpy filter area.

    Regards -- Pstu

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX
    Posts
    11,274
    Re: filters. Deep media is the way to go. You get higher MERV with lower pressure drop. The 1" thick, high MERV filters can't hold a candle to their deep media cousins in terms of pressure drop.

    It's all about surface area.
    • Electricity makes refrigeration happen.
    • Refrigeration makes the HVAC psychrometric process happen.
    • HVAC pyschrometrics is what makes indoor human comfort happen...IF the ducts AND the building envelope cooperate.


    A building is NOT beautiful unless it is also comfortable.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Easton, PA
    Posts
    21
    About those "balancers" the one is missing on the return side apon further inspection.

    I also found out some more info since the PO's saved everything. It was installed by *cringe* Sears. By what I gather it was a speed 3 hour install based on the scribbles on the mail postcard. It cost $4,782 after a $600 rebate and was done 04/03/02.

    Now I cringe because I know Sears is one of those "I bet we can do it all" companies that doesn't really. Thats why I purchased appliances(washer/dryer) from them but installed them myself.

    Coil: TX036C4HPC0
    Condenser: 2TTR2030A1000A
    Furnace: TUD100C945K0

    My guess is they ripped out the old and put in the new and left. Probably didn't even do a load calc.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    SE PA
    Posts
    183
    Quote Originally Posted by thermo1223 View Post
    About those "balancers" the one is missing on the return side apon further inspection.

    I also found out some more info since the PO's saved everything. It was installed by *cringe* Sears. By what I gather it was a speed 3 hour install based on the scribbles on the mail postcard. It cost $4,782 after a $600 rebate and was done 04/03/02.

    Now I cringe because I know Sears is one of those "I bet we can do it all" companies that doesn't really. Thats why I purchased appliances(washer/dryer) from them but installed them myself.

    Coil: TX036C4HPC0
    Condenser: 2TTR2030A1000A
    Furnace: TUD100C945K0

    My guess is they ripped out the old and put in the new and left. Probably didn't even do a load calc.
    3 ton coil, 2.5 ton outdoor, and 100k BTU (at 80% efficient) furnace. Doesn't seem out of line based on what you've provided so far.

    You said the house was 1900 sq ft, including garage. Is the garage a one or two car...and is there living space above it?

    You provided the therms in an above post, what's your cost/therm....or better yet, your gas bills the past 2 months?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Easton, PA
    Posts
    21
    Your right it seems sized fine, house heats quickly just these little quirks.

    2 car garage which above is the living room & master bedroom.

    first partial month bill was $50.15 .85410/CCF 40 CCF used
    Second full month bill is $170.47 .85411/CCF 129 CCF used

    Again HW & cooking is gas as well.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Pleasant grove, UT
    Posts
    225
    1900 sq. ft including garage and you pro guys really think the furnace is properly sized?

    I'm guessing it's oversized, but without a heat calc we won't know for sure.

    $170 bill for one month? Wow!

    You could possibly have a dirty coil for starters, with that filter setup and it not being properly secure. I'll bet the blower motor is caked as well.

    You could use a heating contractor who knows about air balancing, as others have noted.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    SE PA
    Posts
    183
    Quote Originally Posted by thermo1223 View Post
    Your right it seems sized fine, house heats quickly just these little quirks.

    2 car garage which above is the living room & master bedroom.

    first partial month bill was $50.15 .85410/CCF 40 CCF used
    Second full month bill is $170.47 .85411/CCF 129 CCF used

    Again HW & cooking is gas as well.
    A single family home of that size, built in 79 with the climate we've had this year.....those gas bills don't seem alarmingly high.....relative to many other homeowners. Ballpark guess is your hot water and cooking are 20-30% of that total $170 (I forget if your clothes dryer is gas or elec).

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    SE PA
    Posts
    183
    Quote Originally Posted by fixed right View Post
    1900 sq. ft including garage and you pro guys really think the furnace is properly sized?

    I'm guessing it's oversized, but without a heat calc we won't know for sure.

    $170 bill for one month? Wow!

    You could possibly have a dirty coil for starters, with that filter setup and it not being properly secure. I'll bet the blower motor is caked as well.

    You could use a heating contractor who knows about air balancing, as others have noted.
    Not saying it's properly sized....but based on the info we have, I've seen much more obvious over-sized homes.

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