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  1. #1
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    May 2010
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    Confused HELP! - Is this HVAC design a failure?

    I have a two year old home in the RTP area of NC.

    My home is 2600 sq. ft., two floors, has a vented crawl space (currently) and a vented attic with radiant barrier.

    The HVAC system is a Lennox heat pump with the air handler located in a closet on the second floor. All the duct work is located between the first and second floor (in conditioned space). The returns are a hole in the ceiling of the first floor which feeds into that air handler closet and then a vent above that closet door (on the second floor) for all the rooms on the second floor. Each room has a vent above their doors. This is a 2 zone system; one for each floor.

    • Lennox Compressor 14HPX-030-230-21
    • Lennox Air Handler (originally with MERV16 filter) CBX27UH-030-230-6-03


    I’ve had nothing but issues with this system since the beginning. It has never cooled or heated well enough. I have hot and cold spots throughout the house. I’ve had a pump fail, a board replaced, and the TXV replaced. Lastly, I had the condensate overflow and leak into the supply duct. This leaked into our downstairs ceiling and has now caused us massive issues, and this post.

    Because of the condensation leak, I now have biological growth. It stinks and it looks like mold in the HVAC air handler and in the supply duct.

    I have had 6 companies look at this, 2 of which were mold specialist. I’ve heard a different recommendation from every one of them and are at a loss on which direction to go now. Some of the things I’ve heard are:

    • It's fine, the evaporator coil froze up because we had a MERV16 filter in place and we should have had something lower. (We now have a MERV 13 filter installed). The thought here was related to pressure drop.
    • It horrible and the air handler should be moved to the attic and it needs a new setup to correct design flaws around the zone separation. (Because everything is in one small second floor closet both zones are “mixing”) The thought here is moving it to the attic gives us room to properly setup return ducts and separate the zones and put in the correct sensors.
    • Replace the supply duct. (Because there is “mold” in it). Our last call for support was because of the smell. We thought it was dirt sock syndrome but it turned out to be worse. It appears to be isolated to the insulation inside the air handler and right inside the supply duct.
    • Replace the entire thing. (Because it’s not designed correctly). The thought was it’s undersized, zoned incorrectly, ducted incorrectly, etc.
    • Just clean it and use come Clorox and keep an eye on the drain line. The thought was that it’s working well enough and if you clean the smell then it’s “ok”.



    I can provide any details needed and photos. But please if anyone can help me I would be so grateful.
    Last edited by Thinkup; 01-04-2019 at 06:41 PM. Reason: removed strange characters from pasting

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
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    All but the last bullet point are valid.

    Who determine the size of this equipment?
    How was it installed?
    If it has never worked to satisfaction, how long has that been?

    Photos will help.
    Any numbers provided by the techs- SH, SC, Temps, refrig pressures and temps, etc.
    The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing the greatest amount of free meals and stamps EVER.
    Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us to "Please Do Not Feed the Animals". Their stated reason for this policy "... the animals become dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves."
    from an excerpt by Paul Jacob in Sun City, AZ

  3. #3
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    Mold is everywhere at some level....different sizes, types, etc. From what I've read, the experts can't agree at what point the level is a hazard.

    Why didn't the secondary drain manage the overflow?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    NC
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    We have a home built by a large nation wide home builder who selected a local HVAC to design, size, and install all their systems for the community we are in. They were all inspected and passed at the time of install (Fall 2016). I have heard from our Lennox dealer that this design is no longer valid in NC though (partly the reason for this post).

    We moved in Fall / Winter 2016 and didn't really notice issue until the Spring of 2017. We learned to baby the system and stopped setting a set-back temp at that point which seemed to even things out with the system for a while.

    There were other issues along the way (I'll dig up my timeline later) but our biggest issues started around April 2018. Up until April 2018 we had been going back to builder and the original installer for support. In April we selected another local Lennox company to help us.

    4/14/18 - We called the new company because we didn't have AC working. We later learned it was all the seasons that required us to go from heat to AC and back in the same day that seemed to be causing us the most issues.

    4/16/18 - We got an estimate to replace the defrost control board.

    4/19/18 - Defrost control board replaced.

    4/20/18 - The fan stopped working. They came out and fiddled around with it and things started working again.

    4/26/18 - Things stopped working again and we got a quote to replace the TXV.

    4/30/18 - Replaced the TXV.


    Sometime in the summer we had issue with the AC. issue Water dripped right through the ceiling below the air handler. We had to rip open the ceiling to realize it was air handler causing the issues. We called this in around June 20th and also noticed water dripping behind the air handler. They cleaned the coils, the pan, checked the drain and got the AC working again. (In hindsight it looks like it froze up here. Maybe because of the MERV16 filter? or something else?)

    This June event is also where our growth issues started. In hindsight the "cleaning" job wasn't done right and now it's worse.

    Fall 2018 we start noticing a bad smell. At this point we live with the poor heating and the out of balance rooms and just chalked it up to a bad duct design or poor sizing or something. But the smell is new and we know it's bad. So we called in a third company.

    Third company comes in and has no idea how to handle the situation. They wanted to sell me an air scrubber and thought everything else was just fine. No worries about the water, or load or MERV filter or anything.

    So I called in 2 mold companies and a 4th HVAC company. This 4th HVAC company only does Lennox and they knew the design as soon as I gave them my address. They said the design is just bad and there isn't really anything I can do but put this entire unit in the attic and or buy an entire new system.

    Note: The 3rd company suggest I pull out the supply ducts and replace those at the recommendation of the mold company. We don't see mold anywhere (at any register) except for the air handler and right down in the supply ducts. Both mold companies did not recommend duct cleaning at this time.

    From the last visit:

    Completed checkup on system and system is working at this time
    Inspect Indoor Coil: Checked
    Blower Amperage: 3.2
    Electric Heat Amperage: 34.6
    Check Heat Sequencer: Checked
    Supply Air Temperature: 116
    Return Air Temperature: 68
    Check Disconnect Switch: Checked
    Condenser Fan Amperage: 1.2
    Compressor Amperage: 5.64
    Head Pressure: 370
    Suction Pressure: 92
    Check Defrost Operation: Checked
    Test Thermostat: Checked

  5. #5
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    May 2010
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    I'm not a mold freak, but it was the smell and visible stuff that needs attention. I'll post photos in a bit of that. I thought we had "dirty sock syndrome" at first and why I called in at last call.

    The story I got on why the secondary drain didn't catch it was that the blower had blown the water up and out of the pan / off the coil before it got to the drain. How possible is that?

  6. #6
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    I've uploaded some photos to an Imgur account. If there is a better way to this just let me know. I'll get more photos tomorrow as well.

    https://imgur.com/a/F9CO5QP
    Last edited by Thinkup; 01-04-2019 at 11:12 PM. Reason: Added link

  7. #7
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    Looks like I need 7 posts before I can post a link to my photos.



    https://imgur.com/a/F9CO5QP
    Last edited by Thinkup; 01-04-2019 at 11:12 PM. Reason: Added link

  8. #8
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    That's scary!!! while you may not be concerned, remember that stuff, on the door, is being blown throughout the house.

    I would start with poor installation, return sounds incorrect for one.
    The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing the greatest amount of free meals and stamps EVER.
    Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us to "Please Do Not Feed the Animals". Their stated reason for this policy "... the animals become dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves."
    from an excerpt by Paul Jacob in Sun City, AZ

  9. #9
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    I spent some time with the unit today. I opened the air handler and pulled out the blower and took a look around to see if I could find anything. I poured water into the drain pan and while it drained it also leaked. I think I found a part of my problem. Take a look at the pan; should the coil be sitting in it like this?

    https://imgur.com/a/F9CO5QP

  10. #10
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    Looks like the drain pan is in the track properly, can’t tell by the photo if the pan is properly leveled of sloped towards the drain.

    One question is why is there what looks like a piece of sheet metal attached to the drain pan by tape in the left side. I wonder if you have higher than allowed return static and water is being pulled off the coil.

    Were you pouring the water just in the drain pan? Where did you see the water leaking? Did you see a hole or crack in the pan? Was the water pooling or standing in the pan or was water flowing towards the drain?

  11. #11
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    My test was to just pour water in the front. It diverted to the right and to the left while I poured. To the right it drained and to the left it cut under the coil through a small gap and then around the side where it leaked.

    If you look at the photos, there is a brown rust stain by where the blower sits. That looks like where it usually leaks. And above that, in one photo, you'll see a small drip of brown water dripping through a crack in the foam.

    So we know the pan is not good / or setup correctly?

    What about the pressure? Is that caused by design? Or the the user of a filter the restricts air flow to much?

    https://imgur.com/a/F9CO5QP
    Last edited by Thinkup; 01-08-2019 at 01:36 PM. Reason: Added URL for photos

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