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itsme74

join:2013-01-06
Wilson, NC

Drafty, cold air vents in ceiling. HELP!

I bought a town home approximately 3 years ago. Each winter it's very cold and drafty. It's two stories and has a town home unit on each side. It's even colder upstairs than it is downstairs. I normally keep the thermostat on 70 all day and all night. It has a fireplace and 3 sets of sliding glass doors. I recently cut out a piece of plastic and completely covered my fireplace because even though the damper was closed there was still air coming in the grated vents around the fireplace doors. Not sure if it's helping. When I open the front door the plastic sucks in and blows back out when I close the door. Then, I put down weatherstripping under each sliding glass door and also used rope caulk to seal little cracks where the seal meets the glass. I've also bought drapes but have not put those up yet, getting there. I also replaced the dryer vent cap outside with a new one.

I have a heat pump that's located in a closet in the hall of the first floor. The heat pump and the A/C unit share the same vents. The ducts are in between the two floors, therefore, there isn't any duct work to check in the attic. But, there is a cold draft coming in through all four vents that are located in the ceiling on the first floor and the heat isn't on nor is the fan on. If there are leaks in the duct work, how do I access it, check for leaks, or fix something like that if it is inaccessible?

MrFixit1

join:1999-11-26
Madison, WI
Without knowing all the details of your HVAC system , what insulation you have , any breaks in the perimeter of the walls , etc. , it is hard to guess what is happening .
Any chance your local power utility offers energy audits ? Might give you a better picture of what is going on .

dmagerl
Premium
join:2007-08-06
Woodstock, IL
reply to itsme74
You might want to look into using a chimney pillow or chimney balloon

»www.chimneyballoon.us/chimneyballoon.html

itsme74

join:2013-01-06
Wilson, NC
reply to MrFixit1

Top of heat pump
 

Center of heat pump
 

Bottom of heat pump
 
The insulation is probably as old as the town home which was originally built in '80 or '81. I did inspect the attic and noticed in certain areas, especially towards the edge of the roof, there was light coming through and in those areas there was about 3 feet of insulation missing from the edge inward. I bought a roll of insulation. Went into the attic and pushed the insulation down towards the edges and then filled the remaining spaces (which was made by pushing the insulation towards the edge of the house) with new insulation. It's very hard to get to the edge of the house in the attic because the ceilings below my feet come to a "point" if you will. Or rather, they make an upside down "v" like a roof and then you have the actual roof (upside down "v") coming down on your back. So, it's an extremely tight squeeze at the edges. In fact, it's really unreachable. There aren't any breaks in the perimeter of the walls or anywhere else that I know of and I have looked. Good idea checking with the energy audits. I will look into that today. Thanks! And sorry, I can't really describe the HVAC system any better than that. I have pics, but don't know if that will help. I don't know why, but they uploaded sideways.


mattmag
Premium,ExMod 2000-03
join:2000-04-09
NW Illinois
kudos:3

1 edit
reply to itsme74

It's possible that there may be an outside air-intake (called "make-up" air) for the HVAC system, and the damper is not closing when the unit is off. That would allow cold outside air into your ductwork when you didn't want it to be there.

EDIT: Just noticed this:

said by itsme74:

I did inspect the attic and noticed in certain areas, especially towards the edge of the roof, there was light coming through and in those areas there was about 3 feet of insulation missing from the edge inward. I bought a roll of insulation. Went into the attic and pushed the insulation down towards the edges and then filled the remaining spaces (which was made by pushing the insulation towards the edge of the house) with new insulation.

That was a mistake. That area needs to be open over the soffit to allow the attic to ventilate. You just plugged up the air inlet path, and that will need to be removed to allow circulation.

MrFixit1

join:1999-11-26
Madison, WI
reply to itsme74
My apologies , when I was referring to the HVAC system , I should have specified the ducting more so than the heat pump itself . Is it possible to take some pictures of the attic area ?
I think I know what you mean , but not sure .
Hopefully by pushing insulation to the walls you did not block airflow for venting the attic area .
You may want to look towards the peak of the roof and see if you can find any roof vents .
Ideally you want good airflow in the attic area , but the attic area " sealed " from the rest of the house as far as heat flow is concerned .
Since you have started to seal the fireplace as a air leak , I kind of wonder were the cold air from the ducts is coming from .
Any possibility your heat pump has a fresh air intake from outside ?

itsme74

join:2013-01-06
Wilson, NC

fan on roof

outside
Click for full size
peak of roof
Click for full size
attic
Click for full size
one duct
I hope these pics help. The fan is moving. It's not a great pic of the roof outside, but the best I could do. There's the chimney, a fan and there's a small pipe on the far right. As you can see in the last two pics, towards the back, there is light coming through. It's actually a space in the wall that goes all the down to the bottom floor. If you look closely you can see a large metal pipe running vertical. That is the chimney. The dryer vent hose also falls inside this "hole" but not all the way down. Now, the silver box and one duct that you see is NOT connected to the A/C or heat pump. I assume it's some type of return. Underneath the silver "box" is a 14x14 vent in the ceiling of the hall way upstairs. That duct runs and connects to another 14x14 vent in the ceiling of the living room. There was cold air falling out of both vents. I covered those with plastic because as far as I can tell it wasn't doing anything useful in my book, but obviously I could be wrong. Like I said I don't know much about this stuff. Also, behind the peak of the insulation the attic goes down behind that. In other words, you're looking at one half of the ceiling in the attic or rather, just like the roof peaks so do the ceilings in each bedroom. I did call my utilities company and they said they would come out tomorrow and do a home audit for free. However, if anyone here has an opinion I would still love to hear it! Please!!!


mattmag
Premium,ExMod 2000-03
join:2000-04-09
NW Illinois
kudos:3


You have a self-powered roof ventilator (the fan) and also it appears a vented ridge cap. (the peak). The light showing through should be coming from the soffit area, which is the flat portion directly above where your security light is mounted. That is required to be a clear ventilation pathway, as the cooler air will come up from the soffit, passing through the attic space and then out the fan and/or ridge vent. The insulation in the attic needs to be pulled back clear of that.

It is not generally good practice to have a vent fan *and* a ridge vent however, since the air can then simply come in one and out the other, and not actually ventilate the attic space. But that's another topic.

Now, the "silver box" and duct is likely a return, and you should be able to see the plastic suck into those vents when the heat is on. It is also likely that since they are not insulated and in a cold space (the attic should be cold in the winter) what you are feeling is simply cold air "falling" out of the vents due to that box being cold and cooling the air that is within it. I would certainly think they need to be properly insulated from above.

As a final note, where does that dryer vent go? Is there a vent to the outside I hope?

MrFixit1

join:1999-11-26
Madison, WI
reply to itsme74
Definitely time to get a pro in to look at things .
I believe mattmag has called it on the source of the light , but there really should be more than 1 vent , so you might want to see if you plugged any of the others .
This part "It's actually a space in the wall that goes all the down to the bottom floor has me just a little concerned though .
Does the chimney run through this space ?
Not sure of the codes there , but surprised there are no fire stops .
Please let us know what the audit people find .

itsme74

join:2013-01-06
Wilson, NC
reply to itsme74

chimney area

looking down chimney area
MATTMAG: As far as the return vents, when I turn the heat on the plastic doesn't move. But remember, it's the A/C/heat vents that has the cold air falling out and those vents are located between the floors. I even pull the vent covers off to make sure the leak wasn't just coming around the sides and it was but when sealed that off you could still feel air blowing from inside the vents.

The soffit area is clear. It's the only place I didn't try to insulate in the attic b/c the chimney is coming through that space. In the pics above you can see the chimney go all the way down where it connects to the fireplace and on the right side you see the dryer vent hose which comes out on the side of the house. In the outside pic I took, if you look real close you can just see the edge of the dryer vent cap on the far left parallel to the security light.

And I don't know why, but it keeps turning the pics counter-clockwise. Hope the pics help. And by the way, I know I need to replace that plastic dryer vent hose. In fact, I replaced it halfway with the metal one but can't get across to the other side to complete it and haven't found anyone that wants to try it either.


mattmag
Premium,ExMod 2000-03
join:2000-04-09
NW Illinois
kudos:3


OK, this is getting a bit confusing. Above you said

" Underneath the silver "box" is a 14x14 vent in the ceiling of the hall way upstairs. That duct runs and connects to another 14x14 vent in the ceiling of the living room. There was cold air falling out of both vents."

That made it sound like the air was coming out of those vents. I'd still be checking then to see if there is a fresh air intake to the HVAC somewhere.

As far as the "soffit area is clear", the soffit runs the entire length of the roof, if it was done properly. There should be light visible from the attic all along that distance, not just the one area. If it actually is just the one area, that may explain why they added the the fan vent, as it would be insufficient.

At least the dryer is vented outside--that's good, but the droop in that line is a time-bomb. Keep up your efforts to get that corrected.

itsme74

join:2013-01-06
Wilson, NC
Right. In my original post I complained that there was cold air falling out of the A/C/heat vents when the heat is not on and still is the complaint. I posted later about the silver box and the 14x14 vents to give additional information. Sorry if I am confusing you. I'm just trying to figure out where the air is coming from. And I still think that the fireplace is connected to problem somehow even though I have it sealed off with plastic. Like I said in the original post, when I open the front door the plastic sucks in and then when I close the front door the plastic blows out or away from the fireplace. I can't think of any other places where air could be getting in to cause a draft from the vents and a sealed off fireplace. Does that make sense??

itsme74

join:2013-01-06
Wilson, NC

vent inside the house

vent outside the house
Click for full size
different view of same vent
I think I found the problem. I don't know why I never noticed this before. See pics above. I think this gray vent on the outside connects to the ducts inside the house. I posted pics to show but the vent in the house (kitchen) is directly behind the vent outside. And it looks like the vent outside isn't flush with the wall. And this is where I feel most of the air coming in and it's a lot colder in the kitchen. I hope this is it. I think it is. Regardless, I want to thank you guys for your time and help. I will still post what I find out from the energy audit tomorrow.


mattmag
Premium,ExMod 2000-03
join:2000-04-09
NW Illinois
kudos:3


I believe that is a range hood vent by looking at it?

itsme74

join:2013-01-06
Wilson, NC
reply to itsme74
I thought it was for an exhaust fan too, but I don't have one hooked up.

Just had my energy audit. Those guys told me I had everything sealed pretty tight. He went in the attic and saw I had a roof ventilator and a vented ridge cap. He said he didn't see the purpose in both. I had stuffed a piece of insulation inside the roof ventilator and he said that was ok, but to remember to remove when I start using the A/C in the summer. He said I was right to block off the return vents in the ceiling b/c they aren't doing me any good. I mentioned to him about the air falling out of the vents on the first floor when the heat isn't on and they thought that was the weirdest thing they had ever seen. They couldn't understand b/c it's an indoor system and everything is tight. He suggested I call a heat/air person to come and check it out and to call him when I found out what the deal was so they would know in case they saw the same thing somewhere else. He did say that I may need to have my coils cleaned and that freon my be low. That was pretty much it.


ropeguru
Premium
join:2001-01-25
Mechanicsville, VA
reply to mattmag
said by mattmag:

I believe that is a range hood vent by looking at it?

Bathroom exhaust vent or dryer? One of the pictures posted had a white round plastic flex duct in it.