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[HVAC] Access Panel and Return air intake vent

About to close on a condo in Austin and we have an issue...

1) The access panel to the air handler (which is located above the shower) is two pieces of plywood. Does this meet code? Should it not be a air tight metal door, or at least one full piece of plywood, sealing it up correctly?

2) The air intake vent that feeds to the air handler is located in the kitchen, above a door, right between the refrigerator and Oven. Is this also code?

Any and all sources or information is really helpful.

Thank you!



John Galt
Forward, March
Premium
join:2004-09-30
Happy Camp
kudos:8

Photos would be helpful...


I'm sorry I do not have photos. We do not have access to the condo at this time either.

The main issue is the access door not being one whole piece. What the current owners have now is two pieces of ply-wood sealing it up. There is really no space, but I can see dust that has accumulated in there.

Also, the return air intake vent is in the kitchen. Does this make sense and is it code?

Hopefully this is enough info for everyone to comment on.

Thanks.



John Galt
Forward, March
Premium
join:2004-09-30
Happy Camp
kudos:8

Where are you located? It is a factor in determining if and what Code is applicable.

You're not giving us much to work with here...


sorry. the condo is located in Austin texas, 802 South first...maybe google it if this helps.


iknow_t

join:2012-05-03
reply to StevenInAust

said by StevenInAust :

About to close on a condo in Austin and we have an issue...

1) The access panel to the air handler (which is located above the shower) is two pieces of plywood. Does this meet code? Should it not be a air tight metal door, or at least one full piece of plywood, sealing it up correctly?

2) The air intake vent that feeds to the air handler is located in the kitchen, above a door, right between the refrigerator and Oven. Is this also code?

Any and all sources or information is really helpful.

Thank you!

1, who on gods earth puts an access panel over the shower? that's stupid.

2) having the air intake vent right near an oven is stupid, an oven fire could be sucked into the air handler!!


nunya
Premium,MVM
join:2000-12-23
O Fallon, MO
kudos:12
Reviews:
·Charter
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said by iknow_t:

1, who on gods earth puts an access panel over the shower? that's stupid.

I was thinking the same thing. Code or not - it's just dumb. Kind of creepy too.
--
If someone refers to herself / himself as a "guru", they probably aren't.

robbin
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-21
Leander, TX
kudos:1

1 edit
reply to StevenInAust

Are you saying that the access to the attic is above the shower?

Pics would really help.

What is current code doesn't matter. What is the age of the condo?

Edit -- forgot to ask. My understanding is that an energy audit is required to sell a single family dwelling in Austin. What were the results of that?


steveninAust

join:2014-03-24
Austin, TX

this unit is the on the first floor of a two story building, so the access panel is not to the attic, but to the air handler.

The building was built in 1984.

I found a link to the international code that Austin adheres to, plus they add their own amendments for code as well.

»publicecodes.cyberregs.com/icod/···c002.htm

item number 4 states that the air return vent cannot come from a kitchen...Am I interpreting this correct?

I cannot find anything on whether the access panel to the air handler has to be a metal door, or just one piece.

Thanks again for all your help.



whizkid3
Premium,MVM
join:2002-02-21
Queens, NY
kudos:9

said by steveninAust:

item number 4 states that the air return vent cannot come from a kitchen...Am I interpreting this correct?

Yes, and there are perhaps two other reasons it can't be located there - near appliance vent & same room as fuel burning appliance (gas range/oven?) On the other hand, this may or may not have been the code when it was built. Either way, the location of the return air grill is dangerous and should be moved to where it meets current code requirements.

You probably wont find any code issue regarding the access panel, although it is kind of stupid.

jsbaker

join:2002-07-13
Houston, TX
reply to StevenInAust

The A/C access is very common in Texas in older apartments and condos and is called a ceiling concealed fan coil. 99% of the time yes they are located over the bathtub or in a second bathroom (powder room). It's due to no attic space and no space for a traditional air handler. They are generally covered with a single piece of insulated painted aluminum and not two pieces of plywood although my very first apartment had a single piece of plywood that had been painted white.

I used to work for an apartment complex and these were a total pain to work on. My current apartment which was built in the 70's has one concealed in the ceiling in the kitchen and the only access to it is through the 20 x 25 return vent which is in a soffitt in the kitchen ceiling near the refrigerator. First and second floor units have these where as 3rd floor units have one mounted in the wall with the return built into the front access panel. To be honest i prefer the one i have as it's much quieter than the wall mounted units.

Alot of the older complexes from the 60's in the area have actual gas furnaces in a closet in the hallway.

If you take the covers down this is most likely what you have up there.

»www.firstco.com/Products/Multi-F···Coils/HX


steveninAust

join:2014-03-24
Austin, TX
reply to StevenInAust

Thanks everyone for your inputs!



Camelot One
Premium,MVM
join:2001-11-21
Greenwood, IN
kudos:2
reply to robbin

said by robbin:

My understanding is that an energy audit is required to sell a single family dwelling in Austin.

We sold our house in Austin last year, and no energy audit was required.

As to the OP, what you find in current code means absolutely nothing. Homes/Condos use the codes in use at the time of construction, with certain remodels requiring they be brought up to code at the time of the remodel. If you are looking at something in the community across the street from the Def school, it has been there a LONG time, so the codes that would apply could be from decades ago.

robbin
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-21
Leander, TX
kudos:1

said by Camelot One:

said by robbin:

My understanding is that an energy audit is required to sell a single family dwelling in Austin.

We sold our house in Austin last year, and no energy audit was required.

"Residential customers must have an energy audit conducted on their homes prior to sale if their homes are 10 years old or older."

»austinenergy.com/wps/portal/ae/P···bnqUEc!/


Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom
reply to Camelot One

said by Camelot One:

said by robbin:

My understanding is that an energy audit is required to sell a single family dwelling in Austin.

We sold our house in Austin last year, and no energy audit was required.

As to the OP, what you find in current code means absolutely nothing. Homes/Condos use the codes in use at the time of construction, with certain remodels requiring they be brought up to code at the time of the remodel. If you are looking at something in the community across the street from the Def school, it has been there a LONG time, so the codes that would apply could be from decades ago.

Talk about creating your own rip-off profession this one is a poster child. Why do people allow this to happen? Almost as bad as HOA's restrictive regulations.

quote:
The ECAD audit was designed to keep the cost under $300 for a typical single-family home 1,800 square feet or smaller with a single air-conditioning system. Auditors set their own prices, which depend on the size of the home.


Tex
Premium
join:2012-10-20
kudos:2

1 edit
reply to steveninAust

jsbaker See Profile described what you have perfectly. And, yes, they are a pain in the ass to work on. Not only is everything above your head, try working on one straddling a bathtub and a bathtub with shower doors no less. One condominium complex I worked on that had blower coils above the bathtub had suspended ceilings with fiberglass ceiling panels in the bathrooms. The panels were held down by rocks, pieces of 2X4, bricks and anything else heavy enough to keep the panels from being sucked up by the blower because the units were uncased meaning the space above the ceiling and below the floor above was being used as the return air plenum. Being that you're seeing dust probably means your fan coil is uncased, too.

I would definitely have the system inspected and have something done about the return air in the kitchen. One other thing, I hope you're not concerned with efficiency because chances are regardless of the efficiency of the outdoor unit, you'll never get the efficiency it's rated at because of the limitations of the fan coil. Plus, there's a good chance the heat in that fan coil is electric. If you get the system inspected, which I urge you to do, make sure they check the system's operation, meaning they put manifold gauges on the condensing unit, paying particular attention to its operation (subcooling if the fan coil has an expansion valve or superheat if the fan coil has a fixed metering device). Those types of systems are notorious for inefficient operation and insufficient cooling due to their crappy design and installation. In most cases, the duct work is fabricated from fiberglass duct board material, which, if not fabricated and installed properly, has air leaks galore and is difficult, if not impossible, to access and seal because of it being installed above the ceilings.


Kearnstd
Space Elf
Premium
join:2002-01-22
Mullica Hill, NJ
kudos:1

Holy carp, Is this kind of thing common down there? As in why no air handlers and metal ducts? I think even apartments around here have metal ducts and a closet based AH/Furnace.
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