Cracked Heat Exchanger

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Cracked Heat Exchanger

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Tyrone Wheeler

Guaranteed Residential Inspections Inc.
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User: twheeler
Posted: Dec 16, 2005 7:33 PM       Post Subject:
I inspected a furnace in early October, and just received a call from the owner that his furnace has been "Red Tagged", due to a cracked heat exchanger.
I inspected the furnace as thoroughly as I knew possible.
In my report I stated that the furnace was old and that we are unable to determine the life remaining.
The problem is that the home owner claims that I should be replacing the furnace.
Any advice?
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ekartal5
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Posted: Dec 16, 2005 7:42 PM       Post Subject:

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Tyrone . Do you have a disclaimer in your contract for heat exchangers?

Erol Kartal
ProInspect
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David Valley

Certified Massachusetts Home Inspections
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Posted: Dec 16, 2005 7:55 PM       Post Subject:
Tyrone,

You've got to cover your as$ on anything you can't see. I've got a disclaimer in my report that states...

If you have a gas furnace, a professional tuning and cleaning every year is a good idea. Electric furnaces should be professionally inspected every two years and for oil furnaces; it's a good idea to schedule a tuning every year.

I highly recommend that you request a HVAC technician to inspect the Heat Exchanger for cracks, holes or leaks as my inspection is mechanically limited since the furnace requires dismantling to examine this particular area. A deteriorated heat exchanger will allow deadly products of combustion into your living area.

--
David Valley
MAB Member

Massachusetts Certified Home Inspections
http://www.masscertified.com

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."

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Joseph Hagarty

HouseMaster
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Posted: Dec 16, 2005 8:02 PM       Post Subject:
David:

Similar comment incorporated into my report as well:

*Due to normal design constraints, the heat exchanger in a hot air furnace cannot be fully assessed within the scope of a standard inspection. Complete heat exchanger evaluation requires use of special equipment. Independent evaluation by a specialist is advised, particularly if unit is older and/or exhibits wear.

--
Joseph Hagarty

HouseMaster / Main Line, PA
joseph.hagarty@housemaster.com
www.householdinspector.com

Phone: 610-399-9864
Fax : 610-399-9865

HouseMaster. Home inspections. Done right.

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Joseph Hagarty

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Posted: Dec 16, 2005 8:12 PM       Post Subject:
Tyrone:

Did you note the overall condition (age, corrosion, service records, etc...) of the furnace within your report?

If so, that along with the NACHI SOP:

2.4. Heating

I. The inspector shall inspect:

A. The heating system and describe the energy source and heating method using normal operating controls.
B. And report as in need of repair electric furnaces which do not operate.
C. And report if inspector deemed the furnace inaccessible.

II. The inspector is not required to:

A. Inspect or evaluate interiors of flues or chimneys, fire chambers, the heat exchanger, the humidifier or dehumidifier, the electronic air filter, solar heating systems or fuel tanks.
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Claude Lawrenson

Ontario Home Inspections Inc.
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Posted: Dec 16, 2005 8:24 PM       Post Subject:
It is important for inspectors to clearly state in their report how the unit was inspected, and more importantly what limitations were present during the inspection of the furnace. Example - how much of the actual heat exchanger did you view. What was its condition, etc. Did you test the unit, what did you see, smell or hear during its operation?

I also noticed it was a "Chrysler" furnace that could possibly date back to 30 or 40 years. That's well beyond the normal life span of most standard efficiency units. In addition did you try to gather information such as information from the furnace data plate - which might provide some clues to its age. Were there any signs or evidence of maintenance?

Often we need to understand and respond to more than just the basics in our reporting to avoid situations like this from coming back to cause grief later.

That is where limitation clauses such as Joe and David's notes can help set realistic expectations of the reality of the inspection.
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Richard Bennett

Richard Bennett Inspections
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Posted: Dec 16, 2005 9:03 PM       Post Subject:
Tyrone

A cracked heat exchanger is bad but they have been known to run a long time without health problems -- I know because I ran a cracked heat exchanger for two years. Yes, I monitored the air in the house very close. (Carbon Monoxide) Here is the deal -- the blower tries to blow air into the crack keeping the gases from getting into the house. Where the problem starts to get bad is when the blower starts to blow the exhaust out the combustible air intake. (Bad news) One has got to keep the stack vent in very good condition.
---
1 --- You told your client that it was old and at some time was going to have to be replaced - or something like that
2 --- Make him show you the crack - it is only fair
3 --- Heat exchangers can be replaced and in some cases repaired
4 --- With the knowledge that the furnace was on its last legs, did he get a $$ reduction based on your report from the seller?? - You have a right to know
5 --- With the knowledge that the furnace was on its last legs why did he not ask for $$ from the seller? - That is why he had you do the inspection
----

IMO -- Do not try to hold me up for a whole furnace for a crack in the exchanger. -- If you are to replace it you have a choice of what type (cheap) pro-rated on age -- etc. -- Like find out what the TRUE cost should be.

In short I would be fair but don't bend over and get out the check book yet. Work with your client. If he won't you can be just as firm in your position as he can. -- He does not want to spend too many extra $$ to go after you for a $1200 furnace

Make it a win - win thing for both -- At this point you can't go back and re wite your contract with all types of disclaimers. You can only do with what you have got.

Remember what you hear the this board is just our thoughts -- talk to a lawyer, most will give you a SHORT visit for free.

Go for it and let us know how it goes - You will then be the knowledge expert -- not us

Good luck

rlb
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Tyrone Wheeler

Guaranteed Residential Inspections Inc.
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User: twheeler
Posted: Dec 17, 2005 8:06 AM       Post Subject:
I appreciate all the responses.
I do have a disclaimer for heat exchangers in my inspection agreement. I also noted in the report that the furnace inspection is limited to a visual inspection only, and that we offer no guarantee or warranty of any kind.
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Joseph Hagarty

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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 8:13 AM       Post Subject:
Tyrone:

If you have signed Contract along with a Report that noted the Conditions and Limitations, you should be able to rest easy.
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Gary Reecher
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 8:14 AM       Post Subject:

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Agree. Get with your lawyer about writing disclaimers.

Ellis Prach who conducts "Heat Exchanger Experts" classes where he travels around with 50 some different brands and models of heat exchanger. Stated of one individuals furnace that he inspects annually. About a month after annual inspection the gas valve went out and he did another inspection on the heat exchanger and it now had a 7 inch crack that wasn't there the month before. icon_eek.gif Granted the furnace was 30 some years old but he illustrated just how fast a crack can some times develop in just a short space of time.
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David Andersen

David A. Andersen & Associates
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 10:04 AM       Post Subject:
I would just like to note that inspecting heat exchangers is outside the scope of inspection because it is outside the scope of view.

The NACHI SOP is quite specific in the scope of this type of inspection. I'm sure you have somewhere in your inspection agreement as well as in your report that the scope of inspection is conducted in accordance with the NACHI SOP. This should cover you sufficiently. I'm not at all impressed with disclaimers. It makes your report read like you don't do anything and that you're just trying to cover your butt. I have used boilerplate in my report format indicating "how" the heat exchanger inspection was conducted, indicating that the heat exchanger is only accessible from the burner compartment which is a limited view. Detecting heat exchanger cracks requires total dismantling of the furnace system and is difficult at best for even experienced HVAC technicians. The best that you can hope for during a home inspection is to observe the burner flame prior to and after the indoor fan turns on. The change in flame color or activity indicates heat exchanger pressurization. Even with the use of fiber-optic scopes, inspection of a heat exchanger is limited due to baffles installed within the exchanger to reduce airflow and increase heat exchange.

As you noted the age and condition in your inspection report, a prudent person should understand that the unit is not in "like new condition" and susceptible to failure. However, it is surprising on how many people expect HVAC equipment to last the life of the house. The only HVAC equipment that ever lasts or outlasts a home is the chimney. You see them out in the woods around here everywhere (the house is missing)!

I would reply to your customer's complaint after they supply their complaint in writing to you, reiterating inspection contracts, inspection reports which indicated the condition of the unit and provide a copy of the NACHI sop. That should be sufficient to show that inspection of the heat exchanger is outside the scope of the inspection. If they so wish to continue with this matter and hire a lawyer then you'll have to respond to their complaint and get a lawyer. Use care in correspondence with the client. They are out to get you and you do not have to prove your innocence, just state the facts. Whatever you write will be seen again if they litigate the case. Keep it short and sweet and stick to the facts that have already been provided to them. You are just reminding them of what already has been written and said. Outside of this, wait to you get to court.

It is common for HVAC contractors to fuel these issues when they indicate "your inspector should I found this", when they have no clue what a home inspector does. You may want to contact the technician and determine exactly what type of where the crack is. Often, face plates within the burner compartment crack which have little or no bearing on the operation or safety of the equipment in some cases.

Remember, you have 10 days to return and inspect the complaint. I suggested you do this, take photographs of the burner compartment and anything to support the condition. If the heat exchanger has already been replaced, they are operating outside your contractual agreement stating that you have the right to inspect the equipment before it is repaired. If they do litigate against you, they're going to go after you for negligence not for contractual issues. It's their responsibility to prove that you were in fact negligent in your inspection, which Nick or Mr. Ferri can support you as to how home inspections are internationally conducted.

Good luck, and try not to lose too much sleep over it.
Regardless of how good of job yor are doing with your inspections, these things always pop up. It's the nature of this beast.
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Tyrone Wheeler

Guaranteed Residential Inspections Inc.
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 10:16 AM       Post Subject:
The problem associated with returning to do a visual is, it is below zero outside, so because the heating company "red tagged" the furnace, the gas is shut off and not to be turned on unitl the furnace is replaced. Therefore, the customer has to get a replacement as soon as possible.
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David Andersen

David A. Andersen & Associates
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 10:27 AM       Post Subject:
Yes, that would fall into an area where they are allowed to fix the heat ASAP without waiting for your reinspection, however if you can fit it in, I recommended you do get one done.

I would at least contact the HVAC company and try to determine the conditions leading up to any extent and location of the cracking.

HVAC contractors are required to red tag any furnace that as a potential safety issue. However, HVAC technicians have been known to go overboard to sell some new equipment, especially when dealing with a piece of equipment as old as this one. Some of them just don't want to fix it.

I highly recommend that you get back in there and see the furnace even after it's been replaced (could be at the HVAC contractors place of business). Actually after replacement would be best as you can see down inside the furnace as to the extent of damage. If the damage turns out to be minimal or not visual even after the equipment has been removed, this would be a good defense on your behalf.
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Doug Edwards

Acorn Home Inspections
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 11:31 AM       Post Subject:
And take pictures....Lots of pictures.
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Tyrone Wheeler

Guaranteed Residential Inspections Inc.
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User: twheeler
Posted: Dec 17, 2005 4:57 PM       Post Subject:
New Update!!!
The owner contacted a reputable HVAC tech. He installed a new furnace right away, and told the clients that I did all I can and that there was no way of determining when the furnace would fail.
The clients then contacted the Real Estate agent and told them that they should have read the signals and replaced the furnace upon moving in, and that in fact the report indicated that the furnace was old.
So there is no legal reprocutions, and I received a compliment for acting so fast in giving them a name of a HVAC tech that acted very fast.
I appreciate this message board.
Thanks GUYS.
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Justo Mickey Rivera

Shield Home Inspections
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 5:57 PM       Post Subject:
AWESOME, Tyrone !!!!!!!

TOTALLY AWESOME !!!!

I' m happy for you !!!!!!
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cmccann
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 6:26 PM       Post Subject:

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I recommend sending a Keg of beer and 3 racks of hickory smoked baby back ribs to the HVAC Tech immediatley!
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Marcel Cyr

Cyr Home Inspections
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 6:41 PM       Post Subject:
icon_smile.gif icon_biggrin.gif

Good deal Tyrone,

Good luck in the future.

Stay on top of the SOP.

Marcel
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Dan Bowers

Holmes Inspection Company
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 7:31 PM       Post Subject:
Tyrone:

I don't know what you did or not say, but for you and any other reasonably new inspectors reading this ...... I have a degree in HVAC and I have the ability and knowledge to completely disassemble and check and repair a defective HE. Obviously I don't. My Insp Agmnt and my report says that HE's are outside our ability to fully check during a visual inspection ......... BUT, as a longtime inspector knowing what 3-4 items are my biggest liability in a HI - there is NO WAY that I would have walked away from a furnace of that obvious age and NOT recommended a "competent & licensed heating contractor verify the integrity of the HE prior to closing (due to the age, rust spots, rust on inner surface, the color of the flames, debris in the burner compartment, known failure of HE's over 20 yrs old, limited view of HE, etc).

Do yourself and your clients a BIG favor in the future and get tight!!
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David Andersen

David A. Andersen & Associates
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Posted: Dec 17, 2005 8:29 PM       Post Subject:
Good! Glad that's over! icon_smile.gif
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