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Bluffing & BS-ing


Brian G
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A big house I did a week or two ago had two HVAC systems, both with the primary drain line connected to a plumbing vent in the attic. The seller is trying to fix everything from the summary, and she calls Wednesday to have me speak to the HVAC guy directly. He claims the city code (a town north of here) REQUIRES connecting the primary drain to a plumbing vent, once you get to 3 1/2 tons or higher (nice detail). He goes on to say this was confirmed to him by one of the city inspectors by phone the previous day. Hmmm...

"What code is the city using", I asked.

"The international code."id="maroon">

"The IRC? That international code?"

"Right."id="maroon">

"Well I'm not aware of that part, but if you'll fax me the part you're referring to I'll be glad to check it out."

"Sure, no problem."id="maroon">

Guess what? Still no fax. The same outfit told her last week that even though the units called for a 30 and 40 amp breakers respectively, there was a rule requiring them to put both units on 50's. No mention of that during the call.

You gotta love it when guys try so hard to bluff, and you know damn well they don't even have a pair of deuces.

Brian G.

I Call. [:-mischie

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I did two homes in a small podunk burg a few weeks back. One had a plastic dryer vent that ran into the attic space and was pointed at a roof vent, the other had #6 wire feeding a 100amp main breaker.

On both occasions the listing realtor chimed in that "the local city inspector had looked at that and said it was ok". I hear this pat answer quite often and it still raises the hair on the back of my neck. I use to try and state the facts however, I now say "Please schedule the local city inspector to meet me here and I will gladly come out, at no additional charge, to discuss this with all parties". It sucks the air right out of the listing agent and my client beams with delight.

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I did a mansion which was 6 years old and the roofer didn't find the need to add tar paper to his cost of installation. Of course the Realtors BOTH say, "Is there a code that requires tar paper?" hmmm lets see....They got the lecture of there lives and then still called a roofer to come and guess what he said. Wrong.. He said basically that oh he sees that type of installation alot and that it doesn't affect the roof although it may void the warranty.

Documentation is the key to life.

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Just in case anyone else needs the IRC section on this...

P3101.3 Use limitations

The plumbing vent system shall not be utilized for purposes other than the venting of the plumbing system. id="blue">

I think that pretty much covers it.

Brian G.

Couldn't Find the Part About Tonnage [}:)]

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Brian, I stopped fighting this battle a couple of years ago. Every single city (5 of them) in my area allow for the condensation to drain into the vent stack as long as the condensation line goes into a trap and is not directly connected to the vent stack. I would say that 95% of all new construction is this way.

Every single time I called it out I had a battle over the phone with someone. It got to the point that it was not even worth my effort to fight the battle over it.

Now I just take a picture and state that the line has or does not have a trap and that "the trap must have water in it for it to work and keep sewer gas out of the home, if it becomes dry sewer gas and bacteria could enter the home through the HVAC system causing health problems".

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No they do not require them. I would have a hard time justifying a trap primer in an attic installation. I would say that that all new construction homes have their HVAC systems in the attic, this is the main reason for using the vent stacks.

In the 12 years I have been inspecting homes, I have only seen one trap primer that I can recall. I have found them often on commercial jobs but not residential.

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Originally posted by Scottpat

...as long as the condensation line goes into a trap and is not directly connected to the vent stack. I would say that 95% of all new construction is this way.

Most of the ones I see aren't trapped and are connected directly to the vent. I have heard of trapping these, just don't see it much.

Now I just take a picture and state that the line has or does not have a trap and that "the trap must have water in it for it to work and keep sewer gas out of the home, if it becomes dry sewer gas and bacteria could enter the home through the HVAC system causing health problems".

Not a bad idea. It's not that big of deal for the primary, particularly if set-up as you describe, but I'm also seeing the auxilary drains and the dang water heater drip pans run into the vents...anything and everything, all passing inspection.

This sort of goes back to the question of what is and is not up to the AHJ's interpretation. I asked about that once on some forum or other, and was told the AHJ's do not have the right to directly contradict "black letter" code where no interpretation is called for (shall / shall not, can / cannot, etc.). If that's true I'd love to have something clear to that effect from the ICC & NEC. If that isn't true the code isn't worth the paper it's written on, since any given AHJ could allow anything he chose (double-taps, single top plates, no need for those silly headers, cross-connections are no biggie, etc.).

Comments, gentlemen?

Brian G.

Stirring the Pot, Not Smoking It [;)]

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Originally posted by Scottpat

Every single city (5 of them) in my area allow for the condensation to drain into the vent stack as long as the condensation line goes into a trap and is not directly connected to the vent stack.

For some reason this crept back to the front of my brain as I was driving the other day. How can you indirectly attach a condensate line to a vent stack without the vent being open to the attic?

Brian G.

Confuz-ed

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It has a vacuum break aka indirect drain. Coming out of the vent stack is the trap then the condensate drains into the trap but it is not physically connected ie. 1" trap opening, 1/2" condensate line draining into it.

The reason I asked if it had a trap primer is due to the fact that when the a/c isn't run for a while the trap will dry out. The trap primer will always drip a small amount of water to keep the trap primed = no sewer gas.

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Originally posted by BlackJack

how about this for the a/c condensate drain? I thought it was pretty good.

Download Attachment: icon_photo.gif 2005-06-18 08-00-30.jpg

391.29 KB

That's the way primary condensate drain from the attic is generally handled in Central Texas.

It is fed into a bathroom sink drain above the trap as shown.

The secondary drain usually crosses the attic and exits through the soffit above a window or some other conspicuous place.

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Personally I think the IRC (if not others) is quite clear that condensate drain lines can't be connected to plumbing vents, but I have to admit I'm a little conflicted about the sense of taking it to the exterior. If I were inspecting a house and found a dripping hose bibb I would certainly recommend having it repaired, partly because the water source could attract termites (or so I was taught). What's the difference between a dripping hose bibb and a dripping condensate line, both right at the wall?

Brian G.

Just Thinking Out Loud

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Originally posted by Brian G.

Personally I think the IRC (if not others) is quite clear that condensate drain lines can't be connected to plumbing vents, but I have to admit I'm a little conflicted about the sense of taking it to the exterior. If I were inspecting a house and found a dripping hose bibb I would certainly recommend having it repaired, partly because the water source could attract termites (or so I was taught). What's the difference between a dripping hose bibb and a dripping condensate line, both right at the wall?

Brian G.

Just Thinking Out Loud

Around here a primary condensate drain to the exterior should terminate at least 5' away from the foundation. One dripping at the edge of the slab is conducive for termites and I would write it up as such. It is also creating a constant wet area next to the slab in a drought when the rest of the ground is dry. This is not good in expansive clay soils.

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Originally posted by kurt

One thing about Brian; he's indefatigable. (Brian, that means you never get tired.)

I'm glad you included the definition. For a minute there I thought you were saying I was a member of a gender non-specific group. [:I]

Brian G.

Fully Gender Specific HI [:-cowboy]

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Originally posted by Paul MacLean

Around here a primary condensate drain to the exterior should terminate at least 5' away from the foundation.

That sounds sensible. How is that typically set up? Is the pipe on top of the ground, or do they actually have enough slope around houses to hide it most of the way?

Brian G.

Contemplation of Condensation

(I Think I Have HI Disease)

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Originally posted by Brian G.

Originally posted by Paul MacLean

Around here a primary condensate drain to the exterior should terminate at least 5' away from the foundation.

That sounds sensible. How is that typically set up? Is the pipe on top of the ground, or do they actually have enough slope around houses to hide it most of the way?

Brian G.

Contemplation of Condensation

(I Think I Have HI Disease)

The termination of the condensate drain should be visible. A buried pipe is an invitation to a clogged condensate drain and unwanted use of the secondary drain. Most of them will run along side the condensing unit pad and dump the water there...at least that's what I hope to see. In truth, most on them have been whacked off by a lawn mower and terminate too close to the house. In new construction most HVAC systems are in the attic with the condensate drain at a bathroom sink as described earlier.

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