Q: I live in an 11-year-old “Good Sense” manufactured home, and I have a worsening case of asthma, which I suspect is allergy-related. The old siding was deteriorating, and we had the rotting panels removed and replaced with vinyl, which was installed over OSB sheeting and a foil-backed foam. There is no evidence of mold in the house, except for the usual in the bathroom that I try to keep under control.
I have two options: see an allergist or have the home tested for whatever can be causing my problems. Can you tell me where to go to find someone qualified in doing that kind of home testing, and what to require of them? –Alene A.
A: My best advice would be to start with the allergist and try to determine what is causing the allergic reaction. I think this is the most prudent course of action for you, since you might be able to isolate and correct one or two specific things in the home and take care of the problem with minimal expense and disruption.
At the same time, I would contact your local electric utility company and see if it has a Super Good Cents representative or an energy analyst who can come out and inspect the home. Manufactured homes, especially ones built to Super Good Cents (SGC) standards, tend to be very “tight,” and when they are closed up for the winter the indoor air quality can deteriorate. For that reason, SGC homes always have some sort of passive or active ventilation built into them to provide for a constant low-volume flow of fresh air. If the ventilation system for the home is blocked, inactive or not working for any other reason, that could very definitely be causing or contributing to the problem.
You mention the “rotting panels” and the “usual” mold in the bathroom that you are “trying to keep under control.” A properly constructed and vented home should never have visible mold or mildew in it, or rotting siding, so these are obvious indicators of a ventilation or moisture problem (or both) that is almost certainly adding to your problems. Also, the over-the-counter products used to kill mold and mildew can be very powerful and very irritating if used in areas without a lot of ventilation, so there’s another thing that could be contributing to your problems.
If all of this is not helpful in alleviating some of your health issues, then the next thing to do would be to have air testing done inside the home to see if there are specific things in the air. The person to do this type of work is an experienced industrial hygienist; beware of any people offering quickie “mold killing” or “mold prevention” products. Full air testing, which comes with a very specific written protocol on what steps to take to eliminate the problem, can run $1,000 or more, so take these other steps first, and stay in close contact with your health care professional throughout the entire process.
Q: We recently added a master bedroom and bathroom. The addition is on the opposite side of the house from the furnace, and two new ducts were installed — one in the bedroom and one in the bathroom. However, there is no air movement discernable from either vent.
We had an employee of the heating company tell us we need to install a new furnace to service the addition, and the contractor recommended running a new, larger duct to tie into the existing ducts closer to the furnace. We need some advice as to how we can eliminate our problem. –Bob and Lynn F.
A: It actually takes a somewhat complex set of calculations to determine if the existing furnace and duct system will supply a sufficient volume of air to adequately service the addition, and it sounds like there’s a little too much guesswork going on here.
When you mention the contractor, I assume you are referring to the company that built the addition and who must have been the one to hire the subcontractor that installed the additional ducts. First of all, you need to discuss this with the contractor and explain that he’s on the hook for this repair. You contracted for a room addition, and part of that contract is that the space will be adequately heated, which it isn’t. However, before he simply adds another duct, I would suggest that you require some sort of proof that he and/or his sub has done the necessary calculations to show that this will even work.
Second, it sounds like you have someone else telling you that it won’t work, and that an additional furnace is required. This sounds like a bit of overkill, and again I would suggest that you ask for some calculations that show why this is necessary instead of adding a new, oversize duct as the original contractor suggests.
If those two — the contractor and the HVAC company — are still not in agreement, then you need a third, independent source to come in and look things over. You might want to start by contacting your local electric utility company, and see if they can give you a couple of names of reputable HVAC contractors in your area. You may have to pay a consulting fee to have them come out and assess the situation — something that in my opinion the contractor should reimburse you for — but at least you’ll know how best to proceed.
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