DEAR BARRY: We purchased our home several months ago and no one disclosed the lack of heating and cooling in the master bedroom and bathroom. We even asked the sellers if the HVAC system was OK, and they said there was no problem. But now, we have a freezing master bedroom in winter and sweaty nights in the summer. The attic above the master has plenty of insulation, and there are dual-pane windows. So what could be causing the problem? What can we do about it? And are the sellers liable? –Ann
DEAR ANN: The discomfort you describe must have been known by the previous owners and should have been disclosed before you purchased the property. The sellers, therefore, could be liable for the cost of repairs. But first, you need to determine the cause of the problem.
The first thing to check is the airflow at the registers in the master bedroom and bathroom. If they are located on ceilings, you may need a ladder, or you can tape some strips of tissue to a long stick and hold the tassels near the grills when the heating or air conditioning is running. If there is little air movement, there is a problem with the ducting. If the air movement seems adequate, further evaluation by a licensed HVAC contractor may be needed.
You should also check for wall insulation to ensure that it was installed when the building was constructed. A full inspection for wall insulation requires the use of infrared testing equipment. However, you can do a preliminary check by removing the cover plates from outlets and switches on exterior walls. If you shine a flashlight through the gaps between the drywall and the electrical boxes, you can see if any insulation is present.
In describing this situation, you did not mention whether you hired a home inspector before purchasing the home. If you did not have an inspection, there may be additional undisclosed defects that await discovery. If you did have an inspection, then you should contact your home inspector for a reinspection of the HVAC system and of the master bedroom area.
Once you determine the cause of the problem, the sellers should be contacted regarding the cost of repairs.
DEAR BARRY: We purchased our home about 10 months ago. Since then, we have had the air ducts professionally cleaned and learned that they are lined with asbestos. One section is damaged and therefore dangerous. At this point, we are debating whether we should replace the damaged section or the entire duct system. What do you recommend? –Sara
DEAR SARA: One point needs to be clarified. Air ducts in older homes were often insulated with asbestos. But it is highly unusual for air ducts to be lined with asbestos. Make sure that you are getting a proper description of the situation. Is the asbestos insulation located on the outer or inner surfaces of the ducts? If the insulation is on the outer surfaces, as is most common, then the asbestos is not in contact with the air stream into your home and will not adversely affect the health of occupants. If the asbestos is located on the inner surfaces, replacement with new ducting is highly recommended. And be sure that asbestos removal, if any, is done by a licensed asbestos abatement contractor.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
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