Yellow Fluffy Insulation Coming Out of HVAC Vents

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  #1  
Old 07-13-15, 10:22 AM
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Yellow Fluffy Insulation Coming Out of HVAC Vents

I'm hoping someone can help me figure out where to start with this problem.

In the kitchen (and only the kitchen) there have been a few small tufts of what looked like yellow lint for about a week. Today some fell on me and I finally discovered it's coming from the HVAC vent, and I'm almost positive it's insulation. It's blowing out when the a/c runs. There's not much up there and only about 5-6 tufts have come out prior to today, but this is new and it's pretty concerning.

I've been looking online and found very little about this, and what I did find ranged from "just vacuum it and you'll be fine" to "this is a dangerous situation and you might DIE."

The difficulty here is that there is no crawl space in this part of the house.

I've attached a picture of what's coming out. Again, it's not a lot (there were about 8 chunks this size in the vent and one that fell out on top of me) but it's enough to get me concerned.

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  #2  
Old 07-13-15, 10:30 AM
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Looks like Duct board. Is your main duct metal or Duct board?
 
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Old 07-13-15, 11:32 AM
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I was sure it was metal but I texted my husband and he said it might be duct board, so he'll check tonight after he gets home.
 
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Old 07-13-15, 12:05 PM
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Duct board can be cleaned and coated. Are you can replace it for triple the cost.
 
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Old 07-13-15, 12:13 PM
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Not meaning to hijack the thread but what do you coat the duct board with?
My fresh air return is made with duct board and when I had to replace the drip pan in my air handler last year I clean out some fibers from the duct board. I assume a coat of 'paint' would prevent that.
 
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Old 07-13-15, 01:27 PM
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In your own home Id say you can try using paint but if your being payed to do the job Id want something approved for use in HVAC systems. To me this takes the liability off of you. There are many coatings out there. The best would be Foster 40-20. It has an antimicrobial inhibitor in it to keep anything from growing. Next product would be Flex Seal. No inhibitor but cheaper.
 
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Old 07-13-15, 02:15 PM
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Thanks Airman, when I said paint I didn't actually mean paint for a wall or whatever, just wondered what type of coating was recommended. If I can get away from my honey do list I'll see if I can take care of it. I know flex seal is readily available, where do you buy and how much does the foster 40-20 cost? don't need much, only about 8 sq ft to cover.
 
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Old 07-13-15, 02:24 PM
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http://www.fosterproducts.com/docHan...a-0bec14682900

Foster - Product Data Sheets

HVAC Systems Preventive Maintenance Products | HVAC Maintenance Plans by cleanac.com


When I was on the IAQ side of things we used to by skid's full from a wholesale in Richmond VA. Might be a link in the links I provided.
 
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Old 07-13-15, 02:40 PM
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thanks again airman, looks like it will be more economical to use the flex seal. I've not had any problems with mold, just noticed/cleaned out some of the fibers from the coil when I replaced the pan. I assume sealing the duct board will prevent any more from falling down to the air handler.
 
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Old 07-14-15, 02:32 AM
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Okay, sorry for the delay in replying.

Our duct in the kitchen is metal for about 18 inches with a sharp, almost 90 degree angle immediately past the vent, then connects to flexible ductwork with aluminum (foil) on the inside. That flexible duct makes another sharp turn, so it was difficult to see past about five or six feet.

We did get a camera up in there to take some video and saw absolutely NO bits of yellow insulation (or whatever it is) anywhere, and no tears or rips or damage of any kind. We got a big static duster up in there and couldn't find any of the yellow bits. There just weren't any. Then we left the vent off and let the a/c run as normal for a couple of hours but no new yellow bits have appeared, either.

Again, there's no crawl space so we're limited to what we can see, but the yellow blow-in insulation around the ceiling of the closet where the air conditioner unit proper is (next to the furnace and hot water heater, about 15 feet from the kitchen) looks almost exactly like the yellow fluffy stuff that was flying out of the kitchen vent.

I suspect it's just a coincidence but we were working on the hot water heater just next to the air conditioner a couple of weeks ago, and it's possible we knocked some insulation on the ceiling of the closet loose. But I can't think of any way that it could have gotten into the HVAC ductwork, and besides, the first vents that the a/c reaches would have been the bedrooms or even bathroom before the kitchen.

Is there anything else we can do here as far as diagnostics? We prefer fixing our own if we can but this seems like it might be outside of our comfort zone.

Thanks all!
 
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Old 07-14-15, 05:54 AM
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Stacia: One last thing to check! Can you tell us if the duct coming off the top of your AHU (air Handler) is metal? If it is Id bet its all metal. If that's the case it becomes very hard. Maybe some ripped flex?
 
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Old 07-14-15, 06:08 AM
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Mark,
It will almost be a rubber like coating. It will lock down all the friable fibers and protect from future issues.
 
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Old 07-14-15, 06:22 AM
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Hey airman -- yes, the duct coming up off the AHU is metal. It looks as though just past the ceiling it joins up with another metal duct going left to right.
 
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Old 07-14-15, 08:48 AM
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There are long inspection camera systems (fiber optic), but not sure how well they would navigate the flex duct. One would certainly reach a little farther than your current attempts. Unfortunately, critters can chew through flex and potentially be the source of those fiber tufts you are finding.

Although fiberglass isn't as bad as other nasty things, it isn't something you want blowing through your air system. You do need to find the source for peace of mind.

Bud
 
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Old 07-14-15, 01:04 PM
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Where the duct connects to the ceiling is there any gap around the duct? Is it possible that the insulation did not come FROM the duct but through a gap in the ceiling?
 
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Old 07-14-15, 11:15 PM
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Hi Furd -- There is a gap but we checked around it and didn't find anything that looked like the insulation. We closed the gap some and put the vent back in, and there's new insulation caught in the vent. I don't think there's any way it could come from the gap and get into the vent like it does. It would have to work itself sideways in a way that doesn't seem possible.

Hey Bud -- I agree, and since after a day new insulation bits started coming out again, we've decided to get into the crawlspace and do more looking.

The kitchen vent is in a vaulted ceiling area with no crawlspace, but it looks as though the flexible duct immediately turns toward the crawlspace, meaning quite a few feet of the kitchen flexible duct can be seen, even if the last few feet can't.

We'll be doing it tomorrow night though, when it's not 96F even after sundown!
 
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Old 07-16-15, 04:36 AM
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We weren't able to visualize anything wrong with the flexible ductwork but weren't able to get as close as we wanted, because we didn't have enough plastic sheeting or more boards to allow us to crawl across the insulation as far as we needed.

We'll get some this weekend and I'll update then. Once we find out what the damage is, I'm sure I'll need some help figuring out what to buy to fix the problem.

ETA: The air conditioner problem I mentioned earlier turned out to be the thermostat. The low battery icon on our thermostat didn't go off, but when we replaced the batteries out of desperation, the air conditioner finally worked. We haven't liked this stupid thermostat anyway (we got it "free" when the repair guys broke the one we used to have) so I have no complaints about replacing it.
 

Last edited by stacia; 07-16-15 at 06:50 AM.
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Old 07-23-15, 10:18 PM
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I had a similar problem and found out the insulation was due to mice or squirrels tearing into the flex and some of the insulation was getting blown down the duct to the register. Hope you can track down the issue.
 
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Old 07-24-15, 12:37 AM
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I hope it's not critters, but we haven't been able to tell yet!

My husband got up into the crawl space and discovered that all of the flex ductwork is in one location, piled one on top of the other on the other side of the air handling unit. He'll have to unhook four or five of them and move them out of the way before he can get access to the vent/duct in question.

Even when we do get that one flex duct isolated, at some point he won't be able to see the last few feet of it because the crawl space ends (to make way for the vaulted ceiling in the kitchen). I just hope we can diagnose this ourselves.

Right now we have that kitchen vent blocked so no more insulation is coming out, but it's just a temporary stopgap until the weather cools off enough we can get back up in there for what looks to be a day-long project.
 
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Old 07-24-15, 04:56 AM
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Just to clarify, the crawlspace is under the house and the attic is above. I assume your air handler and duct work is in the attic.

Can he use his hand/fingers to inspect the duct work so he won't have to disconnect them?
 
  #21  
Old 07-24-15, 05:07 AM
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There are fiber optic inspection cameras for $100+ and some a bit less, orange box store has some on display, although I have never seen one powered up. But rental companies should also offer them, unknown what they charge. Usually, they have a 3' flexible probe but some have an extension for various lengths. Might even help before you untangle all of that flex.

BTW, the hvac pros have very little good to say about flex ducts, especially when they are not neatly installed. That is an indication that whoever installed yours didn't care about the details. Another thread for that topic.

I too hope it is just a torn spot and not unwanted friends. Along that line, no mater how well closed off a house is, critters always manage to get in. Review the variety of mouse traps and find a place up there to set a couple. If they go untouched, great. If not you have an early indication that they have access. Fall is usually the time when they want to move indoors.

Bud
 
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Old 07-24-15, 09:36 AM
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Great idea about the mousetraps, Bud, thanks! We'll get some up there ASAP. We've discussed the fiber optic camera but my husband is kind of wary of it. "If there's a rip I'll have to get over there anyway, might as well just diagnose it on sight." (Actual quote LOL)

marksr, he was able to (mostly) visualize that the ductwork on that end of the house was intact and fine. The problem is that pile of ducts is on the south side of the crawlspace, and to get to the north side where the problem vent is, you have to remove ALL of those flexible ducts. There is no space for a person to get through otherwise, and they block the view of the duct that travel north to the kitchen.

And yes, this house was knocked together in 27 minutes by people who did not care what they were doing. If it was a car, I'd call it a lemon!
 
 

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