Expensive Aprilaire Filter being bypassed?


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Old 01-20-12, 03:21 PM
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Expensive Aprilaire Filter being bypassed?

Got another big problem guys - my lungs are under constant stress from a very dusty house - made worse when I run this monster Jet-Air cleaner in my basement workshop while using the table saw or other sawdust generating power tools (the exhaust from this unit is like that of a jet engine, thus the name, I guess.... )

Customer Image Gallery for JET 708620B AFS-1000B 550/702/1044 CFM 3-Speed Air Filtration System with Remote and Electrostatic Pre-Filter

Backstory: When I was considering what furnace to buy I also explored filtering options offered by the local Trane dealer, decided to go with the massive Aprilaire Model 2210 accordion-style filter system for an additional $325 to cut down the dust levels upstairs - with my old furnace and simple filter I had to install an additional 14" x 14" x 1" filter in the hall air return vent to capture additional dust the furnace filter was allowing through. Worked okay, but not good enough (yes, I know it's generally a bad idea to increase the air resistance in the ductwork like that, but I was desperate, ok?)

The installers had to put in the housing for the filter, which bumped out the furnace's vertical return duct far enough that they had to remove the old ductwork and install a new "chimney" with a curved 90 degree bottom piece to feed into the filter housing (old system fed the return straight down the side of the furnace).

No problem, had the room for it, the basement is unfinished and 50% occupied by my workshop/laundry areas....except after almost 4 months I am 100% convinced that all the return air is somehow bypassing the filter!

My father has the identical Aprilaire system in his (much larger) house, he's close to 80, widowed, by no means a neat freak, and I never see any dust on his furniture - I mean nada, zippy, zilch - one of the reasons I bought the filter unit. I expected to have a shiny clean house after everything was installed and working, but nothing changed as far as dust levels, in fact without the air return filter now I think it's actually worse!

And things get much worse after working in the shop while using the Jet-Air cleaner, it's almost like someone goes upstairs while I'm working and empties the contents of a vacuum cleaner bag all over my house, especially on my beautiful antique bedroom furniture. They were the 1st set of furniture my Dad's parents bought when they married, were nearly destroyed by the time I got my hands on them (Gramps eventually turned the dresser into a drill press table for his shop!?!), I rebuilt/refinished them many years ago, they're gorgeous and irreplaceable, they just don't make stuff with that kind of scrollwork and intricate inlays any more. Anywho, I digress.....tend to do that, so bear with me folks......

Over the weekend I pulled the filter out to inspect it - the manual says to replace it every 6 months, been 4 months now - to my shock, it looked brand spanking new! Even worse, when I fired up my air compressor to blow out what I assumed would be a massive amount of dust, nothing came out, and I mean NOTHING - not a single puff. I called the dealer, explained what was going on, and they sent out a tech this morning to check things out, but he wasn't the brightest bulb in the bunch, unfortunately, a simple grunt - no offense intended to any other grunts here, of course

He pulled it out, poked and prodded things, and announced "there's no issue here"....IOW, you're out of your mind, the dust is a figment of your imagination. <cough> BS! So I turned on the compressor again, blew air through the filter and said "see? there's nothing in it!". He remained unconvinced....so I pulled the pre-filter off the Jet-Air cleaner shown above, blew air into it, and billows of dust came flying out - and that's a cheap $3 filter, not an 85% capture 3-10 micron capable filter like the Aprilaire's! I again asked him why the difference, why is the furnace filter spotless, he just shrugged his shoulders and said "I dunno, but there's nothing wrong that I can see" - I told him that wasn't an answer, something is blatantly wrong here, have your boss call me to discuss this, as I am NOT a happy camper. (it's now 5:47 pm, no callback, surprisingly lousy customer service for an up until now extremely courteous and helpful company).

Any ideas from the pros here about what might be amiss? A couple things I noticed while we were inspecting things:

1) There are metal flanges on the top and bottom of the filter that slide into matching flanges in the housing, so there's no way air is getting over or under it.
2) The edges seal from simple compression of the filter flaps against the side of the housing and the cover - they bend, IOW.
3) Both sides of top portion of the filter were bent up, the bottom edges were bent down, but right in the middle they were just kind of "smooshed" in a random fashion - that's where I think the problem lies. It appears there's no way to get a repeatable and reliable outer seal with these filters - every time you take it out and put it back in the edges bend differently, with no guarantee the gaps will seal 100%.

I can think of a couple possible solutions if my suspicions are correct:

1) Have them install a new filter, as this one may be permanently kinked and never seal properly.
2) Install weather stripping on the downstream side of the edges of the housing to block air from taking the path of least resistance, which is the questionable side seals.
3) Or would it be better to put the weather strip right at the edges of the filter so the flaps compress against it instead of bare metal?

Any and all ideas, ways to troubleshoot/test the edge seals, potential solutions, or "I've seen this happen before stories" welcome! TIA guys.
 
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Old 01-20-12, 03:45 PM
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I very much dislike the Aprilaire filters for this very reason. Every one I come across is replaced with a box style filter with foam gasketing.

One way to check to see if the filter IS being by-passed is to examine the blower wheel on the furnace. Dust & debris on the blower wheel is a dead give away air is not being properly filtered.
 
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Old 01-21-12, 02:58 PM
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Good suggestion! Didn't find a whole lot of dust on the blower wheel or motor, but I found "smoking gun" evidence that air is bypassing the filter - when I installed a UV light in the air return last weekend I forgot to turn off the furnace (lucky for me, bad for my Trane dealer!). After I finished cutting the hole I inspected the inside of the duct for debris, found metal shavings, vacuumed them up, but the furnace had come on while doing the job and when the furnace tech and I inspected the filter system on Friday I saw more shavings in the duct on the upstream side of the filter, again, luckily, I wasn't feeling well Friday so I didn't bother to vacuum those bits up.

This afternoon when I removed the lower panel of the furnace to check for dust I didn't see anything at first....but then I got down onto my stomach, shined a flashlight inside to inspect the floor of the furnace under the blower, TA-DA! Metal shavings all over the place! Also found a bunch of debris of all kinds inside the track of the filter when I pulled it out, but before I did that I shined the flashlight on the far edge of the filter to check that suspicious "smooshed" center zone, and wouldn't you know it - I could see the walls of the housing where the flaps weren't sealing properly.

Detective work portion is done, now I gotta get them back here with a new filter and figure out some way to install it without crushing the middle section - maybe prefolding the flaps would work? Doesn't look like I can install side flanges, can't reach the far side wall.
 
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Old 01-22-12, 09:04 AM
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P.S. I forgot to mention I know for sure now why the filter housing design is flawed, it's not really the filter itself - the access cover is on a bumped out section - looking at it from above, the edges of the filter are contained in a U channel that's out of the direct flow of air. That creates a high resistance path so the air doesn't want to flow around the filter edges on that side - but on the opposite side, the bump out is minimal, less than an inch deep, not enough to create the same type of high resistance seal that the cover plate provides, which is over 2" deep.

The proper solution is to have the furnace installers come back, take the filter housing apart, and add flanges on the inside of the housing to make a 2" deep compression zone like the cover plate side has - that's the only way to get a 100% repeatable and reliable seal. Whether they'll be willing to do so might be a different story....I'll find out tomorrow, going to insist that the guy who recommended and priced the system I bought come out to my house so I can show him exactly what I've found. If he refuses to take it apart and add the req'd flanges, I'm going to demand they at least provide a new filter for free to replace the current kinked one.

Then I'll have to figure out how to take everything apart to fix it myself - I just went downstairs to see how the housing is installed, but the entire perimeter on both sides is covered with metallic tape - I can't see if they riveted or bolted everything together or not, but while running my fingers along the seams I couldn't feel any bumps representing screw heads, they'd be easy to detect, but I might not be able to feel pop rivets.

Does anyone here know how that Aprilaire filter housing is typically installed? Would they really just tape it in place?
 
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Old 01-22-12, 09:40 AM
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These housings are usually installed either with sheet metal screws or 'S' cleat which slips over the housing flanges & the furnace & duct cut edges. Rarely are pop rivets used due to the amout of time involved in drilling & installation of the rivets.
 
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Old 01-22-12, 09:44 AM
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>


Congratulations on identifying a defect in the installation! I'd expect and require the installers to come back and do the job right. Otherwise they will be screwing things up for other people who will never recognize or correct the problem. Plus --- you deserve to have the job done properly and it's important to do the job properly.

A first rate installer will inspect the systems they install and identify and correct defects before leaving.

A second rate installer will miss the defects that anyone can make, but will come back and correct a problem in good faith if it's discovered.

A third rate installer will refuse to come back and is like a doctor who prefers to bury his mistakes.


Please come back and let us know whether you have a second class or third class installer.
 
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Old 01-22-12, 09:55 AM
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Please come back and let us know whether you have a second class or third class installer.
Wow, that is impressive. Is it a quote or did you compose that?
 
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Old 01-22-12, 10:07 AM
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Will do!

Prior to discovering this problem, I'd considered them 1st class, far and away the best contractor I've ever hired - at least the guys I'd dealt with previously, not the bonehead who came over on Friday. I also researched them online before choosing them, they had a sterling rep and glowing reviews from hundreds of satisfied clients, only a couple dings in their BBB report, all of which were shown as resolved.

Did I mention that they did the mold remediation job, which took over 2 hrs and involved disassembling the entire coil box and pulling the coils out for cleaning, for free? They even took whatever they could outside to clean it so they wouldn't spread mold spores all over the place while scrubbing/sterilizing. Unbelievable service, that puppy looked brand spanking new after they finished - I was so pleased I gave both guys a $50 tip - I always tip well for a job well done, the "grunts" deserve more than a pat on the back - and they can't buy with a "thank you" no matter how heartfelt it is!

Gotta get off the computer for now, will report back after I get someone out here and have a resolution of some sort - time to get ready to go to a football party - GO RAVENS!!!

 
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Old 01-22-12, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Houston204 View Post
Wow, that is impressive. Is it a quote or did you compose that?

Well, perhaps I was being harsh. It sounds like the installers were trying to and generally did an excellent job. Perhaps they can be forgiven a mistake, especially if they come back and correct it without having to fight them about it.

Anyone can make mistakes --- I know I did, and do.
 
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Old 02-03-12, 12:55 PM
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Well, here I am, another week after a SECOND tech came out to look at the incorrect install, and STILL not a peep from them about when they're going to fix it! The tech did call on Tuesday to say that their master installer was out of town on business until Wed, but he's supposedly been back for 2 days and nothing. Their time is running out before I take this public.....don't want to do that, but will if I have to...

I attempted to make a temp fix last Saturday - built an internal flange from 3/16" luan with weatherstripping on the top, bottom, and far side, but since I can't reach in there to tape it in place it's not firmly pushing against the back of the filter, plus for a proper fix it needs an identical flange on the upstream side too, can't get in there to install one, the whole shebang is put together with multiple sheet metal screws.

After checking it Sunday, saw that it had indeed been pushed away from the filter by the airflow at the filter edge, so I took a spare 17" x 25" x 1" cheapo filter (and I mean really cheap - made of some type of blue fibers but I can see through it), made a frame for it from some very stiff cardboard with an extension at the bottom - furnace is made to hold a 20" x 25" filter internally, then used some scraps of wood to jam it against the (proper) flanges inside the furnace and used gorilla tape to hold it in place everywhere I could reach.

Seems to be working somewhat, I can hear that the blower is working harder when running, which means there's definitely an increased resistance in the air stream, so at least I know the seals are holding on that one. Too bad I didn't have a "real" furnace filter to put in there instead of that crappy one!

Also realized that there was another reason why my bedroom was always the dustiest room in the house, by far - it is relatively close to the furnace compared to other rooms in the house, has two air registers (most rooms only have one), and to top it off, the master bath has a 3rd register - it's essentially the same living space as the bedroom. So the bedroom was the path of least resistance and was getting more airflow than any other room in the house, so of course it would be the dustiest! To increase the pressure drop and decrease the airflow, I closed off one of the two bedside registers entirely, half closed the 2nd one, cleaned/polished everything in the bedroom/bathroom, and waited a few days. [Note: if you haven't cleaned the globes in the light fixture above your sink in months, or the tops of the door(s), USE A VACUUM CLEANER, NOT A FEATHER DUSTER!! Yikes, I was literally choking from all the dust swirling around in the bathroom!]

Results: bedroom furniture was still relatively spotless but I spotted new dust in the bathroom - I hadn't adjusted that register, and it's even closer to the furnace than the two in the bedroom - in fact, it's the shortest duct run in the entire house, i.e. it has the smallest pressure drop. So a couple days ago I re-cleaned the bathroom, half-closed that register, will need another couple days to see if that helped. No dampers are in the system to balance out the air flow, they'd really help with this issue.....
 
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Old 02-05-12, 06:37 AM
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News flash: got the filter leak problem fixed (by myself, not the #@$% contractor), at least in a semi-permanent manner: I had a brainstorm - why not make the desired sheet metal flanges for the far side of the filter housing part of the filter itself?!? Since the filter has tongue and groove type metal flanges at top and bottom to fit into the mating flanges inside the housing, I could install vertical "whatever" between them without an issue - the mating bits are interior to the outside edges of those flanges. Here's what I did:

Took a piece of thin gauge Al sheet metal I'd bought for a previous project and never used, used tin snips to cut it to size, clamped it to my table saw to form/bend it into the shape of a 2" deep "U" channel, then taped/sealed it around the far edge of the filter - wish I could post a picture, it turned out freaking perfect! Also put two thin parallel strips of weather stripping along the vertical side that gets wedged against the flat sheet metal inside the housing to close out that leak path, it slid in like a greased pig and sealed tight as a drum.

Went upstairs after that to work on a stereo wiring problem that I'd tried to tackle a week ago (cleaned/polished the stereo components and cabinet while I was at it too) and as soon as I pulled the problem unit out saw that it was coated with a thick layer of dust - WTF?!? I'd just cleaned it! Oh.....rerouting the air flow away from the bedroom/bathroom had worked, and over the last week all the dust was being distributed elsewhere in the house (that cheap filter I installed in the furnace caught zippy)....and the air purifier in the kitchen/dining room had a flashing light on it saying "hey, my filter is clogged!", checked it, and it was....

Got a full night's sleep for the first time in almost two weeks last night, no lung stress! Now I need to clean/dust/polish/vacuum the rest of the house to get rid of the layer of dust covering everything else (bedroom/bathroom are still spotless) and I should be good to go. That sheet metal channel I fabricated *could* be a semi-permanent solution, but over time it's probably going to become a PITA to continuously remove it from shot filters and install it on a new one, it was pretty painstaking work to put it on - needs to be taped on very precisely because of the filter rail system, only have ~ 1/16" to work with slop-wise.
 
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Old 02-08-12, 04:07 PM
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Aprilaire Filter seal failure mystery solved

You guys will NOT frigging believe this....recall my prior thread "Expensive Aprilaire Filter being bypassed?" and my extreme frustration with getting the replacement furnace installer to fix the problem with the filter, the one that apparently wasn't catching a single speck of dust?

Had a third guy come out this morning, he was a repair guy, not an installer - in fact, he was the same (wonderful) guy who made the initial diagnosis and repairs to my old/now replaced furnace last March. It took him all of 5 seconds to figure out what was wrong - it wasn't an edge seal issue - he discovered:

1) The installers failed to fully tape the seams around the filter housing and new ductwork - dust and debris were being pulled into the furnace through those gaps - including the metal shavings I was positive proved the filter was being bypassed (wrong).

2) Here's the killer: instead of installing the excellent MERV 13 filter I wanted because of my allergies (90% effective from 1-10 microns), they installed something he called a "construction filter", i.e. a piece of junk incapable of trapping anything but the largest particles of dust! No wonder nothing came out of it when I blew compressed air through it - it wasn't catching ANYTHING!

After we talked a bit about how sensitive my body is to dust/pollen/mold, he proceeded to inspect the entire air return ductwork and found numerous holes, leaking seams, and worst of all, a TON off crud at junction of the large corrugated flex line that drops down from the air return vent upstairs to the sheet metal ducting in the basement - that joint wasn't sealed AT ALL.

Again, NO WONDER whenever I worked in my shop the house got dusty as all get-out whether I used the Jet-Air cleaner or not - any dust that got kicked up or generated got sucked right into that gap in the return line, went straight thru the useless filter, and got distributed in the rooms upstairs.

I'm partly relieved the puzzle is solved, partly mad as hell over the misery/suffering they put me through from not installing the correct filter, plus the couple thousand dollars in health care bills I've paid out-of-pocket to deal with the lung stress and allergy problems.

I'd take them to small claims court if I were sure I could prove my case, which is highly doubtful.....too many problems with the original ductwork, and my health issues are way too complex to expect some JOP to understand....so I basically lost the last 4 months of my life to incompetency but can't prove it in court.

Sorry if that sounded whiny, just had to get it off my chest....
 
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Old 02-29-12, 07:21 AM
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I think I have some leaks around my hvac system. My filter does collect a lot of dust but there's also a lot of dust in the house. I also notice that when I'm working out in the garage with paint or something that has a distinct odor that it gets into the blower and blows into the house.
 
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Old 02-29-12, 03:28 PM
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MattG, If your house is like most, it is in a negative pressure state & fumes will come in thru any tiny crack or crevice. If you have a fossil fuel furnace & draw the combustion air from inside the house, use a clothes dryer, or use any type of exhaust fan, I'll guarantee the house is under negative pressure.
 
 

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