Tenant Needs Help: Dirty ducts. Now New Wall Furance

Old 11-20-15, 09:18 PM
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Tenant Needs Help: Dirty ducts. Now New Wall Furance

Two years ago I moved into the current rental home I am in now. It was my first experience with natural gas heating. The furnace is in the crawl space.

This month on a chilly night I turned on the heat. I had already started using it in late October even though normally I try to hold out until November. This time, it made an awful loud squealing noise so I turned it off immediately. I notified my landlord that it obviously would require a service call to find out out what the cause was.

Within just over a day I was able to meet with a furnace guy she had scheduled. He went under the crawl space and reported the bad news first to me, then in a call to my landlord. He said that the furnace looked to be a 90s furnace. And it appeared that it pretty much had been put in and then never serviced or cleaned after that. It was hands down, one of the worst cases he reported to have ever seen. The furnace was very dirty, he was removing handfuls of dirt, hair and grime. I think the filter must have been changed at some point, but not in a long time. It was consumed by hair and dust. The furnace had some level of corrosion, he showed me the rusty blower. He had to walk through mud to look at it, and said it was on blocks, with a puddle underneath.

The crawl space is not properly ventilated. The only opening in the foundation is covered by a wooden board. Rodents had accessed the ducts and defecated in them. The ducts are filthy. This, he said, is what my child and I have been breathing in. He was not surprised when I told him my son had been suffering from allergy and respiratory problems since living there. He was shocked by the level of neglect with the furnace and felt that the best solution would be a brand new one with joists to keep it off the ground, and to improve the ventilation.

He put in some quotes to the landlord, and I don't know the exact unit he recommended but it was in the area of 5 thousand. The landlord delayed the replacement for more than a week. My son and I were forced to sleep in one room with a borrowed space heater to try to stay warm. The landlord didn't even drop anything off, I had to demand she help us after a week of awful sleeps and exhaustion.

Finally, she schedules a replacement install, but we learn that it is a wall furnace. I was honest with her and said, I have concerns about that. Our house is very closed concept and long. It's a 50s or 60s rancher with an addition. The master bedroom and ensuite bathroom is the furthest location from the wall furnace on the other end of the house. I couldn't see how the heat would distribute around all those walls. She went ahead despite my concerns. My guess is because it is cheaper by about 2 thousand and she also saved on the duct cleaning and crawl space ventilation etc improvements.

We had the heat on for several hours yesterday. Our living area is warm and toasty, but when you step foot into the hall, it's a noticeable change. You get goosebumps. My bedroom is chilly, and my ensuite is cold. This is day two, and what I have been doing is essentially living in a sauna livingroom just to try to bring the bedroom and other rooms up in temp so we can actually sleep comfortably. We are forced to have all doors open all the time, so the heat can try to reach all rooms. But who wants to sleep with their bedroom door open? I don't. I am trying to get used to this. I don't want to run the heat too much and stack up my bill and I want to avoid having to use spaceheaters to keep my rooms warm. It's ridiculous to have to use two types of heat but I think that will be the case here. That means the landlords cutting corners and being cheap, causes her tenant (me) to have huge utility bills.

Can anyone tell me what my son and I might have to worry about as far as the exposure to the unsafe air we breathed in for those years? She is leaving the old furnace and ductwork there. Should anything be done to that? Couldn't rodents access it more now if it just sits to rot and rust? And is this new vented wall furnace supposed to be inadequately heating the home? It doesn't surprise me. If nothing else, I know for sure I would never use this type of unit in a home by choice. I hope to find suggestions to help us learn how to use this wall furnace in a way that will maximize it's use. This is looking bleak. I'm so exhausted from bad sleeps. I just want to get back to normal temperature in my bedroom and a good night's sleep.

Last edited by PJmax; 11-21-15 at 05:52 PM. Reason: reformatted text
Old 11-20-15, 11:30 PM
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I read through that entire post but many will not because you really need to break it up into multiple paragraphs. I'll say at the outset that you really need to find another place to live and a better landlord.

In the US, most of the larger cities and most of the states have enacted landlord-tenant laws to prevent the very things you are experiencing. I don't know anything about Canadian laws, either on the province or city level, but you might try and find out if such laws exist. As an individual you have almost zero bargaining power with the owner but they WILL take notice if the government leans on them. What you have described is substandard housing in anyone's opinion.

A wall heater is NOT a replacement for central heating in my opinion. Some wall furnaces do have a provision for a duct out the back to heat a room behind the furnace but most do not. Trying to heat a ranch-style home (long and relatively narrow) evenly is all but impossible and depending on the insulation in the outer walls and the installed windows could be absolutely impossible in your situation. You MIGHT be able to somewhat alleviate the situation by using some slower speed fans throughout the house to help move the air.

The existing ductwork, if damaged to the point of allowing rodent access absolutely needs to be blocked off at the air registers inside the house if the ducts themselves are not going to be repaired. Your local governmental health authority may be able to help you demand that this be done by the landlord.

I feel for you and your son. You have a terrible situation and no one should have to live in a rat-infested and poorly heated place like that.
Old 11-21-15, 12:22 AM
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Thank you for your response. I thought I had split my information into paragraphs but I see it is clumped (whoops, and now I can't seem to edit). I will try your fan suggestion and look into health authority assistance. I am going to be looking at moving as well when it is financially feasible to do so. Thanks for taking the time to give your suggestions.
Old 11-21-15, 12:33 AM
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You might also want to contact the consumers affairs editor at your local newspaper and/or television news department. These people just LOVE these kinds of stories.
Old 11-21-15, 04:11 AM
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I too am unable to get through the entire post.
If you summarize the problem into brief paragraphs you may get more help.

My take on your problem is you have a furnace that is poorly installed and maintained, is not working properly and may be a health hazard.
It is also in a rented property and the problem is not being taken care of to your satisfaction.
Does this sum it up???

I don't think anyone can offer any suggestions on any way of making what you have work.......your landlord has an obligation to help to help you with this.
One thing I may be able to offer for the short term and I am being serious, is if you can not sleep because of the cold you likely do not have proper blankets.
We frequent thrift shops and flea markets and very good, high quality bedding can be had for a pittance.

Ideally you should be able to just twist a dial and live in comfort and if you are renting the landlord should respond if you have problems.
In the meantime until the landlord does something or you move, there is no reason to loose sleep because of being cold.

Old 11-21-15, 02:58 PM
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It's not unusual for furnaces located in difficult crawl spaces to receive very poor maintenance.

Wall furnaces can provide a good heat source for appropriate locations, but yours doesn't qualify.

Many landlord tenant laws require that heating systems be able to maintain a specified temperature, and it sounds like your would fail to meet such a standard. I'd check that out and consider filing a complaint.

Unfortunately, the landlord probably doesn't have too many good choices. The poor crawl space would make it difficult to install a better system. If I were the landlord, I might consider installing a couple of electric heating units in the parts of the house remote from the wall furnace.
Old 11-21-15, 05:56 PM
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I don't have anything further to add but I reformatted your text for you. Good luck and PLEASE keep us posted as to your progress.
Old 11-23-15, 10:15 AM
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A bad landlord does not just turn into a good one, suddenly. Start looking and saving for a move to a new place with a different landlord.

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