Gas smell: brand-new Magic-Pak furnace


  #1  
Old 02-16-18, 10:39 PM
S
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2018
Location: United States
Posts: 29
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Angry Gas smell: brand-new Magic-Pak furnace

Hi all,

About six months ago, a local contractor replaced a relic called Climatrol with a Magic-Pak unit (model #HWC9N5511P18) in my recently purchased condo. The unit is housed in a small cabinet on the patio, so it's basically sort of outside, aside from the cabinet. Everything was perfectly fine until yesterday, when the unit turned on and my place got filled with the smell of that natural gas odorant. I have a 10 (!) year warranty with my HVAC contractor, so today around noon a dude shows up, opens a panel on the unit, checks gas pressure in the switch valve, tells me it's too high (3.7), changes it to 3.2, which according to him is the recommended value here (I am in the Denver area). Moved his gas sensor around the gas piping leading to the unit, detected nothing. We ran the unit, everything seemed to work fine. Later in the evening it was also running ok, until bam -- the same smell. It was pretty windy outside when it happened, so I checked the burners (magic-pak has a tiny glass window) -- everything seemed to burn fine. In any case, I'd like to continue living, so the unit is off now. Not powered down, just switched thermostat to 'off' (it is a 3rd-gen Nest, if that makes any difference).

Any suggestions on where to look? I DO NOT plan on any DIY, I just want to help my HVAC folks, because they seem to have no idea what's going on. I just spoke with them and the new theory is that my return duct is capturing air from somewhere else. However, there is no smell when the fan is on without heat. A bit of a panicky message, i know...

Any suggestions will be highly appreciated!
 
  #2  
Old 02-16-18, 10:55 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Northern NJ - USA
Posts: 61,837
Received 1,476 Votes on 1,364 Posts
Welcome to the forums.

Your HVAC company shouldn't need any help repairing your unit. Gas being delivered into the house is completely unacceptable. If they can't find the problem.... contact Magic-Pak and tell them there is a problem with your new unit.
Contact Us | Magic-Pak

I am a little concerned about the unit being installed outside in a "closet".
It sounds like the unit may not be vented properly.

Pictures may be helpful.... How-to-insert-pictures
 
  #3  
Old 02-16-18, 11:13 PM
S
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2018
Location: United States
Posts: 29
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Thanks for responding! I won't be able to take meaningful photos because the space there is very tight, but I can try...
Yeah, if they fail the second time, I will be calling the mfr for sure.

So, venting that thing was a separate issue, which was solved, at least according to my HVAC people. The back of the cabinet is basically a brick wall with a rectangular hole. The shape of that opening was to match the old Climatrol unit, so my HVAC sleeved the back of the Magic-Pak to that opening. They assured me that the cross-sections are reasonable to allow proper venting of the beast -- two separate sleeves for air in and out. The installation was checked by the city, including the sleeves, so what do i know... But still, wouldn't incorrect venting result in other gases? I seem to have unburned gas in there somewhere and all of my CO detectors are silent.
 
  #4  
Old 02-17-18, 05:04 AM
R
Member
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 2,092
Received 112 Votes on 106 Posts
What kind of CO detectors do you have? Normal hardware store detectors are worthless. They don’t trip until CO has already reached dangerous levels, when you could already be unconscious or dead. You want low level CO detectors, preferably with a display. They are very expensive but worth every penny.
The install manual will have specific venting guidelines listed.
 
  #5  
Old 02-17-18, 09:56 AM
S
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2018
Location: United States
Posts: 29
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
I have a new Kidde KN-COPP-3 Nighthawk in my living room -- it has two large vents closest to the units along the duct. If this one is useless, I am perfectly open to suggestions. It records peak CO levels and now shows 13 ppm, actually. It always showed 0 when checked...
 
  #6  
Old 02-17-18, 12:20 PM
S
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2018
Location: United States
Posts: 29
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
So, we have the fire dept on site checking everything. It appears that the folks below me also smelled natural gas. I doubt it would be from me, because it's lighter than air and they're below.
 
  #7  
Old 02-17-18, 12:29 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Northern NJ - USA
Posts: 61,837
Received 1,476 Votes on 1,364 Posts
CO detectors are good to have but they don't respond to raw natural gas.
 
  #8  
Old 02-17-18, 01:49 PM
S
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2018
Location: United States
Posts: 29
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
I think we got onto the topic of CO detectors when you mentioned proper venting.

Today I mentioned venting to my HVAC guy and I think he got visibly irritated. He installed two separate sleeves for the air in and out and "sealed the crap out of each sleeve" (his words) -- and that's true. There are indeed two separate sleeves. According to him, he's happy to trash the whole install and replace the unit entirely, but simply cannot see what in the world is wrong with it. He also believes that if venting was completely screwed, or if the heat exchanger got damaged, he'd see a very different picture on inspection.

So, given that we have an apartment below mine that also gets filled with gas in the evening, we'll just wait and see what the energy company / HOA maintenance do about this... The fire crew checked both places for any gases and found nothing, so I guess we'll have to call again right when it happens.
 
  #9  
Old 02-17-18, 08:19 PM
S
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2018
Location: United States
Posts: 29
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
I may have saved someone's life today. It started smelling tonight, so I called both the energy company and the fire dept. They showed up at the same time and it turns out that neighbors below have a furnace that leaks both gas and CO.
 

Last edited by shura; 02-17-18 at 09:34 PM.
  #10  
Old 02-17-18, 08:35 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Northern NJ - USA
Posts: 61,837
Received 1,476 Votes on 1,364 Posts
That would be a flue/venting issue.

One concern that I have is you said you smelled it when your furnace started. That would indicate a leak in your return line..... drawing the fumes in.
 
  #11  
Old 02-17-18, 09:34 PM
S
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2018
Location: United States
Posts: 29
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Yup, thanks. That was literally the first thing my HVAC guy said ("let me a put a camera in the return duct!"), and this will be raised with my HOA, because the return line is under my floor and not inside the apartment. I don't think it's his responsibility, unless my HOA decides to pay him. They need to maintain this crap.
 
  #12  
Old 02-18-18, 01:05 AM
steve_gro's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: San Francisco
Posts: 1,092
Received 1 Vote on 1 Post
Natural gas has no odor - mercapthan is added to give it the stink, for a very good reason -- it can be explosive.

And carbon monoxide is deadly. Don't mess around -- get it fixed. Don't use appliances that are leaking gas or making CO. It's not a minor problem that can be put on the back burner. Pay whatever to whoever to get it resolved.
 

Last edited by steve_gro; 02-18-18 at 01:10 AM. Reason: added something
  #13  
Old 02-18-18, 10:38 AM
S
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2018
Location: United States
Posts: 29
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Steve, with the latest developments I posted here, there isn't much I can do on my end -- my equipment is in good working order. I will try to do something about a leaky return line, but the fact that my neighbors' furnace is spewing nasty stuff, that's on them.
Not any less scary, but I am hoping the energy company and the HOA put enough pressure on them to do the repairs. That place is rented out, and one of the tenants is the owners' son... Yesterday evening the fire crew and the xcel energy folks basically ordered them to shut down the furnace and everything's been fine since. My hope is that not killing anyone is higher on their agenda than saving money on repairs.
 
  #14  
Old 02-18-18, 10:53 AM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Northern NJ - USA
Posts: 61,837
Received 1,476 Votes on 1,364 Posts
It's good you had the gas supplier there. When an appliance is red-tagged..... it must be repaired to their satisfaction before putting back into operation.
 
  #15  
Old 02-18-18, 12:34 PM
S
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2018
Location: United States
Posts: 29
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Yeah, we'll just see what happens. In addition to gas, my CO reading was 13 ppm and I am above. I wonder how much CO they were consuming while their furnace was on throughout the night.
Incidentally, my HVAC guy is telling me that it is not impossible for him to repair my return line to insulate me from idiot landlords. But for that, he'll probably need to rip my neighbors' ceiling... I'll just take this discussion to my HOA.
 
 

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
 
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Description:
Your question will be posted in: