While conducting the inspection of the plumbing system/water heater, for the new buyers, I observed that the water heater had been installed in a closet, off the kitchen. The closet was sealed off to any other part of the home and a solid six panel door was installed. Having the water heater installed in a completely enclosed closet prevented the water heater from obtaining the required combustion and draft air for proper operation (for correct and proper operation of a water heater, ample air must be supplied for the combustion, ventilation and dilution of flue gases. Small enclosures and confined areas, containing gas fired appliances, must have two permanent openings so that sufficient fresh air can be drawn from outside of the enclosure. One opening shall be within 12 inches of the top and one within 12 inches of the bottom of the enclosure. The size of each opening (free area) is determined by the total BTUH input of all gas utilization equipment and the method by which the air is provided. The BTUH input can be found on the water heater data plate).
The water heater's vent connector (4" diameter) was installed into an oversized (8"X8") chimney flue once used, by the now removed, hot water heating system. The chimney flue size and water heater vent connector size should match so that the flue gases and condensation can lift up and out the top of the chimney, preventing backdrafting (a condition which allows flue gases to spill back into the structure through the water heater draft hood).
The draft hood and plastic rings around the copper piping showed signs of excessive heat, indicating backdrafting has been occurring since installation of the appliance.
Listed below is a complete list of defects, which the homeowner, stated where not brought up by their home inspector, nor listed in the home inspection report.
1). Water heater is installed in a confined space with no combustion and draft air.
2). Chimney flue servicing the water heater was grossly oversized.
3). No permit was pulled for the water heater and no inspection was performed by the township local building official.
4). Backdrafting of flue gases was so extreme that it caused corrosion and melting of components.
Finally, if the water heater began producing carbon monoxide during operation and along with the backdrafting, injury or death could have occurred.
Rich Roshak is a New Jersey licensed home and building inspector.
Amerispec Inspection Services
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