LESLIE: And now, a heating and cooling question from Jim in Iowa. What’s going on?
JIM: I was calling – I have a house that I just built about a year ago. And I have low air pressure coming out of my heating and cooling ducts to the upper floors.
TOM: OK. And you have a single zone system, Jim?
JIM: Yes sir, I do.
TOM: The amount of air flow is directly proportional to the size and length of the duct systems. The simple thing you might want to check is for the presence of duct dampers. They’re not that obvious but they’re little handles that would be sticking out of the sides of the ducts. And you want to make sure that they’re wide open, which means that the handle is usually going to be parallel with the duct; not perpendicular to it. Just in the off chance that you have any baffles inside …
LESLIE: That maybe it’s closed.
TOM: … that have closed it off.
TOM: If that doesn’t do it, now we need to really look at the duct design and try to figure out why you’re not getting enough air up there. In order to properly cool that second floor, you’re going to need both ducts that supply air and ducts that return it back. Usually, the returns are not put up or they’re not installed properly or there’s not enough of them in a situation where you’re overheating one place in the house. So it’s a combination of getting the supply and the return.
There is another type of product called a duct booster, which is an inline blower that can be installed on the supply end of the register to pull more air through. But it’s electric. It has to run, you know, all the time to do its job and I don’t recommend it if you can get the ducts’ design tweaked to deliver more air.
LESLIE: But Tom, since the house is only a year old – which means its heating and cooling system is only a year old – if it’s improperly designed, is there any recourse with the manufacturer or the installer or the designer?
TOM: There should be some recourse via the home owner’s warranty. Did you get a warranty when you bought the place?
JIM: It was a – there is a warranty with it. It’s a – where you become the general contractor. That’s how the …
TOM: Where you become the general contractor. Hmm. Is there a process under the warranty for filing claims? Take a look because, Leslie, you might be right and it’s really going to depend on whether or not you can file it within the time limit. Because it shouldn’t have been done that way. But it sounds to me like there’s a problem with the duct design, Jim. That’s going to be the solution to it as well.
LESLIE: Now, that’s an interesting situation. You buy a brand new home that’s being custom built and you’re in charge of making sure the job goes on time …
TOM: (overlapping voices) I’ve never heard of something like that.
LESLIE: … and communicating with all of the contractors who are building?
TOM: It doesn’t make any sense to me. I am very familiar with …
LESLIE: What if you have no knowledge about the process at all?
TOM: I agree. I have – I have a lot – I know a lot about home warranties and I can tell you that if you buy a new house, the builders give you a warranty and they treat the warranty like it’s this warm, toasty blanket that they’re wrapping around you to protect you from things that could go wrong with the house. But in actual fact, it’s more of a wet blanket. (chuckling) It really is. Because there’s a lot of holes in that warranty and if you want to claim under that warranty, you better read it and follow it to the letter of the law or you won’t get coverage because, you know, when I – years ago, I used to do arbitrations for those warranty claims …
TOM: … and you’d see this, you know, huge case file that the arbitration company would send you. And you could see the correspondence, you know, go from, you know, “Dear Bill, So nice to see you the other day. Hope you enjoyed the coffee. When you have a chance, can you stop by and fix that leaky window” to “You freaking idiot,” you know, like six months later.
LESLIE: (chuckling) To the height of frustration.
TOM: Exactly, so …
LESLIE: You know but, seriously, I bet that warranty has no coverage; especially if you yourself become in charge of the project.
LESLIE: Then that means you are squarely responsible …
LESLIE: … to make sure that things are done properly, installed properly, designed properly. And if you don’t know, then it’s not going to be done right.
TOM: Another reason to read the warranties first.
Jim, thanks again for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. Read that warranty. If you have any questions that you need an answer, you can also write us to HelpMe@MoneyPit.com.