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air conditioning leak, condensation, insulation

Air Conditioning Ducts Leaking Water: Prevent Condensation

I have a leak from my ceiling in my hallway.  Last fall I had two plumbers come out to diagnose the problem and neither could find a leak.  The last plumber suggested that I call an air duct contractor as there was a drip from the air duct pipe leading from my dryer to the outside.  My home was built in the 50’s.  The washer/dryer sits behind bifold doors in the hallway.  The pipe from the dryer runs up the back wall of the dryer and across the ceiling to the back.  The a /c unit sits next to the dryer.  The air duct contractor removed and replaced the rusted out air duct pipe.  Then just a couple months ago the drip started again just as it did before.  I called the air duct contractor but the air duct pipe was fine.  He suggested that the air duct pipe and the a/c pipe were too close together and the heat and cold were causing condensation to build in the air duct which then dripped.  To help resolve it he wrapped insulation around the a/c pipe.   All was well until one day I heard this swish-sound.  I went into my hallway and there was a puddle of water on the floor and the insulation was sticking out of the hole that I originally cut in my ceiling when I was trying to figure out what the problem was.    Do you have any suggestions.  Thank you.

Our Answer

Thanks for all the details.  From your description, this does seem to fit the pattern of a condensation leak caused by warm, humid air striking the cold air conditioning ducts.  The fact that your dryer exhaust runs so close to this could also be related, especially if any of that very warm and humid exhaust is leaking out along the way.

The solution is simple and complicated at the same time.  If you have access to this attic space, you can insulate the ducts, which I know you tried.  However, you need to use a duct insulation that has a built-in vapor retarder, such as this Johns Manville Duct Insulation product.  Plus, you need to insulate ALL the ducts because condensation can form anywhere and run to the lowest spot to leak out.  Lastly, its important that you seal all the seams in the insulation with silver foil tape (NOT "duct" tape! It will dry out and fall off)

In addition, it may help if you improved the attic ventilation.  While the relative humidity would go unchanged, more air movement in the attic might increase evaporation a result in less accumulation of moisture on the ducts.


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Can I Add Modern Locks to Antique Door Knobs?

We're in the process of remodeling our 1940s house.  All the existing doors have mortise-style locks, antiques knobs and back plates that are original to the house. However, all of the keys are missing.  I would like to replace the locking mechanism but keep the antique back plates and knobs - they look great.  Is there a way to keep using these old knobs and back plates but add new locks? Thanks for your help!

Our Answer

Many companies and websites, like House of Antique Hardware, have been created to address this very issue - though most use reproductions of antiques, rather than original locks, due to the challenges of merging new mechanisms with older hardware.
To that end, it might serve you better to replace the lock in its entirety by purchasing one antique in design from a site like this one.  Adding new parts to an old lock might not work, or might not work well.  An experienced locksmith can assess the parts you want to keep and provide expert advice on whether this project is feasible.  Good luck!

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pinhole leaks

Pinhole Leaks in Copper Pipes: Repair or Replace?

I recently bought a home and am experiencing a problem with the copper waterlines/pipes corroding from the inside out.  So far the corrosion appears to be limited to just the hot water lines, but I'm afraid to take a look inside the cold water lines.What's happening is we keep getting pinhole leaks springing up throughout the hot water lines, and when I recently repaired two holes/leaks I looked at the inside of the lines and saw a lot of corrosion which I have never seen or experienced before.I had a home inspection completed by a professional before I bought and closed on the house, and the inspector identified a leak that the previous owner had to fix prior to the closing.  Is there anything else I can do other than replace the entire waterline system?  Also, is there anything I can do because I feel this was an existing problem that the previous owner knew about? 

Our Answer

Copper has been used for domestic water piping for over 50 years.  Copper pinhole leaks are a condition that is somewhat newer.  Pinhole leaks in copper pipes form on the inside of copper piping and erode the wall of copper resulting in holes that leak.  Opinions vary on the cause, but many experts believe the corrosion is due to a chemical reaction between the water and the copper.

ToolBase Services, the housing industry's resource for technical information on building products, materials, and new technologies, has found that pitting corrosion can be classified into three types:

  • Type I -Pitting is associated with hard or moderately hard waters with a pH between 7 and 7.8, and it is most likely to occur in cold   water. The pitting is deep and narrow, and results in pipe failure.
  • Type II -Pitting occurs only in certain soft waters, with a pH below 7.2 and occurs rarely in temperatures below 140° F. The pitting that occurs is narrower than in Type I, but still results in pipe failure.
  • Type III -Pitting occurs in cold soft waters having a pH above 8.0. It is a more generalized form of pitting, which tends to be wide and shallow and results in blue water, byproduct releases, or pipe blockage.

For more information, read the complete Toolbase Case Study on pinhole leaks.

Repairing pinhole leaks in copper pipes is done by applying external solder to the holes, by replacing small sections of pipe, or in the worst case scenario, by re-plumbing the entire home. If your problem is severe, I'd recommend you approach this in much the same way as you would if you were suffering from rusted steel plumbing common in homes built from the 1920's on. Repair leaks as they develop. Plan and budget for a major upgrade of the accessible parts of the plumbing system in the near future.  By accessible, I mean those that are visible and accessible from a crawlspace or basement. Replace all the inaccessible pipes only if leaks develop.

That being said, if you ever need to open a wall or ceiling and find copper pipes, never replace the drywall without first replacing the pipes. As for what you should replace the plumbing with, I'd recommend PEX.  PEX is cross-linked Polyethylene and a relatively new type of plumbing pipe that is showing great promise due to it's ease of installation, lower cost and energy saving benefits.  To learn more about repairing pinhole leaks in copper pipes with PEX, visit the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association (PPFA) website for Pex information.

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