HVAC System Makes Whistling Noise
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Jack in Delaware on the line who’s dealing with a whistling noise coming from his HVAC system and he thinks it’s the furnace.
Hey, Jack. What can we do for you?
JACK: My problem is this. I’m 67 years old. I’ve never had this as – or all the houses I’ve ever owned. But when the heat is on, it sounds like a jet plane taking off through the air ducts. Mostly up in the loft but you can hear it everywhere. So if you’re laying in a bed in the bedroom, in the loft site, and the heat comes on, it can wake you up because it’ll make like a whistling sound.
So I called – because it is guaranteed for a year so, naturally, I called them to come take a look at this. I wasn’t home; my wife was. And then when I got home, she said, “They said everything’s fine.” Well, it’s not. So I want to call them back and I’m going to be here when they come back. But I don’t want to sound stupid and I want to make sure I can ask the right question.
TOM: Well, the reason it’s doing that is – it has to do with the installation of the duct system. It’s a design issue. And with some systems, if the ducts, perhaps, are too small, they have too many turns in them, they’re not smooth in terms of their transition from room to room to room, you’re going to get a buildup of pressure that makes this worse.
So, this is a problem of installation.
TOM: It might be that this is a higher-efficiency furnace that has a higher flow than, perhaps, other ones. You might want to talk to them about whether or not the fan speed can be adjusted. I don’t know if that will impact it. But it’s really the duct system, not the furnace, that’s causing the problem. The furnace would probably be quite silent if it wasn’t hooked up to the ducts.
JACK: Yeah. And of course, if they didn’t fix - any ductwork would be just like – they wouldn’t do that.
TOM: I would bring it up with them. But the thing is, you’re not going to be able to rely on any kind of warranty on this. Are you talking about the new homeowner’s warranty – a new homebuyer’s warranty?
JACK: Yes, yes.
TOM: Yeah. In a lot of cases, it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. I know a lot about those programs and I’ve got to tell you, they cover builders only if builders get an F. They don’t cover A, B, C and D, you know what I mean? Unless it’s really bad, that’s when maybe something kicks in and even so, the coverage is just not good and the programs are just not solid. I used to arbitrate for some of those years ago and I remember horrific defects that weren’t covered. So, I have no faith in those programs.
You might be better off dealing directly with the builder than trying to go through the warranty company. Because the warranty company is going to have a very specific set of standards that says what is and what isn’t covered. And you’re not required to necessarily, in most cases, go through the warranty company. You can go direct to the builder. And if you’re loud enough and persistent enough, you might get it fixed.
JACK: That’s what – I am going to do that; I definitely want to go to the builder first. I just wanted to go to the builder armed with some kind of knowledge. See, right off the bat, you helped me because I thought it was the furnace.
TOM: No, it’s the duct system that’s causing this.
JACK: Alright. One more thing about the furnace. I won’t hold you. When the air conditioning was on last summer, I had to have a little bucket under this one pipe because it kept dripping. And I called them back about that and they said, “Oh, the insulation around this copper pipe wasn’t tight enough.” And so he did something – and again, I wasn’t home – and left and now it doesn’t drip as bad but it still has a lot of moisture where I keep a rag underneath the thing, just so it doesn’t puddle on the floor. Of course, that’s not right, right? I mean you’re not supposed to have any moisture, correct?
TOM: No, of course it’s not. That’s an active leak even though it hasn’t gone to – become a drip. And it’s going to get worse in the summer when it’s really humid out. So it might just come back as bad as it was before.
Is this a development where there’s a lot of homes that are built?
JACK: Yes, yes. A brand-new development. It’s a 55-and-older development.
TOM: I’ve got some suggestions for you. There’s power in numbers when it comes to that. It’s easy to ignore one homeowner but if you get a few of them together that are having the same issue, it becomes a lot more difficult for the builder to ignore.
JACK: Funny you should say that. We had – one of the owners down the street wants to form a committee to have all our grievances listed and go to the builder.
TOM: Yeah, I think it’s a great idea. And also involve the building inspectors locally in the municipality. Because if the building inspectors know that there’s issues with these properties, they’re going to be a lot more careful about inspecting them. And that’s something that a builder is not going to be happy about and you might just twist his arm enough to address it.
It stinks to have to complain to get something done but sometimes, a squeaky wheel gets the grease.
JACK: Yeah, well, I’m about to become the wheel. I’m going to squeak then.
TOM: Alright. Good luck, Jack. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.