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headsup286 12-13-2012 03:12 PM

Electro Static Filter, Air Scrubber, New Ducting and a new furncace! What do I need?
Hi everyone. I'd appreciate some advice on a heating system question. It's long winded, sorry!

My wife and I bought a 1400 square foot home in California (built in 1961). The home has the original forced air heating ducts (no A/C) throughout the house. They are wrapped in an asbestos product. The furnace is about 10 years old and shows no indication of problems. I've been told it's probably about 80% efficient. There was an additional room added onto the house (1988) and they extended the heating system into that room. It looks like they tapped right into the existing duct and possibly exposed some of the asbestos from the wrap around the duct.

The home inspector told us about the asbestos being around the ducts but said it wasn't a problem unless it was exposed which he did not indicate any problems with. He noticed no tears in the wrap. I brought someone out to clean out the air ducts (professional heating and air company) and they said they won't touch it due to the asbestos wrap. The heating and air company informed me that the additional ducting into the new room was done incorrectly and may have exposed asbestos fibers. The heating and air company said there "may be" a tear in the wrap near one of the vents into the room.

The heating and air company said I need a whole new system ideally. According to them, it needs all new ducting after a haz mat team takes out the old ducting ($6,500 for all that) as well as a new furnace ($7,000). He also recommended using an electro static filter ($600) and getting an air scrubber as well ($1,800). He said that we could install the electro static filter and the scrubber in order to help deal with the possible asbestos fibers in the ducting. Then come back later and redo the whole system and add the existing filter and scrubber to the system.

My questions are this:

1. Should I be concerned enough about the asbestos to redo the entire ducting or would a electrostatic filter and scrubber be sufficient to deal with it?
2. Do electro static filters and air scrubbers really work well? Especially with asbestos?
3. Can you repair a duct that has some exposed asbestos? Seems to me that replacing the entire ducting is pretty extreme.
4. The ducting is 60 years old. Should I just bite the bullet and have it redone anyways?
5. What of these things could I (reasonably) do myself to save money?

Some other things to note, we are planning on replacing the furnace in the next few years anyways because we want to move it out of a closet and into the attic to create more space for a kitchen remodel. I imagine trying to move the 10 year old current furnace into the attic instead of replacing it is probably a bad idea. Tell me if I'm wrong. It's our first home and the numbers we've seen on costs are pretty scary.

Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!

NiNe O 12-13-2012 03:17 PM

I don't like asbestos, I would want it gone. Electrostatic filters work great if maintained, if not, they are the worst.

NiNe O 12-13-2012 03:21 PM

I just turned down a job today of running data cables from one floor of an office building to another because the glue-on ceiling tiles were asbestos. Don't want the liability, told them to call back when it was gone.

jagans 12-13-2012 03:43 PM

Can you send some pictures of the wrap? I had ducts that were wrapped with asbestos sheet, and this stuff usually becomes Friable pretty darn easily. I had one of those old octopus type coal furnaces that was converted to gas. Damn thing took up near the whole basement. I removed the asbestos, but I knew quite a bit about asbestos, and what, and what not to do with it.

beenthere 12-13-2012 04:24 PM

Consult with an asbestos abatement company before investing in any equipment that HVAC contractor talked to you about.

headsup286 12-13-2012 08:31 PM


Originally Posted by jagans (Post 1072486)
Can you send some pictures of the wrap?

Here's some pictures of the ducting:

FYI, the white stuff on the ducting is insulation and some left over texture compound (the attic door was left open while spray ceiling texture).


mrairflow 12-14-2012 04:00 AM

i would want the asbestos gone if i was in the financial position to do so . i do not see a reason to replace the furnace . 6500 to R and R the duct seems reasonable unless there intention is to make a flex monster duct system although 7000 to replace the furnace seems way high.

jagans 12-14-2012 09:26 AM

Here is the situation as I see it:

The asbestos wrap around the straight runs is a sheet good. It came in rolls like tar paper. It is for the most part bound up and would not become friable unless it was cut with something like a circular saw, etc. A product quite like it was used from the 30's through the 60's as an upscale flashing in low slope roofing. It was called AB. Made by, you guessed it, Johns Manville.

The stuff on the elbows and y's is a different story. This is a material that came dry, and was mixed with water to form a paste, then formed in place. This stuff can become friable just from rubbing it.

The Home inspector is a Hack in my opinion. An example of AB that is not exposed is the backing on linoleum. Its fine till you tear it up, and even then its bound up pretty good in a slurry coat. The asbestos around your ductwork is exposed. This is why I generally don't like "Whole House Inspectors" They usually know just enough to get themselves and you in trouble, but they have disclaimers that get them out of any liability for lack of knowledge. Don't ask me how you can have it both ways, ask a Liar, er......... scuse me, Lawyer

You should have been made aware of the asbestos before you bought the house. In my state you must disclose any known conditions that pose a hazard. If you got a large reduction in the price due to the presence of AB, good, just so you were told. Frankly I'm amazed that the house could change hands with the stuff up there, considering the way things are going.

Basically you have a sleeping monster in your attic. What you do is up to you

I would get rid of the monster. If you are flush, hire an AB Abatement company to get rid of it. It is protocol for them to test your air quality and clean up everything as they go.

If you are strapped and young, you can do it yourself, as long as you take proper precautions. I did when I was 31, I am now 66, and have no lung issues (I have never smoked either).

Here it what you are dealing with:

Asbestos is a mineral fibre. When the individual fibers are viewed through an electron microscope (Thats how small they are, and that is the problem) they look like a witches broom. That is what makes asbestos such a great binder, and why it was used in so many products in the past. I am originally from a small town in NJ which is right near Manville, and I can tell you that a lot of products used asbestos. Manville had a sign when I was young that said "Welcome to Asbestos City" It made them a fortune.

Back to the issue at hand. The problem is that if these fibers get into your lungs, your lungs cannot expel them. It is much worse if you smoke, because then you have Tar, and a Binder.

To me $6500.00 is a really good deal to get rid of the AB by a Qualified team, and your ducts need more insulation than asbestos provides. Fuel was probably 13 cents a gallon when they put them in.

headsup286 12-14-2012 10:59 AM

Thanks for the help everyone!

I was quoted $1950 from an abatement company to remove the ducts professionally. It's also not a huge amount of ducting so I could imagine doing it myself too (I'm 26 and have the energy), I'm just afraid of exposing the asbestos in the process and leaving up there in the attic anyways. Sounds like the $1950 might be money well spent?

beenthere 12-14-2012 03:02 PM

That sounds inline with what they charge here.

jagans 12-14-2012 04:49 PM

It sounds like money very well spent, but this is what I did, and what you could do if you want, but this is on you. I am only telling you what I did at 30, and I am now 66 and still ticking, but this is advice to keep from ingesting the stuff. Again, what you do is on you. These are just suggestions.

You want to pressurize your house so no dust goes into any voids in the ducts. Send the family to aunt Marys and put a couple of serious fans blowing into the house, with outlets blocked.

Now, slide poly under the packed stuff at Y's and Els, etc and Wet down the friable stuff with glycol and water at 1 part Glycol and 4 Parts water. Glycol is Basically a surfactant (wetting agent) You would of course want to wear a HEPA respirator, and double bag everything in heavy weight contractor bags. You can slice the sheet goods, with a utility knife you just can't cut it with a toothed blade that would crumble it. You would want to wear paper coveralls and do not go in the house with them. Go directly outside, Take them off, double bag them and duct tape both of the bags closed. Do not remove mask yet. Go down wind and have someone blow you off with a leaf blower, head and all. I would think that you could re-use that ductwork, as long as you can get rid of all the AB. You could reinsulate it with vinyl faced fiberglass, after you tape every darn seam with aluminum duct tape. Buy a HEPA filter for your shop vac, put on your respirator, remove all registers and shove the shop vac tube up into the duct work everywhere to pick up any stray fibers. Wash down registers, and replace. Bag the shop vac filter and dispose of same. Wash out shop vac drum with glycol mix.

Take your family out to dinner, you saved enough to go to Ruths Chris Steak house, and then some. Its all up to you.

When I was young I remember going into buildings in Manville where asbestos was flying around in the air like snow. I also used the dry pack stuff to install thimbles in chimneys. That does not mean that its not dangerous, I just think that you have to know what you are working with to handle it sensibly.

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