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dsal 02-21-2008 04:17 PM

Furnace minus filter
Hello. I am a new poster, so please go easy on me!
My husband and are are buying a house that was built in the 1950's. The furnace in the house is quite old, and is very large. When the home inspection was done, the inspector commented that it looks like an electrostatic filter was installed at one time, but the wiring is no longer hooked up. We also didn't see a normal furnace filter in there, either. The inspector recommended that we make sure we have the furnace professionally serviced and always keep a filter in the furnace.

I'm wondering: Is there some reason the home owners would not have a filter in the furnace? The owners of the home are experienced home owners and work in the building trade, so I'm assuming that it wasn't just an accidental omission. :no: What other reason could there be?


redline 02-21-2008 04:33 PM

Did the inspector find any other problems with the home?

If the furnace is older than 10-15 years old then I would reduce the pruchase price that you submit to cover the cost to replace the furnace. The duct work is probably filled with dust, the furnace is not efficient, it will cost more to heat the home and a newer furnace would more than likely reduce your heat bill by 15-30% if a newer 90+% furnace were installed.

Is there newer wiring in the home?

How many amps is the main panel box? (100, 125, 150, 200...)

Is the plumbing copper or galvanized for the supply lines?

How old is the roof? How many layers?

Is the foundation in good shape?

Does the basement get water in it?

Is the water line and sewer line going to the street newer?

dsal 02-21-2008 04:44 PM

Thank you for your response.

I'm not sure of the actual age of the furnace, but it is over 15 years old. We cannot ask the owners to come down any more on the price, as they have already come down--so we're expecting to need to replace the furnace in a few years.

The remainder of the house is in good condition. The only thing that bothers me is why the home-owner would not have a filter in the furnace. Our realtor will be asking him that, however I'm trying to do a little independent research here. ;) Any ideas?

rjordan392 02-21-2008 04:46 PM

I suspect that furnace blower motor and/or fan is has seen better days and is no longer operating at speeds when new. This is just a guess because a weak blower motor will not supply air in sufficient volume to reach all rooms properly. So if it cannot supply sufficient air, it also means it cannot pull down air. This is one reason someone would remove a filter from a furnace to make it a bit easier for the air to be pulled down. If the furnace is quite old, then make plans to replace it if you buy the house. Then make an offer on the house based on all the defects you find and their cost of replacement.

redline 02-21-2008 04:51 PM

The furnace may not be blowing enough air and the filter may have been removed in order to heat the home. Either way it is not a good idea to run the furnace without a filter as it will cover the inner workings of the furnace with dust and shorten the life of the components. It would be like operating a vacuum cleaner without a filter or driving your car without a filter.

I would suggest that the owner pay to have the ducts cleaned, have a filter installed and then check the operation of the unit to see if it is operating properly to heat the home.

Do you know how much a replacement furnace will cost?

Is this your first home purchase?

biggles 02-21-2008 05:53 PM

with the electronic not working they might of just let it go without one.thet might of thought the electric one would still filter the air even if it wasn't wired.if the inspecter removed a grillin one of the rooms that would give him a good idea how dirty the system might be by reach in with a white rag and seeing the results.have him look at the fan section ofthe furnace if there was no filter the fan...motor, and squirrel cage would of caught any an all dust and dirt moving around the system.if he ran his index finger inside the squirrel cage rounded blades and there clean then the ducts should be ok and there must of been a filter...maybe in the return grill in the hallway(s),no filter in a unit will lead to major water dripping if you have AC onthat unit,which is another inspection point looking up from the fan section above the heat should look new and shiny clean...see if you can have him do a rechech!

dsal 02-21-2008 06:42 PM

Thank you for all your responses! I'll try to answer most of the questions you've asked me.

We are not first-time home buyers, however all of our homes have been newer homes, i.e. built in the 1970's and beyond. This home is a little older.

To my knowledge, I don't think the home inspector opened any heater grills in the house to check for dirt or grime (?). However, I was down in the basement when he was looking at the furnace. When he removed the panel, I looked down at a fan blade or something in the furnace, and it looked pretty darn dusty.

I really don't think that the owner thought that the electronic filter would work even though it wasn't plugged in. The owner of the home is an electrician, so I think he'd know better. ;)

Another red flag: We had mold testing done. The results showed that there is an uncomfortably high amount of aspergillium/penicillium mold present in the house. He guessed that it could be high due to spreading in the hvac system. At that point, the mold testing technician didn't know that there was no filter in the furnace. Unfortunately, we're not 100% comfortable with the mold testing results, because we later found out that this mold tester (recommended by the home inspector) is also a mold remediator--so there is some conflict-of-interest there. We're now in the process of having another mold testing done by an independent mold testing firm that does not remediate. But I digress!

I'm a little uncomfortable with all of this: the fact that the furnace seemed dirty inside; no filter; perhaps a mold issue, etc.

Other than these issues, we really like this house! And now we're in a time crunch, since we need to close on a house by the end of March. Help! Help!


rjordan392 02-21-2008 07:22 PM

I would be hesitant with suspicions too. Unless you can get professionals in there to inspect the house along with the new mold detection company, then I would pass this one up. If the owner did not see that the furnace did not get proper maintenance, then what else needs repair that a novice would not have knowledge of. Get better inspections. Who provided the inspector and is he personally licensed. Just because a company has a license, does not mean the inspector does.
If you find that that the cost to remedy the house's faults in addition to the asking price will run much higher then what other homes in the area are selling for, then you need to re-negotiate the asking price. The key here is the neighboorhood. How well do you like it. Did you drive around to see what is nearby, like factories with large smokestacks or other undesireable features?
Is it convient to get to nearby shopping malls? Did you interview a few neighbors to find out if anyone throws noisy parties well into the night or those who may have kids who like to hotrod their cars.
Once you are satisfied with the above and any repairs that are needed, then go ahead and close on the house. But to go into it not knowing about problems that you may not notice is not recommended. Its better to rent an apartment and look elsewhere if time is an issue. Oh, I almost forgot, I believe the home inspector is not allowed by law to recommend anyone for home repairs. This creates a conflict of interest. Tread lightly as you go forward. Good Luck.

Charley B 02-21-2008 11:44 PM

It appears as if you have some problems on going perhaps I can help you. I wear two hats.
Not sure If if read your post correctly but does the system have central air or just heat. If the unit has been operated with out a return air filter as indicated by the motor and fan collection of dust/lint that will be a guaranted A-coil blockage that will restrict air flow through out the home and most likely will have a nice collection in the supply duct as stated above.

On the home inspector side you should have interviewed your inspector to learn his expericense/how long he has been in business/how many inspections he has performed and what was his job in his previous life was he a desk jocky or did he work in the construction/trades professions.
I have had many,many phone calls that started out with the famous saying how much do you charge and that is all they want to know.

Home inspectors are not allowed to work under a umbrella license of a company, all inspectors must be licensed.

Home inspectors in most states are allowed to recommend repair personnel as long as there is no financial intrest. I personally do not recommend anyone but have on many occasions advised against using a particular contractor due to poor quality of work.. I could show some pics of an inspection I did this evening on a HVAC install that was just a butcher job but I am trying to be nice.

BTW there is probally a good reason the owner did not have a filter in use it is called being lazy---)))

c5pilot 02-22-2008 06:43 AM

I agree with everyone else's assessments, but would also like to point out there is NO reason to avoid asking the price of a house be lowered for EVERY problem you find. Obviously, some things could already be accounted for in the asking price, but home sellers like to believe THEIR home is better than others on the market. It's not unusual to split the cost of replacement of a major appliance that shows age but still works. It's just a matter of time before replacement so an old heaters value is reduced over time.

I didn't see if you stated whether the unit is oil, gas, LP. An oil fired heater can last MUCH longer than 10-15 years, so don't necessarily let the age be as much of a factor as maintenance. If the unit has an A/C coil attached, run without a filter, you have even more repairs to make. An A/C check should show if a coil is clogged but the weather must be warm enough for a proper check.

Mold? I'd have to be absolutely in love with a house that has mold problems. Mold grows for a reason. Just removing the mold does not solve the problem, so there's another repair to be made to correct the environment to resist future mold growth.

Bottom line, your price must be determined by what else is on the market and how much you're willing to repair yourself and at what cost. Keep throwing repairs costs out to the owner and bring them down to earth if they aren't already. Good luck.

dsal 02-22-2008 07:51 AM

You all have a wealth of information! :)

We do love the house. It is in a nice area, and is by far the nicest house we've seen in our price range. Many updates have been done in the house, and the remainder of the house seems to be in good shape.

As far as mold goes, mold is in every house, as well as outside, etc. The mold levels in this home are high enough to warrant some kind of treatment, but low enough that most people wouldn't even realize there was any mold. No visible mold was present--only the type that is detectable with a sample.

We are having a different company come today and take a mold sample. We won't have the results back until Monday or Tuesday.

Also, due to your suggestions :) my husband has contacted a reputable hvac company to come out and inspect the furnace. I'll feel much better after that is done!

We are somewhat experienced home owners. This will be the fifth house we've owned through the years. (Job-related moves.) But it is also the oldest house. We're moving to an area where most the houses are this age or older. I think this is a suburb that was built up when the WWII vets returned home, so most houses in the area were built in the late forties and fifties.

It's just that a Civil War furnace has me worried. :laughing:

Please keep the responses and suggestions coming! I'll update when I hear something. Hey, think how fun this is. You can make wagers on how this will all turn out! Will the second mold test confirm what the original test said? Will the hvac guy find multiple problems? Bets are on!


rjordan392 02-22-2008 08:33 AM

I think the hvac man will recommend a new furnace if it is as old as you surmise. The hvac man will find it difficult to give further life expectancy even after repairs due to owners neglect. This neglect has an effect on parts that are working but are close to borderline failure. I believe the owner knows this and decided not to get repairs done and perhaps the asking price accounts for this. Like I said before, check on the value of homes in the area simular to this one plus repairs needed and see if it comes close to the other houses. Don't forget to add the cost of cleaning the ducts.

dsal 02-22-2008 09:58 AM

The furnace is a furnace and a/c unit.

According to the realtor who sold the house we currently own, a home inspector doesn't even need to be licensed. (?) She said that many choose to be for obvious reasons, but it isn't a legal requirement.

I went with the home inspector that the realtor who sold us the home recommended. We trust our realtor, so then went on his recommendation. Since we live out-of-town, (three hours away) it's difficult to know who to go with.

A new mold guy will be at the house in a little more than an hour. The HVAC guy will be there, too. My hubby plans to stop there on his lunch hour to get any preliminary news.

You have no idea how much I appreciate all of your input! You guys are great! It feels like I have a whole team helping to look out for me!

Thanks a bunch,

redline 02-22-2008 10:24 AM

Is the homeowner required to fill out a full disclosure on the home?

Do you have any idea on how much a new furnace will cost?

dsal 02-22-2008 11:40 AM

Yes, the homeowner had to fill out a disclosure, but there weren't any hvac issues on the disclosure.

I'm not exactly sure how much a new furnace would cost. The inspector guessed around $3,000. My in-laws are getting a new furnace put in right now in their house (which is smaller), and they're paying a little over $4,000. Since the house we're buying has a furnace that looks like it would be a bit more of an issue to remove, I'm guessing it would cost around $6,000. But I'll probably be given a more accurate guess by the hvac guy who comes out today.


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