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Old 08-25-2012, 07:48 AM   #1
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unfinished basement comfort


Hi all,

We live in Montreal where it gets very hot in the summer 35C/95F with humidex on top and very cold in the winter -20C/-5F with wind chill.

Our house was built in 1960. There is no house wrap. There is no insulation in the walls. Bricks, tar paper, wood clapboard insulation and gyp rock. It's a semi detatched split with 4 floors.

We just bought it this May. We have an old 120K BTU oil fired furnace and a 1 year old heat pump. The basement is unfinished. One long cement wall is shared with the neighbour. The front and back are exterior walls with windows. the other long wall is part wood above crawl space and part cement. The crawl space has a vapour barrier.

There are 2 returns. One on the ground level (half floor) and one on the main floor. I noticed that there was suction to the basement when closing the door, so I added a vent to the basement door to improve air flow down to the basement where it was sucking from.

The blower in the furnace is fairly new, a direct drive model. It is very powerful. The air coming our of the vents is quite noisy (wooshing sounds).

In the basement we have a few vents on the ceiling. Note the basement ceiling is 10 feet high. The basement has been very damp for our first summer. I recently got a 75 pint dehumidifier and I am emptying it 2x a day (not sure how many pints in a tank...but it's pretty close to full most of the time). It really does make the space more comfortable. My dehumidifier has a pumpo which I will connect, but first I wanted to be able to measure the qty of water.

The basement is 45 feet long and about 25 feet wide. the last 15 feet has a supporting brick wall which makes 2 alcoves. The furnace is in the corner of one alcove with the electric hot water tank and huge (900 liter) oil tank. No doors to the alcoves.

Since the basement is unfinished I can do what I like to make it more comfortable and energy efficient.

Should I bring those vents down to ground level?
Should I add a return? if yes, where? floor?
Obviously insulating the 2 exterior walls will help. is it necessary for the connecting wall and crawl space?
What else should I do (until I am ready to finish the space)?

Thanks in advance for all suggestions.
Cheers!
terry

PS: The reason for the powerful fan is to get the air from one corner of the house here the furance is, to the furthest bedroom (mine!). The main vent has to be 60-70 feet long, with various exits for the many rooms, etc. The air coming out of the vent in my bedroom is decent quantity, although it loses alot of it's heat/cooling along the way. I have insulated part of it which runs thru the garage.

Note my bedroom has 3 exterior walls and is above the garage. We do notice that it is the warmest room in the house this summer (our first summer) and I suspect it will be the coldest in the winter. Any recommendations?


Last edited by tls1; 08-25-2012 at 07:54 AM.
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Old 08-25-2012, 08:23 AM   #2
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Depending of what type of registers are in the basement. You may be able to just get ones that throw the air down for heating. Instead of trying to run the supplies lower to the floor.

Is the garage ceiling insulated? If not, insulate it, that will help your bedroom a lot. Also make sure all joints in the duct work(at least in the garage) are sealed. Did you insulate all of the duct in the garage, if not do so.

Don't add a return to the basement as long as any part of it is open to the furnace area. or it could draw fumes from the furnace. Is your water heater electric or oil.

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Old 08-25-2012, 08:33 AM   #3
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The registers in the basement ceiling are you typical louvre ceiling models. 4 x10. One is missing. Not sure if they can "throw" the air to the floor 10 feet below.

the garage ceiling has gyprock and stucco type stuff. I think there is a little insulation above and I was drilling a hole in the ceiling and when I pulled the drill out there was some beige fluff on the drill bit.

Also in the garage I have insulated the exposed portion of the duckwork with styrofoam. But most of it is inside a bulk head that runs the length of the garage (and no isulation inside the bulkhead as far as I can tell ...there is a small square cut out).

The hot water tank is electric. I know that the return can suck in fumes so it cannot be close to the furnace. However the space is 45 feet by 25 feet... I could put it way at the other end... reminder the furnace is sucking alot of air from the basement itself (it used to suck the door shut until I added a vent to the door, 10" x 17"). So it is probably pulling fumes if any exist!

It would be very difficult to add a return at the upper levels without substantial damage. that is why I ask about the basement.

cheers!
Terry
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Old 08-25-2012, 08:59 AM   #4
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An oil furnaces uses roughly 33CFM to burn 1 gallon of oil. That comes out to 1980 cubic foot of air an hour of run time through the burner. Plus you have the air that is drawn through the barometric damper to control the draft in the furnace. So your better off sealing the alcoves off, and providing an outside combustion air intake. This will help keep the basement warmer in winter, and drier in summer.

Adding return to the basement will increase the humidity in the basement unless you make a larger return hole in the basement door. having more return in the basement then you have supply causes teh basement to suck air from where ever it can get it. And often that means outside air is drawn in. Which is what you don't want to happen.

Hart&Cooley has 4X10 registers that can throw the air down to the floor.

Styrofoam should not be left exposed in a vertical position, as it burns easily that way and gives off toxic vapors.
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Old 08-25-2012, 09:21 AM   #5
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Hi,

Thanks for the info!

I will investigate closing off the furnace alcove.

The foam sheet I put to insulate is not styrofoam per say. Its some sort of sheet of foam with aluminum foil on one side and plastic on the other. I could not see the make/model. It's only 4 foot run that I insulated that was exposed and only in the garage. I believe it's normally used to retrofit thin walls.

An "outside combustion air intake", could you elaborate?

thanks!
terry
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Old 08-25-2012, 09:47 AM   #6
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Often just a 6" pipe that goes threw the outside wall. Its often ran low to the floor of the furnace room. Terminated in plastic bucket, or curved back up(line a J) to prevent cold air from constantly pouring in.

When the furnace runs, the intake allows outside air to be pulled in and used to burn the oil. instead of air you already paid to heat.
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Old 08-25-2012, 09:58 AM   #7
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Famous last words ... doesn't sound too complicated.

So we drill a 6" hole in the cement wall. Get some 6" diameter tin piping with various elbows, etc. Or maybe a dryer vent hose? Note that the furnace is below ground so this pipe will enter the house above ground, then curve down to the basement floor, run along side the furnace to the location of burner and then turn upwards in front of the burner. Is that correct?

Do we need some sort of valve to close in the summer? Or a regulator valve?

And this thing will not let cold air into the house? is it because hot air rises? Since it's cold it will hang low? is that correct?

Also, I'd like to better understand why sealing the furance in it's own room is better for humidity and control ? especially in the summer when we do not heat. I do understand from a safety and air quality point of view.

thanks again!
terry
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Old 08-25-2012, 10:10 AM   #8
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Doesn't need to run to the burner. it can come straight down the wall, curve back up and stop there. Since the cold air coming in is heavier then the warm air already in the room, it stays in the pipe. No valve or regulator needed.

The barometric damper leaves air go up through the chimney winter and summer. So it causes outside air to be drawn into the house. Sealing the furnace room from the rest of the basement prevents the higher temp higher humidity air from being drawn into the house/basement.
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Old 08-25-2012, 10:29 AM   #9
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Hi,

The barometric damper is the swinging door on the exhaust of the furnace? And furnace running or not air is sucked in thru this door and up the chimney? Cool!

I suppose it's necessary when the furnace is running to ensure the smoke gets pulled up and out.

I'm curious just how much air is pulled into the house from the damper?

Is it possible to close this thing to perform a test to see if it makes a difference in summer?

Cheers!
Terry

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Old 08-25-2012, 01:00 PM   #10
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How much can vary by wind direction and speed, along with the outside temp and the inside temp. So no one set amount. Could be 1CFM at one time and 70CFM at another time in the same day. Sealing it will help some, but air is also drawn through the burner itself.
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Old 08-25-2012, 01:30 PM   #11
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If you close off the furnace room and install an outside fresh air intake then make sure you terminate away from the burner..this will allow fresh air to warm up a little and prevent excessively cold air causing possible condensation problems on the burner flame sensor etc. Also make sure you don;t have any water piping in the room as it may freeze when outside temps are extremely cold....or you may have to insulate any that may be there. I have oil fired furnace and never had that much suction from the basement. you may already have a return in the basement or your return duct has isn't that tight. If you install AC then you should definitely have a return air in the basement in order to gain proper air circulation throughout the house. This is a MUST in multi storey dwellings. Should also run circulating fan on continuous low speed if using AC. to ensure even distribution of air and prevent "stratification of temps between floors... This would be automatically controlled via the AC mode of the thermostat. This mode of operation would also be very helpful during heating mode to even out the temps. Hope this helps.
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Old 08-25-2012, 02:34 PM   #12
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He has an oil furnace, so there is no flame sensor.

I have a story and a half, and no return in the basement, its not needed.
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Old 08-25-2012, 04:26 PM   #13
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He has no pilot..direct ignition...but without knowing make model year etc., may have an IR flame detection sensor..OR other electronics that may be adversely affected by the condensation created by the cold combustion air being too close to the burner..all I am saying is that the termination point for the fresh air intake is better off ...away from the burner and controls. Also I think he said he has a multi level homewhich requitres more asir circulation ESPECIALLY if AC is on. i.e., cold air is heavier than warm air therefore, the cold air supplied to the basement will over cool the basement unless it can be circulated throughout the system hence the requirement for the return air in the basement and the continuous fan operation...without these two, he would lend up with too cold (freezing) in basement, wild swings on main level ..too hot on upper floors and an erratic AC on - off situation Return and continuous fan willl prevent the stratification and provide more even temps throughout. AND minimal cost to implement!
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Old 08-25-2012, 04:45 PM   #14
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it's a split level house with 4 half floors. And we have a heat pump with AC.

we have a Lincoln brand oil fired furnace, oldest sticker on the machine says "S Albert". unknown age. unknown way to ignite.

the electric hot water tank is within a few feet of the furnace and there are lots of pipes in this area right under the kitchen sink.

we can put the furnace fan on with the flick of a switch. Its a multispeed fan (3 I believe) but hard wired for fastest speed whenever on. I can turn it on via a switch on the main thermostat. It would be great to have it at low speed when the AC compressor off, high when ac compressor off, and maybe med speed when heating but thats a totally different discussion.

I certainly would not want the room to drop to freezing...

cheers!
Terry
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Old 08-25-2012, 07:05 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by techpappy View Post
He has no pilot..direct ignition...but without knowing make model year etc., may have an IR flame detection sensor..OR other electronics that may be adversely affected by the condensation created by the cold combustion air being too close to the burner..all I am saying is that the termination point for the fresh air intake is better off ...away from the burner and controls. Also I think he said he has a multi level homewhich requitres more asir circulation ESPECIALLY if AC is on. i.e., cold air is heavier than warm air therefore, the cold air supplied to the basement will over cool the basement unless it can be circulated throughout the system hence the requirement for the return air in the basement and the continuous fan operation...without these two, he would lend up with too cold (freezing) in basement, wild swings on main level ..too hot on upper floors and an erratic AC on - off situation Return and continuous fan willl prevent the stratification and provide more even temps throughout. AND minimal cost to implement!
No residential oil burner uses an IR flame detection safety.

Won't be any condensation from the cold air in or on the burner controls, as they will be warmer then the combustion air.

The J hook will prevent the cold air from just dumping into the room when the burner isn't on. When it is on, its no different then an oil burner in an unconditioned crawlspace.

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