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Old 04-16-2013, 04:53 PM   #1
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Heating affecting plumbing...for real


I live in a 4 year old 3 storey (2 storeys plus an above ground basement) 1800 sq ft house in So California. The water is heated by a propane driven tankless water heater in the basement. The house heating is electrically powered.

Something happened about 6 months ago. Out of the blue one of the 2 sink basins in the master bathroom started making a noise, only when the heating came on. The noise is similar to a bubbling liquid as if I'm making soup on a stove. But it's amplified x a gazillion as it is coming from the drain in the sink. Last week I noticed that this same sink was also becoming blocked as it was taking a long time to drain. Yesterday I took out the J-Bend etc under the sink and cleaned the whole lot out. Boy...it really was blocked. Anyhow, I put it all back together and now the "bubbling" noise is even worse. I guess the gunk in the sink drain was insulating a lot of the noise. But now it's all cleaned out, it's unbearable. Like I say, it only happens when the heating comes on. But I'm confused because those systems are completely separate.

The noise also happens if the J-Bend is disconnected from the bottom of the sink drain. The noise comes out of the J-Bend. I put my hand over the top of the J-Bend and it was almost like a weak vacuum was pulsing every second or so. I could feel a very slight pulsing suction against the palm of my hand. If I put my hand completely over the top of the J-Bend pipe to make an airtight seal, the noise stops.

Can anyone help prevent a middle age man from going crazy?
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Old 04-16-2013, 05:37 PM   #2
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Heating affecting plumbing...for real


Your saying when your forced air furnace comes on your getting sucking noise out of your sink?

If you have a floor drain by your furnace try filling it with water.
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Old 04-16-2013, 06:34 PM   #3
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Your saying when your forced air furnace comes on your getting sucking noise out of your sink?

If you have a floor drain by your furnace try filling it with water.
Now that you mention it I remember this as the last instruction from my HVAC installer 29 years ago. "During the winter months occasionally add about a cup of water to the drain trap. "

Thanks for the reminder as I forgot this year and probably last winter also.
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Old 04-16-2013, 08:18 PM   #4
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Heating affecting plumbing...for real


How are the HVAC condensate pipes ran? Are any directly connected to a drain such as a sink tailpiece?
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Old 04-16-2013, 10:42 PM   #5
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Heating affecting plumbing...for real


Thanks guys, so I figured out that I have a furnace in the basement for the lower floor of the house and a furnace in the attic for the upstairs. The sucking noise happens when the upstairs furnace comes on.

Ghostmaker/anyone, how do I fill my floor drain with water? The furnace has 2 PVC pipes coming out the one end (see "pipes in bottom right corner".jpg and "pipes as they come out of the furnace.jpg" attached). Both pipes run in a vertical access next to each other until they reach the attic floor (about 2 ft in total) where they go through a 90 deg and head off in different directions horizontally. One of these pipes has a trap as soon as it comes out of the 90 deg (see "1 pipe has a trap in it.jpg" attached). After the trap the pipe is straight and there is no recognizable break in the pipe and it keeps going toward the crevice corner of my attic.

Looking for any help you can give me...really appreciate it.

PS. I think you have to mouse hover over the pictures to get the file name.
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Heating affecting plumbing...for real-1-pipe-has-trap-.jpg   Heating affecting plumbing...for real-pipes-they-come-out-furnace.jpg   Heating affecting plumbing...for real-pipes-bottom-right-corner.jpg  
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Old 04-16-2013, 11:27 PM   #6
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Heating affecting plumbing...for real


Pour a pitcher of water down the floor drain.
do you know where the Condensate pipes terminate?
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Old 04-17-2013, 04:14 PM   #7
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Hi EPlumber,

Where's the floor drain? Where do I pour the water? All I see (same as you see in the photos) is my furnace with those 2 pipes coming out of it. I don't see any place to pour water into something.

1 of the pipes (the one with the trap) runs off to the deepest depths of the attic. I can't get over that part of the attic because of the slant of the house roof. I haven't followed the pipe that does not have a trap.

Any advice???
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Old 04-17-2013, 04:58 PM   #8
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Heating affecting plumbing...for real


Both PVC lines in the lower right are drain lines. The lower line is the primary drain and the upper is a safety over flow line if the primary should become clogged.

Evidently the primary isn't clogged or you wouldn't be getting air introduced into the sewer drain system. To solve your problem run the system in the cooling mode for awhile to replace the water in the trap. That is if there is no place to pour water other than removing a panel from the unit and pouring it in the drain pan.

So where does the upper overflow line that seemingly doesn't have a trap terminate. Possibly outdoors.
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Old 04-17-2013, 05:04 PM   #9
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Heating affecting plumbing...for real


Fairview, when you say run the system in cooling mode, how do I do that? Do I just put the upstairs thermostat switch (located in my upstairs hallway) to Cool and then set the desired temperature low? I thought this would just run my air conditioner which I thought was a separate system (I have 2 air conditioners located outside the house in the backyard, 1 for upstairs and 1 for downstairs). Is this furnace system connected to the air conditioning system?

Sorry to ask such dumb questions.
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Old 04-17-2013, 05:12 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by welshie123 View Post
Fairview, when you say run the system in cooling mode, how do I do that? Do I just put the upstairs thermostat switch (located in my upstairs hallway) to Cool and then set the desired temperature low? I thought this would just run my air conditioner which I thought was a separate system (I have 2 air conditioners located outside the house in the backyard, 1 for upstairs and 1 for downstairs). Is this furnace system connected to the air conditioning system?

Sorry to ask such dumb questions.
QUOTE: Is this furnace system connected to the air conditioning system?

Yes, that's common. The outdoor units are the AC condensers .
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Old 04-17-2013, 05:15 PM   #11
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Heating affecting plumbing...for real


OK, thanks. So just run the system in cool to get some moisture back into the trap? Also this evening (I'm on PST) I'll see if I can see a way to pour water in the floor drain.

Thanks everyone for your help, really appreciate it. Fingers crossed for this evening.
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Old 04-17-2013, 09:51 PM   #12
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Heating affecting plumbing...for real


take a small plastic soda bottle and remove the fan access panel pour it into the condensate pan to cycle the trap...and seal the unit fan from sucking air thru the pipes..
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Old 04-18-2013, 08:35 AM   #13
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Heating affecting plumbing...for real


The upper drain is supposed to go to a "conspicuous point of disposal" such as over a window, to the exterior of course.
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Old 04-18-2013, 09:45 AM   #14
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Hi All,

Quick update. Last night I went back into the attic to see if I could find a way of adding water to the floor drain pipe. I couldn't find a way. I took one of the panels off the furnace and behind it was what looked like a condenser. Basically a panel with a lot of copper piping that seemed to be serpentining. This panel was inserted in the furnace housing at a 45deg angle and at the bottom point was where the 2 pipes (in earlier pictures) entered the furnace housing.

As for the 2 pipes in the earlier pictures. The pipe with the trap in it heads to the east side of the house in the direction of the bathroom where the sink is making the noise. The other pipe heads to the west side of the house. Both pipes get lost under attic insulation so I cannot confirm where they terminate. However, I am 99% confident that the pipe with the trap is terminating below the sink that is making a noise.

So, back to my dilemma. I just need to figure out how to put some water into the floor drain pipe (the one with the trap). As I mentioned, I opened the furnace up yesterday by taking off a single panel but couldn't see any obvious location where I could fill water. The 2 pipes that come out of the unit have no break point in them for filling water.

My question is, how can I fill this with water to stop the noise? Biggles, you mentioned the fan access panel. Problem is, I'm a layman and am trying to figure this out as I go along.

Any advice guys? I really feel I've learned alot about this system from these posts and follow up investigation. I now know that all I need to do is get some water into the drain so I'd be really disappointed if I had to call an HVAC Engineer at this point.
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Old 04-18-2013, 10:53 AM   #15
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Heating affecting plumbing...for real


Now that you've elected not to put the unit in the cooling mode and let run for awhile to fill the trap let's take a look at this from a different approach.

Look at the picture, although components are arranged different than yours, and you'll see near the top a part named evaporator coil. That's what you are seeing with the panel off. In the cooling mode this coil will condense water and fill the pan, that's below it, up to the lower drain pipe level. Those drain pipes are labeled in the pic and have the same function as the two PVC pipes you provided in picture.

So now that you have removed the panel just fill the pan beneath the slant evaporator coil with water, and continue filling until you feel the amount is correct to fill the trap in the lower drain pipe and stop that silly noise you hear.

The lower pipe, that is the primary drain, is connected to your sewer system via the lavatory drain pipe. The upper drain pipe is a safety drain in case the primary gets plugged. Its purpose is to keep you from replacing ceiling drywall etc. It is to be terminated in a conspicuous location so you possibly see it dripping and take action to service the primary drain that has become plugged for some reason.

I have no idea where a floor drain comes into play unless the secondary drain pipe drains to one somewhere.
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Last edited by Fairview; 04-18-2013 at 10:56 AM.
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