Is there a quick and easy way to calculate how many cubic feet of combustion air a natural gas furnace in a room needs? This is assuming all the combustion air comes from that room. I know I’m not supposed to be out there making calculations like this. The reason I ask is every once in a while I run across a furnace in a room with out a source of combustion air (no flues or louvers in the doors). I need a rule of thumb to calculate this and help me decide If I need to write it up for a HVAC professional to assess and correct.
I’ve looked all over the Internet and I get conflicting information.
There are no formulas that cover all situations as our houses are now as loose as sieves to as tight as sealed plastic baggies. Most of the trade HVAC stuff is behind the times in this regard and are based on “good guesses” from when houses were less complicated. I have consulted and trained on this stuff many times including a furnace manufacturer having me in to speak to a class of 22 oil burner mechanics “in training” and their instructor .
There are tests using micromanometers or sensitive magnahelic gauges that should be performed to determine if certain levels of depressurization will occur in the furnace room/area during certain house events. Higher depressurization levels than determined “safe” for each type of appliance puts them at risk of combustion gas spillage into the home!!!
The best system now is the “sealed combustion”/“direct vent” / “balanced flue” in which the furnace/boiler + exhaust system are sealed and exhuast is power vented by positive pressure. The system has a dedicated air supply from the exterior to the burner.
Can’t go just by unconfined space. Especially if there are clothes dryers in the basement. Testing of the draft with a draft meter while all exhaust fans or clothes dryers are operating is a test , IMHO, that should be conducted to determine if sufficient combustion air is present.
I have to agree with you on this one…hard to believe, HUH!
If you have noticed that the mechanical area(s) in question has no designed combustion air openings, note that in your report. If/when you start trying to design or quantify the necessary amount (trying to be helpful to your Client) needed, you have “STEPPED IN IT”, “CROSSED THE LINE”, ETC.
We hear it all the time, stick to what you know, what you can prove, leave the guessing to others.
I note the problem and defer it to a licensed and insured HVAC contractor (this passing on the liability).
I have run across many city code inspectors who OK it, and the contractor feels that they don’t have to fix it (or, they get their own HVAC, the guy who installed the thing in the first place to OK it).
In such cases, I recommend that the client gets a signed, letterhead (with license number and insurance cert) from the codie or the HVAC contractor stating that it is OK. Some times, I go back (new construction) and re-check for backdrafting and get CO readings during normal usage. Many times, I get high CO readings. Then I have the client (and their lawyer) call the HVAC guy (the codies NEVER put in writing or sign anything!) and have him come out and fix it, on his dime.
BTW: The local gas utility (People’s Energy) puts on a 12 hour (2 day, 6 hour lab) course for HIs to teach them this stuff. We all get the VP of operations personal cell phone number and are urged to call him, anytime, if we see something that is funky. I have done this, many times, and the PE guy agreed with me. Three times (new construction) he has turned off the gas to the building (condos) until the combustion air problem is fixed. It’s nice to have that jind of backup.
So there’s all these great numbers and codes being thrown around. Can I use the same numbers at sea level and 10,000 ft above sea level? Do I need to derate the fuel gas? Do I need more combustible air at higher altitude and if so how much? Does one calculation fit all?