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Thread: House spray in foam insulation question

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    Senior Member Jeff in TX's Avatar
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    House spray in foam insulation question

    The framing on the new house at the ranch is coming a long nicely and should be done by the end of the week. We're doing spray in foam insulation for the walls and attic. I have a question??? The guy doing the house framing said if I could swing it to get the person spraying in the foam in the attic to do both attic floor joist as well as the the roof rafters. It sounds like a great idea, but does it cause unforeseen issues, such as negative pressures or dead air space or anything thing else that I don't know what I'm talking about. Just terms folks have thrown at me.

    Thanks everyone!

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    Senior Member Fisheadgib's Avatar
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Your attic is ventilated so there's no issue there about pressures and I've been told that spraying the rafters works so well that spraying on top of the joists isn't necessary. I can't see where it would hurt though as it would strengthen the structure and add a little more r factor regardless. The only drawback I can see is minor in that it makes it a little tougher to run or change wiring for phones, alarms, cable, ect.
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    Senior Member JerryBobCo's Avatar
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    We have it in our house, and so far no problems. The house is new, though, so I can't comment on long term results.
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    Senior Member breamfisher's Avatar
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    All most, if not all, of the issues I've heard of with spray foam are related to improper installation. Like anything else, get someone who knows what they're doing and you should be fine.
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    My parents have a cape cod with no attic space. It is about 8" of space between the ceilings and the roof. Only way to insulate it was to spray insulation in there. The stuff they spray in there is different than spray foam, and it is breathable.
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    Senior Member jbp-ohio's Avatar
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    You should be ok where you're at. If you lived where it snows, you should leave an air space under roof sheathing to prevent ice dams (the snow acts as insulation and it only melts where it contacts the roof, then the water runs down beneath the snow to the unheated eves and refreezes). They make foam baffles you can staple to the underside of the sheathing, then you spray onto them......

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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Typically attics that have spray foam insulation are not ventilated and this can cause major issues with the HVAC system down the road. With today's tighter construction proper ventilation is a must. Otherwise VOC's (volatile chemicals that many products in a home off-gas) get trapped in the house, trapped in the HVAC system, can cause health issues and will literally eat your HVAC heat exchangers and cause premature equipment failure. I am a technical service advisor for a major HVAC mfg. and this is a major issue the industry is dealing with now. It is not enough to simply bring some fresh air into the house, you must also exhaust the stale air from your house. This has only become an issue in the last 10-15 years as building practices have changed with the growing popularity of spray foam insulation.

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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff in TX View Post
    The framing on the new house at the ranch is coming a long nicely and should be done by the end of the week. We're doing spray in foam insulation for the walls and attic. I have a question??? The guy doing the house framing said if I could swing it to get the person spraying in the foam in the attic to do both attic floor joist as well as the the roof rafters. It sounds like a great idea, but does it cause unforeseen issues, such as negative pressures or dead air space or anything thing else that I don't know what I'm talking about. Just terms folks have thrown at me.

    Thanks everyone!
    For the vertical walls cellulose is a less expensive and also a solid insulation with VOC's (off gassing). In the attic space it is not necessary to spray foam on the rafters as well as the joists as the insulation is the "barrier" between occupied and unoccupied spaces. Also, high humidity in your neck of the woods and ventilation of the attic space is critical especially if you experience low winter temperatures. Owens/Corning makes an "insulation gasket" that is used on the window sills, it is pink of course, but if installed at the top of your interior walls against the top plate between the top plate and sheetrock you effectively prevent air movement from the attic down the uninsulated interior walls. Works well and is affordable. 40 years in HVAC and certified energy specialist before retiring. Homes today tend to become "sick" from poor infiltration due to tight building requirements so plan accordingly. Also, two stage A/C works best for high humidity and even better a variable speed condensing unit combined with a variable speed indoor blower (fan). IT IS A MUST THE DUCTING IS SIZED ACCORDINGLY AS VARIABLE SPEED INDOOR BLOWERS DO NOT LIKE HIGH STATIC AIR RESISTENCE. SIZE DOES MATTER HERE!. Also, if ducting is installed in the attic space make sure to put it UNDER the insulation if you blow insulation into your attic.

    Patrick

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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    But even better than 2 stage is inverter technology. Frequency drive compressors and electronic expansion valves give true variable capacity, similar to the throttle on a car engine. 2 stage compressors are old technology, a single speed compressor with an unloader valve. The company I work for produces 19 speed compressors on the low end and upwards of 145 speeds on the high end. Our electronic expansion valves have 2,000 capacity settings and are computer controlled every 10 seconds to manage the load. Yes, even in an industry as hidebound as HVAC, technology marches on....
    (By the way, I have 25 years in the industry under my belt and expect to have another 20 years before I retire.)

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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Inverter Technology is terrific, if you have varying loads. Most homes are fairly static when it comes to A/C loads, except of course high humidity and mild temps (80-90) where humidity control is more important then indoor temperature. Calling two stage compressors obsolete is a bit premature, especially in dry climates such as California and Arizona. One speed when its 90 another when its 105 degrees. No need for the extra expense and complications of inverter compressors (complications being that most HVAC companies are borderline quality installers). Bottom line, research what fits best in your climate zone.

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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    I didn't call two stage compressors obsolete, just old. Colt 1911's are old technology, but they still work. Truth be told, inverter technology isn't new either. The rest of the world adopted it years ago, it is only "new" for the American HVAC industry. Unfortunately I do have to agree with your comment about most HVAC companies being borderline quality installers. Most of my job is as a technical instructor, teaching installers and service techs how to properly install and service our equipment. I am also one of the people who gets the call when things go wrong on a job site. Well over 90% of the time in those cases my investigation pinpoints the cause to be something the contractor did incorrectly. I am often asked what brand HVAC equipment is the best. My answer is that they are asking the wrong question. Choice of the HVAC contractor is much more important than the brand of equipment. The poorest quality equipment, installed correctly, will outlast and outperform the highest quality equipment that has been installed incorrectly.
    Deciding whether to go with conventional (single stage) equipment, two stage equipment or inverter technology is ultimately a cost vs. benefit decision that the end user will have to make, hopefully with enough information to make the right decision. The more advanced the technology, the higher upfront cost, but the lower cost to operate over time. There is no single right answer for every application, as you pointed out, different climates have different needs.

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    Senior Member Teach's Avatar
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Variable speed blower motors are the spawn of the devil- - - -horrendously expensive and notoriously unreliable. Our P O S new heat pump ices up the evaporator periodically, and it's always because the air handler blower quits turning. The previous unit had three blower speed control units replaced over its lifespan, at a cost of over $400.00 each. The new one finally resets itself if we turn the power off and wait several hours for all the ice to thaw out, but the heat and humidity makes us all miserable while the damned thing is deciding to work again. I'm at the point of demanding that my HVAC guy install an old fashioned single speed blower and eliminate the problem altogether. Apparently, cars aren't the only things that have gotten impossibly high tech trying to comply with stupid rules imposed by a bunch of meddling government bureaucrats!
    Jerry
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Quote Originally Posted by Teach View Post
    Variable speed blower motors are the spawn of the devil- - - -horrendously expensive and notoriously unreliable. Our P O S new heat pump ices up the evaporator periodically, and it's always because the air handler blower quits turning. The previous unit had three blower speed control units replaced over its lifespan, at a cost of over $400.00 each. The new one finally resets itself if we turn the power off and wait several hours for all the ice to thaw out, but the heat and humidity makes us all miserable while the damned thing is deciding to work again. I'm at the point of demanding that my HVAC guy install an old fashioned single speed blower and eliminate the problem altogether. Apparently, cars aren't the only things that have gotten impossibly high tech trying to comply with stupid rules imposed by a bunch of meddling government bureaucrats!
    Jerry
    Multiple issues can cause icing of the evap coil. Low air flow is a major culprit: Dirty air filters, undersized ductwork, 90% of homes tested by utility companies tested below proper sizing in homes built before 1995. (I can attest that this issue continued after 1995 in California before mandatory third party testing.) Under charged units. Again, before mandatory third party testing at start-up, 50% of all new/replacement systems were undercharged. Variable speed motors will last a long time on a properly installed system, I know, as the company I worked for and supervised have few VS fail since 2006 when I took over.

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    Senior Member cpj's Avatar
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Some large systems I "work" with (inspecting the smoke detectors in the ductwork) the blowers are variable speed, and have been for years. As well as the pumps moving the chill water through the pipees. All variable frequency drives, and they rarely have any issues.
    But then the difference in cooling a house, and a building that holds millions of bucks of equipment....probably a bit different.
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Quote Originally Posted by Teach View Post
    Variable speed blower motors are the spawn of the devil- - - -horrendously expensive and notoriously unreliable. Our P O S new heat pump ices up the evaporator periodically, and it's always because the air handler blower quits turning. The previous unit had three blower speed control units replaced over its lifespan, at a cost of over $400.00 each. The new one finally resets itself if we turn the power off and wait several hours for all the ice to thaw out, but the heat and humidity makes us all miserable while the damned thing is deciding to work again. I'm at the point of demanding that my HVAC guy install an old fashioned single speed blower and eliminate the problem altogether. Apparently, cars aren't the only things that have gotten impossibly high tech trying to comply with stupid rules imposed by a bunch of meddling government bureaucrats!
    Jerry
    If you don't mind me asking, what brand unit do you have? There is an issue that is widespread in the Southeast with a particular type of motor known as an X13 motor that is found in many brands of HVAC systems. It is a design issue that only rears its ugly head in high humidity areas with less than perfect power grids. The problem is largely unknown to the HVAC industry throughout most of the country because it only occurs in high humidity areas, but the Southeast and Gulf coast have been very hard hit. The motor mfg. lost their contract worth millions with Carrier Corp over this issue. The problem is not restricted to Carrier affiliated brands, the same motor was used by many different mfgs.

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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Quote Originally Posted by cpj View Post
    Some large systems I "work" with (inspecting the smoke detectors in the ductwork) the blowers are variable speed, and have been for years. As well as the pumps moving the chill water through the pipees. All variable frequency drives, and they rarely have any issues.
    But then the difference in cooling a house, and a building that holds millions of bucks of equipment....probably a bit different.
    The biggest difference between the two is usually the quality of the contractor involved. Large mechanical companies that deal with commercial applications generally invest more money in training their technicians and installers. Way too many residential contractors/technicians/installers have little to no formal training......and it really shows. They learned on the job from someone else who had little to no formal training, and they learned from someone else with little to no formal training.....yes, they learned a lot of good and useful things, but they also learned all the bad habits to go with it. I work in the commercial division of my company and deal with extremely advanced technology....I get the most grief from guys transitioning from the residential side who really don't know the basics of how refrigeration works. The guys who get it the most quickly have backgrounds in commercial refrigeration and chiller systems......they tend to be trained to a higher standard.

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    Senior Member cpj's Avatar
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Quote Originally Posted by 10canyon53 View Post
    The biggest difference between the two is usually the quality of the contractor involved. Large mechanical companies that deal with commercial applications generally invest more money in training their technicians and installers. Way too many residential contractors/technicians/installers have little to no formal training......and it really shows. They learned on the job from someone else who had little to no formal training, and they learned from someone else with little to no formal training.....yes, they learned a lot of good and useful things, but they also learned all the bad habits to go with it. I work in the commercial division of my company and deal with extremely advanced technology....I get the most grief from guys transitioning from the residential side who really don't know the basics of how refrigeration works. The guys who get it the most quickly have backgrounds in commercial refrigeration and chiller systems......they tend to be trained to a higher standard.
    That's been my experience. And typically there are the guys doing the "real work" (as the guys installing ducts and pipes say), then the guy with the computer comes in and makes the system dance. The guy with the laptop is my
    friend. I've shut down units testing the fire alarm, and had them not come back up like they should. In cooler months, that's not terrible. In summer months, bad stuff happens FAST when the air temp climbs. Phones start ringing and people get nervous. Had that happen recently, called the HVAC tech who hopped on his laptop, saw the issue and told me how to fix it. I saved him a two hour drive, and me two hours of hoping that I wouldn't be "that guy" for roasting equipment.
    Of course, with all that wonderful technology.....the "fix" was to power cycle the VFD. But, he was able to tell me where to hit it with the hammer, so to speak.
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    Senior Member snake284's Avatar
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Quote Originally Posted by jbp-ohio View Post
    You should be ok where you're at. If you lived where it snows, you should leave an air space under roof sheathing to prevent ice dams (the snow acts as insulation and it only melts where it contacts the roof, then the water runs down beneath the snow to the unheated eves and refreezes). They make foam baffles you can staple to the underside of the sheathing, then you spray onto them......

    Hahaha! I'm thinking Jeff lives in the Panhandle and it does snow there occasionally, well a lot more than it does here. I've been living in Calhoun County TX since 1955 when I was 7 years old and I've seen snow, or rather snow that stuck 5 whole times in that 62 years, so it wouldn't have to snow much to outdo the snow rate we have here. I'm thinking it might snow a little less in Hawaii.
    Last edited by snake284; 07-18-2017 at 05:38 PM.
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Quote Originally Posted by 10canyon53 View Post
    Typically attics that have spray foam insulation are not ventilated and this can cause major issues with the HVAC system down the road. With today's tighter construction proper ventilation is a must. Otherwise VOC's (volatile chemicals that many products in a home off-gas) get trapped in the house, trapped in the HVAC system, can cause health issues and will literally eat your HVAC heat exchangers and cause premature equipment failure. I am a technical service advisor for a major HVAC mfg. and this is a major issue the industry is dealing with now. It is not enough to simply bring some fresh air into the house, you must also exhaust the stale air from your house. This has only become an issue in the last 10-15 years as building practices have changed with the growing popularity of spray foam insulation.
    You mean it's become an issue we knew about in the last 10-15 years. It's probably been an issue since man first started living in dwellings. Ignorance is bliss so to speak. I'm a firm believer in ventilating your house when possible. The bad stuff tends to lurk in the shadows. I'm thinking a lot of cancer and other lung and even kidney and liver cancers and diseases might be caused from breathing stale air. Lots of bad guys build up in your house. I don't mind opening the doors now and then or a window or two. You can do it in the evening when the outside ambient temp has dropped off. Air the place out a couple times a week or even once a day. It doesn't hurt.
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    Senior Member Jeff in TX's Avatar
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    The new ranch house is 1900 sq feet with an additional 600 sq foot garage. The main great room will have a 15' vaulted ceiling with 10' ceilings throughout the house. I'm not sure what HVAC unit they're going to install. Any recommendations as well as size so they get this right the 1st time around. We typically get a couple good ice storms a year and summer temps average 105 with 50 to 70% humidity. The outside of the house will be stone with a metal roof. Hope that helps
    Last edited by Jeff in TX; 07-18-2017 at 06:48 PM.

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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    There are many more factors that need to be considered in order to select the proper equipment capacity. This would be done usually by the HVAC contractor or an engineer and will involve "Manual J" calculations. I don't know what code requires where you are, but here in Florida the HVAC contractor must submit the Manual J calculations in order to receive a permit. As long as the calculations are done correctly and the equipment size is matched to those calculations, you should be fine in that department. The next question is....does the guy designing the duct work know what he is doing?

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    Senior Member Jeff in TX's Avatar
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Quote Originally Posted by 10canyon53 View Post
    There are many more factors that need to be considered in order to select the proper equipment capacity. This would be done usually by the HVAC contractor or an engineer and will involve "Manual J" calculations. I don't know what code requires where you are, but here in Florida the HVAC contractor must submit the Manual J calculations in order to receive a permit. As long as the calculations are done correctly and the equipment size is matched to those calculations, you should be fine in that department. The next question is....does the guy designing the duct work know what he is doing?
    I'm in a very rural area here in North Texas and the county doesn't require permits. I'll check to see if they've done a Manual J calculation.

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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Quote Originally Posted by 10canyon53 View Post
    There are many more factors that need to be considered in order to select the proper equipment capacity. This would be done usually by the HVAC contractor or an engineer and will involve "Manual J" calculations. I don't know what code requires where you are, but here in Florida the HVAC contractor must submit the Manual J calculations in order to receive a permit. As long as the calculations are done correctly and the equipment size is matched to those calculations, you should be fine in that department. The next question is....does the guy designing the duct work know what he is doing?

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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Quote Originally Posted by 10canyon53 View Post
    If you don't mind me asking, what brand unit do you have?
    It's an Airtemp Model VT4DB, a 5 ton unit that was installed 3 years ago while I was laid up after my motorcycle wreck. It's out of commission right now- - - -the suction line was frozen up all the way back to the compressor, which means the evaporator is a solid block of ice that will take hours to thaw out. The guy who installed the unit added extra ductwork and more registers since he said the previous unit didn't have enough volume to work efficiently.

    The contractor who did the installation is fighting cancer and I hate to keep bugging him, but the blasted air handler goes TU about once a month! We do have multiple power outages, ranging from a few seconds to a few hours at a time.
    Jerry
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    When it freezes up, turn off A/C but keep indoor blower turned on at T-stat. This will defrost it quicker but you need to find out why its freezing up. Could be some insulation from ducting or air handler has gotten loose and is blocking the coil or the R/A duct has collapsed upon itself when the blower comes on. Just areas to check. Then you can move on to refrigerant charge... If ducting is accessible, attic...go up and have someone turn on the A/C or even just the blower and see if any part of the R/A seems to move or collapse, this will show you the problem area. Otherwise, access blower compartment and make sure squirrel cage doesn't have material reducing airflow stuck in it. This will help resolve any airflow issues. (I've even seen where old filters got sucked up into the return air duct and were lodged there for years before being removed.
    Last edited by pjames777; 07-19-2017 at 02:33 AM.

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    Senior Member Teach's Avatar
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    The indoor blower motor is the one that quits turning and causes the freeze-up. It's a chronic problem caused by the variable-speed end cap on the motor assembly going open circuit. If I wait for the block of ice to melt, turn off the breakers, and wait a few minutes, it resets itself. That one has been changed once, and so has the entire motor assembly- - - -speed control and all. I'm getting frustrated enough to turn the whole mess over to my lawyer, since the contractor isn't having any luck resolving the problem. He spends hours at a time on a tech support line, and all they can tell him to do is recycle the power.

    All the obvious stuff you described above has been checked- - - - -repeatedly. I built my first HVAC system, ductwork and all- - - -in the late 1960's.
    Jerry
    Last edited by Teach; 07-19-2017 at 03:07 AM.
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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Quote Originally Posted by Teach View Post
    It's an Airtemp Model VT4DB, a 5 ton unit that was installed 3 years ago while I was laid up after my motorcycle wreck. It's out of commission right now- - - -the suction line was frozen up all the way back to the compressor, which means the evaporator is a solid block of ice that will take hours to thaw out. The guy who installed the unit added extra ductwork and more registers since he said the previous unit didn't have enough volume to work efficiently.

    The contractor who did the installation is fighting cancer and I hate to keep bugging him, but the blasted air handler goes TU about once a month! We do have multiple power outages, ranging from a few seconds to a few hours at a time.
    Jerry
    Ok, two things....Airtemp is a private label brand for R.E. Michel, a medium size HVAC distributor, but not exactly an industry leader. I do not know if Airtemp uses the X13 motor. The equipment is manufactured by Fedders, an American company that was bought out by the Chinese and has been having struggles ever since. I am going to guess that it is not the X13 motor since that is manufactured in Mexico and the Airtemp/Fedders unit very likely uses a motor manufactured in China.
    Second thing...you mentioned multiple power outages. This is likely the cause of your troubles. Power outages come with surges and brown-outs, all of which play havoc with electronics. I strongly recommend you have your contractor (or an electrician) install something like this: http://www.icmcontrols.com/Digital-s...-Prodview.html
    I constantly teach the use of a similar product with the 3 phase commercial equipment and it is amazing how many problems mysteriously go away once they have been installed.
    Last edited by 10canyon53; 07-19-2017 at 04:31 AM.

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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Quote Originally Posted by Teach View Post
    The indoor blower motor is the one that quits turning and causes the freeze-up. It's a chronic problem caused by the variable-speed end cap on the motor assembly going open circuit. If I wait for the block of ice to melt, turn off the breakers, and wait a few minutes, it resets itself. That one has been changed once, and so has the entire motor assembly- - - -speed control and all. I'm getting frustrated enough to turn the whole mess over to my lawyer, since the contractor isn't having any luck resolving the problem. He spends hours at a time on a tech support line, and all they can tell him to do is recycle the power.

    All the obvious stuff you described above has been checked- - - - -repeatedly. I built my first HVAC system, ductwork and all- - - -in the late 1960's.
    Jerry
    Just trying to offer solutions to question asked. Obvious blurs at a distance and you'd be surprise how many times in 40 years of service that I found the "obvious" overlooked. Great suggestions posted here by multiple sources. One of them is the obvious answer. Good luck.

    Patrick

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    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Quote Originally Posted by 10canyon53 View Post
    I strongly recommend you have your contractor (or an electrician) install something like this
    Can you recommend a source for this item? I have a feeling I would need to do the installation myself since I have lost all faith in the abilities of my contractor. He's been struggling with the problem for over 3 years and making no progress whatsoever. Would it need to be installed in the power source to the air handler, or in the internal circuit that provides power to the blower motor? There are two disconnects at the inside evaporator/blower unit, one that provides power to the emergency heat strips, and another that powers the air handler. I assume (yes, I know what that makes me) that the surge monitor would only need to be in the circuit that powers the blower, right? Thanks!
    Jerry
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    141

    Re: House spray in foam insulation question

    Closest distributors I see to you would be in Huntsville. Here is a link to the manufacturer's website showing their local distributors. http://www.icmcontrols.com/find-distributor.asp A couple of issues you may run into: Most of these distributors are wholesale only, which means they will only sell to HVAC professionals, especially when it comes to electrical parts. You will have to contact them and see what their policies are.....sometimes policies are ignored at the local branch level however. Second issue, just because they are a distributor for the mfg. is no guarantee they will have the product in stock, they may have to order it. I know that United Refrigeration branches usually keep the 3 phase version in stock, but the single phase version (what you need), not as likely. Another option would be to look online. Personally, I would install one on the power supply to the air handler and one on the power supply to the outdoor unit. Just because you have not yet had any issues with the outdoor unit does not mean you couldn't. Don't be tempted to try to tie a single control into both, as those circuits must remain independent from each other for safety (they require two different size breakers). Should not need one on the power supply to the emergency heat strips since there are no electronics involved there. If you are comfortable wiring high voltage (208-230V) and are able to read a wiring diagram, installation should be pretty straight forward. If you don't have experience with high voltage (although from posts I have seen I suspect you do) then I would recommend having it done professionally.

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