Think your house is haunted?

Posted by on Nov 11, 2011 in Inspection Stories | 3 comments

Think your house is haunted?

Last week I found something my clients were very happy I identified during a home inspection in Olympia.  The home was  large, beautifully built and well maintained. By the time I was finished inspecting the exterior, roof and entire first floor there were only a few findings to report.

On the ceiling of the second floor there was a large powerful exhaust fan which directed air from inside the home up into the attic. I turned the fan on, the louvers opened and the fan began to blow into the attic. In eight+ years of full time inspecting here in Olympia I have only come across two of these fans. Dangerous house fan in Olympia

The intent of the fan is to pull warm air up and out of the home on hot summer days and nights. The unintended effect can cause flu-like symptoms, toxicity of the central nervous system, the belief the home is haunted and perhaps worse to the occupants of the home. I don’t make a statement like that lightly.

When the fan is activated large amounts of air are pulled into the attic. The air that is forced up must be taken from the home. The air taken out of the home must be replaced with more air. This air will be sucked from the openings in the home with the least resistance. In this home, one of those openings was down the flues from the two gas water heaters.

Once the fan was running I placed a mirror next to the draft hood on top of the water heater. The mirror immediately fogged with moisture, a bi-products of combustion. Another bi-product is carbon monoxide, a toxic colorless, tasteless, odorless gas. Both water heaters were venting all their combustion gasses into the home, effectively turning it into a toxic gas chamber.

Back drafting water heater in Olympia

Back drafting water heater in Olympia

I strongly recommended that the fan be removed for safety. These fans can cause issues for occupants even in houses that have no gas appliances. Rather than the “make-up air” coming down a flue pipe it can be drawn from the sub-crawl area through holes in the floor, around plumbing pipes, wiring and and other openings. This moist air may contain mold spores, fiberglass dust from insulation and other contaminates from below. If you have one of these fans in your home I recommend you remove it.

Haunted house information from Wikipedia:

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Many of the phenomena generally associated with haunted houses, including strange visions and sounds and feelings of dread, can be attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning, as its symptoms include confusion, delirium, emotional disturbances, and hallucinations.[5][6] In one famous case, carbon monoxide poisoning was clearly identified as the cause of an alleged haunting. Dr. William Wilmer, an ophthalmologist, described the experiences of one of his patients in a 1921 article published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology. “Mr. and Mrs. H.” moved into a new home, but soon began to complain of headaches and fatigue. They began to think they were hearing bells and footsteps during the night, accompanied by strange physical sensations and sightings of mysterious figures. When they began to investigate the symptoms, they discovered the previous residents of the house had similar experiences. An examination of their furnace found it to be severely damaged, resulting in incomplete combustion and forcing most of the fumes, including carbon monoxide, into the house rather than up the chimney.[7]

A report published in 2005 described a 23-year old female victim of carbon monoxide poisoning, found delirious and hyperventilating, who thought she saw a ghost while in the shower. A new gas water heater had just been improperly installed in her home, which flooded the house with carbon monoxide when the victim closed all the exterior windows and doors and took a shower.[6]




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