Heat recovery ventilator fire observed by Roger Hankey April 2014 © Roger Hankey, Daniel Friedman Heat Recovery Ventilator Fire Report
Clogged air filter -> HRV damage

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Heat recovery ventilator field report of a fire: this article describes a field observation of a fire-damaged heat recovery ventilator unit found by Minnesota home inspector Roger Hankey. The inspection suggests that the root cause of the fire at this HRV was the collapse of an air filter that was drawn into the fan assembly. Remarkably the home owner's report that the heat recovery ventilator was in working order suggests that the hazard and equipment failure had remained un-discovered for a long time.

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Field report of Heat Recovery Ventilator HRV Fire / Overheat Damage

Mr. Hankey notes: The home seller's disclosure indicated the HRV was in working condition. Our field observation found that this was not the case. [Click to enlarge any image]

Heat recovery ventilator fire observed by Roger Hankey April 2014 © Roger Hankey, Daniel Friedman Heat recovery ventilator fire observed by Roger Hankey April 2014 © Roger Hankey, Daniel Friedman

This was a VanEE heat recovery ventilation unit built & installed circa 1987. That dates this device as having been manufactured before the units made in 1991-2001 and cited in the HEAT RECOVERY VENTILATOR RECALL.

There you will read that Venmar made heat recovery ventilator systems that were sold under multiple brand names besides VanEE, including Venmar, Broan - Guardian, Conformax, Nutone, Bryant Carrier - Standard, Carrier, Bryant - Payne Day & Night, Heil, Sears, York, Rudd Protech - Weatherking, and Rheem. Note that since not every HRV sold by those companies is subject to the recall, you'll want to check the article cited above.

Notice clogged collapsed intake filter (photo above right). I attribute the motor burn out to the clogged filter. (DIRTY AIR FILTER PROBLEMS) In any event, the inspection report recommendation was for correction by a qualified HVAC firm.

I unplugged the power cord even though no heat was present at time of inspection.

Watch out: If you have one of the Venmar Heat Recovery Ventilator models listed at HEAT RECOVERY VENTILATOR RECALL., turn off the equipment and unplug it.

Watch out also: for a collapsing or collapsed or improperly-sized or supported air filter in any heat recovery ventilator or other air handling equipment. An improperly-installed or designed air filter that collapses and becomes drawn into the blower assembly can cause the motor to overheat and may cause a building fire. These hazards are present in any HVAC system that incorporates a blower fan and air filter in a position where a failed or damaged filter or other object could be drawn into moving parts such as the fan assembly.

Roger Hankey is principal of Hankey and Brown home inspectors, Eden Prairie, MN. Mr. Hankey is a past chairman of the ASHI Standards Committee. Mr. Hankey has served in other ASHI professional and leadership roles. Contact Roger Hankey at: 952 829-0044 - rhankey@hankeyandbrown.com. Mr. Hankey is a frequent contributor to InspectAPedia.com.

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HEAT RECOVERY VENTILATOR FIRE at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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