Finding good ideas gone wrong is nearly a daily experience for the home inspector
I often kid that I know enough about something to be dangerous. There are times while looking through a house that it seems that those who should know don’t know what they should know with potentially dangerous results.
A basic and it seems from my perspective an often over looked requirement for heating equipment is the need for combustion / dilution air. Particularly with oil fired systems, which I see many of in Connecticut. Simply, when something, whether it be a scrap of paper or oil in a heating system is burned, it needs air for the combustion to work. If you place a glass over the burning paper it goes out. If you enclose a heating system is a small room without ventilation, it may not operate or it will function very inefficiently.
The answer for the heating system is to provide a direct source of air for the burner. Ideally and in most instances that air should come from the exterior.
During a recent inspection of a house built around 1980, I found the oil fired boiler installed in a small mechanical room accessible through a door from the garage. The door was open and appeared to have been left that way by the homeowner for some time judging from the amount of stuff in and around it. What almost immediately grabbed my attention were the two vents cut into the door. Seems the installer of the boiler, it was not the original unit, had known the small mechanical room would not provide the necessary air for the boiler to operate efficiently. What he did not appear know or perhaps chose to ignore (although I would like to believe it was ignorance) was the fact that the make up air in this instance can not come from the garage. Further the door that was cut is a required fire resistant door.
Interestingly the very next day I found a somewhat similar situation in a house of the very same building type. This house was older, built around 1967. The boiler was in the garage. Once again the system was not original (thankfully), and the installer had been aware of the need for combustion air. This time the air was coming directly from the exterior through a pipe mounted onto the burner. Better. However, the burner itself was at the floor. Installation requirements are that the burner should be no less than 18 inches above the floor. Being that this is a newer installation and it appears there is room to accomplish that that requirement, it begs the question, why wasn’t the boiler raised? The direct air intake appears to be an attempt to make the install compliant.
Once again good intentions gone awry. Repairs will be needed by qualified persons in both situations.