Fake cold air return

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Discovered today with standard AC check that the house we recently purchase d has fake cold air returns. Vents are there (high on walls) but at floor l evel they are sealed shut with wood. Wondering if this has happened to anyo ne else and if inspection/old owners should have discovered/disclosed infor mation. Essentially, the second floor of our house has no AC. No issue with first floor/basement. Thanks
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On Wed, 4 Jun 2014 14:08:38 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Is the stairwell open?. If so, stairwell acts as the return.
Are your supply vents upstairs real?
When you look at the furnace, is there an intake duct going up to the 2nd floor? My second floor intake (aslo called "return") vent is right above my basement return vent, so it's easy to look at the furnace and see the duct going through the wall to the basement family room, and just before it gets to the wall, it merges with a a duct going up (to the second floor). If there WAS a duct, maybe they had a reason for closing it, a r eason that can be solved and the duct reopened.
Is it hot on the second floor? Are all the vents open? Maybe close one or two on the first floor or basement, to increase air pressure to the second floor, but I don't think that will be necessary if the stairwell is avaliable.
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On 6/4/2014 5:08 PM, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

the house we recently purchased has fake cold air returns. Vents are there (high on walls) but at floor level they are sealed shut with wood. Wondering if this has happened to anyone else and if inspection/old owners should have discovered/ disclosed information. Essentially, the second floor of our house has no AC. No issue with first floor/ basement.

I found some thing similar with a cold air return in the floor of a house. The furnace didn't heat the house, and kept shutting down. Took me a while to figure out why. Someone floored over the return, and took the grille out. Those RA grilles are expensive. No idea why someone did that.
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Have you used a candle or some smoke source to be sure no air is going into the return registers?
Did you have a home inspection before you purchased the home?
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I bought house with floors had wal to wall carpeting over floor returns.
Greg
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On Wed, 4 Jun 2014 14:08:38 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

You don't make a lot of sense. You say the vents are high on the wall, yet blocked at the floor. Return vents are never high on the wall. I have to wonder if you know what you are looking at or just doing a poor job of explaining.
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Hi Ed, Return vents for AC are often high on the wall. My house has vents both high and low in each room. The lower vent can be closed. In the winter, the lower vent is open providing a traditional cold air return. In the summer, the lower vent is closed thereby providing a high up hot air return for AC operation. Pat
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Ed Pawlowski wrote:

Return vents are often ceiling mounted here in southern climates. Low placed returns are a northern basement thing.
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On 6/5/2014 9:23 AM, Pete C. wrote:

And what about the southern hemisphere? Do return air vents circle to the left?
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_Never_ is pretty absolute. I've seen houses that used the wall cavity as a return ductwork with a vent high on the wall. The base of the cavity had a cutout to the basement which was itself the return "ductwork" for the furnace. Supply vents were in the floor, usually under the external wall window openings. Built in the 70's, midwest.
Sounds like someone plugged the opening at the bottom of the cavity in the OP's case.
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On Thursday, June 5, 2014 10:19:32 AM UTC-4, Scott Lurndal wrote:

hased has fake cold air returns. Vents are there (high on walls) but at flo or level they are sealed shut with wood. Wondering if this has happened to anyone else and if inspection/old owners should have discovered/disclosed i nformation. Essentially, the second floor of our house has no AC. No issue with first floor/basement.

They are not only common, but standard in houses that are outfitted with central AC when built. The houses that don't have them up high are typically ones that were heating only, eg old houses.
The

More likely the cavity was never cut, I'd bet. He could check what's beneath and see if a return duct is there. If so, he could cut out the opening. And even if it's not, it could still be done, it would just require some additional duct work.
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On Thu, 05 Jun 2014 14:19:32 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@slp53.sl.home (Scott Lurndal) wrote:

Good question. More details from OP would help.
Like the other 3, I have a return vent that is high on the wall, in the open stairwell (no doors) . It's the only return vent. No separate heat and AC ducts.
But I should have noticed what you say in the your second sentence, vents are high, blocked at floor. Different ducts?

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Perhaps I wasn't clear enough. There was no ductwork, the entire basement was the "duct". There was just an opening through the floor at the base of the wall cavity, and a vent high on the wall.
The air handler unit had the filter and just pulled air from the basement.
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On Thursday, June 5, 2014 1:31:15 PM UTC-4, Scott Lurndal wrote:

Good grief. I've never seen anything like that. I hope the basement is finished, insulated and has HVAC? Otherwise to just use an unfinished basement for the return for the upstairs conditioned space is an energy waste. Even with finished basements, all the ones I've seen there was a standard return air duct system.
And with what you have there, is it correct that there aren't even any return vents from upstairs that connect to the open basement? If that's the case, you have a very bad situation. You're creating a vacuum in the basement, which will pull air from outside into the house, via any means. That would include creating negative pressure for any WHs or furnaces that don't have their own separate air intake going outside. And it will pressurize the upstairs, driving conditioned air out through leaks around windows, outlets, doors, etc. Very bad from an energy loss standpoint and potentially dangerous from a CO standpoint too.
Was this inspected by a home inspector prior to purchase? He say anything?
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Scott Lurnda.

Hi, How did that pass the inspection? The house was built w/o proper building permit?
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On Thursday, June 5, 2014 1:31:15 PM UTC-4, Scott Lurndal wrote:

I've never seen that in residential but it was common in commercial at one time. Often outside air and return air mixed in the same space and was dra wn into the air handler. It was impossible to really control outside air v entilation but the systems worked.
Your setup is not that different from a plenum return, albeit a large plenu m.
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On Thu, 05 Jun 2014 17:31:15 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@slp53.sl.home (Scott Lurndal) wrote:

I think you were clear.

But that's all you. Trader was talking about the OP. So were you at the end of your post.
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On Thursday, June 5, 2014 1:41:49 PM UTC-4, micky wrote:

Thanks for pointing that out. I thought I was replying to/talking about the OP's problem. But the comments were still correct for anyone that has a furnace with no return ducting, just pulling air from the basement.
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On Wednesday, June 4, 2014 5:08:38 PM UTC-4, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

sed has fake cold air returns. Vents are there (high on walls) but at floor level they are sealed shut with wood. Wondering if this has happened to an yone else and if inspection/old owners should have discovered/disclosed inf ormation. Essentially, the second floor of our house has no AC. No issue wi th first floor/basement.

Is it possible that the heating/cooling system has been replace and reconfi gured at some point in the history of the house? Like a second system was installed in the attic. Is it an old house? That might explain it.
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It was finished, the house was on a slope and once side of the basement opened out onto the yard.
Every room had a high wall return open to the basement, with floor vents on the supply side.

Either my description was lacking something, or your reading comprehension is off today - the return vents that we started the conversation about were connected to the open basement.
It was a new build, and installed by a reputable HVAC contractor. Remember this was in the early 70's (1974, I believe) just before energy costs went through the roof.
The house burned in 2001, and the rebuild still uses the finished living spaces on the ground floor as a return.
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