why does a furnace need outside air?

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I was doing some insulation in the basement, and I noticed that the previous owner had disconnected some ductwork (4") which connected to the cold air return of the furnace. This ductwork lead to an outside vent, and was intended to bring in outside air to the furnace.
I assume that since the builder went through the trouble to put that in, that it's necessary.. but why is it necessary? Isn't there enough air in the house for the furnace to use? The furnace has been running for at least 4 years without it. I'm willing to repair this, but I'd like to know the reasoning behind it. I've found out that vent is a pretty major source of cold air coming into the basement.
Another bit of information: The house is very drafty, so there's no concern about it being so sealed up that all the oxygen is gone. LOL
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outside COLD air is more dense so it burns better, more energy efficent.:)
Indoor air sometimes has pollutants like bleach that can rot out high effceny furnace heat exchangers, this is a verified issue
burning indoor air means your pulling a vacuumn losing heated air and dragging even more outdoor cold air indoors making your gas bill go up.
put the original vent arrangement back if you want your gas bill to be lower
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Air burns?
Nick
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wrote:

Go back to sleep.
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wrote:

:-)
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bf wrote:

Giving the furnace its own direct source of outside air will make you home less drafty. Really.
All furnaces (non-electric that is) use air to burn their fuel. That air needs to be replaced. It will come from those cracks and holes all around your home bringing cold air in and moving it around your home. If it has its own air source it will mean less drafts.
--
Joseph Meehan

Dia duit
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-------------------- Are you talking about the cold air *return* via which the air heated by the furnace returns to the furnace to be heated again.
Or are you talking about a duct to supply combustion air to the fire, which then goes up the smoke stack or out the combustion air discharge?

I'm curious how big this duct is.

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I'm with you the OP said "...the previous owner had disconnected some ductwork (4") which connected to the cold air return of the furnace...". That doesn't sound to me like it is being used for combustion.
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RayV wrote:

Yes and no. I have such a connection in my home. There is a 4" or so duct that is piped into the return duct. That 4" pipe comes from outside. So anytime hot air leavs the house through the roof, or the bathroom fan, or furnace/hot water heater exhause, the cold air sucked in is through the furnace. (in theory)
Its not directly used for combustion, but its for pressure equalization. The air used for combustion which is exhausted is replaced by air coming in from this pipe and into the return.
--
Thank you,



"Then said I, Wisdom [is] better than strength: nevertheless the poor
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dnoyeB wrote:

Boy, I'd disconnect that crap real fast. This is an energy disaster. What makes you think outside air is only coming in to equalize pressure when air is leaving via say a bathroom fan? In reality, the powrful furnace blower is gonna draw outside air in all the time. And the inside air will make it's way out, via things like the bathroom fan, whether it's turned on or not, or any other ways to exit the house.
A normal house shouldn't need any air specifically brought in from the outside when the furnace is heating/cooling. Housed get enough from existing air leaks around doors, windows, opening/closing doors, etc. If you have a high energy efficiency house that is sealed very tight and you need more outside air, then an arrangement with a heat exchanger is used. Anything else is just wasting a lot of energy. IMO, the arrangement you have is similar to leaving a window partially open.

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On 9 Mar 2006 07:05:01 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

You obviously never heard of Sick Building Syndrome! Indoor air is highly polluted and needs a replenishment of fresh air. In the winter time the house is usually shut up more than in the summer and contaminants just build up. This is especially bad if someone has allergies to indoor contaminants, a growing cause of asthma! Also the air exchanged with opening a door is contributing unheated air to the house. The outdoor air supply is being heated before entering the house.
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/sbs.html
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On Thu, 9 Mar 2006 19:01:04 -0600, Mike Dobony

I went through a building design construction course. Community college level, once a week for 12 weeks if I remember.
On the furnace heating system picture it this way. Your house is an insulated box with insulation for the outside walls only and on the ceiling. The furnace fires up and the heated is recirculated within this tightly insulated box to bring the air up to your set (comfort) temperature.
Heated air will cool on its own mainly conduction loss with some loss through leakage. The (heated) leakage air loss has to be replaced by outside air. The best route for this outside air to enter the house is to duct outside air into the return air duct so that it is heated first before it joins the circulation.
It is very dangerous to over seal the house, ie make it too airtight, and not have this outside fresh air intake. The reason is that heated air normally rises up the chimney. But when the room air cools air contracts and it will suck air (in the reverse direction) down the chimney. This suction includes toxic burnt gases present in the chimney and can be blown back into the house. You breath this stuff. This is slow poisoning.
Another reason for the fresh air intake is that in the absence of one the heated air inside the house will be drawn up the chimney together with the furnace gasses. You lose expensive heated air up the chimney every time the furnace fires up. The best solution is to have a separate fresh air supply to the furnace burners. This way outside air goes direct to the burners and goes up the chimney immediately after combustion. The burners do not use up warmed room air.
Often all the contractors do is to have an open duct from the outside to an opening near the burner assembly. Of course in winter this lets in freezing cold air. Many homeowners plug this duct up with fiberglass or remove the duct altogether. It will work but you will be sending warmed room air up the chimney. I fabricated an enclosed duct to trunk the duct air into the furnace. Cold air is drawn in only when the furnace fires up, a per normal convection, and the cold air never gets into the basement. I understand newer furnaces already have this feature.
To recap there should be a fresh air duct from the outside and connected to the furnace return air trunk. There should be a separate fresh air duct to supply fresh air to the furnace burners.
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I missed the most obvious danger. If the house is tightly sealed and there is no fresh air intake from the outside the the only supply of oxygen for the furnace is from the air already inside the house. You will be burning up oxygen you need for breathing. Most houses are somewhat "leaky" and some air will leak in. But you will still be breathing air that has less oxygen and likely mixed with combusted air containing CO2 and carbon monoxide.
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dnoyeB wrote:

Pressure equalization? Don't think so. That cold air pipe is meant for a certain percentage of make up air from the outside. Required in many communities with newer homes that are built air tight and is likely to be 10 to 15 percent of the air. Seems like a bit much if in a cold place. But the purpose is to supply fresh air because much of the inside air is highly contaminated by the materials used in building, furniture, carpets, etc.
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RayV wrote:

Hi, They ducted fresh air like that in old days. Now thay don't do it any more. Combustion air intake is separate from cold air return duct. Just simply law of physics.
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mm wrote:

I'm sorry it took me so long to respond (Thanks for all the replies from everyone) It is a 4" circular ductwork that leads from the outside into the regular "cold air return" (inside air source) from the furnace.
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It is not combustion air. Air it is there to meet the fresh air requirement. ______________________________ Keep the whole world singing . . . . DanG (remove the sevens) snipped-for-privacy@7cox.net
wrote:

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Consult your local building permits office. Many jurisdictions nowadays require an outside air duct to supply air to non-electric furnaces. The building code in Ontario, Canada, added this requiremennt about 20 years ago (and made iit retroactive.)
If your house is appropriately insulated against draughts, the outside air duct will be more efficient and cheaper rather than less.
--
Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
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Don Phillipson wrote:

would make sense. He says the outside air connection is to the return duct.

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Outside air should be brought in through a fresh air exchanger. As Don said, this is a requirement in new homes because of how well sealed new houses in Ontario are. I don't think new houses in Ontario allow air in under the walls like US houses do. After the walls are insulated, the walls are covered with plastic, and caulking is applied around any boxes that protrude through the plastic. I don't know if there's any kind of sealant or insulation between the walls and the floor. I live in the US and I put a fresh air exchanger and high efficiency air filter to help deal with allergies. Our house smelled like paint for 6 months before we had this done. New carpet also puts out fumes. Another issue with new homes is black soot in the carpet at the base of walls where air from outside gets sucked into the house. I think the carpet acts as a filter.
Randy R
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