Gas Line Sediment Trap Or Escape Hatch?

By
Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC

So, is this a gas line sediment trap or escape hatch?  You decide.

The features list in the house said, "Newly installed HVAC system 2011!"  All true.  And done professionally!

Judging from the duct work the previous system was quite old.  Replacing it was only smart.  And good for my clients!

The sediment trap is the longer section of black iron gas tubing that is sticking straight down.

It has been called by various names, and there are those who split hairs and say that only the term "sediment trap" is correct.  But still, it is what it is.

The purpose is just as its name says.  Historically, when natural gas was first pumped into houses it came with sediment and moisture.  That could all get into and damage the appliance using the gas.

So they devised a trap, which you see to the left, to capture that as it would fall harmlessly into the bottom of the lowest section.  In the "olden days" they used to remove that section of pipe periodically to dump out the trapped sediment.  The extended pipe should be 3" minimum.

Fine.  Today our gas is cleaner and drier and there are those who say that the traps may not be necessary.  But still, most installation practices require them. 

I have spoken with plumbers who say they should not be used outdoors or in attics as the moisture trapped inside could freeze and cause the pipe to burst or move the nipple at the bottom causing a leak.  But still, most codes require them.  When I don't see a sediment trap present I note it for my client.

You can see the new piping here, new condensate line, new cables, new switch servicing the new humidifier and new condensate pump - new, new, new!  They did it right.

But wait!  What's wrong here?  This is a new system, installed by a professional because they proudly placed their company sticker, with installation date, onto the unit.  It also says, "Please call US to answer any future questions or to satisfy any future needs!"

So, again, what's wrong here?

Looking closely, as a home inspector is supposed to do, you might notice that the gas shut-off valve is between the sediment trap and the furnace!

If someone wanted to remove any debris from the sediment trap (and I have spoken with many, many plumbers who say there is no debris in modern times, but I digress) and dutifully shut off the gas valve before beginning, gas would still escape from the sediment trap tubing!

Obviously there is a way around this still.  The main gas line valve on the indoor manifold, or the gas meter itself, could be turned off to safely remove the sediment trap.  But that would turn off the gas to other appliances, and any pilot lights in the house, such as the water heater, and cause unnecessary work as they would all have to be relit.

The shut-off valve really should have been placed BEFORE the sediment trap.  This current installation might even indicate the valve was not correct from the start as this company mimicked what the previous installation looked like!  But I really don't know.

My recommendation:  when a home inspection is done, it is important to see the whole picture.  A little thing like this might go unnoticed forever, and maybe not even by the professional HVAC company, but it was not unnoticed on this inspection!  And at least it's a simple fix.  I guess that company is going to get called after all!

 

 

Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


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Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Chris Smith 10/06/2011 11:15 AM
  2. Loren Green 10/06/2011 11:37 AM
  3. Winston Heverly 08/12/2012 09:30 PM
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Rainer
121,192
Monique Ting
INET Realty Honolulu, HI - Honolulu, HI
S, e-PRO, SFR

Great information! I never heard of a sediment trap when I was living in the Northeast where the majority of homes have a gas heating system! Now that I am in Hawaii where homes do not have heating systems, I won't have the chance to see one soon.

Oct 07, 2011 05:42 PM #41
Rainer
113,260
Beverly Femia
BlueCoast Realty Corporation - Hampstead, NC
Broker Realtor Stager - Greater Wilmington, NC Are

I kind of get the gist of this and that's after Goodgling and finding drawings to help me  I'm totally right brain!

Oct 07, 2011 06:33 PM #42
Rainmaker
1,278,016
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

There are the hair-splitters out there Reubs.  And I had the same thing the day I posted this one.  See #22 above.

You're very welcome Jayson.  I don't know why these things are so hard for plumbers.

Marshall - I have this a couple of times a month!  Don't know why - it's such a difficult installation.

Monique - nice picture!  I'll be right over.  Well, next time you see a gas installation you'll know what to look for!

Beverly - you are both-sides brained for sure!  But my picture is up there too!

Oct 07, 2011 07:18 PM #43
Rainer
210,593
Dörte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton

Dear Jay,

Thank you for always teaching me something new. Very interesting. I am just getting used to having gas that does not come from a bottle.

Oct 07, 2011 11:24 PM #44
Rainer
37,448
Michael Singh,Broker
Singh Real Estate - Corral de Tierra, CA

I haven't seen a sediment trap in years, but I agree the shut off or line valve should be before the device.

Oct 08, 2011 12:44 AM #45
Rainmaker
1,278,016
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Dorte - if you mean propane, I see sediment traps on those systems too.  If you mean in beverages, well, now maybe you can cover your mouth when you burp (that's kind of a settlement trap...)

Michael - well, you should see them all the time!  The code has not changed.  But at least your valves are right!

Oct 08, 2011 03:55 AM #46
Rainmaker
843,161
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg IL Real Estate - Northwest Suburbs of Chicago - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg Homes

I didn't notice that until you pointed it out. Thanks for the info. I just looked & my own furnace is this way .... yikes!

Oct 08, 2011 09:29 AM #47
Rainmaker
384,631
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jay,

Even I, who knows almost nothing when it comes to gas, knows to look for the sediment trap and shut off location.

p.s. check out my shout out to ya ;)

Oct 08, 2011 02:18 PM #48
Rainmaker
1,278,016
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Run for the hills Lyn!  RUN!

Or see if you can have another valve installed, if it really, really bothers you.  The likelihood that you will need to remove the sediment trap is fairly minimal, all told.

Don - well, logic is logic.  You guys don't have gas out there?

I will look for the shout out.  Where?

Oct 08, 2011 02:26 PM #49
Rainmaker
229,431
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis Home Inspections

To Charles - here in Minnesota, sediment traps are required on all automatically controlled gas appliances.  Ranges and clothes dryers are not automatically controlled- you turn them on manually.

Now why they're only required on automatically controlled appliances... I don't know. 

Oct 09, 2011 10:19 PM #50
Rainmaker
1,278,016
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Sure, Reubs, throw in ANOTHER wrinkle.  Sheesh...  Now you've just confused him more.

Don't you love the dryer that turns on automatically when you simply close the door?

Oct 10, 2011 03:52 AM #51
Rainmaker
650,137
Stephanie/Bob The Ruiz/Miller Team
Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty - Ocala, FL
The Ocala Dream Team

Hi Jay.  Thanks.  You always contribute such educational articles.  And we can always learn something new.

Oct 10, 2011 06:17 AM #52
Rainmaker
1,278,016
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thanks Bob!  Join my new group - http://activerain.com/groups/bestpractices

Oct 10, 2011 06:33 AM #53
Rainmaker
229,431
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis Home Inspections

Those dryers were certainly a lot easier to figure out.  I actually had to read the instruction manual to figure out how to properly use my new-fangled dryer.

Oct 10, 2011 09:59 PM #54
Rainer
109,107
Stephen Stanczyk
Safe Haven Home Inspections - Puyallup, WA
Home Inspector - Puyallup WA

I would venture to say that 95% of the traps installed up here are done incorrectly.  As you pointed out, either no shut off valve or they put the trap so close to the ground that the cap could not be removed.

Once in a blue moon I run into a real pro that does it right.  It is a pleasure to see their work.

Oct 11, 2011 01:58 AM #55
Rainmaker
1,278,016
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Reuben - I know!  On some home inspections you need a degree from MIT to turn on the dryer!

Steve - I saw it four times last week and once yesterday!  Logic is logic and the purpose of the trap is removal.  I think I remember you finding an improper valve on Christian's inspection too.  Wow, 95%?

Oct 11, 2011 05:33 AM #56
Rainmaker
733,405
Juli Vosmik
Dominion Real Estate Partners, LLC, Scottsdale, AZ - Scottsdale, AZ
Scottsdale/Cave Creek, AZ real estate 480-710-0739

Jay, I should've searched on AR for sediment traps BEFORE the plumber came today to replace my hot water heater that burst yesterday.  He INSISTED it has been a requirement here since 1998, but my home was built in 2002 and we bought it in 2005 with a full inspection.  I should've known to check here. 

Dec 20, 2011 10:35 PM #57
Rainmaker
1,278,016
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Did you have a sediment trap before and the valve was on the wrong side, Juli, or did it not have one and he wanted to install one?

Dec 21, 2011 05:49 AM #58
Rainmaker
264,568
Wayne B. Pruner
Oregon First - Tigard, OR
Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI

Nice catch! These traps are still required around here. Very seldom do I see anything in them!

Oct 12, 2012 08:08 AM #59
Rainmaker
1,278,016
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thanks Wayne.  It is surprising how often I see this done improperly!

Oct 12, 2012 09:03 AM #60
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Rainmaker
1,278,016

Jay Markanich

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