LBNL Report Number
In many residential building retrofit programs, air tightening to increase energy efficiency is constrained by concerns about related impacts on the safety of naturally vented combustion appliances. Tighter housing units more readily depressurize when exhaust equipment is operated, making combustion appliances more prone to backdraft or spillage. Several test methods purportedly assess the potential for depressurization-induced backdrafting and spillage, but these tests are not robustly reliable and repeatable predictors of venting performance, in part because they do not fully capture weather effects on venting performance. The purpose of this literature review is to investigate combustion safety diagnostics in existing codes, standards, and guidelines related to combustion appliances. This review summarizes existing combustion safety test methods, evaluations of these test methods, and also discusses research related to wind effects and the simulation of vent system performance. Current codes and standards related to combustion appliance installation provide little information on assessing backdrafting or spillage potential. A substantial amount of research has been conducted to assess combustion appliance backdrafting and spillage test methods, but primarily focuses on comparing short-term (stress) induced tests and monitoring results. Monitoring, typically performed over one week, indicated that combinations of environmental and house operation characteristics most conducive to combustion spillage were rare. Research, to an extent, has assessed existing combustion safety diagnostics for house depressurization, but the objectives of the diagnostics, both stress and monitoring, are not clearly defined. More research is also needed to quantify the frequency of test "failure" occurrence throughout the building stock and assess the statistical effects of weather (especially wind) on house depressurization and in turn on combustion appliance venting. Incorporating weather variations and house ventilation system characteristics in existing simulation software may assist such analyses and with developing a more reliable diagnostic for use on-site.
Revision of LBNL-5798E Original Release June 2012