What happened to our Ryan Homes home

(and why we can never just forget it)

There were three critical mistakes in the HVAC system, one a criminal code violation that was most destructive. The HVAC system produced low level CO (Carbon Monoxide) and gradually destroyed all the contents of the home with soot. At first it was believed to be a heating system malfunction, not a builder error. After a service call, an errant piece of fiberglass insulation was found in contact with the electric heating coils, which acts as auxiliary support for the heat pump. This errant piece of insulation was initially blamed for all the soot damage apparent in the home, and for the illness symptoms equated with low level CO exposure, as the once yellow fiberglass was blackened and had mostly burned away from it's foil backing. The fiberglass did not burn, but rather the binders that prevent it from becoming airborne fibers, with in the state of CA, is considered a cancer risk; silicosis. This was only partially part of the problem, and misdirected repairs of more serious issues.

The home was completely restored over the following summer after discover of a problem, with the fiberglass removed. But to our shock, it once again produced soot and low level CO as soon as heat was used again the following winter season. A more precise digital CO detector was then available the next season for added monitoring protection against prolonged low level CO exposure that typically wouldn't be detectible by the existing built in smoke alarms. however, unbeknownst to us, it had been disconnected by restoration crews and was not initially working. Only after we questioned why our symptoms returned, and why soot was again covering our new home restoration, I found the CO detector unplugged and with no backup battery. It detected CO with an hour of being turned back on.

Using the heat pump before having a CO detector did set off the home's built in smoke alarms, but only upon the initial startup for each fall/winter season. We were told this was normal. The current repaired HVAC system no longer does this, nor does it ever cause any detectable CO from using heat, so this was not "normal" as one technician claimed.

The typical reoccurring CO levels didn't trigger an emergency "evacuation" alarm, but CO was detected persistently in low levels, coming directly from the heat pump ducts. Everything was again gradually destroyed by the same soot damage just as before. The main soot and Carbon Monoxide producing problem was still present at that time, and had not been repaired, as we were told by Chase Heating and Air the previous summer. Thus ten of thousands in home restoration was all destroyed again.

When the same type damages gradually reappeared, I called other specialists, who could not find the source of the soot and CO. Having worked in advanced ceramics R&D science, I was able to do a more in depth trouble shooting study of the HVAC system than was done by previously called in experts. I discovered that that the top floor duct work had not been sealed inside the attic return duct. This was only visible by removing the HVAC intake grille. (*The actual criminal building code violation. Had this been done correctly and up to code, it would have prevented what would become devastating losses and damages) I then went into the attic, where holes were visible in the cellulose insulation above the air return ductwork, as a result of it being sucked into the open ductwork through significant openings in the attic floor, and holes left in the duct work itself. Using an arbitrary piece of cardboard to seal the attic from loose cellulose fibers was also a shoddy construction practice IMO, and low quality work was apparent throughout the home. Many bottom of the line fixtures have been changed.

Had the attic been sealed before adding blown cellulose insulation was put in, this too would have prevented catastrophic damages. Cellulose insulation was freely entering the home through two large openings in the attic that were both partially covered by a loose piece of cardboard. I used high tech material called plastic, with tacks and sealing glue to create an actual non-permanent attic seal. Ryan homes saved about $10.00 by taking shortcuts here. Volume builders may build cheap, but may also mean built cheaply. The HVAC clearly was sucking in insulation through it's openings at the attic opening and electric coils were burning it inside the air handler, only when the heating coils kicked on to support the heat pump.

(note: the replacement heat pump has the same heating coils, but unlike the earlier version, the new heating coils have a supplemental thermostat relay that prevents the electric coils from getting "burning" hot. The previous system would get hot enough to burn your hand on contact with the outside ductwork, possibly due to the cellulose's boric acid additive damaging internal relays. The main fan relay was known to be stuck in the <on> position due to such corrosive internal damage.)

Again assuming there was a missed problem with the heat pump, it was turned off and H&H heating and Air was called. But their technician could not find a viable source of the soot and CO, though he could see it was clearly coming from in the HVAC system. At that point several "experts" in the field had failed to find a somewhat complex HVAC problem, that came about as the result of Ryan Homes' rushed, haphazard work and cost saving shortcuts. The problems were hidden and required disassembly of covers and access panels to fully see and understand.

People often say they get a better experience with Ryan Homes by checking up on the job site, and staying involved with the process. The only way a home buyer could have seen these problems in advance was to have been always on-site, or hired someone full time to supervise the job site. Yes, it was mistakenly assumed Ryan Homes competently manages their own job sites, and that's part of what you pay them for when you buy their homes.

Once repaired, the system was very carefully checked and tested to be certain it was actually fixed, before a second restoration was attempted, however the lack of timely support, loss recovery, and strained resources from the previous restoration caused the damages to shift into a much bigger issue of mold, or toxic mold.

The cellulose and soot build up in the HVAC system damaged the normal operation of the system. Still it was used only for home cooling after CO was detected from heating. There was no reason to think it was unsafe for cooling too. The homeowners association doesn't allow window A/C units because it interferes with the uniform appearance of the homes, so thee little choice at the time. There was undetectable residual oily soot mixed cellulose dust that had restricted and finally clogged the A/C condenser drain pipe. As the condenser pan overflowed, the surrounding black coated insulation in the air handler acted like a sponge, holding and hiding a huge amount of excess water run off for months. It eventually spread to the carpeting and became externally visible, but was other undetectable.

The constantly wet fiberglass and cellulose insulation (paper) created a home to large mold colonies, hidden behind the service panel. The unit had been cleaned professionally several (3) times just before this failure occurred. It is my contention that the oily soot would not respond to common HVAC drain cleaners that had recently been used. A drain cleaner that would break through grease clogged drains was required to clear the pipe. 

During the hidden mold exposure period I developed a tumor, and my significant other developed Hashimotos syndrome during the most toxic period. Suffice to say we became severely ill, and knew nothing of toxic molds at that time. Other permanent health damages followed, due to what we believe was primarily Aspergillus mold. The home was evacuated for three and one half years due to negative health symptoms it clearly caused when occupied, even for short periods of time. Since resources were strapped, I was doing repairs alone, and repeatedly went through illness cycles from exposure to the contaminated home. There are no official guideline to handling mold or toxic mold, as of this writing.
We had an attorney who filed a suit to recover damages, but he intentionally omitted Ryan Homes in the suit, and he secretly refused to have the suit he did file served. He then blocked us from filing or serving any suit until statutes on filing a suit expired. He further lied to the Virginia State Bar to avoid a scheduled prosecution hearing. He later tried to join with Ryan Homes in a threat to sue us for slander and/or defamation. The allegations from both parties were clearly false, and no real action beyond threats was taken by either party.  

A Ryan Homes representative reviewed documentation and photos of the defects and damages prior to the home become mold infested. He stated that regardless of fault, Ryan Homes would take no action or responsibility whatsoever to remedy the situation, and then demanded they be allowed to do an inspection of our home so that they could "formally state" their pre-decided position. No inspection occurred due to the pre-set terms.  Ryan Homes official public position about our issue is, they didn't get to inspect the home, and thus use that as a blanket waiver for any wrong doing.

Three opinions about the Ryan Homes situation:

Ryan Homes made three serious mistakes, though the mistakes have proven profitable and harmless to Ryan Homes. First, several shoddy hidden construction methods became evident throughout the home over time, but the code violation was clearly the most devastating financial and health damaging error. A number of careless errors combined to cause critical damage to the home and occupants.

Second, there appeared to be overt and covert manipulation of the justice system to dodge liability on the part of Ryan Homes. Ryan Homes effort to remove themselves in general from facing any homebuilder liabilities, over-insulated them from a valid fundamental form of legal recovery from their negligence. To this day, mandatory binding arbitration is required to buy a Ryan Homes, solely for the purpose of keeping Ryan Homes out of court for criminal negligence and to shield their operations from real consequential legal liabilities. IMO, they also use several other more subverted methods to dodge liabilities and criminal negligence as standard operating procedure, wherever they operate. 

Third, Ryan Homes threatened their victim overtly and indirectly to resolve, or rather, eliminate evidence of their mistakes. Ryan Homes only tried to make us go away to resolve the problems they created. At no point did any one from Ryan Homes or NVR offer any genuine support or remedy whatsoever toward recovery from damages they were responsible for. I believe it is a primary goal for Ryan Homes to make most victims invisible or discredit them otherwise, so that satisfied customers stand nearly alone on the spotlight of their published customer experience. Ryan Homes attempted to make us cower into the "invisible victims" column; A tactic that almost certainly insured we would never do so. 


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