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What’s That Smell?

bad smells
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Cue the Lynyrd Skynyrd music kids, today we are going to talk about odd smells in the home and dive into what some of the common causes are. The most common two sources for strange smells are going to be either your sewer system or your air distribution system.

In the few geographic areas that have it in South Florida, natural gas can be the third and very dangerous source of odor. Natural gas by itself has no odor so what the utility companies do is add sulfur to it to give it that famous rotten egg smell. If your home has any natural gas appliances and you begin getting that sulfur smell in your home, immediately call the gas company, open all the windows in your home and get out. Seriously, just get out! If you don’t think this is dangerous, jump on YouTube and type in home gas explosion… things that make you go boom!

Moving on the next most common culprit is your sewer system when it comes to smells. If you are getting that odiferous sewer gas into your home it is not necessarily dangerous, it is however, downright disgusting. A licensed plumber can often track down a sewer smell rather easily by performing some basic tests. The wax ring or the flange that holds a toilet secure to the floor and seals it is the first place our plumber is going to look. He or she is also going to check to see if you have any drains in the home that don’t get used often and whether the traps under the sink have gone dry, allowing odor into your home.

If our plumber eliminates the basic culprits when it comes to that nasty smell we can then resort to smoke testing the sewer. This test sounds exactly like it is. We are going to go to the clean out of the sewer system outside your home and block the sewer on the downstream side. Using a harmless theatrical smoke, we will then fill the home’s sewer line with the smoke and observe what happens. Smoke will follow the same path as smells and can lead us to cracks in vent stacks or other hidden defects in your waste distribution system.

Finally, let’s take a look at the air distribution system in your home, especially if you’re experiencing a mold or musty smell. This is by far the most complicated smell to track down and if misdiagnosed, there are things that can actually enhance the smell and worsen the situation. Again, our air conditioning guru is going to start with the basics first. Is the coil and blower clean in the air handler? What about our ductwork, has time caused the connection points to deteriorate? In this case, the cold and hot air mixing are causing condensation allowing biological or fungal growth. There are ultra violet light systems on the market that can give off smells and others that produce ozone, which some individuals are hyper sensitive to. There are even, in rare cases, air pressure issues within the structure that are causing air from the attic to stream down the interior cavities of the walls and the smell is coming out around light switches, outlets and any other wall penetrations. My latest read is on how human skin flakes can cause a bad smell in your AC system. It’s an interesting study out of China if you’re interested.

I can’t promise I’ve covered every scenario when it comes to smells, however I do believe this will give you some of the starting points for locating the source of that bad odor and not just attempt to Febreze it away!

Until your path leads you back to me my friends I was going to make a joke about sodium but Na……..

House Whisperer out!!


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