Smell From Heating and Cooling Ducts: What’s the Cause?
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Robin in Kentucky who’s noticing an odd odor. What’s going on at your money pit?
ROBIN: Well, we purchased a house last February and about two months later, the house developed an odor.
LESLIE: Wait, the whole house? Like inside, outside? Where is this odor that you sense?
ROBIN: It appears to be coming from the ductwork. It’s slab construction and the people in the area say that it’s – the house was built in ’55. They say that they used ceramic ductwork under the slab and they’re thinking that the ductwork has cracked and is letting an odor from underground come up.
TOM: Eh. Maybe not. But go ahead.
ROBIN: Well, we’ve had a number of people into the house to look at it and they’ve taken air samples and stuff and no one can really say what it is. All they can say is, “Well, we suggest that you replace that ductwork with overhead ductwork through the attic.”
TOM: That’s a pretty big change. Have you ever had a duct inspection done with cameras?
ROBIN: No. I’ve tried a number of people to get that done and no one in the area can do it. We called Roto-Rooter because we know they do it but they said they wouldn’t do it for ductwork. They would only do it for pipes.
TOM: Well, Robin, as you’ve probably discovered, tracking down odors that are associated with heating and cooling ducts is a very tricky business. And part of the reason for that is because there’s so many possibilities: it could be mold, it could be other forms of organic matter, it could be sewage gases that are somehow working their way into those ducts. It could simply be a matter of cleaning the ducts.
What I’m going to do is send you to a resource guide where every conceivable cause of duct odors is presented and explored and lets you research this a little bit better on your own. And maybe you’ll put two and two together based on what you read here and what you’re experiencing in your home and come up with a solution.
Alright. So, I want you to go to a website called InspectAPedia. It’s a website actually put together by an old friend of mine named Dan Friedman. He’s one of the best home inspectors in the country. He’s gone through a lot of trouble to collect information on problems just like this. And if you go to InspectAPedia – so it’s Inspect, A and P-e-d-i-a – and you search “how to find and remove odors in heating ducts,” you’ll find this guide. And it’s thousands of words long. And you should be able to go through and see if you can get to the bottom of it.
Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.