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What Smells Like Burning Rubber in My Home?

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Rosemary on the line who’s got some sort of mystery smell going on at her money pit. What’s going on?

    ROSEMARY: Well, about a little over a year now, we’ve been noticing a smell that just wafts in through to nowhere, I don’t know. Might come up from the basement; we don’t know. It’s out in our family room and kind of stays that way, which is attached – I mean it’s directly over the – next to the kitchen.

    It smells a little bit like burning rubber but it’s a very short-lived scent. And it comes and it goes quite rapidly. And we can just, all of a sudden – “Whoop, there it is.”

    TOM: What kind of a heating system do you have, Rosemary?

    ROSEMARY: We have natural gas, forced air.

    TOM: How old is the furnace?

    ROSEMARY: Oh, boy. I’d say 12 to 15 years.

    TOM: Twelve to fifteen? That’s not terribly old. And you have a natural-gas dryer, as well?

    ROSEMARY: No, I have an electric dryer.

    TOM: Electric dryer? OK. Is the dryer anywhere near where the smells are originating?

    ROSEMARY: No. Uh-uh. When we added on the family room, we added on a laundry room, which is on the other side from when we’re – where we’re smelling it.

    TOM: So, when you say sort of a burnt-rubber smell, I think of what appliances in the house might cause that, one of which is the dryer because – or the washer, frankly. Because those are somewhat belt-driven and if the bearings go bad, the belts can disintegrate and it can cause that smell to waft through the house.

    Also, the blower unit on the heating system, if that’s potentially going bad that could cause a burnt-rubber smell, which would be circulated through the house via the heating-and-air-conditioning duct systems.

    So those would be the first two things that I might think about.

    ROSEMARY: We’ve got – the washer and dryer are only two years old and they’re in the other …

    TOM: Yeah, I had a washer bearing go on a drum where it was about four-and-a-half years old and I was not happy about it. But unfortunately, it is possible and it’s not obvious until it completely fails. You know, by the time I took that washer apart when it completely failed, it was obvious it was going on for a long time. There were all sorts of shredded pieces of rubber belts, not only in the cabinet itself but the smoke had sort of come out of the cabinet and stained the wall.

    ROSEMARY: Oh, my.

    TOM: So, that possibly can happen. I’m not saying that’s what’s going on here but I would take a look at that plus your blower for your furnace. Have you had the HVAC system serviced yet for the summer, for the air conditioning?

    ROSEMARY: No, we haven’t.

    TOM: Next time you have a serviceman come in the house, have him check the blower unit very carefully to see if it’s possible that any of this odor is coming from there.


    TOM: OK. He can manually operate it and check the bearings to see if they’re in good condition or not.

    ROSEMARY: Yeah, OK.

    TOM: Alright? Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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