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Why There’s a Bad Smell Coming from the Vents in Your House

Why There’s a Bad Smell Coming from the Vents in Your House

What should you do if you smell a foul or unusual odor coming from your vents? Well, that depends largely on what kind of smell is coming out of the vents and where it is originating.

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As a heating repair company that serves Buck County, PA, and many other areas around Philadelphia and in South Jersey, we know that tracking down the smell can be challenging. It’s challenging for you because your home’s ductwork is designed to deliver air to all areas of your home (including bad odors), so finding the origin of the smell can be difficult. Furthermore, the range of causes is wider than you may like to imagine.

Smells in your ductwork can be caused by a variety of sources such as mold and mildew, animals in your home or ducts, duct leaks, plumbing leaks and issues, building materials, or mechanical issues, such as a leaky (and unsafe) heat exchanger or a bad blower motor that is overheating.  The good news is that many of these smells can be identified and linked to causes which will make finding and eliminating the smell much easier.

The smell reminds me of . . .

1. Dirty Socks/Stinky Feet/Stale Air

These smells are commonly associated with mold and mildew issues which can both grow inside your heater and ductwork, as well as in areas of your home where your ducts can distribute these smells throughout your home. If you can find any areas of the home where the smell is more noticeable, then you may have located the sources. In fact, check any ductwork in crawlspaces or your attic. A quick wipe with a disinfecting cloth may be enough for little patches of mold/mildew. For areas with a lot of mold or mildew, you should consult with a professional because larger amounts of mold/mildew can lead to severe respiratory issues for you and your family.

2. Rotting Garbage

When the temperatures plummet outside, animals will seek warmth inside your home (occasionally inside your ductwork). Unfortunately, if you smell rotting garbage coming out of your ductwork, your house guest “may no longer be with you.” You should have the remains removed as soon as possible.

3. Rotten Eggs

Many homeowners are familiar with this one: natural gas is odorless, the “rotten eggs” smell we are familiar with is an additive to prevent any explosive issues. If you smell rotten eggs, you may have a gas leak. You should open the windows immediately, leave the house, and call your gas company to identify the exact location and to repair.

4. Sewage

If you smell raw sewage coming from your vents, there is one usual cause: sewage. A backed-up sewer line or a crack in a plumbing or sewer vent pipe could cause the smell. If it is close enough to your ducts, then the ducts can spread the smell throughout your home.

5. Burning

If you smell odor and think that something is on fire, first, make sure nothing is on fire.  Once you are safe, check the heater. If you notice the burning smell is strongest around your heater, then you may have an issue with the fan. Various mechanical issues can cause increased friction which overheats the fan, soon, leading to a burning smell emanating throughout you home.

6. Sulfur/Fresh-Struck Match

There are two common causes which lead to a sulfur-like smell. The first was heavily covered a few years ago: Chinese Drywall. If your home had renovations between (approx.) 2001-2009, then your home’s contractor may have used this now infamous drywall. If not, then a “fresh-struck match” smell may be caused by a mechanical failure inside of your heater, such as a short of the circuit board or other electronics.

If you smell any unusual odors, want to avoid smelling these odors, or have no problems and want to keep it that way, reach out to here at Hutchinson Plumbing Heating Cooling. To learn more about our heating services, or schedule to have one of our technicians or plumbers to come out to your home in Philadelphia or South Jersey, please give us a call today!