Results 1 to 14 of 14
  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    New Jersey
    Posts
    81

    Default Foul odor at returns

    Had a client call about a foul odor at the HVAC returns (first and second floor) when the system TURNS OFF. No odor while the system is operating. Slab home, no ductwork in floor, home was vaccant for more than a year. Client removed return covers and no signs of mold or water. Anyone have a idea what might be the cause. An HVAC contractor serviced the system prior to closing as instructed due to problems with airflow and 9 degree delta T. No odor the day of the inspection. HVAC contractor told them to have the duct system cleaned.

    Similar Threads:
    Inspection Referral

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Spring Hill (Nashville), TN
    Posts
    5,847

    Default Re: Foul odor at returns

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Roshak View Post
    Had a client call about a foul odor at the HVAC returns (first and second floor) when the system TURNS OFF. No odor while the system is operating. Slab home, no ductwork in floor, home was vaccant for more than a year. Client removed return covers and no signs of mold or water. Anyone have a idea what might be the cause. An HVAC contractor serviced the system prior to closing as instructed due to problems with airflow and 9 degree delta T. No odor the day of the inspection. HVAC contractor told them to have the duct system cleaned.
    You can chase odors till the end of the earth and never find them!
    What type of foul odor? Does it smell like sewage? Does it smell like something died? Does it smell musty? Does it smell sower? Does it smell acrid?

    Cleaning the air ducts will do little and if done wrong it can screw the air ducts up. You can only effectively clean metal ducts. Never attempt to clean flex duct, you will most likely damage the thin plastic liner.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    New Jersey
    Posts
    81

    Default Re: Foul odor at returns

    I have not been out the home yet so I have no idea what the odor is like, however the client states the odor is making them sick and may not be able to live in the home. Just a note; the client agreed no odor was present the day of the inspection and the A/C ran for almost 3 hrs.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Plano, Texas
    Posts
    4,170

    Default Re: Foul odor at returns

    Check the traps on the sewer drains. There might be a floor drain on the a/c which will create an odor if dry.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Spring Hill (Nashville), TN
    Posts
    5,847

    Default Re: Foul odor at returns

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Roshak View Post
    I have not been out the home yet so I have no idea what the odor is like, however the client states the odor is making them sick and may not be able to live in the home. Just a note; the client agreed no odor was present the day of the inspection and the A/C ran for almost 3 hrs.
    If they are telling you that the odor is making them sick and that they might not be able to stay in the home, it sounds like they might have a little buyers remorse..... Document everything....

    If makes little sense that you have a odor when the HVAC is off and and odor when it is running. This right here tells you that it is not associated with the ductwork or pretty much the unit. Unless it is a condensation drain like Jim noted. If it is I hope you called it out..

    I would head out to the house ASAP, tonight or first thing in the morning. Take a look, show them that you are concerned. See if you can smell anything and tell them that you can or can't. Go in with the name(s) and contact information of a local IAHQ professional(s). This way you can provide them with the proper person they need to contact to see what is going on.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    New Jersey
    Posts
    81

    Default Re: Foul odor at returns

    Condensate drains directly to the exterior, which I recommended to be relocated. I was going to the home Friday Morning and said I will like the HVAC contractor who serviced/repaired the system to be there as well, however the contractor told them to have the ducts cleaned and that is the direction they are going. If the smell is present after that, I would return to the home. At this point since everything is hidden (plumbing/ductwork) I would not know where to start to ID the problem.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Spring Hill (Nashville), TN
    Posts
    5,847

    Default Re: Foul odor at returns

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Roshak View Post
    Condensate drains directly to the exterior, which I recommended to be relocated. I was going to the home Friday Morning and said I will like the HVAC contractor who serviced/repaired the system to be there as well, however the contractor told them to have the ducts cleaned and that is the direction they are going. If the smell is present after that, I would return to the home. At this point since everything is hidden (plumbing/ductwork) I would not know where to start to ID the problem.
    Did you ask them when the odor started?

    How long had they been in the home before they called you?

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    New Jersey
    Posts
    81

    Default Re: Foul odor at returns

    They are in the process of moving in. I don't understand why the HVAC contractor did not notice the odor. It is my understanding they serviced the system one and returned a second to check it and no odor noted. It has been very hot and dry up until this week when we received 3" of rain.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Snowbird (this means I'm retired and migrate between locations), FL/MI
    Posts
    4,086

    Default Re: Foul odor at returns

    Am I understanding this right?

    The only time they detect an odor is when there is no forced air circulation (and the windows/doors are closed)?

    They smell the odor only when the air is not mechanically ventillated? Just for the first few minutes when the fan stops running, or all the time when the air is not mechanically ventillated?

    There was no odor during the entire time while the system cycled for over 3 hours - before there were any personal possessions moved in?

    Now that their personal possessions are being moved in, the odor shows up?

    The smell is noted only at the returns not the registers or elsewhere in the home? (or does the odor spread/fill the home when the fan is not running?)

    Did I get that right?

    Where is the air handler? (first floor, second floor, attic)
    Do any of the register vents or return vents run via the attic?

    What does the odor smell like?
    Do they have septic or city sewer?
    Private well (and/or treatment sys) or city water?
    Are they locals or new residents to the Garden State?
    Near tidal waterways or brackish water?
    Is there a piloted furnace sharing air handler, or a stand-alone pure A/C system (like space pak vent type)?
    Fuel source for heating gas or oil? Shared exhaust vent to WH?

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 07-15-2010 at 06:26 PM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    WESTMINSTER CO
    Posts
    1,089

    Default Re: Foul odor at returns

    OK GREAT STORY

    two years ago during the ugly foreclosure era. when you found every drywall with a elbow hole in it. garbage disposals removed, smoke detectors and anything else they could remove. i did an inspection. fired up the furnace. found a real bad smell coming from a bedroom heat register. i thought WHAT COULD THis BE. so i lifted the register and stuck my stupid hand down duct. what i found was at least three pounds of chopped meat loaded with magits,ants,unknown creatures and soon to be my earlier lunch. people are cruel. guess you can realize i don't do that anymore.

    lost a good macaroni and cheese luch that day

    cvf


  11. #11
    David Bell's Avatar
    David Bell Guest

    Default Re: Foul odor at returns

    Vacant homes tend to attract rodents and small marsupials who love to build nests in ductwork and units. If the ductwork is fiberduct, or acoustically lined the smell could last for ever. It may not be as evident when the unit is running due to air flow.


  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Snowbird (this means I'm retired and migrate between locations), FL/MI
    Posts
    4,086

    Default Re: Foul odor at returns

    I was thinking more along the lines of bats. But don't know how the offensive odor is characterized yet.


  13. #13
    Phil Brody's Avatar
    Phil Brody Guest

    Default Re: Foul odor at returns

    The inspection cover to the blower housing should be removed and sniffed. If the foul odor is there the initial start up will blast out the odor and then the continuing airflow will dilute it out till the next time it sits for long enough to create the built up odor.


  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Utah
    Posts
    389

    Default Re: Foul odor at returns

    Quote Originally Posted by CHARLIE VAN FLEET View Post

    two years ago during the ugly foreclosure era. . . . . .
    cvf

    Two years ago? In my neck of the woods there are three forclosures on every block and probably more that the bank has chosen to sit on.

    Good story though!

    And Scott Patterson's comment is very applicable: "If they are telling you that the odor is making them sick and that they might not be able to stay in the home, it sounds like they might have a little buyers remorse..... Document everything.... ". Sounds like you could be dealing with "SEWERS".

    Last edited by Rod Butler; 07-16-2010 at 09:12 AM. Reason: Added comment.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •