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Old 07-28-2013, 09:20 AM   #1
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Ductwork Deodorizer


I'm looking for something to deodorize the ductwork in my house. The ducts are clean, but I still have a smell that comes through at certain random times (when the unit is off). No, I'm not talking about the urine-like dirty coil smell, because, well, I don't have a coil; it's just a gas fired furnace. Rather, it smells like the inside of the walls (the same "inside-the-wall" smell I smelled when gutting my bathroom). I can smell it coming from the return vents at random times when the unit is off. In the exposed basement ceiling, I can see that the main return is running between 2 ceiling joists covered by a 16" wide piece of sheet metal and not through actual ductwork, and it may be the same situation in the walls (not running through ductwork, but through the walls themselves), which may be where my smell is coming from. Not only do I want it to kill the odor, I want it to kill whatever bacteria/etc. is causing the odor (which I understand may not even be the case). Suggestions?

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Old 07-28-2013, 10:20 AM   #2
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I'm looking for something to deodorize the ductwork in my house. The ducts are clean, but I still have a smell that comes through at certain random times (when the unit is off). No, I'm not talking about the urine-like dirty coil smell, because, well, I don't have a coil; it's just a gas fired furnace. Rather, it smells like the inside of the walls (the same "inside-the-wall" smell I smelled when gutting my bathroom). I can smell it coming from the return vents at random times when the unit is off. In the exposed basement ceiling, I can see that the main return is running between 2 ceiling joists covered by a 16" wide piece of sheet metal and not through actual ductwork, and it may be the same situation in the walls (not running through ductwork, but through the walls themselves), which may be where my smell is coming from. Not only do I want it to kill the odor, I want it to kill whatever bacteria/etc. is causing the odor (which I understand may not even be the case). Suggestions?
How was this determended ?

returns too ?

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Old 07-28-2013, 10:26 AM   #3
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How was this determended ?

returns too ?
Because I had them (supplies and returns) cleaned by a reputable duct cleaning company
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Old 07-28-2013, 10:36 AM   #4
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Ductwork Deodorizer


If I were you, i would address the real issue which is your open return, based on your description. I would not look to mask the odor.
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Old 07-28-2013, 10:56 AM   #5
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Ductwork Deodorizer


I tend to agree that you need to get to the root cause rather than masking it. I am not an HVAC expert, but I believe running the returns through joists is done commonly (done on my house anyways) without problems with odors.
But if you really want to spray something in there, you can go to an auto parts store and by HVAC deodorizer. Its a spray can that is sometimes sprayed into the cars ducts to kill bacteria that forms from the condensation on the car's AC evaporator. I would guess that its mostly alcohol, and comes in various scents. Its going to get a little expensive if you are trying to spray your whole duct system. Lysol would be a lot cheaper, but I am not sure if it would be as effective.
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Old 07-28-2013, 11:05 AM   #6
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If I were you, i would address the real issue which is your open return, based on your description. I would not look to mask the odor.
Open return? What do you mean? The return ducts in the living areas of the house are running down the walls and into the main return line in the basement (which runs between the joists and is covered by sheet metal, which apparently was a standard practice according to other HVAC guys) and then into the return boot and then the furnace. I'd say it's operating in a "closed circuit", but I could be wrong. What do you mean by "open return"?

Also, I'm not looking to mask the odor either. As I mentioned before, I'd like to get rid of whatever is causing the odor (i.e. bacteria or whatever) if possible.
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Old 07-28-2013, 11:11 AM   #7
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Ductwork Deodorizer


open studs, no lined ductwork or fiber board.
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Old 07-28-2013, 04:51 PM   #8
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open studs, no lined ductwork or fiber board.
Gotcha, thanks for the clarification.
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Old 07-28-2013, 08:04 PM   #9
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Because I had them (supplies and returns) cleaned by a reputable duct cleaning company
Yes, and of course they actually did what you paid to have done... Because you where there and saw the horrendous amount of filth that came out of your ducts. Right?
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Old 07-28-2013, 08:09 PM   #10
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Ductwork Deodorizer


My guess is that you have a critter doing this. Going by some duct cleaning company, they are probably trying to sell you something else.
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Old 07-28-2013, 08:52 PM   #11
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Yes, and of course they actually did what you paid to have done... Because you where there and saw the horrendous amount of filth that came out of your ducts. Right?
Darn right I was. They're actually a good friend of the family with 4 generations of being in business, and they let me do the work with them. Don't worry WK, I wasn't one of those people scammed with a bait-and-switch duct cleaning service like in that 20/20 special from a few years ago.

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My guess is that you have a critter doing this. Going by some duct cleaning company, they are probably trying to sell you something else.
Just out of curiosity, how would a critter be doing this?
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Old 07-28-2013, 09:20 PM   #12
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Raccoon's, mice, Tree rats that get inside will do it. Even a dead one can cause a stink for a long time. Our Trailblazer makes the same type of smell on a hot day, when the windows are closed up, and you crank up the a/c on recirc.

It is actually a bacteria that if you do not run the heat or run the blowers without the a/c on, will smell like animal pee, or a old dirty sock. The only other thing to do, is while running, spray in a light mist of bleach water, of 1 part bleach, 50 parts water, to help kill anything in the chamber in the car.

As for hvac equipment, do you have a humidifier on this unit? When was the last time bleach water was poured in the tray for the A-Coil, and drain lines cleaned out with Bleach water?

Also is this unit in the basement or Attic, or any duct work that passes through the attic? If you are smelling it specifically in the bath, my guess is that someone missed the pot and hit the duct, or a friend or previous owner may have done it in the past, and the duct cleaning caused the smell to reactivate.
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Old 07-29-2013, 06:31 AM   #13
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Raccoon's, mice, Tree rats that get inside will do it. Even a dead one can cause a stink for a long time. Our Trailblazer makes the same type of smell on a hot day, when the windows are closed up, and you crank up the a/c on recirc.

It is actually a bacteria that if you do not run the heat or run the blowers without the a/c on, will smell like animal pee, or a old dirty sock. The only other thing to do, is while running, spray in a light mist of bleach water, of 1 part bleach, 50 parts water, to help kill anything in the chamber in the car.

As for hvac equipment, do you have a humidifier on this unit? When was the last time bleach water was poured in the tray for the A-Coil, and drain lines cleaned out with Bleach water?

Also is this unit in the basement or Attic, or any duct work that passes through the attic? If you are smelling it specifically in the bath, my guess is that someone missed the pot and hit the duct, or a friend or previous owner may have done it in the past, and the duct cleaning caused the smell to reactivate.
Sorry Greg, perhaps you missed a few posts at the top. I specifically mentioned that there is no urine smell (no dirty sock smell) because there is no coil to be cleaned; I don't have A/C, just a forced hot-air gas-fired furnace. What it smells like, rather, is the inside of the walls; a concrete/cement smell, the smell I experienced when doing the demo work ripping out the walls (which weren't drywall, but not plaster either; some sort of cement/concrete or something) in my bathroom. My assumption, then, is that this smell is due to the returns possibly running open through the wall cavities between the studs.
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Old 07-29-2013, 06:31 AM   #14
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Ductwork Deodorizer


Take a couple pieces of the metal down and shine a light in there check for dead critters.. Calgon makes a little pad you can put in with your filters to deodorize the house. You can also put any type deodorizer in the return air flow. One more thing make sure the panning is tight and not drawing air in from a stinky source.
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Old 07-29-2013, 07:58 AM   #15
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Chris, just making sure we are covering all bases. Now if construction or destruction has been done in the place, air being pulled through the returns can pull those debris through, along with associated smells in the house.

Another item you could get is an ionizer and run that to see if it will remove any smells in the house. The big problem with duct cleaning, is that if you are still doing work in the place, you just threw out everything you just spent, due to dust and fine particulate is still being pulled through the system.

Yes, the Gypsum & plaster smell will linger for a few days. This is a big reason why people shut their systems down while doing this kind of work, due to it will gather on the fan cage in the furnace so thick, that it can actually wear out the motor quicker.

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