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Odd odor

DAXQ_2
DAXQ_2 Member Posts: 52
Hello again, I am experiencing another oddity with my new old house which has Steam Heat (all gory details of the system can be found here : <a href="http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/139724/YASN-Yet-another-steam-newbie-questions-about-my-system">http://www.heatinghelp.com/forum-thread/139724/YASN-Yet-another-steam-newbie-questions-about-my-system</a>) - basically its a single pipe steam system and we have begun to notice a strange smell in the Upstairs (2nd floor) rooms of the house.



The first floor does not have this smell, but I am suspecting that may be due to the fact the rooms are more open/larger than the bed rooms upstairs. Just wondering what could be causing the weird smell and would really like to get rid of it if possible.



We have only lived here for about a year, and have never smelled anything like it before. We have made modifications to the Boiler in the basement as you can see in the link given above, but have done no painting or anything like that to the radiators upstairs.



Along with question I have been wondering if there is any Routine maintenance I should be performing on these radiators? Some of the vents hiss and whistle a little and I am figuring they should be replaced [as it is my understand that they should be open long enough to vent till hot then closed - not hissing or spitting]. I also figured I should check that they actually slope with a level, but aside from that is there anything else I need to be doing for these old iron beauties?

Comments

  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,576
    mysterious smell

    can you describe the odor a bit more? is it like the smell of mold, chemical, or just damp.

    sometimes you can close all the rooms, and then go in later for a sniff test to determine the approximate location of the source. if you have ever been unlucky enough to use mouse poison, then they will seek a hiding place in a wall, or under a floor, and die, and rot.--nbc
  • DAXQ_2
    DAXQ_2 Member Posts: 52
    Describe

    Sure it's not dead rodent (work in AG around grain bins and smelled my fair share of dead mousy). My 13 yo daughter says it smells like a bad version of roasted garlic trisket crackers, and I would add in a faint hint of the sickly sweet smell a dogs ear may get with a yeast infection. Why hasn't anyone invented smelly vision! It's really just an odd smell not crazy offensive ( like the dogs ears ) very very subtle but definitely there.



    I have closed the door on one of the rooms, and am currently doing my weekly flush of the boiler - after a fresh heat in a closed room ill see if Ivan get a better description.
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,849
    A suggestion

    As you've made these changes to your system, are there any second-floor radiators that are now heating significantly more than they have since you moved in?
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • DAXQ_2
    DAXQ_2 Member Posts: 52
    edited January 2013
    Last night

    Last night my wife said she feels the top floor is much warmer than its ever been - and I would agree, in our house as you walk down the stairs from the 2nd to the 1st floor you are hit with a very warm rush of air. I was figuring that the system was designed there are larger rad's in the first floor, about half the size on the second & I just figured is because heat rise and expected the top floor would always be warmer because of it.



    We seem to be less warm on the first floor where the thermostat is located. She just added she is feeling overdressed on second floor and underdressed on first floor.
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,849
    Here's my hunch.

    Since you've done all this work to balance your system, and it's now noticeably warmer on the second floor, there are probably one or two radiators running full blast that previously only got warm halfway across or were maybe even stone cold.



    Suppose somebody spilled a bowl of soup on that radiator a few years back--something kind of spicy, like maybe chickarina they brought up to give to someone who was sick in bed. They would have done their best to clean it up, but there are some places in even three-column radiators that you just can't get to, so there it sat. It might have given off an aroma back then if it was heating up halfway, but the soupy residue soon dissipated from the warmer regions of the radiator--but not the colder parts.



    Now those places where the residue wasn't burned away are getting hot for the first time in years, and the patina of well-aged chickarina is giving up its aroma, fortified by the remnants of mold and other microorganisms that might have fed on it over the intervening years.



    Plausible?
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Sil
    Sil Member Posts: 72
    What kind of vent is on the rad

    A while back when I was messing w vents on my radiator I put a vari-valve on my bedroom rad. They vent real fast. The vent was facing my bed. When heat kicked on in the AM... it blew towards me and I could not stand the smell.



    I swapped to a more typical vent and the problem was solved.
  • Steam_Starter
    Steam_Starter Member Posts: 109
    Stinky feet....

    At the beginning of each heating system I always get an odd smell off the rads. After a few heating cycles it goes away. I found its the dust that accumulates between the fins. Gives off that funky smell you describe



    Now that the rads are getting up to full temp maybe all of the accumulated dust between the fins finally gas reached the vapor off point....



    Just a thought,





    JLG
    "Hey, it looks good on you though..."
  • DAXQ_2
    DAXQ_2 Member Posts: 52
    Very

    I would say that is very plausible indeed! Is there anything you can get to aid with the cleaning of these old radiators? Is a vinegar & water or soap & water a better method?
  • DAXQ_2
    DAXQ_2 Member Posts: 52
    Vents

    Hoffman 75 steam main p/n 401434 on the main 's and Hoffman 40's
  • DAXQ_2
    DAXQ_2 Member Posts: 52
    Wife suspects

    The wife suspects dust and not being able to clean in between the groves.
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Radiator Brushes

    Hi - They make brushes especially to clean steam/HW radiators. They come in regular brush form and also in "bottle brush" form. They are pretty commonly found and reasonably priced.   Amazon carries them as does Staples and Drill Spot www.drillspot.com/

    - Rod
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,849
    edited January 2013
    Cleaning methods

    I wouldn't go anywhere near it with vinegar. That might make it reek like never before. Short of taking it outside and hitting it with a pressure washer your best bet is probably an assortment of wire brushes and a shop-vac.



    This is one I find pretty handy, and it's even on sale! :-) These are also very useful, but you go through them. The bristles get matted down and break off, and I occasionally twist the handles off, but I guess it's part of the job. I tend to keep an extra set on hand.
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • Hap_Hazzard
    Hap_Hazzard Member Posts: 2,849
    I see you've discovered that Staples carries hard-to-find tools.

    Isn't that the funniest thing? I got a nice Hanson 2" NPT tap from them. I saw it at OfficeDepot first, but Staples had the better price. I've never seen DrillSpot.com before, but it looks awesome. Thanks for the link!
    Just another DIYer | King of Prussia, PA
    1983(?) Peerless G-561-W-S | 3" drop header, CG400-1090, VXT-24
  • DAXQ_2
    DAXQ_2 Member Posts: 52
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    Staples

    Hi- I was quite amazed the first time I saw Staples as a source for tools and hardware!

    The Drillspot is a really good source for a lot of odd things that Mc Master Carr doesn't have. The latest item I got from them was an hour meter for my boiler.

    - Rod
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