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Thread: what's the smell coming from my attic?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
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    Phoenix, AZ USA
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    what's the smell coming from my attic?

    I'll start by saying my mom raised me to be very paranoid about smells (but she was the person who detected a fire in the wall of our apartment building when the fire was down the hall and she noticed before people who lived in the apartments with the burning walls).

    We have the AC on and I notice the smell when its on (fans on). There are 3 types of vents in on our upper level - the vents with the filters (this is air going into the ac I think), small square vents that can be adjusted as to where they blow (cool air comes out of these) and then there are 2 medium sized vents - no filter, there is a grate, and I can see a large pipe going up from there. Sorry, I am so not techincal about these things. Anyway I notice the smell when standing under this 3rd type of vent. Its not a burning smell but not a rotten smell either (like a dead rodent). My husband said kind of like burnt toast (but he also agreed it doesn't smell like its burning). He stuck his head up in the attic and didn't smell the same scent (its not an easy attic to get into - we've never been up there). AC units are outside on the ground and heater is in the attic.

    We've smelled it for at least 2 days.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
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    Columbus, OH USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by DanaSD View Post
    and then there are 2 medium sized vents - no filter, there is a grate, and I can see a large pipe going up from there. Sorry, I am so not techincal about these things. Anyway I notice the smell when standing under this 3rd type of vent.
    .
    These sound like the cold air returns. Don't hold me to that tho' but if they are it's so the air can flow. We had to install one when we finished our 1/2 story, otherwise the air has no where to go. I'm stumped from here tho because our furnace and AC are the same unit. Regardless, I'd think some dust may be heating up when the AC got turned on, did you just start your AC?
    You can't drink rum on the beach all day if you don't start in the morning.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
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    I think the latter grates are the cold air returns, too. But what do I know. If the odor gets worse you might have a dead animal. We had an odor in our house that got progressively worse on the main floor. You couldn't smell it in the basement or the 2nd floor. It turned out to be a dead possum in the crawl space, underneath the basement.

  4. #4
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    You may need to have your ducts and/or your AC unit cleaned. Dust and such can settle in the ducts and over time build up. If you aren't using a filter, more dust can get into the system. If it is in the AC unit as well, it will keep it from working as well and as efficiently as it should.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2001
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    I was going to ask if you have just turned on the AC, too. I notice a smell when I turn on the furnace for the winter that lasts a few hours. I am pretty paranoid about strange smells too, so I understand.

    I would say if it doesn't go away in the next day or so you might want to call a repair place. Maybe you can describe what it is, and they can tell you if its normal or if you need to have someone come out.
    “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed
    door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

    Helen Keller (1880–1968)

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    notice any flies in the house? in my experience, flies + smell = dead animal. I figured that one out after watching an episode of CSI (seriously).
    <)>>< Candace ><<)>

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Location
    Phoenix, AZ USA
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    thanks everyone. Its been on about 3 weeks (off and on - we've been having cool spells mixed with hot spells). I was wondering if it was something dead but doesn't quite have that sour smell.

    We do have a service contract that includes maintenance two times/year - I need to call them anyway. Because its so dusty here and AC is so important here, we make sure to keep the system well serviced - its not fun when the AC breaks when its 110+ outside.

    Air return duct - I thought the air returned through the vents with the filters? And if its returning (going back up) then why is the smell coming out of these? Sometimes I really wish I knew more about home mechanics...

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