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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    9
    We recently moved to Miami and purchased a house in March. When we had it inspected, the results came back that there was a mild amount of mold on the air handler--people reassured us this was common down here. As the air conditioning units were the original ones from when the house was built in 1973, we took the opportunity to replace both and also had the air ducts thoroughly cleaned.

    Ever since we have been experiencing a urine-like smell coming through our air ducts. We have checked everything, including having the air duct cleaning company come back. No one seems to know what is causing this smell, but it is foul.

    The smell is especially strong in our kitchen. The kitchen is on the ground floor, but the air vent flow is connected to the upstairs air duct. We don't know why it was set up this way, rather than on the downstairs unit. I am not sure whether this could be relevant. Occasionally we will smell the urine in the upstairs rooms as well.

    I read on another posting about UVC lights and photocatalytic systems. Would these be potential solutions? Would a dehumidifyer work? What kind of service should we call to get this evaluated? Thus far everyone we've called hasn't a clue what the problem is and we are very concerned by this.

    We have a 3 year old who has been suffering from a lot of
    respiratory illness since we moved here, although I don't know whether it has to do with our house or his preschool....

    Thanking you in advance for your help with this

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    2,927
    Originally posted by ezhfjs
    Thanking you in advance for your help with this
    Get a hand spray bottle(like an old windex bottle)
    make a solution of 4 parts water 1 part bleach to spray into air the ducts airstream.Try to avoid spraying mist through the blower at first.Enter downstream,after blower.
    See if that works.....If not,then try a fine mist through the blower.

    This is a cheap and easy solution.It sometimes is all you need.
    Sometimes there are compounding complexities of multiple variables that are not intuitively obvious

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Posts
    997
    I don't totally agree with jacob. I would under no circumstances spray bleach into the duct. But I would take that same bottle with plain water and then mist the coils, turn the fan to on and see if the smell starts if it does that should mean the odor is from the coil. The duct cleaning company should have cleaned these ask them to clean them again.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    125
    Being as you are in Florida, and that Florida uses flex-duct exclusively, you have critters living in your duct system. Hire an exterminator first, then have your ducts repaired. Rat or mice or other pest feces are probably the cause of your kids problems.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    2,927
    Originally posted by ezhfjs
    As the air conditioning units were the original ones from when the house was built in 1973, we took the opportunity to replace both and also had the air ducts thoroughly cleaned.

    Yes I misread...."replaced units".ductwork is still unchanged,though except for cleaning .I am guessing it is hardpipe.(When did flex become the norm? 1968? 1978?)

    No I wouldnt spray anything in newer units,I would if they were the the 1973 models,though.

    I would get rid of that smell though.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    9
    We have fiber ducts (is that flex?)

    Regarding the post on rats or mice, I'd expect that we would hear them if we had them? Also, we did have the ducts cleaned so I am presuming that they would have found any rats or mice then (at least I am hoping so). The duct cleaning company is coming again this week so I will ask them to double-check. I learned also that because they had difficulty reaching the air duct leading to the kitchen, they cut it open and re-sealed it. Could this have something to do with our odor?

    In the meantime if anyone has advice on how to get rid of the smell, I would be so grateful - it is becoming more and more unpleasant

    Thanks again

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    125
    you have to get rid of the source (vermin) before you get rid of the smell. trust me on that. hire an exterminator first

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Posts
    997
    Fiber duct ( duct board ) Did the cleaning company coat these? Duct board needs to be coated after it is cleaned! Foster 40-20 is probably the best you can buy.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    9
    I greatly appreciate these suggestions - i hope we are getting somewhere with this

    drk -
    I checked and the company that cleaned our duct work did not seal it afterwards. In fact they mentioned that they may have damaged parts of the ducts as there was physical rubble and all kinds of junk that came out when they cleaned them. Plus, as mentioned, they did have to cut one part open so that they could get to it and clean.

    If the ducts are unsealed, does that mean that moisture is collecting in the fibers and possibly causing the nasty stench?

    If we hired them to come and seal it, could that be all that is needed to solve the problem?

    Is that an expensive process?

    tin_fab and outside rep -
    I have also called an exterminator to come next week and check for vermin--yuck. What are midgets?

    I'll keep you posted as we find out more...


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Posts
    997
    Yes moisture can and will get into the duct board! Plus the fiber glass will erode. I can't belief that they did not quote to coat the duct board after cleaning ( this is a no brainier ). Make sure that the coating is an EPA approved coating! Not just one chemical but all the product! Make sure it has an antimicrobial inhibitor in it also. I have seen wet insulation to cause an odor before. Is this your problem? only time will tell. But Duct board should be coated after cleaning smell or no smell. GOOD LUCK!!!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Posts
    996
    dont let the cat play in the ductwork

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    9
    An update

    I had the house inspected twice and while we have termites, there is no sign of any vermin living in our attic. In fact most of the openings to the house are well sealed

    I had the airduct re-cleaned. The company said it did not make sense to seal it because it takes too many turns in going from upstairs to downstairs and they would not be able to adequately reach it.

    For now I am running an ozone machine in the hopes that the smell goes away (so far, no good)

    My final guess is that there is dampness in the airduct causing the urine-like smell. It's a fiber duct

    Would we have to do something as drastic as replace the air duct to get rid of the smell? We are only planning to stay in the house for another year or so...

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Posts
    997
    ezhfjs
    Watch that ozone! Ozone is a pollutant. It can be very dangerous! Take a look at EPA web site. If you are only going to be in the house for one year I don't think I would replace the duct. Your duct cleaning company should be able to get to most of the duct to coat it.

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