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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
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    17

    erv condo, odor transfer to the corridors

    Hi,

    I live in a new condo building in Toronto which uses the ERV system with individual fresh and exhaust vents for each unit and separate ones for the corridor and the front doors are weatherstripped to lower air transfer between the units and the corridors. There was never any cooking odors in the corridors until suddenly since about two months ago at about the same time a few nights a week there is strong cooking odors in the corridors, so strong that it seeps into my condo from around the front door and if you open the door it is quite warm and smelly, like you opened the door into somebody's kitchen. New neighbors have also moved into a unit on our floor at that time. I know that they don't keep their front door open when cooking, so what could be causing this?
    Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    So. NH
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    746
    Can the tenants shut their Erv's off?

    Just a guess but thinking the new tenants might not have realized what it was and shut it off.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
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    17
    Yes! I think people might confuse it with the bathroom fan and just turn it on when using the bathroom. Would the ERV being off cause this much air to come into the corridor though?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Suppy NC
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    4,513
    it is also possible the evr in the hallway needs to be serviced
    or isnt working

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
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    17
    They say they checked the corridor erv and it works fine. Does cold weather affect how well these things work? Also, can they increase the pressure in the corridors so it wouldn't allow the air from the condos to come into the corridor?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    So. NH
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    Quote Originally Posted by torontoq View Post
    Yes! I think people might confuse it with the bathroom fan and just turn it on when using the bathroom. Would the ERV being off cause this much air to come into the corridor though?
    I would suggest a letter to everyone from the condo ass. reminding everyone on the proper use and advantages of the ERV's first.

    As far as it being off causing air to move into the hallway is hard to say without being there. It is possible with it off for there to be pressure difference, it is also possible they have a window open.

    To your question on increasing hallway pressure I wouldn't, that would also force that air into your apartment.

    Try a little experiment. With your door slightly cracked open do you feel air moving either way? Try a little smoke from something to see.
    Try it with your ERV on and off.
    Last edited by stvc; 12-26-2011 at 10:03 PM. Reason: added experiment

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Posts
    17
    Hi,
    I did the experiment. Air flow is from the corridor to my apartment both with erv on and off. It's stronger at floor level, but even up at the top of the door there is a slight flow inward. Comparatively when I open the balcony door the flow is from outside in up to 4 feet and inside to outside above that. I had to actually really seal around my front door for this cooking odor to not come inside.

    so with this info, does it mean they would have to have their window open for the odor to come inside the corridor? Could there be some problem with that unit's insulation/weatherproofing?

    Also, when you have the erv on, other than the vacuum produced by the bathroom fan, does it actively suck in air from the outside? because the vents are near the top of the ceiling, so based on the balcony door experiment, air wouldn't naturally flow in from that height right?

    Thanks

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    So. NH
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    746
    Quote Originally Posted by torontoq View Post
    Hi,
    I did the experiment. Air flow is from the corridor to my apartment both with erv on and off. It's stronger at floor level, but even up at the top of the door there is a slight flow inward. Comparatively when I open the balcony door the flow is from outside in up to 4 feet and inside to outside above that. I had to actually really seal around my front door for this cooking odor to not come inside.
    What I gather from this is your unit is under negative pressure with respect to the hallway [WRT] Try the same experiment at your balcony door to determine your unit pressure WRT outside.
    so with this info, does it mean they would have to have their window open for the odor to come inside the corridor?
    No, I only used that as an example of something else that could change the pressure in the building
    Could there be some problem with that unit's insulation/weatherproofing?
    Yes, but there may also be something elsewhere. Multi family buildings can be a challenge for many reasons. Amongst them users with different habits and knowledge, and of course the building itself. I'll try to keep this simple but it won't end up that way. The outside walls are the pressure and thermal boundary, all the walls inside are just rooms in the building. Think single family house, your bedroom is your unit, your brothers bedroom is his unit. It's hard to separate them.
    Also, when you have the erv on, other than the vacuum produced by the bathroom fan, does it actively suck in air from the outside? because the vents are near the top of the ceiling, so based on the balcony door experiment, air wouldn't naturally flow in from that height right?
    Yes, The concept of the ERV is that it takes air from the outside and tempers it with the air being exhausted thus recovering the energy and providing fresh air. There are a couple other very knowledgeable folks on this site with expertise in this area, surprised they haven't chimed in. Will see if I can get their attention.

    Thanks
    Hope this helps, BTW, how many floors, units, and what floor are you on?
    Last edited by stvc; 12-27-2011 at 10:07 PM. Reason: added question

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX
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    11,317
    Bottom line is that the condo where the cooking odors originate is positively pressurized to the corridor, and the corridor in some aspect is positive to your condo. You stated that improvising some form of seal around the entry door checks the odors. This would indicate the door is the point of entry into your condo, not some other path such as cavities or voids in walls or ceilings.

    Are there exhaust hoods over the cooking appliances in the condos?

    ERVs can be adjusted for keeping a structure pressurized. But it could be something as simple as encouraging the owners of the the unit where the cooking odors originate to have their entry door seals checked.
    • Electricity makes refrigeration happen.
    • Refrigeration makes the HVAC psychrometric process happen.
    • HVAC pyschrometrics is what makes indoor human comfort happen...IF the ducts AND the building envelope cooperate.


    A building is NOT beautiful unless it is also comfortable.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
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    17
    Thank you all.

    yes, there are exhaust hoods over the stoves. They assured me all the exhaust goes out of the balcony, although, sometimes it feels like theirs opens to the hallway. (they are on the other side of the building so their exhaust vent is nowhere near my input vent which is on my balcony as well.)

    The entry door seals on these units aren't very good. I had to add several more layers, at the bottom there was almost a pinky finger thick gap. still there is a small breeze at the bottom.

    if the erv is on even minimum, the bathroom fan turns on as well. There doesn't seem to be a way to have it on and not have the fan on at the same time. I never put it on high because you get the nextdoor neighbor's exhaust pulled in but it's still much better than the corridor odor!

    yes, when I open the balcony door the airflow at the front door goes the other way. But in winter we would freeze to death also within minutes but I'll try it with the smaller window and see what happens.

    Yes, there are people right bellow me. Should I try to decrease this internal stack by lowering the temperature? is it contributing to the problem? I tried at 75 degrees and the flow from the corridor to my home is
    slightly less.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
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    Over Here
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canadaq View Post

    yes, there are exhaust hoods over the stoves. They assured me all the exhaust goes out of the balcony, although, sometimes it feels like theirs opens to the hallway. (they are on the other side of the building so their exhaust vent is nowhere near my input vent which is on my balcony as well.)

    The entry door seals on these units aren't very good. I had to add several more layers, at the bottom there was almost a pinky finger thick gap. still there is a small breeze at the bottom.

    if the erv is on even minimum, the bathroom fan turns on as well. There doesn't seem to be a way to have it on and not have the fan on at the same time. I never put it on high because you get the nextdoor neighbor's exhaust pulled in but it's still much better than the corridor odor!

    yes, when I open the balcony door the airflow at the front door goes the other way. But in winter we would freeze to death also within minutes but I'll try it with the smaller window and see what happens.

    Should I try to decrease this internal stack by lowering the temperature? is it contributing to the problem? I tried at 75 degrees and the flow from the corridor to my home is
    slightly less.

    Everything in bold indicates to me your unit has the ability to achieve a negative state created by a combination of mechanical operating exhaust devices. ERV, bathroom fan, kitchen exhaust, and I suspect your air handling unit are all factors.

    I tried at 75 degrees and the flow from the corridor to my home is
    slightly less.
    So when you turn the unit down from 80 to 75, you notice the air from outside to in less, meaning less negative pressure when the heating system turns off?

    How many square feet is the heated space?

    You indicated earlier that it is cold at your feet and warm up high. Are your return (intake for unit) grille, and supply grilles all in the ceiling?

    My real gut feeling of your problem, though, points to the prevailing wind as the culprit, IMHO. I'm getting the impression that the wind is blowing through your neighbors unit, carrying the aroma through the corridor, and continuing right through your unit, and out through the rear on the balcony. This is not related to stack effect, but another force that affects the conditions of the living space in a major way.

    I would recommend sealing around exterior cracks and crevices around your unit as best as you can to stop the 'flood' of air. Anything beyond that will require a professional with qualifications in building envelope analysis. House maintenance most likely would be in the dark for a real solution. It would be interesting to see the results, as there is a lot going on here.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Posts
    17
    Thank you.

    the wind theory seems interesting (not very good for me though! ). I should follow wind patterns and how bad the smell gets.

    also I thought maybe the exhaust ducts in the corridor have a leak.

    yes, everything is in the ceiling and it's a small apartment. seven hundred or so. At 75 degrees there isn't much temp difference, but at 80 degrees it's too cold at the floor and a sauna at head level.

    I'll do some more experimentation later.

    the management was very accommodating and said they are checking things out. I hope it's something simple that can be resolved without bothering the neighbors. meanwhile, off to get more weatherstripping! the choices seem to be either so thick I have to wrestle with the door to get it closed, or so thin there still is a draft

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    So. NH
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    746
    Quote Originally Posted by Canadaq View Post
    At 75 degrees there isn't much temp difference, but at 80 degrees it's too cold at the floor and a sauna at head level.
    A small difference is to be expected but this sounds extreme. Could you measure actual temp at floor, ceiling and hallway with a reasonably accurate handheld thermometer? Try it with hvac on and off and perhaps different locations in your unit. Something seems odd to me about this extreme difference.

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