The Furnace is Killing Me

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The Furnace is Killing Me

Postby sensualspirit » Tue Dec 14, 2010 7:03 am

Hi everyone,

I'll try to make this short.

About 1 1/2 wks. ago after having the heat on (forced air) for at least 2-3 wks., I started to smell this terrible sweet smell with a chemical undertone.

At first I thought it would go away, but it didn't.

After about 2-3 days I started to get health symptoms which only increased as time went on. The sweet chemical taste permeated into my throat & nostrils. I couldn't breath at times & my heart was beating a mile a minute when I would smell it a lot. My tongue started to have a sore on it & my throat would hurt me.

I finally narrowed it down that this was only happening just before the furnace would come on & during. I also didn't smell it as much during the day (only faintly), but moreso late at night after 10-11 pm & even worse at 4 am as I'm always up late.

I could never smell it via the vents & I believe it was only coming from one side of the house even though it would move all over the house of course. My bedroom wasn't a problem but eventually it became stifling in there too even though I couldn't smell it in there.

This is not my house, but I'm the one that called in the fire dept. & they called Union Gas. They came during the day & didn't smell anything. I chalked it up to it being during the day & them not having a keen sense of smell. A lot of people don't have a good sense of smell I've learned.

I started to feel like I was suffocating in the house & I wanted to run screaming, but I have no place to go.

I searched online & found a chemical that has that exact smell & I have the symptoms described, but no one has any clue where that chemical would be in relation to the furnace.

The landlady was being a b*tch constantly saying "I can't smell anything." Her & her son-in law came in to do other work & at one point he made fun of me when he walked into the house "OOOOH, what's that smell!" He was being sarcastic of course trying to prove I was just lying or something. He also suggested I move out (I know she wants me out of here b/c she doesn't like it when I tell her something needs to be fixed).

I called the water heater company (Reliance), as they have HVAC guys too. He took a brief look, went around smelled the vents, said there was nothing wrong & suggested I get the ducts cleaned, that maybe some wood chips or dust was burning when the furnace would turn on.

After a week of me being in pain I said I have no choice & I turned off the furnace & the house dropped down to 55 just tonight it's so cold out there. It took about a day & a half & the sweet smell finally disappeared. The air still felt heavy & I still had health symptoms, but they were starting to calm down a bit.

I started searching online for air pollution experts, but I can't afford $1,000 for them to come in & take a sample. I found a guy who sells UV air purifiers that you have to attach to the duct above the furnace & he said it would get rid of the smell for sure. Even though I can't afford it ($500), I purchased it. I am desperate.

I didn't feel comfortable masking the problem b/c it was clear to me that something toxic is being emitted into the air, but I didn't know what else to do.

Then I talked to a guy who said that if the HVAC guy was only here for like 15 minutes, then he never actually cleaned the furnace & that I should tell them to check the firebox. That maybe a piece of plastic fell into a vent & this was causing the toxic smell.

I put the UV air purifier on hold & had Reliance bring back another guy today to check the furnace. I also had a maintenance call booked for tomorrow.

The guy who came today said there's no way a piece of plastic could get in near the coils, b/c there's this big huge duct (or whatever it's called - I have pictures) covering the thing up, so unless there was something in there when the furnace was first put in, nothing could get in there.

He also told me that the maintenance isn't going to do anything, all they do is check to make sure the system is running properly which it is as heat is coming out. There's a small amount of cleaning to the bottom heat exchange or coils, but not much.

He said that in order to get at the bigger coils, they have to cut a hole in that metal duct flute & pull it out & then clean it. That there are 2 areas where the heat comes from. He said that more extensive maintenance would cost like $300-400 which is just too much for me, especially when we aren't sure that's the problem.

He made it seem like this was probably not going to solve the problem & he had no idea what was going on.

I canceled the maintenance call for tomorrow.

In the meantime I talked to my ND (naturopathic doctor) & we thought b/c I've been taking some really strong meds that are cleansing my body, that maybe I was just too sensitive & having an allergic reaction, so he's given me something for allergies.

I have to specify that while I can't stand chemical smells & strong perfume (which is toxic), I've NEVER in all my years encountered this problem & I've lived in many different houses. And I didn't have this problem last year or even 2 wks. ago.

I also went out & bought a Honeywell hepa charcoal air purifier b/c to wait for the other one is 7-9 days away.

Within 3-4 hours of turning the heat back on I could faintly smell the sweet smell. It's not as bad b/c the Honeywell seems to be working & is VERY noisy, but my body did start to react to the furnace. My lips started feeling numb & expanding. My throat is feeling scratchy again. My eyes feel scratchy & sore, My nose is bothering me too.

At this point I don't know what to do.

I really really hope someone has some idea & has heard of this happening before.

Thank you very much for listening.


Michelle
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- The Furnace is Killing Me

Postby clay3636 » Mon Dec 20, 2010 3:16 pm

if this is a gas furnace, could be a cracked heat exchanger, you could try getting a carbon monoxide detector. you also could go to an allergy dr. and test what your allergic too, or get a blood test to see whats in your system.
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- The Furnace is Killing Me

Postby sensualspirit » Tue Dec 21, 2010 4:02 am

Thanks, most people say they think it's the heat exchange.

I never had this problem before. At first I thought it was b/c I was too sensitive & maybe my system is more sensitive now that I took that really strong homeopathy pill, but I know it's not that, there's something wrong.

Now I live in a freezing cold house anywhere around 53-60. I'm getting sick from that too.

I'm hoping a legal clinic will give me better advice tomorrow since the landlady doesn't care & just sent me a notice to raise the rent. She's a very lovely person - NOT!


Michelle -)
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- The Furnace is Killing Me

Postby sensualspirit » Wed Dec 22, 2010 5:18 am

**"bigwheelingman"-* carbon monicode sensors arent even accurate youll have to get a air probe type and check the registers for */-*

Union gas did that the first time I had the fire dept. in here, but he said he found nothing.

When I called & asked him to give me the readings i never heard from him again.


Michelle
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- The Furnace is Killing Me

Postby juster » Sun Jan 02, 2011 6:41 pm

Carbon monoxide, you would not smell, but you may feel sick. Do you have a humidifier on your furnace? while humidifiers should be installed on the return air side of the duct work, but they are not always installed in this manner. Sometimes they are installed on the supply air side. If this is the case, and the unit leaked, water may fall on the heat exchanger and cause a smell. Very bad for the heat exchanger and you too. Not saying this is the case but it is worth a check.
Something burning in the furnace may also cause a problem. Maybe a mouse made it's backwards through the vents to the heat exchanger???
You can try putting the fan to the on position to run the fan all the time, just to see if the problem persists only then the furnace is on (heat mode only) or just when the fan is running which would be all the time with the fan mode in the on position.
Not sure if any of this will help but if you find out what the problem is please post and let us know.
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- The Furnace is Killing Me

Postby sensualspirit » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:52 am

Hi there,

No, there's no humidifier on the unit. I wish there was as it's so dry in the house.

Another HVAC guy said he doesn't think it's the furnace, rather something in the house being cirluated when the heat comes on. I did try just the fan, but the fact that it was freezing cold & I left the house shortly after I turned it on didn't give me a complete test.

I did start to feel some symptoms, but I didn't keep it on as long as I would the heat as it's just too cold to run it for 2 days straight.

I may try again.

In the meantime I'm still trying to make my body stronger to whatever the toxin is in the air & I'm living in a freezing cold house.

I'll be taking the landlady to court soon.

Thank you


Michelle
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- The Furnace is Killing Me

Postby hvaclover » Wed Jan 05, 2011 4:42 am

**"juster"-* monoxide, you would not smell, but you may feel sick. Do you have a humidifier on your furnace? while humidifiers should be installed on the return air side of the duct work, but they are not always installed in this manner. Sometimes they are installed on the supply air side. If this is the case, and the unit leaked, water may fall on the heat exchanger and cause a smell. Very bad for the heat exchanger and you too. Not saying this is the case but it is worth a check.
Something burning in the furnace may also cause a problem. Maybe a mouse made it's backwards through the vents to the heat exchanger???
You can try putting the fan to the on position to run the fan all the time, just to see if the problem persists only then the furnace is on (heat mode only) or just when the fan is running which would be all the time with the fan mode in the on position.
Not sure if any of this will help but if you find out what the problem is please post and let us know.*/-*
Juster is right about CO not smelling in it's pure form. But if it is producing aldehydes then it can be smelled. There are plenty of documented cases of intermittent aldahydes leaking from the bad cell into the air stream and into the home.

In this case a camera inspection of the heat ex is called for or the heat exchanger must be pulled and inspected.
I believe you Michelle as I have as a last resort pulled apart three furnaces to confirm my suspicions.
A CA test would have found the problem immediately.
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- The Furnace is Killing Me

Postby sensualspirit » Wed Jan 05, 2011 6:55 am

I already had the fire dept. & Union gas in here & they found nothing.

The sweet smell went away. I think it was b/c the cleaning lady I had in here didn't rinse the floors, couch, coffee table etc. & the heat was making me smell it.

I've since rinsed everything, but I'm still getting some of the symptoms.

I'm also exhausted all of the time.

Some think it's the mold on the windows, but they didn't bother me before, but maybe it's just gotten to the point where I'm more sensitive b/c I'm cleaning out my body & there's something in the house that's causing a problem.

That could also be why I've been more sick since I moved into this house 2.5 yrs. ago.

Do you want me to paste what that other HVAC guy said so you can take a look? I also have pics of the furnace to show that nothing could get in there.

Thanks


Michelle
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- The Furnace is Killing Me

Postby David1938 » Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:29 am

We have an intermittent sweet-smell problem with our packaged heat pump. Our crawl space was recently soda-blasted and sealed against the outdoors. A dehumidifier was installed in the crawl space. New supply ducts were installed in the crawl space, and all other ducts in our two-story house were cleaned. Our heat pump is only about five years old. So, what is causing the occasional sweet smell? I suspect that the heat pump is the source of the smell, and I will pursue this mystery with our HVAC fellow.
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