Sewer gas can be confusing problem to solve
Dear Mike and Charles,
My house has a strong sewer gas odor problem. I am at a loss as where this may be originating from. Can you help?
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Sewer gas can be a confusing problem to solve, but it is by no means impossible. Sewer gas is created by the decomposition of waste materials that are found in public and private sewer systems as well as private septic systems. The characteristic odor can be overpowering and it can be toxic.
The following are some of the main sources of sewer gas odor:
– The most common source can be attributed to plumbing fixtures whose traps have gone dry or have lost enough water that the water seal within the trap has broken. The water can evaporate within a few months from toilets, the traps below tubs, floor drains and just about any fixture. One solution to slow down the evaporation from fixture traps that are not used on a frequent basis is to fill them with water and then slowly pour about a half a cup of mineral oil into the fixture or floor drain. Because mineral oil will evaporate much slower than water the trap will remain wet for many months.
– Another source of sewer gas leaks are cracks in either plumbing drain lines or vents pipes. These types of leaks can be quickly discovered by a plumber with a machine that generates artificial smoke. Once the smoke machine starts, it begins to slightly pressurize the plumbing system. If there is a cracked pipe or a loose fitting joint, the smoke will readily exit at that point. Sewer gas problems can also be caused by clogged plumbing vent pipes. This usually happens in older homes where a cast iron vent pipe gets clogged by years of rust scale build-up that falls off the inside of the pipe and clogs at a bend in the pipe. In this case the pipe would need to be cleared or replaced as is necessary.
Since we are on the subject of household odors we would like to take this opportunity to mention some other odor sources. To begin, a distinctive odor resembling rotten eggs is an indication of a gas leak. Because natural and propane gases are colorless and odorless the gas company will add this type of odorant as a safety precaution to alert the customer should a leak occur. A faint odor of gas maybe attributed to a pilot light that has gone out and should be re-lit. A strong gas odor indicates that you should vacate your home at once and call the gas company.
Does your home smell like dirty socks? We call this phenomenon “the dirty sock syndrome.” This can be the result of fungus, mold and mildew growing inside of your heating and cooling equipment. Having all the heating and cooling system and ductwork professionally cleaned as a part of normal maintenance will help minimize this.
Stale, musty odors are associated with molds and mildews. These odors are known aggravators of allergies, asthma and other respiratory ailments. They typically occur whenever; moisture is introduced into the mix, such as a leak or inadequate ventilation.
From the dog’s bed to the cat’s litter box, pets are among the most common sources of unpleasant indoor odors. Or maybe you have a child that plays organized sports? If you’ve never gotten a whiff of a hockey or soccer player’s gear bag, consider yourself fortunate.
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