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  • Gas heater smell

    Guys, I have a small issue that's driving me nuts.

    I have a non-vented "blue flame" heater running on natural gas. Similar to this:
    http://fireforless.com/empire-30-000...lp-bf30lp.html

    It does have a fan pushing the hot air.

    I use it to keep a small building at roughly 50F in the winter. It ran fine last winter. This winter it still runs fine but now has a noticeable smell. The smell is somewhat similar to the kerosene smell you get from torpedo jobsite heaters, only not as strong. I say similar, because it's not quite a kerosene smell, don't know what else to compare it to.

    There is no CO given out and the flame is all normal blue with an occasional orange spike here and there. I've taken it apart and couldn't find any parts overheating/melting/etc.

    Any idea what this may be and /or how to troubleshoot?

  • #2
    Re: Gas heater smell

    The only time I have odor issues with my kerosene blower/torpedo is when there is water in the fuel.

    You say natural gas; is it possible they changed either the type or amount of the rotten egg smell additive? Probably worth a call to ask, although you may not get a truthful answer!
    Take Care

    Jim

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Gas heater smell

      Sometimes when people complain of odor, and it is not caused from a gas leak or venting problem, the cause is from a chemical in the home such as recent painting, or minor gasoline fumes from when they store the weed whacker in the basement for the season. That creates a much stronger and different odor when it is being burned as part of the combustion air.

      Does it have a replaceable catalytic part?
      How about just a good cleaning for dust?

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Gas heater smell

        Jim, no it's not the additive, my house is connected to the same supply and no smell from the kitchen stove.

        Johnny, there is no gasoline, paint or any other fumes in the building. It is not a catalytic heater, just a normal burner. Yes I did clean the dust off the burner, made no difference.

        The burner is a stainless (horizontal) cylinder the width of the whole unit, with tiny holes for the gas on top, look like laser cut slots.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Gas heater smell

          DG,
          You might want to check to see how the pilot and/or venturi tubes are adjusted. They may have some dust/crud built up on them. I have seen this be the source of strange smells on other natural gas furnaces. In my experience if the tubes are not adjusted just right the gas does not burn cleanly and you can have that rotten egg smell. You mentioned that you occasionally see a yellow spot in the normally blue flame. I'm thinking the venturi is your culprit. Of course, YMMV...

          Don
          I started out with nothing. I still have most of it left.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Gas heater smell

            Thanks Don. There are no adjustments. The venturi is the inside of the burner and is clean. I did take out the metering orifice that dispenses the gas into the venturi and it is clean as a whistle.

            As a test, I turned on the kitchen stove on max and inhaled the exhaust for a while. It's the same smell, only much less in the kitchen. So apparently it's the same exhaust products, only much stronger in the heater. The BTUs are comparable (around 25k), so they should smell about the same.

            The heater actually burns with a cleaner blue flame than the kitchen stove so I'm stumped.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Gas heater smell

              Originally posted by dgbldr View Post
              I turned on the kitchen stove on max and inhaled the exhaust for a while. So I'm stumped.
              To good to resist, I HAD to misquote you. :>)
              Chuck Kiser
              Knollwood Construction Company
              Palos Park, IL 60464

              Knollwood Construction
              Kitchen Remodeling Chicago
              Bathroom Remodeling Chicago
              Building Repairs Chicago

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Gas heater smell

                Originally posted by dgbldr View Post
                There is no CO given out
                What did you check it with?
                Bailer Hill Construction, Inc. - Friday Harbor, WA
                Website - Facebook

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Gas heater smell

                  David, I have a CO detector 10 ft away from that heater. It has a digital display that reads in ppm. Currently reading zero. Can't say how accurate it is, but I did check it a while ago and it was fine. I think it measures 10ppm and up.

                  CO is also an indication of incomplete (rich) combustion and I don't see that in the flame.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Gas heater smell

                    Originally posted by dgbldr View Post

                    I turned on the kitchen stove on max and inhaled the exhaust for a while.
                    No thanks, I'll take a beer or margarita. Or both.
                    Richie Poor

                    See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, value engineer your unit prices.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Gas heater smell

                      Originally posted by dgbldr View Post
                      a CO detector
                      If it's a UL-2034 unit it may not be very good, especially at low levels. It probably would show something if you had a major problem. The better units are well over a hundred bucks, and they need to be up where you would install a smoke detector. I would expect 10-20 PPM in the undiluted flue gas of a typical water heater, definitely not zero, and at least a few PPM from a really good cooktop burner flame with nothing on the burner.

                      The rule of thumb for propane is that 5 gallons burned yields a gallon of water vapor... a significant source of humidity. NG is probably similar. Flue gas has a wet smell that I can detect easily even in small quantities. I did a blower door test last month and pulled flue gas out of a direct vent fireplace that had a factory defect. Only the pilot light was burning, no burner flame, and the house was really drafty, but I could smell it anyway.

                      And of course you could be smelling methyl mercaptan used to scent the fuel.

                      I would check it out with a combustion analyzer a foot or two in front of the unit, and check the gas line and the unit itself with a gas sniffer. If nothing is found, forget it.
                      Bailer Hill Construction, Inc. - Friday Harbor, WA
                      Website - Facebook

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Gas heater smell

                        David, I think you missed my purpose. I'm not worried about CO, I spent many hours in there already with no ill effects whatsoever. It's the smell that annoys me and there was no smell last winter (installed the unit at the beginning of last winter).

                        No it's not methyl mercaptan. I know that smell.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Gas heater smell

                          I understand that you want to know what the smell is. My guess is that it's the water vapor in the air, and that the exact makeup of the NG you are getting has changed. When I lived in CA (and MI) we had NG. One day on a remodel my plumber was moaning about how the utility company was now buying gas from Texas... the water in it had some objectionable quality or other... it was a new problem. Maybe if you got the right MichCon person on the phone you would be able to get some inside dope on exactly what they're selling this year.
                          Bailer Hill Construction, Inc. - Friday Harbor, WA
                          Website - Facebook

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Gas heater smell

                            David, I burn the same gas in the kitchen and I get almost no smell at all from a comparable size (btu) burner. So it's not the gas.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Gas heater smell

                              OK, same size burner(+/-), same blue flame(visual), no smell in kitchen when you sit next to the flame, what's left?

                              It burned ok last year, you cleaned it this year, but, if there is a small teensy odor, there has to be one of the ports in the burner not igniting, whether you cleaned it or not! There are only two options for these generally clean burning units.....one is it's out of adjustments in some way or one or more of the burner ports are not igniting. This could be a pressure thing thats is different than last year.

                              Any chance you added another gas burning appliance, and sometimes when it is on, it lowers the available gas to the heater??
                              Take Care

                              Jim

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