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Question DetailsAsked on 2/1/2017

there is a smell coming from the radiator, what do I do

When the gas burner is working, sometimes there is a smell, strong at times, coming from only two radiators. I'ts a one family house and the problem is located on the middle floor. What is the reason or cause? I thank you for you help.

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2 Answers


If these are individually fired radiators (stand-alone gas heaters), then I would say they need a good cleaning - blowing out with compressed air at a minimum, maybe be looked at by a Heating and A/C contractor. OR control unit could be going bad.

If you mean you smell it in baseboard (hydronic hot water heating or steam heat system) radiators when they heat up, then several common causes of that, roughly in order of likelihood - consider WHAT the smell smells like, and that might help you figure out which of following is most likely the source:

1) if just cranking up for first couple of times this heating season, then likely dust buildup, so you get a burnt fabric or burnt dust smell. Pet fur also can smell real bad - somewhat like burnt human hair. Can be blown out with compressed air. Some guys like using a leaf blower - only excuse to use it in the house, though will get an oily gasoline smell doing that if gas fueled rather than electric, which may stay in the house for some time unless you open all doors and windows while doing it so the exhaust blows straight out - and you have to careful not to get the exhaust directly on fabric curtains or furniture because it persists a LONG time - probably why more people do not use a leaf blower for their dusting. Obviously, compressed air is better if you have an air compressor - be sure if it is not an oilless type that there is a filter in place to keep the lubricating oil from splattering your furnishings and paint.

You can also dust with a long-bristle paint brush or such - usually the front louver (the tilting panel that controls how much heat comes out) pops up and out to access the fins or coils on hydronic heating units - avoid brushing the fins hard if there are thin aluminum fins on the pipe that runs through the center, because they bend real easy.

2) toy or sock or such in contact with the surfaces that get hot

3) someone dropped some food or spilled a drink on it, or put something on top that got hot and melted down into it

4) pet or toddler decided to go to the bathroom there

5) if a smoky or burnt plastic or electrical smell, IF the units have individual zone valves so each one turns on and off directly at the radiator rather than all getting heat whenever the thermostat is calling for heat in the zone, then could be the zone valves have gone bad and are burning up electrically (commonly every 15-20 years or so). Or some have electrically heated wax in the zone valve control head as the means of moving the piston that opens the zone valve itself when the wax expands as it is heated, and as they get older it can leak out and stink when it is heated. When zone valve goes bad time to replace the zone valve - probably about a 5-6 on a scale of 10 in DIY difficulty unless you are slightly savvy in electrical things - then about a 2. (This is for changing out the power head, not the underlying plumbed-in zone valve itself - which takes plumbing skill to solder it in to the pipe. Some types the whole valve unit screws out of the piping and is easy to replace - more commonly on steam radiators)

Be sure to have power off to the system (turn of power to boiler) before changing them mout, and read instructions on hookup - and take a photo of wiring to it before taking it off. Not difficult - just 2-3 wires in and out but get them wrong and it may not work or you may short out your boiler control system, so make sure right wires go right place.

If this does not solve it for you, then a Heating and A/C contractor is the Search the List category you want to find a well-rated and reviewed tech to work on it. And if calling a tech, if you have not had your boiler serviced (cleaned) in the last year or two, might be an good idea to have that done too - might well be cheaper to do it at same visit, assuming they are not so busy with winter heating failures that they are not doing cleanings at this time.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD



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Answered 3 years ago by Member Services

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