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Discuss Radiator emitting strong odor when heat goes up in the Central Heating Forum area at

  1. jtsplumbing

    jtsplumbing Plumber GSR

    I live in Devon out in the country side so rodents pose a problem, they eat though pipes, Electric cables, infect they will eat almost anything , will burrow through almost anything brick walls ,wood, concrete , and will nest anywhere, so get that panel removed then at least it will eliminate the problem one way or another, if not rodents it could be something else under there causing the smell that will need sorting out.
    • Useful Useful x 1
  2. John93

    John93 Member

    JTS removing that panel may be difficult. But I will contact my building and explore that option.

    One other person on another site recommended using a heat gun. Could this safely burn off whatever smell is lingering?

    I have one specific question with regards to the silver foil and black backing paper that I blew out of the radiator. This lined the entire back part of the inside of that rad. Would the removal of this foil and black paper cause any functional damage to the radiator? Meaning that more heat will hit the wood and wall behind the rad now that that material has been removed.
  3. jtsplumbing

    jtsplumbing Plumber GSR

    It seem as we are going around in circles, taking another look at the photos that panel is NOT in the best condition signs of rust along the bottom, several layers of paint, those panels are designed to be removed, for some reason someone has run wood beading around it the black paper substance is a water proof layer against the timber to stop damp, (the silver foil is to reflect the heat) which could also be the cause of the smell, your going to have to bite the bullet and remove that panel to investigate what is going on behind, it could be a lot more serious than you think, using a heat gun is not going to do anything, REMOVE THE PANEL.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  4. John93

    John93 Member

    JTS I want to make sure we are on the same page here.

    When you say to remove the panel you are referencing the metallic portion of the rad which heats up and emits heat? This is what you mean by panel?

    Am I correct is saying that would require draining the entire system of water. And getting a plumber to remove/rip out the panel and then investigate?

    Is that the correct understanding? If so, this may be a large expense. But I will take it up with my building.

    JTS when you mentioned the silver foil and black paper which you clarified is a water barrier. You mentioned it could be the source of the smell. Which did you mean could be the source? The silver foil or the black water barrier?

    Have you come across radiators where either this silver foil or the black water barrier gave off a smell?
  5. jtsplumbing

    jtsplumbing Plumber GSR

    1st No you wont need to drain the system just to remove the metal panel these should be made removable for cleaning etc. as they attract a lot of dirt, if its like our heaters of this type you will have aluminium fins on the pipes used to transmit the heat,
    The black paper looking material is used to stop moisture penetrating the wood, its possible that you may have a small water leak of some kind behind the panel So its got to be removed to investigate the problem.
    • Useful Useful x 1
  6. NickH

    NickH Active Member

    Pehaps you've got borrowers living in there, they cause a smell when they're cooking.
    • Creative Creative x 1
  7. John93

    John93 Member

    JTS the plumber who opened up the valve, told me that if the smell did not go away that the radiator would need to be ripped out, the system drained and then the dry wall person would have to come in and patch everything back up.

    This one has two pipes. I think the pipe coming in is on the left, where the shut off valve is. And the pipe on the right where the pics above have the close up with the bleeder valve is the one going out.

    If a plumber shut off the valve and bled that rad, could they take it out without having to drain the system? I'm not sure how else you could take it out without spilling that black water everywhere when it comes off.

    The smell is not of something dead, but rather like a fume or burning smell. Something like paint or coating off gassing.

    One of the things I researched was that the coating from the factory can off gas. One woman had this happen. But she had a cast iron rad, not cast iron base board rad that I have.

    A friend recommended that I contact the Fire Department as they have equipment that can test the air and identify the smell. I am thinking of doing this next. As at least this would identify what that fume is.

    JTS I don't believe it's a leak. With that black water running through the system. Even the smallest leak would have shown by now. Also please recall that when the heat is off, no smell at all. If it was leaking, there would be a smell even with the heat off. This smell comes and goes with the heat. And increases in intensity proportionate to the heat in the rad.

    If it was rodents, it would smell like something dead and rotting.

    As you noted there are a lot of layers of paint. That seems more related than rodents or a leak at this point.
  8. jtsplumbing

    jtsplumbing Plumber GSR

    John, B4 anything else it is important that the cover panel is removed, without doing that your not going to find the reason for the smell, I don't know how they install systems in the US, but if that was in the UK it would have service valves at each end, just because you can-not see signs of a leak doesn't mean there isn't one, REMOVE THE PANEL !!! until you do your only guessing at what is going on, if as you state the water in the system is black ! you need to get the heating system cleaned, Then a anti- corrosive added to the heating water as we do in the UK, Seems to me what you need is some English Plumbers in the US the sort out your systems.
    • Useful Useful x 1
  9. Gasmk1

    Gasmk1 GSR

    a lot of their systems work slightly different to ours if you watch any US building programmes. A few American homes have radiators, but these are nearly always of the old-fashioned steam variety and not the newer hot water ones. American steam radiators are typically part of legacy systems in buildings constructed before 1940.
    • Creative Creative x 1
  10. John93

    John93 Member

    JTS there are no service valves on the either sides of this rad. There is a shut off valve on the left side. There is only a pipe coming out on the right. And bleeder valve also on the right.

    I reside in Canada not the US.

    To Gasmk1. This is hot water rad. Not steam. Look at the pics above. It is a cast iron base board rad. Built in the 50's.

    Will have to follow up with my building to get the panel off. As previously stated. The heating guy who opened and got my rad working was very clear that they would need to drain the entire system and then rip out the rad. Dry wall person to follow in order to fix it all up. That is a lot of work and money.

    All else aside not sure what other option I may have. I am trying to get in contact with fire department for them to come by and check the air quality and determine where the smell is coming from.

    Thank you everyone, for your help and feedback. It is much appreciated.
  11. Gasmk1

    Gasmk1 GSR

    you could kep costs down a little by removing the beading and dry wall yourself to make the removal of the panel easier for the plumber
    • Informative Informative x 1
  12. Gasmk1

    Gasmk1 GSR

    could you not hire one of those remote cameras to lokk into th eradiator see if you can see anything
    • Informative Informative x 1
  13. jtsplumbing

    jtsplumbing Plumber GSR

    Mate I don't know why he doesn't claim on house insurance, John wants the problem sorted But by the sounds he has no money to do it looking at the photos the beading was put on as a after thought and I keep telling him that he needs to remove the metal case in order to see what is going on behind it and just to do that he does not need to drain the system
    • Useful Useful x 1
  14. Gasmk1

    Gasmk1 GSR

    I thought the same but he is reluctant think he thinks he might open a can of worms so to speak
    • Agree Agree x 2
  15. John93

    John93 Member

    Gentlemen, the reason I am reluctant to open up a job that may cost a few grand. Is because the smell has been getting less and less in intensity. This means that whatever is causing it. Is very slowly starting to wane. Why would I spend a few thousand dollars, rip something open. If it is the paint. And we know it's the paint, where if it was rodents as JTS pointed out. But never once confirmed the smell despite my asking several times. I had to get that from another source. If it was rodents. It would smell like a dead rotting thing. Which it does not.

    If it was a leak. However small as JTS has also mentioned. It would show by now. In the carpet. Along some point near or under the rad.

    There are no leaks. No stains. Smell disappears when the heat to the rad drops. A leak would produce a smell even with heat off. Which is not the case here.

    I used an air compressor and blew out the silver foil and the black paper water barrier. This paper JTS did confirm and name as a water barrier. You guys don't think I would have noticed a mouse nest or mouse carcass when I was blowing out dust, foil and black paper?

    I would have seen that as I spent many hours on this. It took many hours to get all that foil and black paper out.

    Since that time. Since I emptied it out, the smell has been dropping steadily. At each relative temperature. At a low temp just after I blew it out. It dropped in smell.

    When it went to -13 celcius, smell concentration jumped back up. But then within 4-5 days dropped dramatically. To where it is now. Which is a very mild smell. Almost not noticeable.

    In the last 2.5 months. This is the best it has been.

    The smell is not gone. But the fact that it is waning is a good indicator that I just need to let it burn off some more.

    Why would I spend a large sum of money. Rip out a rad. Likely have to sand blast it to get rid of the coating that is off gassing. Put it back in. Hire a dry wall guy. This is a lot work and effort.

    Why do all of this. When I can just leave it as it is, and let the heat slowly burn it off. Which is exactly what it has been doing.

    The route you guys are advising is costly.

    The route I am taking. Costs nothing. And will yield the same result.

    There is no logical reason to rip something out and jump through all kinds of hoops when leaving it alone and waiting while it slowly but surely burns through the remaining scent is a cost free and viable option.

    If the smell was not decreasing. Then the logical thing would be to follow the steps you gentlemen have recommended.

    But thankfully it is waning. Very slowly. But consistently. If it spills into next winter and I have to crash on the sofa for another month of or so. That is not the end of the world.

    Tinkering with a 70 year old radiator with pipework. And pretending that ripping it out carries no risk of creating other problems, as often happens when you tamper with old things. Well it is one thing to write about it and another to have to be in my shoes and deal with the consequences.

    My choice, carries no consequences. No cost. Just some inconvenience on my part having to sleep on my sofa in the living room until the heat burns off the last 1-2% of what is left of that smell.

    Hence my reluctance.

    But I thank you all the same. As those are the correct steps to take if the smell was not disappearing or lessening. I would then have no choice but to take the steps recommended. Here there are signs of the smell slowly waning. Which tells me that I just need to be patient and let it take its course.
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