What IS THAT STENCH!

By
Home Inspector with Charles Buell Inspections Inc.
http://actvra.in/QQS

 

What is one to think when one comes across window trim that looks like this?

strange looking paint 

It looks……

Melted?

Sure enough, right below this nasty melted paint there was more evidence of what a forced air wall heater can do if you cover it with curtains. 

wall heater damage 

Heat does rise after all and this is a good example of why it is so important to make sure these electric wall heaters don’t get covered with drapes, towels furniture or anything else that can prevent them from doing the job they were designed to do.

While they might appear, on occasion, to be fire starting devices, they are actually designed to heat the space they are in.

While we are on the subject of these little heaters, it is a good time to remind everyone that they must routinely be taken apart and professionally cleaned.  Cleaning them can also be dangerous so make sure the power is off and that you know what you are doing---otherwise hire someone that does.

All year long, while the heaters are not in use, they are busy collecting dust that circulates through the units.  When the unit is fired up (no pun intended) the lint is literally burned off and if there is enough of it a little fire can start up that can damage the unit and/or burn your house down.

One time as an inspector, I turned one of these heaters on that apparently had not been operated for several years and there was so much dust and lint in the unit that it actually did catch on fire.  In the next picture you can see the little flames flickering at the top of the unit and the smoke billowing out.

Where there is smoke there is fire 

It actually made quite a stench (burning skin and dust mites will do that) and I was grateful that the unit had been vacant for many months and that prior to being rented again the unit was to undergo renovations due to roof leaks.  I was also grateful the dang thing didn’t burn the place down.

Ever since this lesson, I turn the units on ONLY long enough to see if they warm up and then turn them back off as quickly as possible.  In the report it merely states that the heater “turned on” and to make sure the heater gets cleaned prior to use.


Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Show All Comments
Rainer
120,326
Linda Blumenthal
Hamptons Edge Real Estate - Buyers Agent - 631-413-7393 - Westhampton Beach, NY
CBR - Certified Buyers Representative

Good morning Charles.  Thanks so much for the warning.  Who knew that a curtain could cause so much damage?

February 18, 2013 06:15 AM #1
Rainmaker
1,352,118
Kristin Johnston, Waukesha Realtor 414-254-6647
RE/MAX Realty Center - Waukesha, WI
Waukesha County Realtor, RE/MAX Buyer Agent

Interesting indeed...and scary! I know inspectors here usually keep the furnace running longer, but now maybe they shouldn't!

February 18, 2013 07:05 AM #2
Rainmaker
632,050
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

I have never seen an electric wall heater like that one (the 1st photo). Seems like a bad design, having to placed into the exterior wall cavity. 

February 18, 2013 07:31 AM #3
Ambassador
1,169,467
Paul Henderson
RE/MAX Professionals. - Tacoma, WA
I always put my clients first in any transaction!

I smelled my share of dirty heaters over the years. 

February 18, 2013 07:38 AM #4
Rainer
277,179
Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA
- Pierce, King, Kitsap, Thurston, Mason Counties

Charles -- that is interesting that the heater caused the paint to bubble like that.  When I first saw it, thought it might have gotten water in behind it somehow.  Thanks for the safety reminder.

February 18, 2013 11:31 AM #5
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Linda, I would love to see what the heater did to the curtains :)

Kristin, the furnace should not represent the same kind of issue

Jim, I know---crazy---but that is the left side for you :)  Sure would look funny with an IR scan too.

Paul, they sure are nasty smelling things sometimes

Steven, in my mind I too tried to see it as a water issue---until the heater jumped out at me :)

February 18, 2013 02:23 PM #6
Rainer
170,122
Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

I too am supprised to see a unit like that in an exterior wall. They are energy hoggs. Baseboard units are much more efficient for heating a space.  

You've reminded us of a good point to remember. Equipment cleaning of that type needs to be done routinely.

February 18, 2013 06:20 PM #7
Rainmaker
1,227,715
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

What's the problem here!  I LOVE the smell of dust mites burning in the morning!

Outside I would have thought that spot to be rot.  Inside I guess you have to taste it.  Since there is no mold, which we know tastes like chicken, what did it taste like?

February 19, 2013 03:18 AM #8
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Robert, I just found one of these same type units the other day with a label that says they are to be cleaned every 6 months---good luck with that!

Jay, I will send you a sample for you to taste

March 05, 2013 10:11 AM #9
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