Indoor air quality is an important consideration for homeowners with neighbors outside and upstairs or downstairs in adjacent units.
It is possible for smell, cooking smoke and other particulate matter to travel through the vents over an extended duct across several connected units, becoming concentrated and irritating to the occupants.
You should check if your apartment has vents connecting to other units in the building.
If so, find out if any of your neighbors‘ kitchen or bathroom vents connect to yours.
This will help determine whether the smell is coming through your vent.
You can’t always prevent it, but you can minimize the impact by informing your neighbors and having your HVAC contractor clean the vents. You could also ask your landlord for help. If you don’t want to move out, try buying an odor-absorbing material such as charcoal filter or baking soda.
Are apartment vents connected?
Air problems in buildings usually happen because of a lack of ventilation and a buildup of odors, and your apartment’s ventilation equipment is the first line of defense.
But an issue like foul-smelling odors can also be a result of something outside your unit, like a neighbor on either side who’s releasing odors from their unit without being aware or without taking proper care.
Some buildings have air ducts that connect the bathrooms of different apartments in the same building to the exhaust duct.
As such, the foul odor could get into your vent and spread throughout your apartment.
Poor air circulation means that you’re at a higher risk of exposure to airborne diseases.
A heavy, noxious, and unpleasant smell can be a sign that there’s an issue with your ventilation system.
Since stagnant air in your apartment can affect the quality of your health and the comfort of those living with you, it’s important to make sure that the ventilation system in your home can keep up.
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What causes bad air circulation?
Lack of air movement is the cause of bad smells, which may come from your vents, your kitchen appliances, poorly-sealed joints or the outlets in your apartment.
Bad cooking can also cause an odor to emanate from the kitchen.
The same applies to the toilet when using bidet or shower systems.
While indoor air pollution and musty smell in your apartment can be due to a variety of factors, they all boil down to a failed home air exchange system.
Even though the air in your apartment is circulated by your fan, you can still have outflow issues if enough air is not sucked from the outdoors to balance out the circulation of air inside your home.
As you can see, the bad smell could just be a symptom of a bigger problem.
So, a poorly ventilated home could be a big contributor to stale air and bad smells.
What does it mean if you smell gas through your air vents?
Potentially hazardous unburnt gas can be made by cooking or heating with gas such as natural gas.
Any smell coming from your vents could indicate a leaky tank, a faulty burner, or even an outside source like another building.
A propane gas fireplace, water heater, or refrigerator could also be a source of gas odor.
Natural gas is odorless, but odorants have been added to it to protect against accidental ignition.
A lingering strong odor that is stronger than usual should be investigated. Very small leaks in the pipes or handles can be a serious safety hazard.
Once gas is detected, it should be turned off immediately in your home.
The best way to be safe is to remain clear of any malfunctioning or stinky appliance. If you think you smell gas:
- evacuate the house immediately
- switch off all gas appliances, natural gas supply and electrical appliances
- open all doors and windows to ventilate the house of as much natural gas as possible
- call your gas supplier, utility company or HVAC professional to help you determine the source of the odor in your lines, appliances or vents
How to stop smells from coming through vents
- Inform neighbors about recurring smell
- Call your landlord
- Contact heating and cooling company
- Schedule duct cleaning
- Airproof or block vents on the neighbors’ side
- Separate the ventilation system completely between the two houses
- Buy an odor absorber e.g. charcoal filter, baking soda etc.
- Replace air filters frequently
- Use air fresheners
- Move to a detached house