Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ew, that smell!

Do you ever find that you wake up in the middle of the night scratching your eyes out and sneezing uncontrollably? Even in midwinter? Does your family seem plagued with months and months of colds and coughs and allergies? Does your house have an unmistakable funk that comes and goes, and yet after months of investigating you can't find the source?

Did you ever think in a million years that it was because you wash laundry?

Me neither.

We've had a funk in our house for awhile now. It mostly comes and goes, but the sneezing. The coughing. The itching and feeling miserable has lingered throughout. I finally gave up and thought maybe this is just what a house with a crawlspace smells like. Or we're allergic to the midwest. Since we moved here my otherwise healthy family has been sick, sick, sick. We finally bought a HEPA air filter for the bedroom, and that has helped, but the smell is back with a vengeance. Now that the weather has turned nice, we've had the air off, and a putrid funk has descended upon us like a moldy, disease-born fart through the cold air return in the top of our hallway. The utility room has it going on, too. One breath of that air leaves me nauseated, and FINALLY we have discovered the source!

For the last 18 months our washing machine has been draining into our HVAC system. This is the bottom of the HVAC unit and the well below. It's not supposed to be a cesspool.

Not a pretty sight is it?

By chance I happened to be running a load of wash when the fix-it guy came a couple of days ago. He opened my furnace and out poured a bubbling froth. Apparently our landlord ran a line from the AC to the sewer pipes to collect the condensation. I guess he didn't figure on the pressure exerted by the washing machine draining. The water flows where it can since the pipes in this house are old and small. With this new bit of line in, some of the the water gets pushed up and out into the well of my HVAC. Where it sits and gets warm and cold and grows stuff and slowly evaporates until the next time I wash a load.

So what's a little gray water, eh? I mean, could it actually hurt you to breathe the vapors off this for 18 months? Yes. Despite the fact that it's freaky, there are two things that concern me:

1. Mold spores. I'm no expert, but these filters looks pretty bad to me.

2. Human waste particles. Sewage. I have a baby in the house, and there's the issue of cloth diapers. Anybody who uses cloth diapers knows that a good dunk in the toilet doesn't wash it all off. Know what I mean?

So what's in the air YOU breathe?
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