Air quality / smell, Lennox Elite forced air gas unit

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Old 01-22-12, 08:36 AM
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Question Air quality / smell, Lennox Elite forced air gas unit

Our 6 year old house is equipped with a Lennox Elite gas burner, and I change the air filters religiously (accordion type with foam gaskets) every 6 months, at which time they look suitably dirty but not awful or clogged.
The system was never calibrated properly, appears to be under-engineered, and I need to fiddle with vanes in the spring and the fall (to prevent the master bath from freezing in the summer in particular).
My wife complains of a chemical smell, mostly (but not only) during heating season. I don't exactly smell anything myself but I am quite aware that the heated air feels 'sharp' to the inside of my nose. If I had to describe it as a smell, I would say it smell like salt. My wife calls the smell oily-plasticky. When I leave the house in the morning, the outside air feels cleaner and 'soft.' We keep the house at 64F. Higher that that, my wife and son complain of sinus headaches.
This is not the sort of symptoms I feel comfortable calling a service company with. They will think we are crazy. I don't mind calling if I can ask the company what to do or what test to perform. (We had a guy, long ago, try to recalibrate the system, but it is a losing proposition since the ideal proportions are different between the heating and cooling seasons. His visit did not help.)
We do have CO detectors everywhere, just in case you were wondering. The sharpness of the air seems to be getting a little worse with the years.
Any suggestions will be most appreciated.
 
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Old 01-22-12, 08:58 AM
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If natural gas is burning correctly, it goes through a lengthy chain of carbon based chemical reactions ending with water and carbon dioxide if that chain is properly completed.

If it is not completed properly, you get various intermediate stages of combustion as end products, such as soot, carbon monoxide and aldehydes.

Aldehydes are alcohols that can be irritating to the nose and throat in the way you describe. In addition, where there are aldehydes, very likely there are also soot and carbon monoxide. So aldehydes are a warning that the burners probably aren't functioning correctly and need to be inspected and maintained.

Most gas utilities will dispatch repairman to inspect gas equipment that is producing odors and check equipment for unsafe operation. I used to do that work for a gas utility. I would recommend that you have your equipment inspected for this kind of hazard without delay.
 
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