A Mystery Not Solved

One day back around Christmastime I noticed an unusual odor while working at my PC. It was not a strong odor, nor was it unpleasant, and it seemed vaguely familiar but I couldn’t place it. After that I would smell it every time I was using the PC. Naturally, I tried to locate it – sniffing around the printer, monitor, PC tower, keyboard and all the cables and electrical wires – but I couldn’t smell it on any of those things; it just seemed to be in the air in that area. I took great pains to clean the entire area with disinfectant spray, I vacuumed all around and scrubbed the clear plastic pad I use under the chair to protect the carpet. All to no effect.

After about a month of this that vague feeling of familiarity became more specific. I remembered when I was a child a similar but very strong odor emanated from our toaster cord and I recalled my mother rushing to the kitchen counter and pulling the toaster plug from the wall. The cord and plug were very hot and the cord had a similar but very strong acrid smell. We had obviously just avoided an electrical fire from the defective electric cord.

This memory disturbed me. I immediately checked all the electrical cords, but they were all cool. I thought that maybe something in the PC tower was overheating – but the fan was working and there was no odor coming from it.

Then the mystery deepened. I was in my bedroom one day looking for something in my dresser, when I smelled the same odor – again not in any particular place – just in the air. A few days later I smelled it in the kitchen. I would continue to smell the odor only occasionally in the bedroom and kitchen, and always at the PC, but nowhere else in the house. It was beginning to freak me out. I started to worry that perhaps there was defective wiring behind the walls which was heating up when I used electricity, and that it could lead to a fire.

I was just about to the point of risking making a fool of myself by calling an electrician in to check my wiring, when about three weeks ago I suddenly realized I was not smelling that odor anywhere. I haven’t smelled it since.

This is indeed a mystery. The odor appeared in late December. It remained all through January, February, March and most of April – even appearing in two other places in the latter part of that period – then POOF! – it is all gone. I don’t know what to think.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “A Mystery Not Solved

  1. naturgesetz

    Have you opened the storm windows or otherwise allowed more ventilation with the arrival of warmer weather?

    • The answer is No, but you may have hit on something important that did not occur to me. Although we had the warmest December I can recall (like a mid-summer), January through March were unusually cool – not anything like up north, but many chilly nights and a few days where the highs hit only in the low 50’s.

      I had the heat turned on maybe 15 to 20 nights and even for a few hours during the day several times. Although the ducts are the same for A/C and heat, it might be that the heat was affecting something in the ducts. The heat may only have been on less than 10% of the time, but odors can linger. Perhaps I should consider having the ducts cleaned.

      Now that I think about it, the end of the odors corresponded with the start of 24/7 air conditioning.

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