When Your HVAC Keeps Picking Up Kitchen Odors and Spreading Them Throughout the House

It's not unusual for odors from cooking to spread outside of the kitchen. Many people close up bedrooms and the like so that those garlic and broccoli odors from lunch won't end up haunting people as they try to sleep. However, if you're still finding strong odors in faraway rooms whose doors were closed, it's possible that the odors are spreading through the HVAC system. They can wend their way through open ducts and also be pushed along by powerful air conditioning or heating systems. While you can't prevent absolutely all odors from getting into the air conditioning or heating ducts, you can improve aspects of the system and make breathing in your home a lot more pleasant.

Have the Kitchen Exhaust Vent Inspected—and Use It If You Haven't Been

Your kitchen should have an exhaust vent or a window (or both). Have the vent inspected to ensure it's working correctly; a defective vent or one installed with the vent fan backward (it can happen) can be useless against cooking smells.

Once the vent checks out or is repaired if needed, start using it if you haven't. If you do use the vent already, it might seem odd that others don't, but it is common to walk into a kitchen and see things cooking on the stove with the vent fan turned off. If all you have is a window, get a window fan and turn it so the fan blows air outside. Removing as much of the odor as you can at the source (i.e., in the kitchen itself) helps reduce what you smell in the rest of the house.

Clean Out the Ducts and Change the Return Filters

Duct cleaning generates a bit of controversy because of the way some companies have marketed it, but it does have specific benefits that make it a good task to tick off the to-do list. You may see some claims that duct cleaning will improve the overall healthiness of your house and so on, but what it really does is two things. One is that it removes dust that could blow out in bits through supply vents, so people with dust allergies don't have that constant aggravation. The other is that it removes dust bunnies that could harbor odor particles, prolonging the smell that you find all over the house. 

Think about how you can walk out of a smoke-filled club and smell smoke all over your jacket, but when you remove the jacket, the smoke smell diminishes. It's the same concept with the dust that's built up in the duct. Odor particles cling to the dust, and if you remove the dust, you remove the odor particles. That helps reduce the amount of time you smell those old odors.

Also, change the return filters for your HVAC system. Again, this just removes dust that contains older odor particles.

Cooking odors can be difficult to deal with even when you technically like the smell itself. The strength and longevity of the odor can be overpowering and a drag. But if you improve the ventilation in your home and reduce the ability of the odor particles to hang around, you'll find those odors dwindling fast.

Reach out to an HVAC service for more advice about what you should do.