Cigarette smell coming from radiator in my apt: help!

Even since moving in two months ago, I have been smelling cigarettes odors in my appartment. At first I thought it was the people next door. But then I did some investigating and discovered that the offensive smell was coming from the radiators (heaters) and from the air vent on the bathroom ceiling.

1/ I live on the top floor (17th).
2/ The smell only occurs when the heaters turn on or when the air vent in the bathroom turns on.
3/ I’m not sure if it is a non-smoking building.
4/ Could that odor be caused by something else?
5/ Is there anything the building manager can do or should I move?


By radiator, do you mean the registers from which the heated air blows? Or do you actually have an old style steam-fed radiator? If so then I think the easiest thing would be to just scrub down the radiator fixture using something like a toilet brush that can snake into the little areas between the pipes.

The air vent in the bathroom cieling is an exhaust vent, no? How can strange odors be coming from that especially when it’s on? Air should be going out, not in.

If you have a heat pump, replace the filter if you haven’t already done so. Ask the building super if the kitchen & bathroom exhaust vents are all vented seperately (like they should be) or if they all go to one big common vent before leaving the building (which is against code in my area).

I’ll bet that the fan in the bathroom is probably only a “fart fan” (as they called them at the homebuilder I worked for). Used for sifting out odors and such. It basically just moves the air through a filter. Try changing the filter in it.

Well, it’s not the old-fashioned radiators that are big and look kida like jail bars. This is stuck to the wall, painted the same color as the wall, doesn’t stick too far out and has little slots for the hot ail to come out. It is not one of those electrical heaters. So, yes, it is a radiator (I think).

The air vent isn’t one of those modern motorized ones with the plastic exterior piece that you can remove and clean and which turns on when you turn on the light. Instead, the exterior of it is simply a (painted) metal grid with a series of criss-cross lines and big sqaure holes (that you could fit a dime through).

When the vent turns on, it generates some noise (sort of off in the distance) and you can feel some air movement if you put your hand next to the vent.

But it definately only begins to smell like cigarettes when it is on.

I’ll bet your neighbor smokes and you are sucking air through the seams in the corners and floor or maybe the ceiling when the vent is on. Try leaving the door cracked so the air to replace the exhausted air comes in that way.

If your apartment is heated with forced hot air you can indeed draw odors from other apartments. My mom has this problem in the apartment complex where she lives. Because the apartments are heated with a single system (in her case there are 3 or 4 single level apartments with adjoining walls) her neighbors’ cigarette smoke comes into her apartment when the heating system is running.

The people who run her complex were asked if they could designate certain buildings as smoke-free, but because they are elderly housing and serve a large number of subsidized tenants they have to be very careful that they do not put any rules into place which might discriminate. (In other words, whoever is next in line has to get the apartment, regardless of his smoking habits.)

The only other solution was the one her doctor suggested, which was to get some serious filters to put in the heating vents. If you have any sort of medical condition that might be affected by the smoke (my mother has mild asthma) your insurance may even pay for them.

Had the same problem. The heater consisted of a fan which drew air over a heat exchange element. Hot water flowed through the heat exchanger during the winter and cold water during the summer to provide either heat or AC.

Back to the cigarette odor. The lady living in the apartment below me was a smoker. Since I knew her well, I called her whenever the smoky smell began and sure enough, there was a 100% correspondence with the times she lit up. I surmised that the heater fan was drawing up air from the apartment below.

The water line feeding the heater ran between floors and there was a substantial air space around it. I figured, seal off the area around the pipe and bye bye polluted air. I got out the duct tape, applied it liberally to the problem area and never smelled smoke in my apartment again (Well, at least until a couple of months ago, when I went back to smoking after a 10 year hiatus:()

jdl, why not talk to the owners about the situation? It’s their job.