You know the one. You know something is wrong but you just can't quite put your finger on it? Yeah, that nagging feeling.
For the last several days, I kept noticing this funny smell, concentrated in the main floor den area. Now, when I say funny I don't mean funny ha ha, I mean more like "Geez, that's funny, what the hell is that." Followed by sniffing everything in the house like some demented bloodhound with a coke habit. I've got a very big house, so that's a lot of sniffing. It made me dizzy. And I still couldn't find the source. I was starting to think it was in my head, and that would be, well, you know, non-optimal.
Just a whiff of corruption, every once in a while. The den is next to the garage. Now I do keep the garbage in the attached garage during the summer (it's Alaska, there are bears. Big ones. Garbage is a lot like the Golden Coral Buffet for bears, low low prices and all you can eat. Bears will come from miles around to pony up the garbage buffet. Bears in the yard are bad. They might make friends with your kid, as if he doesn't already have enough bad influences in his life. It hasn't been cold enough, long enough to make absolutely certain that all the bears are in hibernation yet - so garbage, garage. Savvy?) (and don't weird out over it. I put it in big heavy plastic bags, I don't just throw it out there in a heap next to the car, sheesh) I make a run to the dump every other week or so, and the most recent run was last weekend. There's no garbage in the garage. Plus I couldn't detect the weird smell in the garage, so that wasn't it.
Cat box maybe. As I've mentioned before I have a robot self-cleaning cat box. I modified it (read made it a lot bigger) so that it only needs to be attended to once a week or so. I set a reminder in Outlook so that I don't forget. But every once in a while, it gets hung up. The box is in the basement, the cats get down there through a cat door in the den which leads to a catwalk (heh, get it?) and cat ladder in the basement storage room. No mess, no fuss, no cat box in the living spaces. But it didn't smell like that either, and when I checked, the robot was shoveling shit in perfect mechanical bliss. So that wasn't it.
It also wasn't the dog kennel, which is under the sunroom. And it wasn't in the furnace room, which is under the den. And it wasn't the drain vents in the den bathroom. That funny little smell was starting to make me insane.
That's about the time I noticed that the carpet in the sunroom was damp just inside the door to the den. Now that's not a particularly strange thing, I have an eleven year old son, odd stains and damp spots appear mysteriously throughout the house like soggy poltergeists. There wasn't any point in asking the kid about the damp spot either, because as you know the only response from an eleven year-old to such an inquiry is 'I dunno.' Shrug. 'Can I have a snack?'
This was two days ago. The damp spot didn't get any drier, in fact today, ominously, it began to get wetter and bigger. Uh oh, says I to myself, that can't be good. I'd have probably realized what was going on earlier, but we keep the sunroom closed during the month of December. Because that's where we put the Christmas tree. And as you may have inferred from the cat box reference above, we have cats (I mean otherwise, what's the point?) Two of them. Big ones. With bad attitudes. And like bears are drawn to garbage, so these two evil little demons are drawn to the Christmas tree. The tree is one of those fiber-optic jobbers, expensive and something my wife has wanted for years. Cats and electric trees don't mix, at least not more than once. So, the sunroom stays closed off, and so I didn't really realize what was going on until today.
It's the humidifier.
We heat with gas, we also have a gas fireplace in the sunroom, and wood burning fireplace in the living room - so the house tends to be a little, uh, dry in the winter (yeah, like the Sahara Desert, which I've been to, so I know). We have a 'whole house' humidifier in the central heating unit, which was a completely non-functional, calcium encrusted mess when we bought the house (because the previous owners had never heard of either water filters or annual maintenance, apparently). I probably should have just replaced it with a new unit, but I tend to regard such things as a challenge (OK, and I'm a cheap bastard), so I refurbished it and got it working. Nowadays it runs great, but because it's an older unit, it's not quite enough to keep the whole house at the proper humidity level. So we supplement with a unit in the den. And that beast has been, apparently, leaking like a Russian nuclear submarine.
I didn't realize what was going on because the water was seeping through the carpet under the humidifier, and then spreading beneath the carpet. It wasn't until water started saturating the den carpet and soaking through that I noticed it (other than the weird smell that is).
On one hand, I'm happy that I've finally figured it out. On the other hand, I've spent the last three hours sucking water out of a hundred square feet of carpet with the steam cleaner (of course I own a steam cleaner, a big one, I've got cats, dogs, and that kid I mentioned above. Pay attention) and placing fans to circulate air. And on the gripping hand, tomorrow I have to rip the humidifier apart and find out what's leaking and fix it if I can.
And yet, there's a bright spot to everything. I now have clean carpets, and even better, I find myself thoroughly amused at the cats as they attempt to levitate over the damp carpet. Their dismay and utter distaste for the wet floor just might make the whole thing worth it.