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Using steam to force out fumes in apartment

  1. Aug 3, 2013 #1
    So, a friend of mine just moved into a basement apartment with one window next to the front door. (I know, it sounds a lot like mine so far but it isn't.) She gets fumes coming in through the front window when they refuel the oil for the boiler room. This is because the window doesn't seal very well and lets in outside air and fumes from outside. Occasionally, chemical smelling fumes seem to come in through the cracks in the wall or vents as well. I'm not sure which, just not from outside.

    One suggestion I had was to turn on the shower so that steam would increase the air pressure in her apartment and force some of the fumes out.

    Is that a sound idea? What you think of that?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 3, 2013 #2


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    The "steam" coming from a shower is actually a fog of tiny water droplets that have condensed out of the moist air produced from the hot water in the shower. Although allowing water vapor to evaporate from hot water can produce a tiny net increase in gas volume, it is an trivial effect. In any case you would reach an equilibrium with water condensing and dripping down the walls as fast as it can evaporate from the shower. No net production of gas volume in steady state.

    Ignore that for a moment and suppose that you were able to succeed in creating a net flow of steam from the shower sufficient to slightly pressurize the room so that air/vapor would be coming out of all the imperfectly sealed cracks. Consider the consequences. There would be no net inflow of air to the room. There would be net outflow of air mixed with vapor. Eventually the air would be exhausted and nothing but water vapor would remain. The only way you can accomplish this is by increasing the temperature of the room to above the boiling point of water. This is the principle behind home canning.
  4. Aug 3, 2013 #3
    Does the apartment have any other windows which are not in fume prone areas? If so, the solution may be as simple as a window fan. If not the apartment may be unsafe to inhabit.
  5. Aug 3, 2013 #4
    No, just that one window.

    Because of the chemical smell, she had the apartment tested for natural gas and carbon monoxide and her area seemed fine when the inspector was there, but elsewhere in the building (in the boiler room) the found carbon monoxide. I think that was a separate issue, and I think it was fixed. She also bought a $30 detector for various fumes and it found nothing despite the smell everyone notices.

    I'm not sure what other steps she should take, besides moving, or maybe covering the area the fumes seem to be coming from. Then uncovering that area when the fumes seem to be gone. (The refueling fumes have an obvious source. But there's also some fumes that sometimes come from inside the building and we're not sure where they originate.)
  6. Aug 3, 2013 #5
    Just thought of the concentration gradient which would be working against me with the steam idea.
  7. Aug 4, 2013 #6


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    Slowly heating the whole apartment would lead to a net flow outwards, but that is not a permanent solution.
  8. Aug 4, 2013 #7
    Running the shower can help clean the air. The spray will absorb oil molecules and flush them down the drain. Cold water will work as well as hot.
  9. Aug 4, 2013 #8
    If just ventilating the apartment after the air gets contaminated is not an option, then perhaps an air purifier will work?
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