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why does my gas heater smell like kerosene

I'm having the same problem, smells like kerosene or diesel after being burned. I'm using natural gas. I have two space heaters one is a catalyst wall mounted type in the bathroom and the other is a fireplace log type unit with open flame. I use the bathroom heater for a few hours to take the chill out of the house in the weeks before the real cold weather sets in. The fireplace unit has been used a few times in the last few years since it was installed and is virtually new. I vacuumed both before using them and they do put off a burning smell the first few minutes use each year but that only happens the first time they're used each season.

I've lived in this house for 7 years and never had this problem. Even the the stove has the smell. I called the gas company and they immediately sent someone out. Nice guy and as soon as he came into the house he smelled it. He used the CO and hydrocarbon sniffer and found no problems. He inspected the system as well as the meter which is away from the house and found nothing. He made some calls and was told to ask if I'd used any cleaners on or around the units. I told him no and referred him to my somewhat uncleaned house. I've done nothing different and had used the wall unit a few times this week with no problems.

I was an auto mechanic for 32 years worked on and around internal combustion engines. In my experience this is problem that has something to do with the gas itself. The smell produced is a by product of combustion of the natural gas. He also agreed but was still a bit stumped. The fact that all of the gas burning appliances in the house including the stove and on demand Bosch water heater are making the smell when used convinced him it wasn't cleaners or some outside influence. He told me it was a first for him.

The main gas line for the area uses my property for the right of way and my gas meter is tapped directly into that, over top of it actually. He thinks it's possible the suppliers have recently changed sources for the gas they're providing or that maybe there was some work done recently on the pipeline and something got into the pipe. I'm in Louisiana and this is gas producing country so the gas may have come from somewhere close by. I don't know but this is a first for me. It stinks to high heaven.
While the presence of kerosene odors may not indicate a problem with the fireplace, burning logs within a closed vent fireplace can produce other undesirable effects.

Faulty or incomplete combustion processes can cause soot to accumulate on burning logs. Soot results from partially-burned natural gas emissions. When this happens, some of the carbon used in the combustion process turns into soot while other carbon molecules join with oxygen to form dangerous carbon monoxide gases. Even in cases where no soot accumulates, burning vent-less logs for long periods will deplete the oxygen supplies in a room, so some form of ventilation is necessary after a while.

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