Interior Home Safety

Solved! What’s Causing the Fish Smell in My House?

Fish smells in your house aren’t always caused by old garbage or dead animals in crawl spaces. Bigger issues, like mold or faulty wiring, may be at play and need immediate attention.
Fish Smell in House

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Q: Help! I haven’t cooked fish for several days, but my house smells like I invited the neighborhood over for a huge fish fry. What’s causing the fish smell in my house? Who can I call to help me figure this out?

A: As delicious as a perfectly prepared piece of fish may be, living with the lingering smells is not pleasant. The first sources to check are the garbage and garbage disposal. If one of those is not the culprit, then it’s time to consider a more serious reason for why there is a fish smell in the house that can’t be solved with a few kitchen-cleaning hacks.

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An electrical component may be overheating.

Fish Smell in House due to the Overheating of an Electrical Component

Ideally, electrical components like circuit breakers, outlets, and wiring are designed to resist overheating. If the insulation is damaged or the wiring is experiencing electrical surges from a faulty breaker, the heat generated by the electricity can begin to melt the plastic, which is often identified as a fishy odor.

Some common sources of overheating electrical components may be light fixtures, fans, light switches, outlets, and appliances. If the smell comes and goes, it’s a good indication that the culprit is an electrical item that doesn’t run all day long.

There is a spark when you plug in your electrical appliances.

An indicator that there is an electrical problem is if sparks are coming from the outlet when you plug in an appliance. Sparks can happen in older homes or when the plug is a little crooked going in, but if it happens frequently and is accompanied by smoke or humming or buzzing sounds, there’s a problem.

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Fish Smell in House as a Result of Mold in the AC Unit

There is mold in the AC unit.

Some fish smells in the house might smell stronger coming from air vents than near outlets or light fixtures. In this case, the problem may be that an AC unit has grown a layer of mold inside the warm, dark, moist vent system. To identify where exactly the mold is growing, have an HVAC specialist inspect your ductwork.

If mold is present, they can do a thorough cleaning to rid your home of the foul odor and dangerous toxins. To prevent future mold growth in your AC unit, ask about installing a dehumidifying system to control the moisture level or UV lights in the ductwork that help deter mold growth.

There are loose electrical wires and overloaded circuits.

Common causes of faulty wiring are loose electrical wires and overloaded circuits. If the wires to a light or outlet weren’t properly secured, they may have come loose over time and are at risk of melting or sparking a fire. Older homes often have outdated electrical systems that don’t include safety features like arc-fault circuit interrupters that help prevent power surges and sparking. Updating a circuit breaker box can help overloaded circuits and reduce a potential house fire.

Fish Smell in House: You Need an Experienced Electrician

Warning: Call an Experienced Electrician Immediately

If you’ve detected a fish smell in your house that isn’t easily explained, comes and goes, or is stronger in one area than another, it’s likely you’ll need to call a licensed, experienced electrician immediately. While a fishy smell may seem innocuous and annoying, it may be an indication of a more serious problem that potentially puts your house and family at risk.

Avoid trying to simply cover it up with an air purifier or candle since that only delays resolving a problem that could lead to electrical shock or a house fire. As tempting as it may be to investigate the cause yourself, this could be dangerous, so it’s best to leave it to a professional who is licensed to correct safety issues.

Electricians will have the tools and expertise to help safely identify where the problem is and how to fix it. The solution may be as simple as replacing an old outlet, or the home may require a new breaker and upgraded components to provide a safer living environment.