Every year around this time our customers come to us with concerns about a burning smell coming from their furnace. Naturally, this is a worrisome situation for many because in our minds a burning smell heralds a fire.
However, this is not always the case and the smell could be completely harmless and normal, even expected. Read on to find out when you should and should not be concerned when your furnace smells like it’s burning.
Your Furnace is Shaking Off the Dust After a Long Summer Nap
It happens this time of year because October is typically the month everyone gives into the change of season and turns on their heating for the first time. During your furnace’s dormant period it has accumulated layers of dust on its internal components, such as the heat exchanger as well as in and around the burners.
As your furnace heats back up it is burning this dust off, hence the burning smell. This is normal and is not considered to be a safety hazard. The smell should go away shortly once the furnace burns all the dust away.
TIP: To minimize this annoying smell, consider turning on your furnace during a mild day where you can open the windows and let the burning smell waft away without compromising your comfort and every usage.
Okay, But Its Been A Few Hours and It Still Smells Like Burning…
Well, now we might have a problem. If your furnace is still emitting a burning smell after having it on for a long time there is a chance that your air filter is clogged or worse, there is an electrical issue.
First, check your filter. If it is clogged, your blower motor is most likely working overtime and beginning to overheat, producing the burning smell. Not to mention the clogged filter will produce dirt and debris to buildup on the furnace which would also smell like burning. Change the filter and consider calling a pro to provide maintenance on the system.
If the filter isn’t clogged and you think it might be an electrical issue, call us immediately as this can be a major fire hazard. Normally, a furnace will power itself down when it begins to overheat; if it doesn’t, the safety feature is compromised and will need service as soon as possible. Make sure it’s turned off and contact us to schedule a repair.
RELATED: Why Changing Your Air Filter is So Important
The Smell is Persistent and it Smells Like Plastic
If the smell is distinctly plastic, chances are a plastic item has fallen into or otherwise been trapped in your furnace. Few modern furnaces have plastic components that aren’t able to withstand the hot conditions the furnace creates. A plastic that’s liable to burn in the furnace must have been introduced. Commonly, children or pets place their toys in or near the furnace. Or, plastic objects stored nearby fall in.
No matter how the plastic object got in, you will need to find it and remove it. Not only can the smell be annoying, but some plastics create fumes when they are burnt that are not safe to breathe in. First, turn off your furnace can give it time to cool and open your windows to air out the smell. Then take a peek on top of it, inside it, and in the ducts directly connected to it. If you can’t find the object, it may have made its way further into the ducts, so you’ll have to call a professional to look.
What About A GunPowder Smell?
Anything associated with gunpowder probably seems like a major safety hazard but really its just dangerous for the system. This specific aroma is most likely the result of a fried-circuit board or an overheated fan motor. Either way it is not a good idea to continue running your furnace. Hit the off switch and call Pro-Tech HVAC Home on the double!
Burning Oil or a Smoky Scent…?
While heating essential oils seems to be the latest fad, an oily scent from your furnace is not good for you or your “chakras”. If your system is working properly, you should never smell fuel oil. An oil smell could be caused by a leak, burner troubles, a heat exchanger failure or exhaust system problems. You should schedule service as soon as possible to correct this situation. In the meantime, turn off the unit ASAP as some problems can cause the system to catch fire.
RELATED: What You Need to Know About Furnace Safety
What if I Smell Rotten Eggs?
If you detect a sulfuric, rotten egg-like smell coming from your furnace, it is imperative that you act immediately, as you could be dealing with a gas leak. While natural gas is extremely combustible and one of the most efficient fuel sources for a furnace to run on, it is also highly toxic when ingested. You may experience symptoms including dizziness, nausea, coughing, headaches, and fatigue if a gas leak occurs in your home.
To be 100% safe, get your family out of the house right away if you believe your furnace may be leaking gas. And remember, do not under any circumstances light a fire, cigarette, candle, etc. as natural gas is a huge fire hazard! Call your gas company and ask them to check for you.
RELATED: BGE Natural Gas Safety & Contact Information
Anytime You Need Heating Repair, Give Us A Call!
If your furnace stinks, give us a call here at Pro-Tech HVAC Home. In addition to diagnosing the cause of bad odors coming from your furnace, the best way to avoid unwanted heater smells is to schedule regular maintenance on your unit. With Winter being just around the corner, our HVAC technicians can identify any problems that may occur when switching to warm your home. Having your service done now will also ensure that any necessary repairs can be made before cold weather kicks in.
Our Fall Preventative Maintenance includes:
- Check thermostat operation
- Replace customer-supplied filters
- Replace customer-supplied humidifier pad
- Test temperature difference between return & supply
- Check for correct airflow settings
- Clean & adjust burners
- Clean flame sensor assembly
- Test & adjust outlet gas pressure
- Test & adjust operation of safety & operating controls
- Inspect flue pipe & gas valve
- Check for gas leaks
- Test & inspect all wiring & connections
- Check blower motor & amperage draw
- Test carbon monoxide levels
- Turn dampers to heating position
Preventative maintenance will make your heating system last longer by catching problems before they do damage to your system. A properly maintained heating system will not only perform better, but also save you money by running more efficiently.
Don’t put off your Fall Furnace Maintenance any longer. Learn more about our Preventative HVAC Maintenance plans and contact us today to schedule.
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Pro-Tech HVAC Home offers new installation, replacement, repairs and maintenance of heating and air conditioning systems in the Annapolis area. Our customers rely on us for honest and reliable service for air conditioners, heat pumps, gas furnaces, Mitsubishi systems, and more. We’re happy to answer questions, troubleshoot, and help you choose the best HVAC system for you and your family. We’re always happy to help answer your questions, so please give us a call or send us an email.