What Is That Smell Coming From My Furnace?

Posted On: February 4, 2020

You might be the type to turn on your furnace at the slightest hint of a chill in the air. Or, maybe you hold out for that first, chilly night to curl up by the fire. Either way, if you smell something funny from your furnace, don’t panic. It might be normal. Here are some common smells that might come from your furnace, and what – if anything – you should do about them.

  1. Normal dust burn-off smell: When the furnace isn’t actively heating, dust and dirt particles can settle inside the furnace and on internal components. When you turn on the furnace the dust burns off, causing a slight burning smell that should dissipate relatively quickly. If it lingers beyond an hour or so, check the air filter and replace if needed, or contact Short Pump Heating & Air to inspect the system.
  2. Not-so-normal odors: While that initial dusty/burnt smell is common, there are some not-so-normal odors you should be aware of as well:
  • Electrical, metallic or plastic burning smell – Follow your nose to locate the source. If it’s coming from your furnace it could be an overheated motor, worn bearing or a wiring issue – if that’s the case, it’s best to contact your local provider to come out and see where the issue is. If it’s coming from a specific register/vent, it could be a plastic toy or other foreign object in the duct. Again, it’s best to call a qualified HVAC technician or duct specialist if you don’t see an object in the duct.
  • Musty/moldy/dirty sock smell – Your air filter could be overly dirty, or you may even have a little mold or bacterial buildup somewhere in your home. Having your system maintained and filters changed regularly helps avoid this issue. If you don’t have a maintenance provider, check and replace the filter if needed. Another source could be organic growth on the cooling (evaporator) coil or in your ductwork. Both of those will require professional cleaning by an HVAC contractor or duct cleaning specialist.
  • Rotten eggs/sulfur – Any time you smell rotten eggs or sulfur when gas appliances are in the home, it’s time to leave the premises and call the gas company – immediately. Gas leaks are dangerous and should always be handled by trained professionals.

To reduce the likelihood of a furnace issue, get in the habit of scheduling a fall furnace maintenance BEFORE the weather turns cold.

Call Short Pump Heating & Air at 804-364-9040 to schedule a technician to come and clean, check and inspect your entire system, then offer recommendations on any minor repairs that can keep your system running, and your family comfortable.

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