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Why Does My Furnace Smell Like It’s Burning?

Why Does My Furnace Smell Like It’s Burning?

With the cold weather in full swing, your heater may be getting its first use in months. It’s common to experience strange smells coming from your vents during those first few start-ups. But an odd burning smell can be a sign your furnace needs maintenance, especially if it persists. The problem may be something as simple as a filter change or a more serious issue such as an overheated blower motor or a foreign object stuck in the system giving off unsafe fumes. Let’s explore some of the types of smells and what to do if you notice them.

My Furnace is Making Electrical Burning Smells

A burning, electrical odor can signal a serious problem. It may be a sign an electrical component is overheating such as your blower motor. Under most circumstances, your furnace should automatically shut itself off when it begins to overheat. However, if the unit is damaged and the safety feature no longer works, the motor can become dangerously hot. Other possible reasons for an electrical burning smell could be frayed wiring or other electrical problems. Because these situations are hazardous to you and your family, turn off your heater and contact an HVAC technician for help identifying the issue.

My Furnace Smells Like Burning Dust

The smell of burning dust is one of the most common smells when turning on your heater for the first time in a while. Because the unit has been inactive for a while, dust collects and settles over time and then is burned off when the furnace is activated. As the dust burns off of the heating exchanger and other parts, the odor comes from the vents and spreads through your home. The good news is the smell is not a cause for concern. Within a few hours, the smell should disappear. If the smell persists, check and change your air filters.

My Furnace Smells Musty

In some cases, the air blown throughout your home may smell musty, damp or foul-smelling. Similarly to the smell of burning dust, the smell may dissipate with time. However, if it doesn’t, it may be time to change the air filter. The smell may also indicate there’s mold present in your filter, unit or vents. If changing the filter doesn’t remedy the issue, contact Weatherwise Heating & Cooling and we can help get to the root of the problem.

If you experience a gunpowder-like smell, this may be the result of a fried circuit board or fan motor. It’s a good idea to turn off your unit immediately. Continuing to run your furnace could exacerbate the problem. Call an HVAC technician to identify the issue as soon as you’re able.

My Furnace Smells Oily or Smoky

If you have an oil furnace and are able to smell the oil burning in your furnace, turn off the heater immediately. Change the oil filter before trying to turn it on again. If the problem persists, contact an HVAC professional to diagnose the problem as soon as possible.

My Furnace Smells Like Burning Plastic

Shut off your furnace immediately. The fumes from burning plastic are not safe to breathe. In most cases, this smell indicates that a foreign object may be caught in or near the furnace and is heating at a high temperature. Try to find the source of the problem in or near the furnace and remove the object. If you’re unable to locate the problem, call a Weatherwise Heating & Cooling technician for assistance.

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