6 Reasons Why Your Furnace Smell Like Its Burning

Furnaces | 6 Min.

6 Reasons Why Your Furnace Smell Like Its Burning

Written by Chris

Winter is quickly approaching as well as the cold that comes with it, so it is time for you to take the wise decision of relighting your furnace after a long period of inactivity. Do you smell a burning odor coming from it? Don’t be scared. In some cases, it is not a big deal, but in others, it needs an HVAC expert’s attention. Without further ado, keep on reading to find out why and what to do when your furnace smells smoky.

What does it mean when you sense a burning smell coming from your furnace?

Let’s say it is a persistent smell of burnt gas or rotten egg. In that case, it is better to worry and try to locate the source of the problem as quickly as possible, even if it means turning off your furnace and calling for a specialist as it could be a gas leak, a potentially fatal risk.

If it is a smell of burning dust, it is less of a concern, but it can mean several things depending on the type of installed furnace you have. If you have a heating system coupled with an air conditioning system, you may only need to change the air filters, which generally prevent dust from accumulating in the air distribution ducts.

The presence of this smell of burnt dust usually means that your furnace burner is clogged or that the air outlet is dirty. In any case, if this smell persists, your heating system is not 100% operational, and you should expect higher energy bills than usual.

What should you do if your furnace smells like it’s Burning?

We can only advise you not to wait until the last moment before turning on your furnace because it often happens that this kind of equipment breaks down. It is somewhat uncomfortable to wait for an emergency maintenance specialist when it is already freezing. For all these reasons, it is recommended to maintain and test your furnace once a year, preferably in early fall.

1. Dust is burning on your furnace

If there is a burning smell coming out of your furnace, and you have just turned it on for winters, there is a simple explanation. So your furnace has been off for a while, then a lot of dust has accumulated in it. This dust will be on every part of the furnace-like burners and the exchanger. Therefore, when you turn the furnace on for the first time in winter, it is expected that it will emit a burning smell.

It is ok, and there is no need to be scared or call an HVAC company for that reason. It should, however, disappear after a few minutes. If it doesn’t, then there might actually be a problem. There are also other instances when a foreign object is in your furnace. Sometimes, a plastic object is stuck there, and it is burning, so it produces that burning smell. In this case, the problem will be easily fixed.

2. There is an electrical burning

When your furnace starts to overheat, it should power itself. In case this does not happen, it can only mean that the safety feature on the unit is broken. The right thing to do is to call an HVAC expert to fix that problem quickly. As you surely know, that could cause an electrical fire at your place.

3. Check the draft

If the furnace is not working correctly, smoke may come to the interior, as it happens with a chimney that pushes back smoke. Therefore, all the carbon produced will go to your house, which can explain the burning smell that spreads in your home. In this case, it is advisable to check your furnace with an expert to solve this problem.

4. Your air filters are clogged

When your filters are clogged, your blower motor will have to work a lot harder than usual, and this will make it overheat. What you can do in this case is just to change the air filters. They would also be the cause of the accumulation of dirt on your furnace. That would also explain the burning smell, as that dirt would burn when the furnace heats up.

5. There may be a problem with the gas flow

The problem may be with the gas flow. To check this, observe the flames of the furnace: if they are not blue, but yellow or even red, they can give off an unpleasant burning odor. If that is not the case but you smell an odor of gas, then the problem is also there. If you are in doubt, you can call an HVAC expert to make sure that you do not have a gas flow problem, and stay on the safe side.

6. Find out about a possible hidden defect

If you have an oil furnace and smell a smoky smell or an odor of oil burning, you might want to change your oil filters. In most cases, this will solve your problem. However, be careful, an unusual sound or smell emanating from your furnace should alert you if it lasts more than five minutes. Reacting quickly is the wisest thing to do because when it comes to heating, it is always less expensive to prevent a defect than to cure one. Turn your furnace off and get it inspected quickly.