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5 Reasons The Furnace Smells Like It’s Burning

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Your furnace is an essential part of your home. Whether you think about it every day or not, you expect your furnace to keep your house warm. But, just like any home comfort unit, things can go wrong. 

If something is wrong with your furnace, it may start to give off a burning smell. Based on this smell, you can identify what’s wrong with your furnace and call a professional for help. 

Keep reading to learn more about the burning smells your furnace can produce and what they mean. 

The Burning Smell 

When your furnace starts to give off a burning smell, it’s clear you’re dealing with an issue. Luckily, these smells are unique and will help point you in the direction of what’s wrong with your furnace. 

The burning smell from your furnace could indicate a serious issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. 

Some of the smells below may resolve themselves as they are caused by inactivity. Properly maintaining your furnace is important in preventing larger issues. 

1. Dust 

In Alberta, we collect a lot of dust in and around our homes. When this dust settles inside your furnace, you may start smelling dust burning. 

This is likely to happen when you first turn on your furnace after the summer months. There is no need to panic if this is the case. The accumulated dust will be burned away. However, if this smell continues for more than a day, you should contact your professional furnace technician.  

Even though this smell is unpleasant, the odor is harmless to you and your family. Even though it is harmless, this issue should be fixed. 

2. Bacteria Buildup 

Often smelling musty or like dirty socks, bacteria buildup can be unpleasant to deal with. Similar to burning dust, this smell can be caused when you first turn on your furnace after a long break. To get rid of the smell, replace your furnace filter. If this smell doesn’t go away within a day, call a professional for assistance. If your furnace filter is not the issue, it is possible you could be dealing with mould in your furnace. The continued smell could also mean you have a problem with your air ducts. In this case, your air ducts will need to be cleaned.

3. Electrical 

Electrical issues will often smell like burning plastic or electrical components. If you smell this, turn off your furnace immediately and call a professional to take a look at your unit. 

Issues involving the electrical components are serious and could be dangerous. In the case of burning plastic, your furnace likely is too hot and is melting its rubber and metal components. 

These furnace components won’t last forever. Over time, they will begin to experience wear and tear, making them more likely to burn. Luckily, these components can be identified and replaced by a professional.

Once your furnace is repaired, it’s best to monitor it for 1 to 2 days, ensuring there are no further issues. 

4. Gas Leak

Often having a rotten egg smell, gas leaks are a serious problem. If you begin to smell rotten eggs, turn off your furnace immediately and call a professional

After you have turned off your furnace, open the windows to let clean air circulate. This clean air will reduce the risk of any serious damage. Next, leave your home and call the gas company to alert them of a potential gas leak. 

Although natural gas is normally odorless, natural gas suppliers scent the gas with this rotten egg smell to make it easier to spot a gas leak. A gas leak is a serious issue that not only puts your furnace at risk but your whole house. 

5. Oil Filter 

If your furnace smells like burning oil, it normally indicates an issue with your oil filter. Replacing the oil filter can resolve this issue. If this doesn’t solve the smell, it’s best to contact a professional to ensure your furnace doesn’t have an oil leak. 

To properly maintain your furnace, you should be replacing the filter every three months. If your home is exposed to pet hair, smoke, or excessive dust, your furnace filter should be replaced more frequently. 

Give Us a Call 

No one spends more time in your home than you. As your furnace is an essential part of your home, it’s important to identify these issues when they arise so they can be taken care of. Catching these issues early could save you money down the road and extend the life of your furnace. 

If you are experiencing any of the burning smells above, give us a call! Our team is here to help. 

Written by Ryan Tutak

Ryan is considered one of Calgary's most knowledgeable residential HVAC specialists. Working in the industry for over 12 years, he's helped thousands of homeowners with their heating and cooling systems. Outside of running Calgary's most reputable HVAC business, you can find him on the Golf course practicing his short game or traveling with his family. His main goal is to create a positive collaborative culture, one in which his employees are excited to come in and are motivated to work hard. He spends the majority of his day working directly with Home Comfort Advisors, Service and Maintenance Technicians, and Customer Service Representatives ensuring they are fully prepared to lead the Home Service Industry in Customer Service.
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