Furnace Smells – How to Identify Them and When to Be Concerned

Your furnace can emit many different odors. Some furnace smells are normal and some could signal danger. At Getszchman Heating and Air Conditioning, we’ve smelled them all. We’ve compiled a list of common furnace smells and what they could mean. These are in the order of least dangerous to most potentially dangerous.

– this is the most common smell we hear about because it happens in almost every home with a furnace. This smell usually occurs at the beginning of furnace season when the furnace is turned on after months of inactivity. Dust accumulates during the summer months and when the furnace starts to run and heats up, it burns this dust off causing the somewhat familiar odor. It generally only lasts an hour or two.

– musty odors can be caused by mold trapped in the furnace filter. If you have a humidifier, it could also be mold in the humidifier filter. Check both of these filters and clean them or replace them with fresh filters. If the smell doesn’t go away, you may have a moisture leak which is causing mold inside. Call a heating and cooling company to find the mold and diagnose the problem.

Smoke or Oil
– If you have an oil furnace, the oil filter inside your unit can get clogged. If you smell oil when your furnace turns on, try changing this filter. A smoke smell can mean a chimney is blocked. Call a heating and cooling specialist to clean the chimney. 

Electrical Burning Smell
– this smell is also potentially dangerous. It could mean a blower motor is overheating, a heat exchanger is cracked, or wiring is bad. This is a potential fire hazard. Sometimes, a child’s toy caught in the register or something spilled in the register can cause this smell as well, so check your registers first. If you find nothing out of the ordinary, call a heating and cooling professional for a furnace inspection.Rotten Egg or Sulfur – this smell is one to be concerned about. Natural gas has no odor, but because it is dangerous to humans, a scent is added specifically to make it noticeable when there is a leak. If you smell a rotten egg smell, it could be a gas leak. This is potentially extremely dangerous. If there is a gas leak, a small spark of any kind could cause an explosion, so vacate your home and call the gas company ASAP.
Having regular maintenance will keep your system clean and running efficiently, which will also save you money on energy bills. By keeping your furnace mechanically sound, you will avoid any foul odors or potential dangers. Call us at Getszchman Heating and Air Conditioning for a furnace tune-up. We’ll be happy to come inspect your furnace for safety and efficiency.