Why Does My Furnace Have a Burning Smell?

After a sizzling summer, Southern California just had its first taste of the cold conditions that Fall is likely to bring. This initial cold snap had many homeowners turning on their furnace for the first time in months. Around this time we commonly get quite a few calls from homeowners reporting a smokey smell coming from their vents when they initially fire up their furnace. In this article, we take a look at some of the common reasons for this.

Dust. One of the most common reasons for a smokey smell when firing up your furnace for the first time of the season is due to dust in the unit itself. When a furnace goes months without use, it is common for dust to find its way inside the unit’s internal components. The dust burning off may lead to the smell going away, but it does not mean that you are entirely out of the woods. If enough dust were to accumulate and burn off, it could leave a residue that can catch fire. This is why it is critical to have your furnace on a maintenance plan where the unit is thoroughly inspected by professionals on a yearly basis.

Combustibles. One of the unique challenges posed by furnaces is the fact that they are usually hidden away in a place that homeowners use for storage. These type of duel areas commonly come in the form of a basement, attic, or garage. When stored items such as boxes, holiday decorations, old books, etc. are too close to the furnace, it becomes possible for the heat that the unit is putting off to make the items even drier than they were when they initially stored. The more they dry out, the more flammable they become and the more likely they are to become a fire danger. It is critical to keep combustible items as far away from the furnace and pilot light as possible to avoid fire hazards. It is also recommended that all homeowners have a fire extinguisher handy to put out fires in the home from any source.

Faulty Electrical Components. If the smokey smell you are experiencing from your furnace has an electrical odor to it at all, you should contact a professional immediately. Smokey smells combined with an electrical burning odor can mean that you have a potentially dangerous issue with your heat exchanger, motor, or critical furnace component that could cause an electrical fire if not serviced immediately. Smokey smells that are distinctly electrical should be immediately checked out by a professional no matter where the smell is originating. If the smokey smell is coming from the furnace you should call a certified HVAC technician immediately, if it is coming from another area of the home, it is a good idea to get a licensed electrician out to identify and correct the problem as soon as possible.

Dirty Filters. It is common for dirty air filters to create off-smells in the home. These can include musty or moldy smells as well as burning smells when the system is operated. Dirty filters are a common cause of a smokey smell when furnaces are initially turned on after extended periods of non-use. When air filters are replaced regularly your system will function better, your indoor air quality will improve, and your HVAC system will be safer to operate. These benefits are just some of the reasons that we recommend a service contract for your HVAC systems by a licensed professional. When it comes to the safety and efficiency of your home’s heating and cooling systems, maintenance is the name of the game.

As always if you have any questions about your HVAC system, smokey smells, or need assistance; please feel free to contact We Care anytime.

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