What’s Causing That Burning Smell When You Turn On The Furnace?

Are you someone that likes to crank up the heat the moment the weather starts getting chilly? Or are you someone who waits until a snowy day when the coldness starts to turn bitter and unbearable? Regardless of what type of homeowner you are, you might be wondering what’s causing that burning smell when you first turn on your furnace. Don’t worry, it’s usually a normal thing. Here are just a few of the different smells your furnace emits, what they are exactly, and what (if anything) you should do about them. 

Normal Dust Burning

When your furnace it’s actively heating your home, the dust and dirt particles that are naturally floating around your home settle on and into your furnace. When you turn your heater on for the first time, this dust burns off. This burn-off is usually what’s causing that burning smell when you turn on the furnace. The smell should dissipate rather quickly. If it lingers for over an hour, though, it may be a sign that your air filter needs to be replaced. 

Abnormal Odors

While that burning dust smell is normal, there are some smells that aren’t so normal that you need to be aware of. 

  • Metallic or plastic burning smell – Try to find the source of this odor. If it’s coming from your furnace, it could be the sign of an overheated motor, worn bearings, or a wiring issue. Check to see if anything has fallen inside your duct. If you can’t find anything and the smell continues, you need to contact an experienced HVAC technician ASAP.  
  • Musty or moldy smell – If your home starts smelling like a poorly maintained bathroom, you might need to clean your air filter. It could also be a sign of mold or bacterial buildup somewhere else in your home (likely near a vent). Check and replace your filter if needed. If you have had a furnace tune-up recently to ensure your system has been properly cleaned and maintained, be sure to schedule your annual appointment with an HVAC technician
  • Rotten eggs (Sulfur) – If you have gas appliances and you smell rotten eggs or a sulfur-like smell, you need to evacuate your home IMMEDIATELY. Call the gas company right away! This smell may likely mean you have a gas leak, which is dangerous, life-threatening problem that should only be handled by trained professionals. 

How you can avoid weird or unpleasant odors altogether

To reduce or eliminate the chance of an untimely furnace issue, you should get into the habit of scheduling a fall furnace maintenance appointment with an HVAC company, like A-Abel, before the weather turns cold. During your furnace tune-up, an HVAC technician will clean, check, and inspect your entire HVAC system, offering recommendations on any minor repairs that can help keep your system running and your family comfortable. To get a free quote or schedule your HVAC tune-up today, contact A-Abel. Our experienced HVAC technicians are ready to help ensure your furnace is ready for winter.