Heating System Odors and What They Mean

Your furnace is meant to be felt, not smelled. A variation of an old saying, yes, but true, nonetheless. Back east where many homes are still heated with oil, wintertime odors are common. Here in Minnesota, we don’t have oil heat – mostly gas and electricity. When the heat is on, you shouldn’t be able to smell anything to do with that process. When you do, you can be reasonably sure your furnace needs attention. The following are the most common furnace-originated odors and their probable causes.

Burning – This odor is common when you first turn on the heat come autumn. But if the smell is present for more than 24 hours, don’t write it off. It could be a sign that certain parts or wiring connections are loose or worn.

Electrical Burning – This is usually a sign of overheating. If the blower stops turning, for example, the motor can overheat and begin melting the insulated wires

Gas – As soon as you detect a strong whiff of that unmistakable odor of natural gas – like rotten eggs – open some windows and evacuate your home. Then call the gas company from a safe location. If the smell of gas isn’t quite as strong, try to locate the source. If it’s coming from the supply vents, you could be smelling dust that has settled on the heat exchanger. Still, if the odor persists, err on the side of caution and call the gas company.

Smoke – The first thing to check is the heating system filter. If it’s dirty or clogged, clean or replaces it as needed. If the odor persists even with a clean filter, one or more of your air vents could be blocked. If the smoky odor still doesn’t go away, it probably will require some professional “detective” work to get to the root of the problem. Come to think of it, there are plenty of things that can go wrong with a residential furnace. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that Bob Boldt HVAC can diagnose and repair them all. Contact us today or anytime to schedule service. If there’s a problem, we want to know about it.

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