What’s That Smell? 3 Furnace Odors You Should Know About

As it gets cooler outside, the time will come when you are ready to turn on your furnace for the first time. And when you flip the switch, you may notice a smell coming from the furnace or through your air vents. Some furnace smells are cause for concern while others are not, but you should never ignore them. Here are three common furnace odors, what you need to know about them and what you should do next.

  • Burning or musty smell
    The first time you turn on the furnace, it is completely normal to notice a burning or musty smell.

    Why does it smell like that? While your furnace has been turned off during the warmer months of the year, dust and dirt have built up within your unit. When you turn on the furnace for the first time, the dust and dirt are getting burned off, hence the burning smell you may notice.

    How long will the smell last? Usually, it doesn’t last very long. Most homeowners only notice the smell during the first few hours after the furnace has been turned on, and then it fades as the dust and dirt have been burned off. If a few days goes by and you still smell it, change the air filter to see if that helps. If it doesn’t, contact Stiles Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing to have your HVAC system checked for any other issues.
  • Rotten egg or sulfur smell
    If you notice a rotten egg or sulfur smell after turning on your furnace, this is a very serious concern. You may have a natural gas leak in your home.

    Why does it smell like that? Natural gas is odorless, so a harmless chemical (mercaptan) is added to give natural gas an odor, so you can easily detect a gas leak. Most people would describe the odor as smelling like rotten eggs or sulfur.

    Since a natural gas leak could cause a devastating fire or explosion in your home, you and your family should evacuate immediately. Once away from your home safely, contact your utility company and fire department for emergency help and follow their instructions.
  • Metallic, electrical or overheating smells
    When turning on your furnace, see if you smell hot metal like an overheated motor or hot plastic or rubber like burning wires.

    Why does it smell like that? It could be because certain inside components of your furnace may be getting too hot and could be overheating or burning.

    If you notice this smell, you should turn off the furnace immediately. Then contact Stiles Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing to inspect and repair the furnace as soon as possible. In the meantime, keep an eye on the furnace for a few hours to make sure a fire doesn’t start or any other problems occur.

As always, regular HVAC maintenance is critical to keep your family comfortable, healthy and safe and to ensure your HVAC system is in top working order. Check out this blog post for more information about what you can expect during an HVAC maintenance appointment.

If you have concerns about a smell coming from your furnace, contact Stiles Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing to schedule an HVAC maintenance appointment as soon as possible. We can also provide more tips for turning on your furnace for the first time.

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