Furnace Odors 101

Furnace Odors 101It’s never a good idea to ignore a furnace smell. Except that burning dust smell that often occurs at start-up, an odor can indicate a serious problem. Smells serve as warnings that it’s time to have an HVAC pro evaluate it for safety.

When you experience any of these odors coming from the furnace, contact your HVAC professional immediately, and shut the furnace off until they assure it’s safe to use.

  • Rotten eggs or a sulfur smell. This almost always indicates a natural gas leak, a highly dangerous situation. Regardless of where it’s originating from, do not turn anything electrical on or off, including cell and landline phones. Turn the main gas valve for your home off and leave your property before you call 911 or the emergency line for your gas provider.

    It’s important to teach everyone in your home who is old enough to recognize the smell of natural gas and make sure they know what to do in the event of a leak.

  • Burning wires, rubber or hot metal. These smells might indicate that the blower motor is overheating. The bearings could be freezing, a wire is hot, or the windings are overheating.
  • A chemical odor. A strange, sweet odor like formaldehyde is a furnace smell that could indicate a cracked heat exchanger, which is a dangerous condition. The heat exchanger transfers the heat from the furnace to the air that blows through the ducts to heat your home.

    If it’s cracked, deadly carbon monoxide (CO) from the combustion gases could be blowing through your home. The only way to know if CO is present in your home at dangerous levels is with a CO detector.

  • Oil or smoke smell. Check the oil filter for an oil-burning furnace or boiler. If it’s intact, the furnace may have developed a serious problem.

Take any furnace smell you notice as a warning that something could be wrong with your system. If you experience any strange smells, contact the pros immediately at Hartman Brothers Heating & Air Conditioning, providing trusted HVAC services for Fort Wayne homeowners.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in New Haven, Indiana and surrounding Fort Wayne area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about furnace odors and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 260-376-2961.

Credit/Copyright Attribution: “piotr-marcinski/Shutterstock”

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    Richard Hartman Richard Hartman has worked in many capacities: service, installations, and production of sheet metal since the early years of the business.... More »