What is That Smell? Three Odd Odors Your Furnace Can Emit

Service Today

You fire up your furnace because the inside of your home is feeling awfully chilly, only you are greeted a few minutes later with a distinct, pungent smell. Have you ever been in this situation before? If so, you know how stressful it can be, particularly if you have no idea what is going on. Furnaces do emit odors from time to time, but certain types of smells are a sign that something is going seriously wrong with your furnace and that you need to have it checked out right away.

To help you figure out whether or not your problem is serious and whether you need to take immediate action, here is the low-down on three common and distinct smells that could come from your furnace and what they mean for your home.

Burning Dust

Is this the first time you have turned on your furnace in quite a while? As in several months? It is not uncommon for the first cycle of the season to carry a rather pungent odor of burning dust. Essentially, this is the dust and debris that has built up in your furnace burning off to clean out your heating element and heat exchanger. While it may not smell great, it is entirely normal and really nothing to be worried about. Within roughly five to ten minutes, this smell should dissipate and your home should be odor-free again. However, if the smell does not go away within a half hour or more, then you could have a much bigger problem on your hands. Shut off your furnace and call for an inspection service straight away.

Burning Plastic or Rubber

Burning plastic or rubber is never something you should smell when turning on your furnace. What this normally means is that some sort of plastic or rubber in your furnace is melting or has severely overheated to the point where it is literally burning away. But where is there plastic or rubber in your furnace? In your electrical system, or specifically in the wires that provide electrical power to where it is needed.

A burning plastic smell usually means your furnace is experiencing a power surge or overload of electrical current is flowing through its various electrical connections. When too much current flows, the lines themselves heat up due to electrical resistance, and eventually this heat gets so great that the electrical wires themselves begin to melt. When they melt, the insulation (which is usually a form of PVC plastic or silicone rubber) begins to melt and burn up as well. The electrical connection will eventually fail, but it might not fail before causing immense damage to your furnace. If you ever smell burning plastic coming from your furnace, immediately turn it off and you might even want to turn it off at your breaker panel as well.

Natural Gas

The smell of natural gas is a pretty obvious one: it likely means you have a gas leak somewhere in your heating system. Gas leaks are extremely dangerous for obvious reasons: natural gas can be toxic when consumed in large quantities, and a leak could be incredibly dangerous for your home and even for those around your home as well if the issue is bad enough.

If you ever smell natural gas coming from your furnace, you could have one of several problems. The issue could be that your pilot light has gone out and your furnace can’t restart. Instead, your burner is simply spewing unburned gas into your heat exchanger, which in turn is venting it into the atmosphere. If you do feel warmth coming from your furnace but still smell gas, then there’s a chance that your gas connection itself is leaking. This can happen over time as hose materials and connections wear out. Finally, a gas smell could mean that your furnace isn’t burning all of the gas that comes through your burner, and this could mean your burner is wearing out, or one of a number of potential other issues as well. None of these problems are particularly good to deal with so we advise calling for help as soon as possible.

Is your furnace emitting a strange smell? Get help from the team at Service Today! Schedule your repair by calling (888) 998-2032 today.