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Dealing With Unwanted Furnace Smells

With winter approaching, temperatures will start to drop. To keep your home warm, you will want to fire up your heating system. Your heating system has probably been dormant for many months. Once you turn on the heater, you’ll probably feel relieved to feel the air temperature warm up within your home. This is a good indication that your heating system is working as it should. However, you may have noticed a burning smell when you turn your heating system on for the first time. In addition to the smell being strange and unpleasant, you may wonder if the burning smell means that there’s something wrong with your furnace. Is it time to call the fire department? In most cases, you’re not facing an emergency. However, this burning smell should not be ignored. Some odors are just a regular part of your heating system’s normal function, while others clearly indicate that something is wrong.

Should My Heater Produce a Burning Odor?

Maybe. If you turn your heater on for the first time during the winter, dust may have accumulated in the heater. What you are smelling is that dust burning. This is entirely normal. The dust is harmless and will likely burn off within a few seconds. However, you should not smell an electrical burning smell. That’s not normal. It could be a warning signal that a severe electrical issue could potentially cause a fire. Let’s look at the different types of burning smells that your heating system may emit.

The Smell of Burning Dust

This is entirely normal. Dust and debris collect on heat exchangers, air ducts, and burners over the spring and summer months. When you turn on your furnace, that debris burns. It releases a smoky odor. Don’t worry. In a few minutes, the smell is going to go away. If you’re still smelling the same burning odor 30 minutes or one hour after starting your furnace or the smell gets stronger, look at your air filter. You may need to change it. If the smell continues after you have changed the air filter, turn the furnace off. Give us a call at Dynamic Air Services. Our technicians will look at your unit and help you find the source of the burning smell.

A Musty Odor

At first, you may not think the musty smell is a big deal. And, in many cases, it’s not. There could be mildew or mold that has grown on the dust that accumulated in your furnace. After turning the unit on, the mold, mildew, and dust are all burned away. That musty smell could also indicate mildew or mold trapped on your furnace filter or humidifier pad. The first step to take is to clean or replace your air filter. If that doesn’t work, you will want an HVAC expert to clean and inspect your system. As with all things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. One of the best ways to avoid this musty smell in the future is to have your filters regularly cleaned and replaced as necessary. If you have a washable humidifier pad, keep it clean. You can easily use a solution that is one part water and one part vinegar to keep your HVAC unit clean.

What About the Electrical Smell Mentioned Earlier?

The electrical burning smell coming from your heater could be benign or dangerous. There could be a foreign object in your ductwork. As the foreign object burns, there could be a smell. It’s up to you to regularly inspect your registers and clean out any debris that may have been collected there. On the flip side, the smell of electrical burning could indicate a hazardous electrical issue. When you go outside and there’s a lightning storm, you can smell it. The ozone created by the lightning produces a smell that’s akin to chlorine. This is the same smell your heater is going to produce if it’s overheating. Like all the other appliances in your home, the older your heater gets, the more prone it is to a break down. Your blower motor may seize up or bind. As a result, it sucks more electricity through resistors that increase voltage, leading to excessive heat. The heat can eventually melt the insulation on the wires and lead to sparks and electrical shorts. If this happens, you can get that electrical burning smell in your home. Finally, melted wires can create enough heat to be dangerous. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Dynamic Air Services technicians will be happy to visit your home and help you identify the source of the burning smell and recommend appropriate steps to take.

What If My Furnace Smells Like Gunpowder?

The circuit board is the central brain that controls how your furnace operates. It controls sensitive functions in the furnace, like gas valves, the flame sensor, and the blower motor. If you have a newer furnace, the control board may also control the air conditioner. There is a fan motor that helps to control its temperature. If the fan motor overheats, it can smell like burning gunpowder. Unfortunately, this is not a do-it-yourself fix. Turn off your unit. Call our trusted professionals to inspect the furnace. You should avoid trying to do an internal repair yourself, as you could end up causing more damage than good.

What If You Smell Smoke and Chemicals?

You should never smell smoke coming from your furnace. This also applies to chemical smells. The smell of smoke could mean that your furnace chimney or exhaust vent is blocked. The exhaust from the furnace must go somewhere. If it can’t go out of the furnace, it’s going to enter your home. If the smell is strong, it’s probably best for you to leave your home and have our technicians evaluate the situation. If you smell chemicals, turn the furnace off right away. It could be an indication that your heat exchanger is broken and is releasing dangerous fumes into the home. If you smell oil, this is an indication that your furnace’s filter is clogged. You should be able to change the filter, which will make the smell go away. As with all the odors mentioned above, speak to our professional technicians if they linger, if they get stronger, or if they cause you concern. We can help get your furnace working and smelling the way it should.

Learn the Dynamic Way

At Dynamic Air, we can help you solve your heating smelling issues. We also provide installation, repair, and maintenance of residential and commercial heating and air conditioning systems as well as indoor air quality services throughout Orange County. Our professional, experienced team delivers high-quality services designed to protect the security, comfort, and energy efficiency of your home or place of work. We are NATE certified and offer 24/7 emergency service. Whether for your home or office, be it heating or air conditioning, Dynamic Air is only a phone call away. Contact us today to learn about our award-winning services.
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