When you’re turning on your furnace for the first time in the early winter months, you probably notice the slight burning smell as it wakes up. After months of not being used, some light burning scents are typical – some others can be a sign of issues within your furnace.
Figuring out the source of the smell is an important step in evaluating the severity of the problem. If you notice scents of plastic, intense burning, or overwhelming electrical smells, there are some common causes that we can fix.
How Should a Normal Furnace Smell?
A slight burning scent is entirely normal, especially on the first use of the season. Throughout the year, dust collects in your air ducts and the ignition system, and as the dust burns, you’ll be able to smell it through your vents.
The scent will go away quickly, and it won’t impact the air quality of your home, but if it persists or the smell seems off, there could be a few culprits.
What Can Cause Burning Smells in Your Furnace?
Dirty Furnace Filters
The simplest solution to try is changing the furnace filter. Blockage in your filters can cause your furnace to work harder than usual, giving off a burning smell as the furnace overheats. Just like with dust layers, if the furnace consistently burns the dirt from the filters, the burning smell will become persistent.
Burning Electrical Wires
Long-lasting smells of burning plastic can be an indication of electrical problems. What you’re smelling is the protective coating on the wire melting off – this can be from improper wire placement, damage to the wire, or other electrical faults. Wire problems can turn into potential fires, so it’s a good idea to have a technician inspect your furnace quickly.
An overheating motor can easily cause burning smells in your furnace. If your filters or vents are dirty or clogged, you’ll get less air movement, keeping hot air trapped in the heat exchanger and motor. Furnaces that overheat have internal safety mechanisms that will shut your furnace down to avoid damage, but you will still have the burning scent in the air after shutting down.
Do You Think Your Furnace Has a Gas Problem?
If you notice a smell that is less like burning but more like rotten eggs, don’t hesitate to contact the gas company and turn off the gas. It’s crucial in these situations to bring in professionals who can make your furnace and your home sur home, safe again.