4 Furnace Smells That Could Spell Trouble
How to get a fresh-smelling home
Written by CW Suter
Carbon monoxide furnace
When functioning properly, your furnace is probably the last thing on your mind. When you realize that the unpleasant smell isn’t coming from Uncle Bob’s feet, but rather the source of heat and comfort in your home, the function of your furnace will probably consume your every thought. Don’t worry, we have you covered. You may not be able to fix every stinky problem, but we’ll let you know which ones you can troubleshoot and which smells are a cause for major concern.
#1 Rotten Egg Smell
If you smell rotten eggs it’s an almost definite indicator of a natural gas leak. Why does natural gas smell like rotten eggs? Well, it doesn’t on its own. It’s odorless, but gas companies scent their gas so residents and technicians know that they could have a leak on their hands. An explosion or fire in your house could occur if you have a gas leak. Immediate action needs to be taken. If you’re near the furnace, turn it off. Open all windows and doors to let in fresh air and evacuate the house. Stay away from your home. You’ll need to call 9-1-1 and the gas company – for many Sioux City (and surrounding) homes, that’s MidAmerican Energy. MidAmerican’s website has more information, and offers this urgent advice:
If you suspect a natural gas leak, evacuate the area immediately and call 911 and MidAmerican Energy at 800-595-5325.
#2 Burning Electrical or Metallic Smell
If you’re furnace is giving off the smell of burning wires or an overheated motor, it’s a good indication that the components inside your furnace are getting too hot. As a protective mechanism, newer furnaces will shut themselves off if they become overheated. If an electrical smell accompanies a furnace that randomly turns off, you’ll need to call an HVAC professional immediately to inspect, diagnose, and fix the issue. If your furnace isn’t turning off, but you still smell a nasty, electrical odor, turn the furnace off at the thermostat and call an HVAC professional. Sorry, guys, this isn’t a problem you can fix on your own, no matter how handy you are.
#3 Burning Dust Smell
If you fire up the furnace for the first time this winter and are met with a dusty, burning smell, don’t be alarmed. A lot of homeowners report smelling burning dust, and it’s really quite normal. Your furnace is burning away any dust and dirt that has accumulated inside over the warmer months. A good dose of fresh air should help get rid of the smell. Open up your windows and doors. The smell should dissipate within a few hours. If the smell doesn’t go away in a timely manner, there are some things you can do to troubleshoot your furnace.
Filter Out Trouble – Make sure your filter up to date and clean. If you can’t remember the last time you changed it, it’s a good idea to just go ahead and do so. We suggest using a calendar reminder on your phone so you don’t forget to change your filter. If you’re unsure about how often you’re supposed to replace, ask your HVAC professional (we love to help), or follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Call In the Big Guns – If the smell doesn’t go away on its own and changing the filter doesn’t help, it may be time to call in the big guns. You may simply need a deep cleaning that goes beyond the scope of what the average homeowner can do. It could also be a larger problem that only an HVAC technician can diagnose and fix.
#4 Chemical Smell
If you smell a chemical odor that resembles formaldehyde, a crack in the heat exchanger is the most likely culprit. A broken heat exchanger is a very serious, potentially dangerous issue. It drastically increases the risk of fire and carbon monoxide. You’ll need to evacuate your home immediately. Contact the fire department first, followed immediately by a call to a trusted HVAC company. (Our Emergency Service number is 712-252-3007 or 800-747-3007. If you want to learn more about the dangers of carbon monoxide, we took an in depth look at what can cause carbon monoxide poisoning and how to prevent it from happening in your home.
Your Nose Knows When to Schedule Repairs
(See what we did there? 😉 )
If you’re questioning the smell coming from your furnace, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 712-252-3007. We’re here to answer your questions 24/7/365 and schedule repairs if needed.
Remember, annual furnace maintenance can help prevent small repairs from becoming more costly (possibly smelly) ones. Put your mind at ease and schedule your Fall Check Up today.