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Why Does Your Furnace Smell?

“Oh no! Did that smell just come from my furnace! What could be wrong with it?” If you notice a weird smell from your furnace, you shouldn’t ignore it or assume that it’s your imagination. Furnaces do a great job of keeping you warm during the harsh winters in Toronto. However, just like other appliances, furnaces are prone to damage. Often, the first sign of trouble is an unusual smell coming from the furnace. There are several types of strange furnace smells. Some are serious, and others are not. Either way, the smells can not be ignored; otherwise, they can result in unpredictable furnace repair. It’s important for a homeowner to understand the different types of furnace smells and distinguish between those that warrant calling a technician and those that do not.

What you should know when your furnace smells

When you open your furnace, you expect a gust of heated air to circulate in your home and warm it up. You might be surprised to switch on the furnace and get strange smells instead of the coveted warmth. There are several indicators that your furnace is not working right. The typical indicators include performance issues, strange noises, ever-increasing energy bills, and of course, a weird smell. If your home has an electric or gas furnace, the chances are that you will be using it intensively this winter to ensure that your home is warm and comfortable. Therefore, it is important to understand several troubleshooting issues that can help you know when your furnace has a problem. The most important sign of a potential or on-going furnace problem is an unusual smell.

You should never ignore furnace odours regardless of whether you have a gas or an electric furnace. In most cases, a furnace smell is a sign that something is not working correctly. However, a strange smell should not always prompt you to call an HVAC technician because some smells are harmless. Some odours will resolve on their own and shouldn’t cause you any worry. However, other odours are an indication of a potentially dangerous issue with your furnace. Only a qualified technician can help you distinguish between harmful and harmless smells.

Some reasons why your Furnace can smell

  • Burning Smell

    It is common to smell burning or dusty odour at the beginning of the heating season. You should not panic because a burning smell is quite common and results from the accumulated dust on the furnace. When the furnace is not in use, it’s common for the dust to settle in the system. In addition, oil could also leak onto the components. However, if you notice a prolonged dusty or burning smell, the furnace could have a serious underlying problem. You should take action if the burning smell doesn’t disappear within 24 hours or if it is accompanied by smoke. If you suspect that all is not well, you should shut off the system and contact an experienced technician for an inspection.

  • New Furnace Smell

    When you use a newly-installed furnace for the first time, the furnace might produce an unpleasant smell. This smell is due to the protective oil coating on the furnace and should not be a source of concern. This oil coating will burn off in a short while, and the smell will no longer be there. All new furnaces come with a coating on the coils to prevent rust and corrosion. Therefore, it’s normal for the furnace to have a funny smell when you turn it on. The furnace might smell a little musty or like burning. This happens in many homes; don’t get worried.

  • Smokiness

    An obstructed or blocked chimney may cause smoke from the furnace to pass through the ductwork and into your home. If the smoky smell is noticeable or triggers the smoke alarm, you should be concerned. When the furnace or the chimney is blocked, smoke cannot escape from your house. Inhaling smoke and other particles could affect your lungs and cause several health issues. If you notice a smoky smell, you should close your gas line supply and call a repair technician. It’s advisable always to have a professional technician clean and inspect your chimney before the heating season. You shouldn’t continue using your furnace if you notice a smoky smell.

  • Hot Plastic Smell

    The smell of hot plastic, metal, or rubber could mean two things. A foreign object ranging from bottle caps to your children’s toys could have entered the heating unit. As the plastic object burns, it can emit fumes that can adversely affect your health. The smell of hot plastic, rubber, or metal could also mean that one of your furnace components is in distress. This would be a risky situation because overheating certain furnace components could cause a house fire. When you detect the smell of hot plastic coming from your furnace, you should shut off the heating system and contact a furnace repair expert.

  • Rotten Eggs

    Rotten egg odour is one of the most dangerous smells you can detect from your furnace. This smell implies that there is a gas leak. Sewage or rotten eggs smell comes from a substance that gas companies add to natural gas to make a gas leak more detectable. It is dangerous to stay in the house or continue using the furnace when you notice a rotten egg’s odour. When there is a natural gas leak, there is a risk of explosion. You should open all the windows and evacuate your home immediately. You could go to your neighbour’s and contact an HVAC technician immediately. Until the technician tells you it is safe, you should not re-enter your home.

  • Oily Aroma

    The smell of oil in the air could mean that you have a blocked air filter in your furnace. You may only need a simple DIY cleaning or replacement to restore a clogged air filter. It’s advisable to replace your HVAC air filter once every two or three months, or even more often if need be. When you smell an oily aroma, you should check the filter in your oil furnace to determine whether it’s the source of the smell. If the odour persists after cleaning or replacing the oil filter, you might have an oil leak. An oil leak problem requires the attention of an experienced technician.

  • Musty Scent

    The HVAC ductwork is a common breeding ground for mould and mildew to grow. Mould and other bacteria could pose serious health problems. If you notice a musty smell, you should determine the exact location of the mould. The mould could be located on the heating and cooling ducts on the air conditioner coil located above the furnace. You should have a professional technician service and inspect your heating system regularly. If professional cleaning still doesn’t eliminate the musty odour, the problem could be in another part of your home. A musty smell will not only compromise your indoor air quality but could also have adverse effects on your health.

  • Chemical Odour

    If your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger, you might notice a chemical odour similar to the one you would find in a doctor’s office. The furnace might smell like formaldehyde or other chemicals. In most cases, the chemical smell is accompanied by a rattling sound. A cracked heat exchanger can allow carbon monoxide to seep through the ductwork and into your home, posing severe health challenges. Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, and poisonous gas that could cause death when inhaled. If you notice a chemical odour, you should get everyone out of the house and contact a professional technician to inspect the system.

Air Makers are here to help with your Furnace

In addition to being the most important appliance in your home, a furnace is also one of the most dangerous appliances. That’s why you should never ignore any strange smell coming from your furnace. If you notice a disturbing smell from your furnace, Air Makers can answer all your questions. We will provide you with exceptional furnace repair service or furnace replacement if that’s the best option. We are committed to providing the best HVAC services that Toronto homeowners can always count on. Other than keeping you warm, we also ensure that your family is always safe. You should never ignore any signs of potential danger from your furnace. Contact us today for a lasting solution.

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