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What Does the Smell Coming Out of My Furnace Mean?

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As soon as you turn your furnace on for the first time this winter season, you anticipate feeling—and smelling—clean and odorless air being circulated from the unit. Instead, you smell something burning.

It is important to understand that burning smells emanating from your heating system is quite common in homes throughout the United States. However, it doesn’t mean that they should be ignored. While some smells are harmless, others may pose a serious health risk or problem with your furnace itself.

The following are the most common odors from heating units and what they might mean:

  • Burning dust – The smell of burning dust is one of the most common smells from heating systems. In most cases, this type of smell is considered normal, especially if you are turning on your furnace for the first time since last winter. It’s easy for the system to collect dust while it’s not being used during the spring and summer months. Your furnace is actually burning away all the dust and dirt that has been accumulated within the unit. However, if the odor continues to be apparent well after initially turning it on, replace your air filter. If the smell continues after using a new filter, contact a professional immediately.
  • Rotten eggs – The smell of rotten eggs or sulfur means there is a gas supply problem—commonly a gas leak. Since natural gas is odorless, gas companies include this type of scent to make it obvious a leak exists. Since there is gas in your home’s air, igniting a flame or striking a match could cause an explosion or fire. If you notice this odor, turn off your furnace and open up all of the windows—and even doorways—to allow fresh air to circulate. Next, obtain service from the gas company.
  • Electrical or metallic smell – Although these smells don’t appear quite frequently as others, they need to be addressed by a professional ASAP. Electrical smells often mean specific components within the furnace are overheating, while metallic smells mean rubber parts are burning because of old age and normal wear and tear.
  • Oil – In most cases, simply replacing the air filter should make the smell disappear. However, if the smell continues, this could mean there is an oil leak. Contact a professional immediately if you believe there is an oil leak.

While the minor issues are easy to fix on your own, the major problems need to be checked out by professionals. At H.L. Moe Co., Inc., our Los Angeles HVAC technician is prepared to inspect your heating system, determine the issue, and make the necessary repairs the first time around.

Contact us and request a free estimate today. We are available 24/7 for any emergency heating or air conditioning repairs!

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