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Why Does My Furnace Smell Like It’s Burning?

Posted on: November 22, 2016

You should not have to accept that your furnace makes a burning smell or other foul odors when it runs. If your furnace has a chronic smell of burning dust or has suddenly begun making strange odors, turn it off now and then take appropriate steps to ensure your safety and air quality.

Common Reasons a Furnace Makes a Burning Smell

As soon as you notice a burning smell, you should turn off your furnace. Before doing so, stop for a brief moment to determine if you can identify the smell’s characteristics or source. Most furnace odors fall into three categories:

  • Dusty burning smell: This often indicates that it’s time to change the air filter. The furnace may also have dust settled on the inside. Dust and clean the parts you can reach, then call for service if the burning smell continues.
  • Gas leak (rotten egg smell): That sulfuric smell is added to gas to alert you. Shut off the furnace immediately and call for service. A professional can diagnose the problem, which may be a cracked part or a failing pilot light or ignitor.
  • Burning metallic smell or other odors: When it’s not dust or gas, a burning smell coming from the furnace or vents can indicate any number of electrical or mechanical problems. There is probably an overheated component or electrical wire. Call your HVAC company for diagnostics and parts replacements.

Getting Rid of a Burning Smell from Your Furnace

As the homeowner, you can change the filter to help with dusty smells. For most anything else, you should call a heating technician to be safe. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Turn off the furnace. Avoid the temptation to keep the unit running while you search for the source. Be safe, turn off the furnace, and then visually inspect for the cause or call a professional.
  • Look for active fire or smoke. Rule out an active emergency and call 9-1-1 if you do find anything dangerous!
  • Inspect for burn damage. After the furnace has been off for a while (so you don’t risk touching hot parts), inspect the equipment and any nearby objects for signs of burning or melting to give you an idea of the location and extent of the damage.
  • Clean the air filter and equipment if you can. Some furnaces are difficult to clean without professional equipment, but you may be able to dust and wipe down some dusty parts.
  • Call a heating repair service for anything beyond normal homeowner maintenance. If it’s not just a dusty air filter, that burning smell is telling you that your furnace has a problem. Call a pro if anything seems less than ideal, or if the smell comes back.

Furnace Repair in Chicago’s North Shore

For help in Chicago’s North Shore, you can call Glenbrook Heating & Air Conditioning at 847-729-0114 for furnace repair, troubleshooting, and service. Our technicians can quickly identify the cause of your furnace’s burning smell and make corrections so the furnace can run cleanly and safely again.

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