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5 Common Furnace Smells and What They Mean

Girl pinching her nose against a white background

When your gas furnace is working properly, you’ll hardly even notice it. Other than the sound of it turning on and off and the whoosh of air through the vents, it shouldn’t make much noise. And at the beginning of the heating season, you’ll probably smell dust when you turn it on for the first time. But otherwise, your furnace should be operating silently and without emitting any smells.

When your furnace gives off weird smells, it’s a sign to sit up and take notice. Your furnace is trying to tell you that it’s not operating as it should. Depending on the type of smell, the issue behind it could be something that requires urgent attention by a professional HVAC company to something ordinary and run-of-the-mill. Let’s go over 5 common furnace smells and what they mean.

1. Burning Smell When First Turned On 

On the first blustery day of fall, you turn your furnace on and soon detect the acrid smell of something burning. Don’t be too alarmed. This is normal when you first turn your furnace on. It’s only when the smell lingers for several days that you have something to be concerned about.

What you’re smelling is dust that’s accumulated in your furnace and ductwork, burning off the vents, registers, and heat exchangers. When the furnace is turned on for the first time in many months, it heats up this layer of dust, resulting in an unusual odor. 

2. The Smell of Gas 

Smelling gas in your home is highly concerning, especially if your carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are going off. Although gas furnaces are equipped with safety mechanisms to guard against gas leaks, not all systems are failproof. A potential gas leak should be addressed immediately. Turn the furnace off, evacuate your home, and call for help.  

3. Burnt Plastic or Rubber 

The smell of something burning is another scent that will cause a lot of concern. When a furnace is experiencing electrical issues, the result will be a smell that smells like burning plastic or rubber as they melt or degrade. This is more common in older furnaces or ones that haven’t been maintained and should be addressed promptly.

4. Rotten Eggs 

Because natural gas has no smell, gas companies will add a substance that smells like sulfur or rotten eggs so that you can detect when there’s a gas leak. The smell of rotten eggs could mean your gas furnace has a leak or you could have a sewer issue. Either needs to be addressed immediately.

5. Car Exhaust 

A gas furnace releases combustion gasses through an exhaust pipe that leads out of your home. Sometimes the vent located outside your home can become blocked by snow, ice, or yard debris. Check the vent and make sure it’s clean and clear.

A malfunctioning furnace during a freezing Pennsylvania winter is the definition of a home emergency. You can reach us 24 hours a day for furnace repairs that’ll restore your heating as soon as possible.

Call the friendly staff at Boehmer Heating & Cooling for exceptional customer service! Schedule furnace repairs in Pittsburgh with our team today.

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