Have you ever noticed the smell your furnace produces the first time it runs every year? It is a faint burning smell, similar to cigarette smoke in some homes. That is a common occurrence, but if that smell persists every time your furnace kicks on, you may have a bigger concern.
What Causes The Smell?
The first time your furnace runs in the winter, it burns off built-up dust, dirt, and residue which have settled while it was off. You can avoid that initial smell with a thorough cleaning, but it is usually nothing to be worried about.
It is when the smell persists that you need to be concerned. A persistent smell of cigarette smoke, or other burning smells, from your furnace, means there is a deeper problem. It is still burning off dust and debris, but there is too much of it.
The build-up could be in the heating chamber, or further along in your HVAC system. Before we make any assumptions, let us make sure it is dirt.
Different Smells From Your Furnace – What They Mean
There are a few common smells which may come from your furnace, each indicates a different concern.
• Rotten Egg or Sulfur Smell – This indicates unburned gas. Do not hesitate, immediately call for service.
• Burning Oil – This scent usually means you have something stored too near your furnace, probably plastics. Move them away.
• Dust and Musty Odors – This may indicate dust build-up in the filter, ducts, or other areas of your HVAC system. This is usually combined with the cigarette smoke odor when running.
• Dirty Socks or Wet Carpet – You may have bacteria growth in your furnace or ducts.
As we previously mentioned, when you have the dusty or cigarette smoke smell, it often disappears after a cycle or two of your furnace. If not, it is time to have your system inspected and cleaned. It is best to consult top AC repair contractors who can give you professional inputs in this matter.
We want to repeat the warning given in the list above. If you smell sulfur or rotten egg odor, do not delay. Shut off the gas, call for service, and if necessary get out of the house. Gas is dangerous.
Eliminating Persistent Smells
If the musty, smoky, or dirty sock odors are not going away, it is time to dig deeper. Replace your furnace filter. Take a careful look and see how dirty it appears. Does it have excessive build-up? Is it damp? Does it have the same odor you are smelling?
Replacing the filter may fix the problem, but if not, the problem lies deeper in your HVAC system. You may need the assistance of an HVAC professional to check the interior of your furnace and your ducts to determine where the smell is coming from and to do the cleaning.
Remember, it is best to be cautious when working on your furnace.
The best way to avoid odors in the future is to replace your filters consistently and schedule routine cleanings for your furnace and ducts. Keeping your system clean not only reduces smells, but it provides better airflow, and safety.