5 Furnace Smells and What They Mean

You experience cool winters with a yearly average of six inches of snow in Charlotte, NC. Good heating is necessary to keep your house toasty warm, and most homes in the Queen City rely on a central furnace as their source of heating. 

You use your furnace regularly, right? That’s why it’s so important to keep it in prime condition. 

Your furnace is like any other machine and shows signs of something not being right. One of those signs is a strange smell. 

But furnaces can produce a range of smells, so how do you know what the different furnace smells mean? 

Help! My Furnace Smells

Not all furnace smells signify a major problem, but you should address any odor-related issue just in case. If you haven’t used your furnace in a while, it may smell dusty when you first switch it on. 

Dust collects in the furnace ducts when you don’t use the system, and the accumulated dust blows out at its next use. The smell clears quickly once the furnace is running. If the smell doesn’t clear up within a couple of hours, a heating contractor will give the system a thorough clean.

However, other smells can indicate that you need to call a heating contractor to investigate and maybe perform repairs. 

1. Rotten Egg Smell

Gas leakages can be fatal, and as natural gas has no smell, companies add a chemical smell to alert people of leakages. A rotten egg smell can also be described as the smell of sulfur or a sewer. It is first on the list because it needs immediate attention. 

If a rotten egg smell is coming from your furnace, switch it off immediately, open all of the windows, and call a heating contractor directly. 

If there is a gas leak, you can experience the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Nose bleeds

Even if the smell is mild, heating specialists should investigate the root cause. Do not ignore any symptoms accompanied by the smell of sulfur or rotten eggs coming from your furnace ducts.

2. Electrical Burning or Metallic Smell

An electrical burning or metallic smell indicates that your furnace is overheating. Common sources of this smell are overheating in the wiring, an electrical short, or a failure of the motor fan. You need to shut off the system immediately to keep the damage to a minimum and call a heating contractor.

If you leave your system running and it’s defective or in disrepair, it can cause a complete breakdown of the unit and a much more expensive furnace repair or replacement.

3. Burning Oil

Oil burners can heat the home effectively when gas is not available. A system that is running well will not produce an oil smell. If you can smell oil, the odor could be due to:

  • An oil leak
  • A problem with the exhaust system
  • Trouble with the burner
  • Failure in the heat exchange

If you smell the oil from your furnace, it needs investigating. Call an experienced heating contractor for a furnace repair. 

4. Musty Smell

A musty smell is an odor that is damp or stale. A furnace that has gone unused for a while may have a slight musty smell, but it won’t last longer than an hour or two of running the system. 

If the musty smell is strong and doesn’t clear quickly, it indicates mold in your furnace or ductwork. 

Mold causes allergies and potentially severe health conditions. A mold infestation will degrade the air quality in your home or business. If there is mold in your heating system, you can experience:

  • Asthma or coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy and sore eyes
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue

The above symptoms, coupled with the smell of mold from your furnace ducts, are signs your unit needs professional attention. An experienced heating contractor will provide a thorough clean of the system and address the cause of the mold growth.

5. Smoky Smell

A smoky smell coming from your furnace can indicate that the filters are clogged, or more seriously, that there is a blocked flue (chimney) or exhaust vent. The exhaust fumes need to go somewhere, and they are forced through the ductwork when there is a blockage. 

Regardless of how powerful or faint the smell is, you should switch off the furnace and open the windows. A heating specialist will identify the source of the smoke and conduct the repair.

An Expert Heating Contractor in Charlotte, NC

Furnaces play such an important role in keeping homes and businesses comfortable. However, at times, things can go wrong. A mild smell may be tempting to ignore, but that can lead to a more extensive and costly repair. Unusual smells are an indication that there is a problem with your furnace, and they need to be investigated by heating experts. 

Air Care Heating and Cooling has the experts in diagnosing and repairing all of your furnace problems. Call an experienced heating contractor from Air Care Heating and Cooling, and we will take care of it for you.