Why is My Furnace Making a Burning Smell?

October 20, 2022
Furnace Smell in North Kansas City, MO

Has your furnace just started making a new smell, or have you gotten used to furnace smells you think are normal? Odors from your home’s heating system can be like a set of status lights, revealing problems that the Summit Family’s service technicians can take care of. Some of them are yellow lights for developing problems like fan belt wear that will lead to failure and an urgent call later. Others are red light warnings of potentially dangerous problems that need immediate attention. Whatever they are, your safety is our number one priority, and we’re ready to help.

Ducted heating systems can widely distribute fumes of many kinds, some signs of danger, others benign but needing eventual attention. Our technicians can quickly address burning or electrical smells and other concerns and help you with any other ways that odors from your ductwork are affecting your daily life. As always, if you smell odors like natural gas, take action for your family’s safety. The first thing you should do is call the gas company and listen to their guidance. Once your safety is certain, you can call Summit’s expert technicians to figure it out what repairs are needed.

Burning Smells and Toxic Odors: Red Light Warnings from Your Furnace

Problems such as a clogged filter, electrical problem, or plastic smell from a foreign object can produce nasty burning smells that increase over time. It’s wise to shut down your heating system and give us a call. Burning smells typically indicate that either something in the combination of high heat or mechanical equipment is malfunctioning. When they’re distributed through your ductwork it can be alarming, but Summit’s technicians are trained to take care of the problem.

Burning smells can also be the result of poor combustion. This can occur if your burners aren’t clean, supplied with the proper gas pressure, or incomplete combustion. As combustion efficiency worsens, carbon monoxide content increases. Carbon monoxide is actually odorless and can be deadly. This is why annual maintenance is the best way to ensure you and your family’s safety. As part of our Peak Performance Membership preventative maintenance plan our technicians perform a combustion analysis to ensure your system is operating properly and that no carbon monoxide is present in your home.

One exception: when you first start your heat for the season, accumulated dust burns off in the heat exchanger and other internal components. It should be a brief, smoky odor that tapers off at most in a few hours. It’s common, and we recommend starting your heat on a day when you can open a few windows to minimize the effect. When our technician cleans your furnace and runs your heat for pre-season maintenance, that will help avoid this effect.

Dirty Filter

A clogged filter is a common furnace problem. It’s one that doesn’t take care of itself like the seasonal dust burn-off. Once the filter is changed and airflow restored, they should no longer struggle, but it’s a good idea to have our technician check your air handling equipment for worn or in doubt components.

Plastic and Other Odd Smells From Your Vents

Just like foreign objects find their way into your plumbing, they get into your vents and returns as well. Once they reach the hotter parts of your heating system, burning odors can be released. We can get in there and extract the object to avoid further smells and possible damage to your air handling system.

Smoke from Other Sources

In addition to furnace issues and fires in your home, your heating system can circulate other sources of smoke and aromas, from cigarette smoke to incense. This is especially true if your HVAC system doesn’t have indoor air quality features processing your airflow and removing contaminants. If you have a sensitive nose, you may be picking up on airborne particles entering your ductwork from rooms where air intakes are located. Our technicians can help you identify where the returns are located, to connect the dots on unexpected fragrances and odors in the air.

Gas Leaks Near Your Ducts

Gas leaking near your heater’s return, or even in another area of your home, can get into your ductwork and present that telltale odor elsewhere. As mentioned above, the best response to a gas odor is safety first, diagnosis after everyone’s safe.

AC Refrigerant: a Strange, Somewhat Sweet Smell

Most homes with ductwork have both heating and cooling systems, problems with one unit can affect the other as air circulates. For example, a leak in the furnace’s gas supply can circulate in summer when the AC runs. When the heat is on, leaking refrigerant from the AC can enter the airflow due to furnace operation, producing an odd, sweetish smell that’s potentially toxic. These issues require immediate attention by a professional, preferably one of our certified technicians.

Ductwork Mold, Mildew and Other Concerns

Ductwork that hasn’t been cleaned in a long time can accumulate a growth of mildew, biological, and other contaminants. These produce not only odors, but spores that travel and establish new colonies in the home. Regular ductwork cleaning and humidity management can help.

Here for Your Comfort and Safety, Giving You Peace of Mind About Burning Smells and Odors

Whenever you’re concerned about odors from your heating system, Summit is here to answer your questions and have a skilled technician respond promptly. We’ll diagnose and repair any problems with your heating system and airflow, ensuring that you continue to have safe, efficient, and reliable comfort for your family. Our exceptional, personalized service and 24/7 emergency care are part of our commitment to customer satisfaction and outstanding HVAC service in the Kansas City area. Call us any time!

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