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Why Does My Furnace Smell Like It's Burning?

Why Does My Furnace Smell Like It's Burning?

The arrival of cooler temperatures means that many families are turning on their furnaces for the first time in months. Often, however, a customer will smell a smokey scent or have the feeling that something is on fire in their furnace after turning on their heating system. There can be several causes of this smell, and the vast majority of the time there is a simple solution to the problem.

Dust

The most common reason for a burning smell after turning on a furnace or other type of heating system is the accumulation of dust on the heating coils. Very few customers think about cleaning their heating coils during the summer months, but this area of a home can collect dust just like any other area. When a furnace is turned on after months of not being used, the heat from these coils burns the dust that has collected, creating the scent of something burning inside the heating unit. In most cases, this dust will burn away in less than an hour, and the system will run as normal. If the smell does no dissipate soon, look for these other issues. 

Clogged or Dirty Filter

Air filters should ideally be replaced every month on a heating system. After several months on non-use, however, odds are good that the filter has accumulated a lot of dust and debris. As this dust reaches the heating element, it burns and creates a burning smell.

Air filters should ideally be replaced every month on a heating system.  After several months on non-use, however, odds are good that the filter has accumulated a lot of dust and debris. As this dust reaches the heating element, it burns and creates a burning smell.

Worn or Damaged Components

After residual dust has burned off and the air filter has been changed, the next problem that faces many customers is worn out components. As furnaces age, some of their smaller components can wear out. In the case of electrical components, in particular, small pieces such as belts and electrical components can absorb a lot of heat from the system and essentially burn out. As this happens, a furnace can emit a burning smell. Typically, a homeowner will notice this smell sometime after he or she turns on their heating system after months of non-use. Damaged components tend to have more of an acid smell.

Electrical Issues

Owners of electric furnaces who are smelling a burning scent may in some rare cases have electrical issues. It’s important to note that is rarely the case, and a reputable HVAC technician will explore other options before determining that there is a problem in the electrical system as a whole.  

Obstruction

If there are foreign objects blocking the air intake on either the inside or outside unit, it can cause the entire system to overheat and burn out. Carefully check to make sure no one has placed any obstructions in front of the air intake on the inside of the home, then go outside and look at the outside unit.

Do you have questions about your furnace? Give us a call today at Guaranteed Services to set up a maintenance appointment!