Why Does My Furnace Smell Funny?

Posted: September 18, 2019

Furnace smell

Fall is fast approaching, and before you know it your furnace will be hard at work keeping your family warm and safe in your Massachusetts home.

If you have had a chance to work in a visit with a heating system expert over the last few months, your equipment will probably be in good shape heading into the fall (or at least you’ll know where a problem might occur if you have an older heating system). But sometimes, especially if you’ve fallen behind on routine heating maintenance, your furnace will give you warning signs of a coming problem – among them some odd odors.

A smelly furnace can indicate a several problems; some are easy to fix, some are more problematic. Here are four common furnace odors and what they mean for your heating equipment:

  1. Dusty/burning smell – Dusty, burning furnace smells are quite common, especially early in the heating season as your furnace burns away surface dust that has built up over the offseason. If dust is the culprit, the smell should go away after few hours of run time. If it doesn’t, try replacing your air filter (which you should do at the beginning of the season anyway) before you call us for service.
  2. Burning wire smells – Electrical smells coming from your furnace are typically a sign that it has overheated. If your furnace is cycling (turning on and off) for no apparent reason, it could be your equipment protecting itself from a more substantial (and costly) breakdown. Give your furnace a rest for a few hours; if the problem returns when you fire it up again, contact us for service.
  3. Mechanical odors – Worn out rubber and grinding metal parts produce a distinct odor (similar to what you’d smell when a train applies its brakes). These smells often indicate a serious problem that needs immediate attention; shut your heating system down and call a heating expert right away.
  4. Sulfur (rotten egg) smell – In most cases, a rotten egg smell coming from your propane furnace indicates that you have a gas leak; if you do, follow these procedures immediately:
    • Avoid touching any equipment that could cause a spark (lights or light switches, appliances, telephones, cell phones, etc.); a spark can cause an explosion.
    • Get everyone (including pets) out of your house immediately and call 911 from a safe distance away.
    • If it is safe to do so, turn off the propane gas at the tank; if you don’t know how to do this, ask us – it’s important information to know.
    • When inspection teams say it is safe to return to your home, do so – but do not use your propane equipment again until it is inspected by a professional.

Having furnace trouble? Our licensed, bonded Pioneer Oil and Propane technicians will get your equipment repaired quickly and do the job right so you can enjoy reliable heating service all season long. If your heating equipment needs to be replaced, we can help you there, too, with expert high efficiency heating system installations anywhere in our greater Worcester service area.

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