Strange Furnace Odors and What They Could Mean

Cooler weather has finally arrived in Marshville, NC, which is a welcome relief from the intense heat and humidity of the long summer. The first time it’s cold enough for your furnace to turn on, you might notice some unusual odors. It’s also possible for you to notice some strange furnace odors well into the heating season. Read on to learn about the causes of these odors and what they mean for your furnace.

Rotten Eggs

If you smell a new odor of rotten eggs during a heating cycle, immediately turn off the heater, leave your home, and call the gas company. Your furnace could have a gas leak, which is an emergency. Natural gas has no odor, so sulfur compounds are added to it. These compounds give off an odor of rotten eggs. Most people find this smell disgusting, and it gets their attention. Even a small gas leak can have serious health consequences.

Metallic Odors

One of the common types of strange furnace odors you might notice is a metallic smell. A metallic odor often results from a cracked heat exchanger, explains the Department of Energy. The heat exchangers are made from metal. The hot combustion gases move over it. A dirty air filter traps the hot gas in the combustion chamber. The overheating may cause the heat exchanger to crack. To prevent this problem, check the air filter every month, and replace it when it’s visibly dirty. Don’t wait longer than three months to insert a clean filter.

Burning Plastic

Plastic components are used to insulate the wires in your furnace. They’re also used on the circuitry and in some of the safety switches. If you notice a smell of burning plastic, cut the power to your furnace, and schedule an urgent repair. Melted insulation or wiring could cause a short circuit. This could lead to the failure of your furnace or possibly even a fire in your house.

Stinky Feet or Old Cheese

If you suddenly smell stinky feet, it might not be your laundry. Bacteria growing on the furnace can cause these strange furnace odors. The equipment gets warm, potentially making the space a nice spot for bacteria to thrive. This problem requires a heating system cleaning and tune-up.

Electrical Fumes

If you smell electrical insulation burning during a heating cycle, this means that one or more electrical components of your furnace are getting too hot. This odor often suggests that a wire, connection, or switch will need to be replaced. Electrical fumes shouldn’t be ignored. Turn off the power to the furnace, and don’t operate it until experienced furnace technicians can inspect and repair it.

Burned Rubber

A burned rubber smell is a bad sign for your furnace. It’s caused by a belt that’s wearing out and about to fail. If you smell burning rubber, it’s important to make a prompt call to our heating system experts. Turn off the furnace until a repair technician arrives. Continuing to operate the furnace with a failing belt could cause excessive wear and tear and lead to additional malfunctions.

Burned Dust

Burned dust is a common scent the first furnace cycle or two during the heating season. It’s caused by dust that accumulated on the interior parts of the furnace during the off-season. Once the furnace burns off those dust particles, the smell should go away. If you still smell burning dust after one or two days, check the air filter. It may be clogged with dust. If the smell persists, your furnace may need a professional tune-up or repairs.

Musty Smells

A musty smell is another common the first time your furnace turns on for the heating season. This smell should go away after a couple of heating cycles. If it persists, check your air filter. If it’s visibly dirty, replace it.

To learn more about strange furnace odors and what causes them, take a look at Byrum Heating & AC, Inc.’s furnace repair services, or call our heating system experts today.

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