What Causes the Burning Smell When I Turn on My Furnace?

When you need your heating system to work, the last thing you want to deal with is unforeseen problems. While annual maintenance identifies any existing issues, your furnace may still experience breakages or other problems while you operate it during the colder months of the year. One of the most common questions we get concerns a burning smell in a furnace in Visalia, CA and what it might mean.

Dust burning

A homeowner who recently turned on their heating system might contact us about a furnace that smells like burning in Visalia, CA. When you’re not running your furnace, dirt and dust accumulate on the appliance. If you skipped annual maintenance for your furnace before autumn or winter arrived, you’re likely smelling the dust and dirt buildup burning off.

During an annual maintenance appointment, your HVAC technician cleans your furnace. This eliminates that burning smell when you first turn on your heater for the season. The odor of burning dirt should only last for a brief period after you’ve switched your furnace on for the season. If the smell persists, the cause may lie elsewhere.

Other odors

Depending on the scent you’re smelling, any number of issues may be affecting your furnace and how it operates. Ignoring these warning signs allows your heating system to deteriorate further and eventually causes it to stop working altogether. If you smell any of the following odors, you need to contact an HVAC contractor as soon as possible:

  • Metallic smell: In most cases, a burning metallic smell indicates your motor is overheating, a bearing has worn out or a wire is frayed or improperly placed.
  • Plastic smell: The odor of burning plastic coming directly from your furnace could indicate one of the issues listed above. However, if the smell is coming through the vents rather than from the furnace itself, there could be something stuck in your ventilation system.
  • Moldy smell: A filthy air filter may be the culprit when your furnace gives off a musty odor, but there could also be mold or bacterial growth in your ductwork or on the cooling coil/evaporator. If there’s mold or bacteria in your furnace or ducts, you’ll need to hire a professional to clean your HVAC system safely.
  • Gunpowder smell: This odor tells you that a circuit board or fan motor in your furnace has overheated. As soon as you smell gunpowder coming from your furnace, shut off the appliance and call a technician for immediate service.
  • Rotten eggs or sulfur smell: You, along with any other family members and pets, will need to immediately vacate your home if you smell rotten eggs or sulfur. This indicates a gas leak, which is incredibly dangerous and should only be addressed by trained professionals.

Any number of issues may affect how your furnace, boiler or heat pump functions. While some problems cause a burning smell that lets you know your furnace needs repairs in Visalia, CA, other issues won’t have an associated smell. That’s why ongoing HVAC maintenance makes all the difference.

If your furnace emits odors or you need annual maintenance performed on your heating system, reach out to McGee Refrigeration to schedule an appointment.

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