Why Does My Furnace Smell Bad?

little boy

February is the Official Month of the Gas Furnace! Okay, I made that up. I did discover that February 5th is National Weatherperson Day. I’m glad they get special recognition because I pay close attention to weather reports so I know when to give the best advice about taking care of your HVAC system.

Anyway, the reason I’m calling this the Month of the Gas Furnace is because gas furnaces do steady work throughout February. That’s why it’s extra important to pay attention to how the furnace in your home is running. Because if you’re wondering why your furnace is giving off bad smells—then something may be wrong. It may even be something serious that requires calling for fast furnace service in Lenoir City, TN.

I’ll break down what may be going on, based on the odors. I’ll try my best to get it across in human terms because my sensitive nose gets a lot more data!

Rotten egg smell

You may have experienced this smell coming from water at some point, and it indicates sulfur in the water supply. If you smell it coming from the furnace—it’s a more serious problem! You may have a gas leak in the furnace. Natural gas is odorless, making it difficult to detect if it leaks. As a safety precaution, natural gas companies place a chemical into it that creates the rotten egg smell. So if you notice the odor from your furnace, please shut the gas off right away, and then call for assistance. A gas leak can be extremely dangerous, and you want it taken care of right away.

Burning smell

An acrid or metallic burning odor from a furnace is alarming, no doubt. Your first thought will be “fire!” It might not be fire at that point, but a burning smell often indicates overheated wiring and other mechanical parts. Yes, wiring. A gas furnace does use electrical power for a number of its components, and the blower motor consumes large amounts of electricity to run. The most common reason for these burning odors is when the blower motors are burning out. It could also be friction among moving parts. Whatever the reason, it’s a major problem. Shut off the furnace and get repair assistance.

Dusty burning

This is a different burning smell, not sharp and acrid. You’re most likely to notice this smell the first time the furnace comes on after a few months of inactivity. As the heat exchanger warms up, it will burn off the layer of dust gathered on it. The smell should subside after a few minutes. If it continues, you may need to get a deep cleaning for the furnace. I’ve talked about this before, but dirt is the main cause of malfunctions in HVAC equipment, so this dusty burning is telling you that you’ve got a lot more dirt to get rid of.

There can also be trouble with a gas emission that you can’t smell. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and sometimes deadly gas that can leak into your home if your furnace develops a crack in its heat exchanger or flue pipes. Russell & Abbott does combustion analysis on every job with specialized equipment to measure the safety and efficiency of your furnace. And right now, we’re running a special of a $49 service call and a FREE combustion analysis. Call us for details.

Stay warm and safe,


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