Which furnace odor is most likely to be harmless: burnt dust, rotten eggs, or metallic fumes? Not all furnace smells signal serious problems with your unit. Some odors are normal, such as that slight burning dust smell you sniff each fall when you first turn on your furnace.
Unused appliances, including your furnace, can gather dust in the off months. Once your heating system is back in use, the smell will usually burn off and dissipate in a few hours. However, some odors may indicate a malfunctioning unit or safety hazard.
Experts advise to immediately address the smell of rotten eggs. According to Energy.gov, “Since natural gas is colorless and has no scent, gas companies make the gas smell like rotten eggs with mercaptan, to help you detect possible leaks.” Since natural gas leaks can be deadly, leave the area and call 911. While natural gas is one of the most efficient furnace fuel sources, it’s also highly combustible and very toxic when ingested.
Musty odors could indicate a mold or mildew problem growing in the ductwork, which warrants investigation. Other odors, such as burning plastic could signify that a furnace component is heat damaged, and should be checked. Metallic odors could signal damaged wires, or an overall system over-heating problem. To avoid further damage, shut off your unit and contact your repair service.
Tom Eppers, co-owner, Dowe & Wagner, a heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) company serving residential and commercial customers in Illinois and Wisconsin, reminds homeowners to change their furnace filters regularly, which helps keep routine odors down and the air cleaner. However, if you detect an off or unusual odor, consult an HVAC technician to evaluate and fix any problems.
Dowe & Wagner : 11215 Commercial Street, Richmond, IL 60071 : 815.678.3000 : http://doweandwagner.com/