What's That Smell Coming from My Furnace?

When you finally turn your heater on as soon as the cold winter months have arrived, you immediately notice this strange smell emanating from your unit. It is important to understand there are several types of odors—each of them meaning something different. While some odors are considered harmless, others indicate a serious problem with your heating system or even a health risk.

Here are some of the common types of furnace odors and what they mean:

  • Burning dust – Considered one of the most common odors when you turn on a heater for the first time in the winter since it hasn’t been used in months, causing dust to settle on heating components such as burners and heat exchangers. When the burners ignite, so does the dust, causing the smell coming from your air vents. This type of smell isn’t a cause for concern and should disappear within a few hours.
  • Rotten eggs – If you notice the smell of sulfur or rotten eggs, this means there is a problem with your unit’s gas supply. Since natural gas doesn’t have a distinct odor, gas companies often treat it with a strong sulfuric odor to make a gas leak easily detectable. turn off your heater, open all your windows, do not ignite any flames, and contact the gas company to resolve the issue.
  • Electric or metallic smell – These odors often derive from excessive heat within the unit. A metallic smell typically comes from a damaged rubber component, while an electrical smell means a metal component—such as a blower motor—is overheating. To avoid a fire hazard or an automatic shutoff, shut off the furnace and contact a professional to repair the issue.
  • Oil odor – If you have an oil furnace, you may notice this smell. However, smelling furnace oil is not a good sign. Change the oil filter to see if the odor persists. If it does, it could mean you have an oil leak. A professional technician can repair the problem.
  • Smoke smell – If notice the scent of smoke and your smoke detectors are acting up, shut down your heater right away. These odors often indicate a blockage in the chimney, which forces smoke to travel through the ductwork instead. Unclog the chimney yourself or contact a professional to avoid the risk of injury.

If you notice one of these odors and you need professional repairs immediately, our Las Vegas heating technicians at Climate Control Experts can get the job done right the first time around. Contact us to schedule a service today.


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