When people first turn on their furnaces for the beginning of the cold season, it’s not unusual for them to notice a sharp, acrid smell coming from the vents. You’ll probably run into this when you fire up your furnace for the first true day of the winter chill. Is it a reason for you to be worried, and should you call for our technicians to come and look into it? We’ll look a bit deeper into this common occurrence below.
Why a furnace may give off burning odors
There are a few reasons for a furnace to create an acrid smell coming from the vents. Some are harmless—but not all.
- Dust on the heat exchanger/heating elements: The most likely cause for the burning smell is that there’s a layer of dust over the heat exchanger (if you have a gas furnace) or the heating elements (if you use an electric furnace). This dust gathers through the middle of the year, and once the furnace turns on it will harmlessly burn off. The odor should last for less than an hour.
- A clogged furnace filter: If the burning odor doesn’t fade away after an hour, check on the furnace’s filter. We recommend that you always start each winter season with a fresh, clean filter in place. A clogged one can allow dust and dirt to get into the burners, and that creates the acrid smell. A congested filter can also cause a furnace to start to overheat, another source for a hot, burning smell. (By the way, if the filter wasn’t changed because you didn’t arrange for annual maintenance, schedule that right away!)
- Burnt out motor: This is a more serious issue, and it requires a professional to handle replacing the motor. If you can’t find the source for the burning smell, turn off the furnace and contact our customer service team. They’ll send people out to your house to solve the trouble and see that you have a safe, working furnace.
Comfort Zone Heating & Cooling serves Cumming and Canton, GA. Contact our customer service specialists at 770-213-COOL (2665) and let us know how we can help.