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Why Does My Heater Smell Funny?

It’s cold outside, so you fire up your furnace. However, in addition to being greeted with warmth and comfort, you’re also greeted with a strange and somewhat repugnant smell. Does that means something has gone catastrophically wrong with your heater and you need an urgent repair? Not necessarily. However, it could be an indication of something more serious, so it’s important to check it out to make sure. Here are just a few things that a strange smell coming from your furnace could mean.

Burning Smell During First Heat

If this is the first time you’ve turned on your heater in quite some time (including the first power-on of the season), then what you’re probably smelling is actually fairly normal. Over time, dust and small specks of dirt can accumulate on your furnace’s burners, coils, and electrical components, and the sudden influx of power and heat can cause this dust and dirt to burn. This burning dust is what creates that strange burning smell that you so often experience with the first heat of the season. Generally it clears up within a few minutes, and you probably won’t smell it again until the start of the next heating season.

Is this bad for your system? Not necessarily. It’s pretty common to deal with burning dust and debris when you turn your system on for the first time in a while. However, if the smell doesn’t dissipate after a while, then you may be dealing with a bigger and worse issue.

Burning Rubber or Plastic Smell

If you’ve ever smelled burning rubber or plastic before, then you’re probably keenly aware of the type of awful, repugnant smell it can produce. If you smell that in your home after turning your furnace on, you’re probably dealing with an entirely separate issue. Most of the time, when this is the case it’s a sign that the shielding around some of your electrical wires may be burning. Often this shielding is composed of plastic or rubber that can wear out with age. Aged shielding combined with a sudden influx of current can lead to overheating, and overheating can lead to burning shielding and possibly even spark an electrical fire.

The easiest way to prevent this from happening is to have your system maintained before turning it on for the first time in a season. This maintenance includes an inspection of your electrical equipment, where damage or worn shielding can be spotted and repaired ahead of time.

Gas Smell

If you have a gas powered furnace, the last thing you should want to smell is natural gas. This means you have a gas leak in your system, and a gas leak can be devastating. Shut off your furnace, get yourself and your family out of the house, and call 911 to report the leak and get your gas shut off as soon as possible. Likewise, you should also call an experienced Palm Beach County HVAC technician who can come to your home and repair the leak and get your furnace working again as soon as possible.

If you’ve got a strange smell impacting your furnace, call the experts at Phoenix Air Conditioning, LLC at (561) 270-6181 today!