furnace smells

Ever walked into your house or a room and smelled something bad, but you weren’t sure where it came from? Often, the culprit is your furnace.

What causes these strange furnace smells? There are a variety of reasons, but no matter the cause, you shouldn’t ignore the issue. Odors can signal a bigger problem that requires proper HVAC maintenance or repair. 

We take a look at 5 odors that could smell bad trouble for your furnace.

1. Rotten Eggs or Sulfur

If your furnace smells like rotten eggs or sulfur, it’s more than simply annoying. Utility companies add the noxious scent in order to alert you to a natural gas leak. Not only can you become a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning, but there is also a risk of a fire or explosion in your home.

What to do if your furnace smells like sulfur:

Get out of your home right away! Don’t turn on any electrical switches or light any flames. Call the utility company and fire department immediately.

2. Burning Smell

When you turn on the heater for the first time in the winter, you might notice the furnace smells like it’s burning. This common heater problem is usually caused by dust that’s built up inside the heater.

What to do when the furnace smells funny:

Let the dust burn off and change the furnace’s air filter.

If the smell persists, call your HVAC company for a repair.

3. Metallic or Electrical Smell

If your furnace smells like hot oil, plastic or burning rubber, it could be a sign of overheating. Again, this is not something you should ignore, as there is a danger of a fire.

What to do if there’s a metallic smell:

Turn off the furnace and unplug it right away. Call your HVAC company and request an inspection.

Keep an eye on the furnace to make sure there are no fires or other serious problems.

4. Dirty Socks Smell

No, you haven’t walked into a locker room. This smell is actually called “dirty sock syndrome”. The odor is caused by bacteria, which accumulates on the heating coils due to repeated cycles of cooling and heating.

What to do if you smell dirty socks:

Clean the entire unit, including the evaporator coils, with a non-acid cleaner.

Replace the furnace’s air filter. If the smell persists, have your air ducts cleaned.

5. Diesel or Burning Oil Smell

Sometimes a furnace will emit a smoky or burning oil smell. There are a few reasons for this.

  1. Something fell across the furnace in the basement/storage area (stuffed toy, decorations, clothing). If it catches fire from the pilot light…smoke!
  2. An oil furnace that doesn’t ignite all of the oil as it travels through the burner. This can produce fog with a diesel engine smell.
  3. Spillage from when you poured oil into the furnace.

If you can’t identify and fix the problem yourself, call a pro in to help.

What’s That Furnace Smell?

As you can see, there are many reasons why your heater smells like rotten eggs, burning metal or nasty socks. While some problems will go away after a while, others are more serious and require immediate action.

If you live in the Norman, OK area and your furnace smells, don’t ignore the problem. Contact us right away to request an inspection or repair.