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Efficiently working furnaces are hardly noticed. It operates on the background, giving warmth to the whole household. It should not be heard, nor smelled. Fortunately, when our sense of smelling and hearing can detect furnace operations, it only means one thing. There is an operational issue that is brewing.

Any unusual smell coming from the furnace should never be ignored.

Once the furnace emits odors that are weird enough to be noticed, homeowners should be alerted. Home improvement website, Family Handyman says some odors signal an urgent need for a technician repair, while some may indicate that a need for deep cleaning of vents.

In their write-up on weird furnace odors, they rounded up the most common smells that come out of the furnace. One of the odd smells that should never be shrugged off is the rotten egg smell, as it could cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

 “If you’re near your furnace and detect a smell that’s a bit on the sour side or that stings your nose, you have a pretty serious problem and should shut off your furnace and get it serviced pronto. The smell can indicate a failed heat exchanger, especially if you have a high-efficiency furnace. This is a serious problem because a bad heat exchanger can pump unsafe levels of dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) gas into your home.”

Read the rest of their article here.

Other Dangerous Odors

Other dangerous off-putting odors that should never be ignored are odors that smell like burning plastic. Experts say this may mean a problem with the electrical wiring of the furnace system. The homeowner should immediately turn off the furnace and call for an urgent heating repair service.

Musty odors, on the other hand, usually indicate mold growth. Often molds grow in the ductwork, so it pays to have someone inspect and clean that area. Mold growth in ducts is not only annoying to smell each time. It is also dangerous to health.

Not so alarming odors meanwhile is a dusty smell upon turning on the furnace for the first time. Angie’s List explained why in one of their articles on weird furnace odors.

“When your furnace is not used for long periods, dust can collect on the heat exchanger and in the air ducts. When the furnace is turned on, the dust burns off and releases an odor. It is normal for the dust to burn off when the heater is turned on for the first time in the winter season and not a cause for concern. This smell should disappear in a few hours. If the problem persists, check your air filters.”

Check out the full write-up here.

What to do when the furnace smells

Once the homeowner notices a weird smell emanating from the furnace, there are a couple of things that he can do. Home Design and Improvement website shared a guideline on measures to take once the furnace gives off a strange odor.

“If the warm air is accompanied by a foul odor, you’ll likely be reluctant to keep it turned on. While shutting it down completely may stop the problem temporarily, you should diagnose the cause of the smell so that it doesn’t interfere with the heating of your house again.”

Read their step-by-step instructions here.

The foul-smelling odor from a furnace is a call to action for the homeowner. It is best to have a heating professional take a look at the situation.

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