Why is there a burning smell coming from my furnace?

Why is there a burning smell coming from my furnace?

Who else is celebrating the arrival of fall? We certainly are! The nip the air here in DFW feels fabulous. But as the temperatures get colder, you might decide to flick on the heat. You hear your furnace turn on, and a few minutes later you start to smell burning! What is that smell? 

First, stay calm. A burning smell is typical when you turn on your furnace for the first time in several months. 

However, it’s always prudent to confirm that there is no fire in your home. Turn off your furnace and confirm there is no smoke or flame. If you see any fire or smoke, immediately get your family to a safe location outside your home and call 911.

If you can’t identify any fire, it’s very likely the smell is coming from your furnace. Here are a few reasons you might have a smoky odor.

What causes a burning smell in my furnace? 

  • Dust in your furnace – Just like holiday decorations stored in your attic, your furnace will collect dust over time. Since the heater isn’t in use, small particles of dirt will settle into the combustion chamber. Then, when you turn on your furnace for the first time, the debris sears off quickly. That produces the scent of smoke. And since air travels from your heater through ductwork to your home, that smell will be passed along as well. If the odor only lasts a few minutes, the dustiness is almost definitely the cause of the smell. You can open the windows and turn on ceiling fans for a few minutes to help dissipate the scent.
  • Dirty Filter Causing Overheating Motors – When was the last time you changed your air filter? Filters should be changed every three months, and more often in homes with pets. If your filter hasn’t been changed regularly, that could be the cause of the burning smell. 

All of the air in your home passes through the filter at some point. The purpose of the filter is to catch any particulates like dust, dander, pollen, and more. Over time, the filter will become full of these particles. That makes it difficult for air to travel through. As a result, the fan in the furnace needs to work harder. At some point, it may be so difficult for the fan to pull air through the filter that the motor overheats. 

If the burning smell from your furnace doesn’t stop after a few minutes, try replacing the filter. That should eliminate the odor. Be sure you replace the filter regularly throughout the winter to prevent burning smells. Plus, a clean filter improves indoor air quality and energy efficiency.

How to Prevent Burning Smells from Furnace

If you haven’t turned on your furnace for the first time this season, there are a few things you can do to prevent that unpleasant smell. 

  1. Schedule a Tuneup – It’s a good idea to have your furnace serviced before you turn it on the first time. It’s essential not just for inconvenient smells, but also for the safety of your family. Our technicians at Advent can complete a comprehensive service and inspection. We’ll clean out any dust and replace your air filter. With a quick maintenance visit, you can help to prevent any burning smells. 
  2. Change Your Air Filters Regularly – It’s critical to remember to change your filter. Clean filters are essential to clean the air in your home. A new filter will allow air to travel more freely through your system, improving energy efficiency. And, clean filters will help head off smelly odors when you first turn on your furnace. 
  3. Open Windows and Turn On Fans – Before you turn on your furnace for the first time, open windows near air vents and turn on fans. That will help circulate the air. So, any burning smell will pass more quickly.  

Schedule Preventative Maintenance Your Furnace

Furnace maintenance visits are essential for both comfort and safety. The NFPA named heating systems as one of the leading causes of house fires. Advent Air has professionally-trained technicians that can service your furnace. Don’t wait until the cold weather hits, and you decide you need heat! Schedule maintenance with Advent today. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 


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