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There’s a Burning Smell Coming from the Furnace—What’s Wrong?

As outdoor temperatures continue to fall with the first day of winter closing in (December 21), gas and electric furnaces all across the Tri-State area are going to turn on and get to work. During these early days of heating a home, you may run into a strange burning smell coming from the vents when the furnace is on. This is alarming, but it may not be an actual repair issue. We’ll look a bit further into the burning odors from furnaces and why it happens.

It may just be dust

If you notice this smell the first time the furnace comes on for the season—the first time it’s run in many months, most likely—then the acrid odor from the vents is probably due to dust. Over the summer hibernation period for the furnace, a thin layer of dust may collect over the heat exchanger (in a gas furnace) or the heating elements (in an electric furnace). When the furnace turns on, the heat will burn off the dust layer, which creates the burning smell. There may also be dust in the ductwork that will be heated up as it is blown out. The odor should subside in less than an hour.

Other possible causes

A clogged furnace filter is often a source for dust and dirt getting inside the furnace, where it will be burnt. Make sure that the furnace has a clean filter for the start of the winter—and keep changing the filter throughout the season every few months.

If the burning smell persists, then the furnace may have a problem with its motors or the heating elements. When the wiring fuses in the motor and it burns out, it creates an acrid mechanical burning smell. This needs attention from furnace repair professionals as soon as possible.

When you need fast heating service for your home, contact Bob Mims Heating & Air Conditioning. We’ve served Staten Island, NY since 1955.

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