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Why Is There a Burning Smell from My Furnace?

We’ve now come to the time of year when furnaces fire up and stay running for long stretches at a time. But as you get ready to enjoy a cozy home, you may detect an acrid odor coming from the vents. Does this mean there’s something seriously wrong with the furnace, possibly something that’s a safety hazard? Do you need to call our technicians to come fix it?

We’ll take a look at what these burning odors may mean, and what to do about them.

It may simply be dust

Over the summer and early fall, when the furnace isn’t in use, a thin layer of dust will start to gather over the heat exchanger (in a gas furnace) or the heating elements (in an electric furnace). When the system activates for the first time, the dust on either of these surfaces will start to burn off. This creates a noticeable acrid odor—it almost always occurs the first time a furnace runs for the season. Usually, it’s nothing to worry about, and the smell will be gone in around an hour.

You could have a clogged air filter

It’s always a wise idea to change out the HVAC system’s air filter before the winter heating starts. A filter that’s clogged with dust and other debris will restrict airflow and cause the furnace to work inefficiently. The burning odor comes from pollutants that may slip around the filter and start to burn up, or it could be the furnace overheating because of the trapped air.

Electrical parts are burning out

This is the more serious of the problems that can lead to acrid odors from a furnace. The motor that runs the blower or other electrical parts are burning out. This can happen because of excess dust, loss of lubrication, or standard wear and tear. In most situations, the parts will need to be replaced. To prevent a potential fire hazards, turn off the furnace and call for professional technician to look into the problem.

Need heating repairs in Skokie, IL or elsewhere in Chicagoland? Rely on Malek Heating & Cooling!

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