An efficient heating system is essential for your comfort and safety throughout the winter. But your equipment can break down unexpectedly. When you detect unusual odors from your furnace, it may indicate that your furnace is malfunctioning. Here are some reasons for the unusual smell and what to do about it.
Dust Buildup in the Furnace
As temperatures start to drop in River City, you may notice an unusual odor when you turn on your furnace. While the smell could portend a hazard, sometimes there is no cause for concern.
If you notice the odor when you first turn on your system, it may be due to dust buildup on the heat exchanger. Debris can accumulate in your furnace during the rest of the year when it’s idle. A plastic smell is often a sign of debris buildup inside your heating system. Our maintenance team in Sacramento recommends planning a tune-up in the fall.
You can inspect your HVAC system for dust buildup to be sure. Wait for about 10 minutes for the smell to dissipate. If there’s still a burning smell, it could be a major issue. Turn off the system and call a technician to troubleshoot your furnace.
Aging and Inefficient Ductwork
Aging and inefficient ductwork could cause odors from your heating system. Clogging in the air ducts can lead to airflow blockages, which may cause your system to overheat. The smell could be from burning components inside your furnace.
Your home ductwork could also have a microbial infestation because of moisture buildup. It’s also common to have the corpses of rodents and small birds stuck inside your air ducts. If there is a musty or rotten smell, you may want to call a professional to inspect your ductwork.
Inefficient ductwork and airflow blockages can raise your utility bill by up to 40%. Duct cleaning and sealing are crucial for the efficiency and longevity of your system. You can consult Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning‘s duct cleaning team for trusted solutions in Sacramento.
Heat Exchanger Corrosion and Leaks
When your furnace overheats, the heat exchanger can crack. The openings on the heat exchanger will allow toxic gases to escape during combustion. The fumes may contain carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.
Rusting can also encourage cracks to develop on the heat exchanger. Moisture accumulation on parts of the system is often the cause of corrosion. It’s critical to keep your carbon monoxide and fire sensors in working condition for safety.
Carbon monoxide gas is odorless and colorless, which makes it hard to detect. But if there is an odor of rotten eggs, your heating system may be leaking gas. Switch off your furnace and consult a certified technician as well as the gas company.
Defective Electrical Components
Another source of the odor could be defective components within your heating system. Electrical short circuits can cause the insulation on the wires to melt. In such cases, you may notice the smell of burning plastic. Overheating can also cause furnace components to burn. To avoid heat buildup, always ensure the vents are open and unobstructed.
Your furnace can also overheat if you block vents in unused rooms. The design of your heating system must match your home’s heating requirements. Blocking airflow can cause pressure imbalances that affect the performance of your furnace.
Critical components such as the blower motor can also overheat. The lack of lubrication can cause some parts to start burning. Such issues ought to be handled by experienced professionals. If there is a smell of burning electrical components, call a technician immediately.
Formaldehyde Odor From the Heat Exchanger
Another reason for unusual odors from the furnace could be cracks that allow chemicals to escape. When your heat exchanger is faulty, you may detect the smell of formaldehyde. You must open your windows immediately to allow the gas to escape. Formaldehyde usually has a pickle-like odor. You may experience irritation to the eyes and respiratory system.
Nonetheless, the formaldehyde could be from other household products. Wallpaper, foam insulation, and wood-pressed products may be releasing the compound. If that’s the case, you will need to address indoor pollution. You can talk to Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning for indoor air quality solutions in Sacramento.
Sewage Odors From Your Furnace
It’s not unusual to detect a sewage-like smell from the furnace. You shouldn’t ignore the odor as it could point to problems around your home that can be a hazard.
The sewer odor is often from a faulty vent in the proximity of a drain system. There could be a ruptured line close to where your ductwork passes. It may also be a dead animal inside the network of air ducts in your home.
You may detect a “rotten eggs” smell from the sewer line. This is an indication of methane gas from anaerobic processes inside the sewer. Methane gas can be dangerous to your home. Call a professional to troubleshoot your furnace.
Smell of Oil
There are several reasons why your furnace smells of oil. It could be dirty and clogged air filters. You can change the filters to see if the smell goes away.
If you recently refilled the oil tank, there may be no cause for concern. The smell may go away after a couple of days. Take time to look for spilled oil and wipe it with absorbent material.
If it’s not the filters or an oil spill, it could be misalignments within the combustion chamber. Your heat exchanger or pilot light may be faulty and letting out unburned gases.
Should You Call an HVAC Technician?
When you detect an unusual smell, you can always take time to troubleshoot your system. Some of the odors may have nothing to do with your heating system. But it’s always advisable to find the exact course of the problem rather than ignore it.
A faulty furnace that seems to be producing toxic fumes can be dangerous to your home. Issues such as a cracked heat exchanger can develop gradually because of other relatively minor faults. Therefore, you should address furnace malfunctions to prevent further complications as soon as you spot them.
You can prevent faults by scheduling for annual maintenance. Make a point of planning for a tune-up in the fall before the cold season begins. That way, you will have peace of mind throughout the erratic winter weather in Sacramento.
Last but not least, always consult a certified technician for repairs or maintenance. Your heating system has intricate parts that require the expertise of a trained professional. Playing around with components in your system can make the problem worse.
A professional can detect issues at their earliest stages and prevent costly repairs in the future. You can also keep your equipment warranty for when you need an expensive component replacement.
Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning is a BBB-accredited company with A+ ratings in Sacramento. Our team has vast experience in heating and cooling repairs, and maintenance as well as installation. You can rely on our NATE-certified technicians for duct cleaning, indoor air quality, and water heater solutions. Call our trusted factory-trained service team for unbeatable solutions.