Is It Normal for My Furnace to Smell?

Date: September 29, 2022

Lack of Maintenance Can Lead to Odors

furnace smell south carolinaIf your furnace has been properly checked and maintained by a heating oil service professional on a regular basis, it will likely keep your home warm without any problems. But if you have ignored regular heating maintenance, your furnace will eventually give you warning signs of a coming problem. Those signs often come in the form of odd smells.

Odors coming from your furnace can indicate several problems; some are easy to fix and some are more complex. Here are some common furnace odors and what they may mean for your heating equipment.

  • Oil odors. If your system is working properly, you should never smell fuel oil. An oil smell could be caused by a leak, burner troubles, a heat exchanger failure or exhaust system problems. You should schedule service as soon as possible to correct this situation.
  • Smoky odors when your oil burner is operating. If a fireplace or exhaust fan is running at the same time as your oil burner, this can result in a smoky odor because a backdraft is pulling flue gases through the exhaust system and into the home.
  • Dusty/burning smell. A dusty, burning smell coming from your furnace can be quite common, especially early in the heating season when you start using your heat again. The smell is often the result of your furnace burning away dust and dirt that has accumulated during the offseason. If dust is the cause, the burning smell should go away after a few hours. If it doesn’t, try replacing your air filter (which you should do at the beginning of the season anyway) before you call your heating oil service contractor for service. Read more about your furnace air filter further on.
  • Electrical /burning wire smells. Electrical smells coming from your furnace are typically a sign of overheating. If your furnace is cycling often (turning on and off) for no apparent reason, it’s possible that your system is protecting itself from a more substantial (and costly) breakdown. Give your furnace a rest for a few hours; if the problem returns when it turns on again, contact your heating oil service contractor for service.
  • Mechanical smells. Worn-out rubber and grinding metal parts produce a similar odor to electrical overheating. These smells can indicate a serious problem that needs immediate attention; shut your furnace down and call a heating oil service expert right away.

Why You Need to Check the Air Filter

One way to help your furnace operate without any trouble is to change or clean your furnace’s air filter as often as the manufacturer recommends. In general, you should check the filter’s condition about once a month and change/clean it when necessary.

If your air filter gets clogged with dust and other debris, there is less room for air to flow through your system and then through your home. Your furnace will need to work harder to circulate air, which will result in an increase in your heating bills. Your home will become less comfortable and the indoor air quality will degrade. If neglected for too long, a dirty, clogged air filter can result in your furnace shutting down.

Checking Your Furnace’s Air Filter: 4 Tips

  1. Filters are located either inside the furnace or inside the return air vent.
  2. Some filter models are designed to be discarded and replaced with a
    new one.
  3. If your filter has a plastic frame, it can be cleaned and reused.
  4. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and be sure to shut the furnace off before handling the filter.

If you’re not sure how to change the filter yourself but would like to, please contact your heating oil service provider for advice.

If you think your oil furnace has seen better days and needs to be replaced, please see how you can qualify for an equipment rebate.

Please contact your heating oil service company for more information about a new furnace installation.