As the winter season arrives in Whittier, CA, you’ll find yourself turning to your furnace to provide relief from the chilly air. If you notice a burning smell coming from the furnace, you might feel alarmed or worried that something is wrong. Knowing the causes of burning odors from furnaces will help you determine whether or not it’s necessary to call for an emergency repair service.
1. Dirty Air Filter
The most common reason for a burning smell coming from a furnace is a dirty air filter. After a few months of not using your air handler to blow cooled or heated air into your house’s ductwork, a layer of dust accumulated on the filter. A dirty air filter is a likely cause for the burning smell if the odor goes away after a couple of heating cycles. Before you turn on your heating system for the winter season, slide the air filter out of its housing. If you see a layer of dust on it, replace it. Our technicians can show you how to do this during your annual heating system tune-up.
2. Debris Buildup on Burner or Heat Exchanger
After about nine months of not using your furnace, some debris may build up on the burners or heat exchanger. When you first turn on your furnace for the season, this debris will burn off when the gas ignites. You may detect a faint burning odor of leftover dust, soot, or ash burning off the metal. This is normal, and the scent should go away after a couple of heating cycles.
3. Debris in the Air Ducts
Dust and debris can also accumulate in your home’s air ducts. During the first couple of heating cycles, this debris will get hot, and it may release some odors. The burning smell should go away after several heating cycles. If you can see dust or debris in the ducts after removing a vent cover, consider professional air duct cleaning services. Duct cleaning involves the use of a powerful vacuum to suction all the debris out of your ductwork. Duct cleaning every one to three years improves your house’s air quality and increases the airflow to your living spaces.
4. Oil Leak
Some causes of burning odors from furnaces are more serious and require a professional inspection and repair. One such reason is an oil leak. The air handler’s blower has a seal around the motor. If this seal cracks, gets loose, or fails, oil may leak. The oil could come into contact with the moving parts of the blower, and it will get hot. This may cause a strong burning odor during every heating cycle. Oil leaks are a problem that require emergency furnace repairs.
5. Capacitor or Transformer Malfunction
Gas and electric furnaces use a transformer and a capacitor. These electrical components control the flow of electricity to the air handler’s fan and motor and to the auxiliary heating system. As capacitors get older, they may draw too much electricity. The transformer or capacitor may get too hot, which will cause an electrical burning smell. If you detect the odor of burning electrical components, turn off your furnace, and be sure to call for an emergency furnace repair.
6. Improper Combustion
Incomplete combustion of natural gas may cause a burning odor in your furnace. When the combustion process isn’t working properly, soot or ash may persist in the combustion chamber, and it will burn during each heating cycle. Some of the soot and ash, along with the toxic gases produced by combustion, may also get stuck in the flue. An obstructed flue gets extremely hot, and the soot and ash particles may ignite in the flue. This is an emergency because the toxic gases may seep into your home’s living areas. The hot debris could also catch fire. Maintaining functioning carbon monoxide and smoke alarms and keeping up with annual furnace maintenance reduces the risk of improper combustion and flue obstructions in your furnace.
Spot On is a trusted provider of heating repairs in Whittier. We’re also available for air conditioner repairs and heating and cooling replacement, installation, and maintenance. Our plumbing, air balancing, insulation, indoor air quality, thermostats, combustion safety testing, and installation design services were developed with your comfort and well-being in mind. For more information about why burning smells emanate from your furnace, reach out to us at Spot On today.