Shut it Off!!!
Okay, now that is taken care of we can try to diagnose why the furnace made such a terrifying smell. In truth, there could be many reasons why such a thing occurred, some of which are really bad, and some could be a minor issue you can fix this evening. The important thing is not to panic and try to troubleshoot the furnace yourself for a moment. There may not be a need to spend the money on a service call from your local HVAC company.
Diagnosing the Burning Smell
First check for these signs before calling a professional:
- Dust in the Wind: Furnaces are generally located in basements or extra rooms that don’t receive much TLC during your cleaning routine. Your furnace has been sitting there unused in a dusty room for about 6 months. Chances are it has accumulated a layer of dust inside the furnace. The first time you turn it on each season this dust is burned away and emits a burning smell. The smell should go away after the dust is burned off and your furnace will continue to operate correctly.
- NOTE: It is very important to have your furnace cleaned before the heating season. This dust doesn’t completely burn away, and leaves a black sticky residue. If this residue is left to accumulate over the years it can clog internal components and lead to a breakdown. Get your furnace cleaned.
- Something is Being Burned: Furnaces are machines that burn natural gas and work with heat and fire on a regular basis. No matter how safe they are made, the heat is still there. If a blanket or toy ends up making its way into contact with the furnace, then you could have a problem. Look around to see if anything foreign has come to close to your furnace.
- Dirty Filter: Every HVAC professional will go on and on about the necessities of changing your furnace filter every season. It is for this reason. If a filter becomes too dirty, it will clog. A clogged filter will not allow the proper amound of air to reach the furnace. Now you furnace is running way hotter than it should and creates this burning smell. Make sure you change the filter before a fire starts! Once the filter is replaced, it should operate normally again.
- NOTE: Do not run a furnace without a filter. It is a terrible idea and will result in a breakdown as your internal components are clogged with dust.
Still Smells? Okay NOW Call a Professional
If your furnace still smells, then it is time to bring in the calvary. Call your local HVAC company to schedule a furnace cleaning and maintenance check. The technician should be able to quickly diagnose the reason why your furnace would make such a noise. From there you can decide whether or not a repair or a whole new unit is needed. The important thing is to stay safe this winter, and keep your nose peeled.