If your furnace smells while heating, it’s trying to tell you something’s up. We’ve compiled a list of the top six furnace smells so you can learn what causes them and how to fix them. These include:

  1. Burning smell from furnace
  2. Furnace smells like burning plastic
  3. Gas smell from furnace
  4. Furnace smells like sewer
  5. Furnace smells musty

1. Your Furnace Smells Like Burning Dust

Cause: Dusty Furnace

If your furnace smells like burning, it’s likely happening when you turn on your furnace for the first time in the fall. Like anything else in your house, your furnace gets dusty over time. This dust burns off when you turn on the heat, causing the burning dust smell from your furnace.

2. Furnace Smells Like Burning Plastic

Cause: Electrical Problem

If your furnace smells like burning plastic or burning rubber, it might have an electrical issue. This smell of burning can be caused by melting plastic wire casing, which is a safety hazard. If you’re noticing a melted plastic smell, turn off your heating system right away and call us at 510-343-9841 for furnace repair.

Cause: Overheated Motor or Cracked Furnace Exchanger

An electrical burning smell could also mean your furnace motor is too hot or the heat exchanger is cracked. The heat exchanger safely gets rid of carbon monoxide that’s naturally produced during the combustion process.

If it cracks, carbon monoxide can leak into your home. This colorless gas is fatal in heavy concentrations. So, it’s important to have an HVAC professional do annual furnace maintenance and have functional carbon monoxide detectors.

Other signs of a cracked heat exchanger include:

  • Soot on or inside the furnace
  • Yellow burner flame, instead of blue
  • Chemical smell from furnace, such as formaldehyde
  • Water around your furnace, as long as the condensate drain isn’t blocked
  • Flu-like symptoms

3. Gas Smell from Furnace

It’s normal for your heating system to give off a little bit of gas when it turns on, so you might notice a gas smell from your furnace. But it’s not normal to be smelling natural gas or rotten eggs throughout your home on a daily basis.

Cause: Gas Leak

If your furnace smells like gas continuously, shut it down. If you know where your main gas supply valve is, turn that off too. Then contact the gas company and us for help.

4. Furnace Smells Like Sewer

If your furnace smells like sewer, or rotten eggs, you’ll want to make sure you don’t have a gas leak. If you don’t, the problem could be with your sewer lines and not your furnace. This is especially true if it’s been very dry lately.

Cause: Dry Sewer Trap or Sewer Leak

If you suspect your sewer trap is dry, you can try putting some water down the floor drain in your basement. If that doesn’t fix the problem, you might have a sewer leak, so you’ll want to contact a company that handles sewer line repair.

5. The Furnace Has a Musty Smell

If your furnace smells musty, mold and mildew have likely been growing in it for a while.

Cause: Dirty Ductwork

Your furnace works with air ducts to distribute warm air throughout your house. Mold can grow in the ductwork as time goes on, particularly if you live in a humid climate. You can eliminate the mold by having an HVAC technician do air duct cleaning.

Trust Us with Your Furnace Repair Needs

Trying to fix your heating and cooling system by yourself is difficult. Your comfort is our top goal at Contra Costa Heating & AC, so our professionals are here to help you when you need us. When you need furnace repair in The Bay Area that you can trust, contact us at 510-343-9841.