Smoky Furnace Smell: Dust, Or Something Worse?

Posted On: January 01, 2013

When operating as it’s designed, your furnace should run smoothly and consistently. This is especially true if you are meticulous about scheduling annual service for the furnace. However, if you happen to notice a smoky furnace smell, or any other unusual furnace odor, it may be signaling a serious problem. 

Smoky furnace smell

If you detect this smell when you first start up your furnace for the heating season, it’s probably nothing to worry about; this is a common odor. That’s because over the summer, when the furnace is idle, its components gather dust. As a result, when the furnace fires up, the combustion chamber may have accumulated dirt or dust that burns off when it’s first started for the season.

This smell should be cause for concern, however, if it continues longer than an hour or two. If the following actions don’t alleviate the problem, call a trusted HVAC pro immediately:

  • Change the filter, as it may be full and restricting airflow.
  • Even after you’ve changed the filter, the smell may continue while the furnace expels dirt from inside the system. The odor shouldn’t continue, however, after allowing the furnace to burn off residual dust.

A smoky smell may also emanate from the furnace if it’s overheating or if electrical components are fried. Both scenarios require professional assistance.

Rotten eggs

This odor is generally the most serious one that homeowners can experience. Natural gas has no odor; however, utility companies add a chemical to the gas that makes it smell like rotten eggs, so that it’s easily detectable by smell. If you notice the sulfuric smell of rotten eggs, you may have a natural gas leak, which is a highly hazardous situation, as it can lead to an explosion and fire. Don’t hesitate if you smell rotten eggs near your furnace or a gas line:

  • Quickly shut down equipment or appliances with an open flame.
  • All home occupants should immediately evacuate the home.
  • Call 911.

Don’t let a smoky furnace smell, or any other odor, go unchecked. For more information about furnace safety, please contact us at Ernst Heating & Cooling today. We’ve served homeowners in the Metro-East area since 1951.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Hamel, Illinois and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about furnace smells and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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