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The Two Main Types Of Burning Furnace Odors And What Causes Them

It can be very alarming when you notice a burning odor coming from your furnace. Sure, it’s supposed to heat your home, but burning is going a little far. So what is causing it and what can you do? Well, the first thing is to determine just what type of “burning” odor you’re talking about; there are two main types of burning furnace odors, and they can mean very different things.

Like A Burning Fire

One of the most common burning odors from a furnace is one that’s similar to a fire. It may also seem a little smoky (although without physical smoke) or even dusty. If this is the type of burning you’re smelling, there are a few things you should check.

  • If this is the first time you’ve had your furnace on in a long time, there may be dust built up in the combustion chamber. This will usually go away within a day, and you can speed it up by opening up a few windows.
  • Another cause of smoky burning odors is a dirty filter. If you haven’t been keeping up with changing your filter, it may be clogged with dirt and dust. Pull out your filter and, if it’s dirty, replace it and see if the burning odor goes away.
  • If you’ve got a burning odor and the furnace is not putting out heat or putting out less heat than usual, you should turn your furnace off and call a repairman. It’s possible that your blower isn’t working properly, causing heat to build up in the furnace. An overheated furnace can be a fire hazard, so don’t run your furnace until it has been looked at by a repairman.

Like Burning Plastic

Burning plastic is a distinctive smell, and plastic is usually exactly what’s causing it. Many of the causes of this type of burning odor are more serious, so if you notice it, turn off your furnace while you figure out the problem. But where is this plastic and why is it burning?

  • If you have small children, it’s possible that a plastic toy lodged in the ductwork is burning; it’s also possible for small bits like a plastic pen cap to get into the ducts. You can give your registers and the entrances to ducts a look and see if you can find the culprit. If you find something, be sure to let it cool completely before removing it.
  • Plastic components of the furnace itself might be overheating. A short circuit within the furnace can cause it to overheat, which is why this sometimes causes an electrical odor as well. This is why it’s important to turn off a furnace with the odor of burning plastic; continuing to run your furnace with a short circuit may cause a fire. For your own safety, it’s time to call a repair company like Kohl Heating & Air Conditioning