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Why Does My Furnace Smell Like It’s Burning When I Turn It On?

changing furnace filter

As the cold weather sets in and you turn on your furnace for the first time in months, you might notice an unpleasant burning smell emanating from your heating system. While a brief burning odour is often harmless, it’s crucial to understand the potential causes and how to address them.

5 Reasons Your Furnace May Give Off a Burning Smell

Here’s an overview of why you may notice that your furnace smells like burnt:

  1. Dust buildup. During the off-season, dust and debris can accumulate on your furnace’s internal components, including the heat exchanger and burners. When the furnace is turned on, this dust burns off, producing a temporary burning smell.

  2. Dirty furnace filter. A clogged or dirty furnace filter can restrict airflow, causing the furnace to work harder and potentially overheat. This overheating can lead to a burning smell and even damage the furnace if left unaddressed.

  3. Faulty parts. Your furnace can also overheat due to issues like a faulty blower motor or blocked vents, which can cause burning smells and even pose a fire hazard.

  4. Electrical faults. Electrical malfunctions in the furnace’s wiring or components can lead to burning smells and potential fire hazards.

  5. Gas leaks. A gas leak in the furnace or gas lines can produce a strong odour, which should be addressed quickly as it poses a serious safety risk. Exit your home immediately, call 911 and an HVAC contractor with a 24-hour emergency service.

Addressing and Preventing Burning Smells

There are several things you can do to address burning smells in your home and prevent them from happening in the first place. Here’s what to do.

  • Ventilate the area. Open windows and doors to allow fresh air to circulate and dissipate the burning smell.

  • Change the furnace filter. Replace the furnace filter with a clean one to ensure proper airflow and prevent overheating. Do this every couple of months or more frequently if you have pets or smoke indoors.

  • Invest in regular maintenance. Schedule annual furnace cleaning and maintenance with a qualified HVAC technician to inspect, clean and tune up the furnace to prevent the issues that can lead to burning smells. At Black Forest Plumbing, we offer an annual furnace cleaning as part of our maintenance membership program.

Be attentive to any unusual noises, smells or performance issues with your furnace, and promptly contact an HVAC technician if concerns arise.

Furnace Maintenance and Repair in the GTA

At Black Forest Plumbing, our HVAC experts can give your furnace an annual tune-up to prevent unpleasant smells from entering your home. We also offer furnace installation and repair services to home and business owners across the Greater Toronto Area. Contact us today to schedule a service call.


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