Hansberger Refrigeration Blog: Your AC Repair Resource

Here are Common Heating System Odors and What They Mean

Here are Common Heating System Odors and What They MeanHeating system problems are something we seldom have to deal with in the warm Yuma area, so funny heating system odors can catch you off guard. While unsettling, most odors are fairly harmless. A few, however, demand immediate action.

Hot dust

When you first turn the system on in fall, the dust it collected during the off season burns away harmlessly. For the first few times your system runs, you might smell burning dust or a faintly smokey smell. If it persists, though, you might have a clogged filter that should be replaced.

Musty odors

If you smell must or mold whenever your heating system kicks on, change your air filter. If changing your filter doesn’t help, consider having your ducts inspected.

Smelly socks

A heating system that stinks like a poorly maintained locker room usually has a bacteria buildup to blame. This typically happens when condensation forms around the components. A thorough cleaning should get rid of the smell. If your system hasn’t been professionally inspected and cleaned in the last year, now’s the time to call a pro.

Hot wires

One of the most disturbing heating system odors, the smell of electrical burning often comes from electric strip heating elements. But could also be wiring that’s either worn out or under excessive strain. Needless to say, warm wires are likely to short out over time, which could start a fire. If you notice this smell, turn your system off and call a technician.

Rot eggs or sulfur

If you have a natural gas furnace, this odor could mean you have a gas leak. Natural gas is colorless and odorless, so suppliers add a sulfur-scented compound call mercaptan to make leaks detectable.

Exposure to natural gas can be fatal, so act immediately. Turn off your furnace and all other gas appliances, open your windows, and get your family and pets out of the house. Once you’re safely outside, call your natural gas company.

Of the most common heating system odors, dust is the only one that’s truly safe to ignore. For all others, contact a technician.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Yuma, Arizona about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about heating systems and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 928-723-3183.