October is the month that most of us in Winnipeg turn on our furnaces for the first time since the previous winter. During the months that your furnace has been dormant, it has likely accumulated some dust on its internal components. This would include the inside of the heat exchanger and around the burner compartment.
When you eventually turn on your furnace for the first time, the dust that has accumulated on the furnace will burn off. This can produce a burning smell that will make its way through the ductwork and throughout your home. This is typically not a safety hazard and for the most part will dissipate after a couple of hours. If you want to minimize the smell that this can produce, consider turning on your furnace for a few minutes during a milder day in September when you can open up your windows and let the burning smell escape.
If you still notice a burning smell after the first few times that you use it, your furnace might be experiencing some sort of problem.
A common occurrence is that your air filter is clogged. When your furnace filter is dirty, your blower fan motor will have to work extra hard and it can begin to overheat. An overworked motor can produce a burning smell from your furnace. In addition, a clogged filter will allow extra dirt to bypass and build up in your furnace, which will burn off and produce a smell for the same reasons mentioned above.
Another possibility is that your furnace is experiencing some sort of electrical issue. Circuit boards and similar components carry electrical signals that control the sequential and safety functionality of your Gas or Electric heater. Any of the electrical components and its wiring are prone to breakdown over a period of time especially under stress created from overcurrent due to less than adequate airflow. (eg: A dirty air filter)
To summarize, a burning dust smell that only lasts a few hours and doesn’t return later in the season is nothing to worry about. All other types of burning heater or furnace odors are potentially dangerous and demand inspection from a qualified heating technician.
If you’re not sure why your furnace is giving off a burning smell, your safest bet is to contact a reputable HVAC company so that they can inspect your system and take care of any problems before they threaten the safety of your home. In addition, be sure to schedule an annual furnace tune-up for a full safety inspection on your system and clean its internal components, both of which can get rid of the possibility of a burning smell from your furnace.
If your situation sounds hazardous, get a technician to your door right away to perform an emergency furnace repair. Short of that call your local fire department.
Tradesman Mechanical service department is always open alwaysopen.ca and offers 24 hour emergency service and technical support. 204-888-2020