Russell's Heating & AC
Jul 17 2018

Why Is There a Burning Smell When My Furnace Comes On?

If you have either a gas or electric furnace in your home, you’ll get sporadic use out of it over the winter season. Temperatures can get cool during the evenings, even here in the deserts of California, and it’s probably around November when you’ll find yourself switching on the furnace to provide occasional warmth. (We recommend having maintenance for it, no matter how often you use it, at this time of year. Sign up for our maintenance program to get started.)

Something you may notice when your furnace starts running for the first time during the season is a burning smell coming from the vents. This might seem alarming, but it’s actually a common occurrence. In most cases, there’s nothing to worry about.

The source of the acrid odor is dust

The reason for the acrid smell is that either the heat exchanger (in a gas furnace) or the electric heating elements (in an electric furnace) is burning off a layer of dust. Furnaces go for long stretches here in Southern California without use, and that gives the unit time to gather a thin layer of dust across the heating elements or heat exchanger. There’s nothing detrimental about this, although maintenance will wipe off excess dust that may cause harm to other components like the blower motor. The hot exchanger/heating elements burn away the layer and create a distinct acrid smell. It should only last for a short time. You may also notice dust smells from the vents, which is the blower motor sending out any dust that collected in the vents during period between when you stopped using the air conditioning.

If the odor persists, you may have problems with a motor. Should you need furnace repair service for your furnace in La Quinta, CA or elsewhere, simply give us a call.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning serves the Inland Empire and the Desert Communities. Open 24 hours!

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