Is That A Burning Smell Coming From Your Furnace

Sometimes your furnace starts up and you notice a distinctive smell coming through the registers. It reminds you of something burning. What is it? Should you be concerned?

This burning smell can be caused by a variety of things within your heating system. The only way to determine if it’s safe or a hazard is to investigate a little further.

Dirty Filter

As your air filter accumulates dirt and dust, it can lead to your system operating harder to keep up with demand. That means your system can eventually overheat, causing a fire hazard. In order to operate efficiently, air flow must be kept at optimal levels. A dirty air filter impedes that process, which can block the system and cause a dusty, burning smell.Is That A Burning Smell Coming From Your Furnace

Combustion Chamber

Have you ever noticed a burning smell the first time you turn your heating system on for the year? Over the summer months, your furnace sits and accumulates dust over time. The dust settles into the combustion chamber, and when you turn it on for the first time as the temperatures dip, that dust will burn off and send a smoky smell throughout the home. This is nothing to worry about. The smell should go away within a few minutes. But in some cases, it can be powerful enough to set off smoke detectors.


In order for your furnace to heat your home, it operates with a mechanical blower to push heated air out into the ducts. Like any other mechanical device in your home, over time, it can wear down. The blower has two purposes. First, it sends warm air out through the vents to control the temperature of your home. Second, it helps regulate the internal temperature of your heating system. If the blower doesn’t operate as it should, it may cause the furnace to overheat, and send out a burning smell.


Your furnace is often in your basement or crawl space, kept away from the main living space within your home. Your furnace should be clear of boxes, furniture, storage items, and other flammable material at all times. If an object is placed too close, it may catch on fire. Check your furnace room occasionally, especially if kids have access. If you smell smoke or a burnt scent, check around your furnace to be sure nothing is close.

Is your furnace operating correctly?

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