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Collier's Heating & Air Conditioning Blog

There’s a Burning Odor From My Furnace—What’s Wrong?


We understand that any burning odor in a house is a concern. If your electric or gas furnace starts to give off some type of acrid odors (electric, plastic, gunpowder), you’ll want to know what’s going on and if it’s dangerous.

The good news is that the majority of burning odors from a furnace don’t present immediate dangers to your household health. However, they can mean the furnace is on the verge of failure. When you’re worried about furnace odors, shut the system off and then call our technicians for heating repair in Bluffton, IN and elsewhere in North Central Indiana.

We’ve listed some of the reasons you may smell burning odors from your furnace.


Each fall when you turn on your furnace for the first time in months, you’ll probably notice a dusty burning odor that persists for a few minutes. This is normal: it’s the dust along the heat exchanger or the electric heating elements in the furnace burning off. If you’ve had your furnace off for a week or more, you may notice this odor when you turn it on. It’s nothing to worry about unless it doesn’t go away, in which case you may have another problem with the furnace.

Electrical faults

Yes, a gas furnace has electrical components (such as the blower fan) and can also have electric troubles. If you notice an electrical burning odor, it often indicates the blower motor is starting to burn out. You might be able to salvage it if you can get a repair technician out in time. Most of the time, the motor will need to be replaced. A loss of insulation around wiring may also cause this burning. Finally, small bits of plastic, like bottle tops, can sometimes find their way into a furnace, creating this odor.

Clogged air filter

It’s something we mention often: the HVAC filter must be changed on a regular basis (every 1 to 3 months) or it will become clogged and create numerous problems. A burning odor can be a warning of a clogged filter because the lint trapped in the filter is starting to burn.

Insulation wiring

If the furnace starts to overheat, it can cause the plastic insulation along the wiring to burn off. This will create a burning plastic odor.

Burning circuit board

If you detect a smell like gunpowder from the furnace vents, the problem may be serious. This smell comes from a burning circuit board, which is an expensive component to have to replace. If the circuit board fails, the furnace will not work. Please shut off the furnace and call for professional assistance right away.

We want to emphasize that furnaces are designed with safety as a priority. If gas and electric furnaces were dangerous, they wouldn’t be allowed inside homes around the country. When you notice burning odors, please don’t panic: as long as you shut the system off and call a licensed professional HVAC technician to look into the issue, you’ll keep yourself and your family safe.

Collier’s Heating & Air Conditioning—A company you’ve grown to trust! Call us when you need furnace repairs.

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