When I moved into my first place, I couldn't believe how dirty everything was all the time. I found myself dusting and mopping continuously, only to deal with a fresh layer of grime later. After awhile, I realized that the problem was blowing straight out of my air ducts. My ventilation lines were so dirty that it was spreading grime through my house every single time the air clicked on. Fortunately, I called an HVAC contractor who was able to clean my vents to a gleaming shine. I know how big of a difference cleaning up your ventilation system can make, which is why I want to spread the word.
Odd, unidentifiable odors are the last thing that anyone wants in their home. It's even worse when these odors seem to be originating from your heating system, as this has the potential to mean that costly repairs on the horizon. Recognizing what each type of smell means and why it happens is the first step to understanding whether you have a problem. Knowing the cause can also help you figure out how to address it. As with most HVAC problems, the key to keeping your system running properly and cheaply is to avoid ignoring problems once they become apparent.
Common and Harmless Odors
One of the most common complaints fielded by many HVAC technicians is a slight burning smell when a heating system is used after a period of inactivity. You may notice this odor when you first use your system in the winter or fall, but in some cases, it may be present if the heat goes unused for only a few days. This particular smell is generally nothing to worry about it. Dust and dirt build-up in your furnace during the days or months where it goes unused, and turning the system on can trigger a noticeable burning smell as the dust heats up. This smell usually doesn't last for more than an hour or two.
Persistent Burning Odors
Although the smell of some dust burning off is normal, a burning smell which persists or that suddenly appears even after the system has been in use is cause for concern. If the persistent odor still smells like dust, then it is a good idea to check your filter. In addition to causing a variety of other issues, badly clogged filters can sometimes create odor problems as well.
A burning odor that continues even with a clean filter likely means that something in your furnace is overheating. If this is the case, it is important to stop using the system immediately. Your furnace has safeguards against overheating, but it can still be damaged if the temperature gets too hot. In particular, your heat exchanger can easily crack. Not only is this an expensive fix, but it has the potential to release dangerous exhaust gases into your home.
Natural Gas Leaks
If your home uses natural gas, then a smell like burning eggs is cause for immediate alarm. If you notice this smell, leave the house and contact your gas company immediately. Natural gas is a naturally odorless chemical, so what you are smelling is an odorant that is added by the gas company to help identify leaks. The particular odor that is commonly associated with natural gas is the result of sulfur in the mercaptan compound used as an odorant. Remember that it is never safe to attempt to find or fix natural gas leaks yourself.
The only time your heating system should create a noticeable odor is when it is first turned back on or when the air filter is badly clogged. In most cases, unusual smells are simply the result of deferred maintenance or lack of use. Contact a service, like Polar Aire Heating & Cooling Inc, for more help.