Do You Smell That? Common Heating System Odors

Do You Smell That? Common Heating System OdorsA home heating system in good condition will not only operate quietly and efficiently, it will also operate without producing any odors. If you detect unusual odors coming from your heating system, don’t panic. Here is a brief description of common heating system odors in approximate order from most to least serious:

Rotten egg odor

Natural gas used in heating systems is odorless, so gas companies add a chemical to cause the rotten egg smell. If the odor is faint, it may go away quickly. If the odor is strong, however, it may mean a gas leak. Open windows to provide ventilation, shut off your heating system if possible, and leave your house immediately. Call your gas company or fire department for help.

Smoke or burning smells

The odor of burning wires, plastic insulation, or other material inside the system could indicate overheating. The smell (and worse, the sight) of smoke could indicate severe overheating or even a fire. Shut the system off until the source of the odor is located by your HVAC professional.

Electrical “ozone” smell

This odor can indicate overheating as well as problems with motors, wiring, or electrical components. It can indicate the pending failure of a blower motor. Again, the system should be shut down and the problem fixed as soon as possible.

Burning dust smell

This odor is common when heating systems are first started after being idle over the summer. Dust that accumulates on system components could get hot when the system operates and cause this smell. It will usually stop within a few cycles of the heating system.

Dead animal or carrion smell

It is possible for small animals such as mice to get into the heating system or ductwork and die, producing a carrion odor. The smell should go away once the dead animal is found and removed.

Since 1976, Roth Heating and Cooling has served the HVAC needs of customers in Portland, Hillsboro, Canby, and the surrounding Oregon communities. Contact us today for more information on heating system odors, what they mean, and what you can do about them.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).