FLAME Blog

Furnace Odors: Burning, Smoke, Plastic or Rubber

During the cold Michigan winter, the furnace is one of the single most important HVAC components in most homes. Any signs that the furnace is experiencing issues should be addressed quickly during this time of year — and one such realm is the presence of certain notable odors that are coming from the furnace.

At FLAME Heating, Cooling, Plumbing & Electrical, we’re happy to help with a variety of HVAC repair and installation services, including for any furnace model you have in your home. In this two-part blog series, we’ll go over several of the odors that might be coming from your furnace, plus what each signals and what you should do about them, either on your own or with assistance from our HVAC technicians.

furnace odors burning plastic

New Furnace Smell

Like certain other brand new items, such as a new car for instance, a new furnace can have a factory smell that dissipates over time. If this is the only odor you’re experiencing, it’s likely nothing to worry about.

This odor comes from a protective oil coating that’s been placed on your new heat exchanger. Luckily, this coating will burn away after just a few hours, so there’s no major concern here at all.

Burning Smell

In other cases, you may smell a burning odor when the furnace is just being turned on for the first time after installation. If you’re experiencing this smell, it should dissipate within a few minutes and should not be cause for alarm — just keep an eye on the furnace to make sure that the burning smell doesn’t return or intensify after reaching its peak after several minutes.

If you smell burning odors during the first few minutes of turning an older furnace on at the start of your heating season, this is also relatively normal — it’s due to dust and other particles that have built up in the furnace over time and will eventually clear.

However, if you smell burning at other times we didn’t mention here, this could be a concern and you should call our team.

Furnace Smoke

If you ever see actual smoke coming from your furnace, this is a major red flag and you should call us right away. This could be indicative of a number of serious furnace problems, such as a cracked heat exchanger.

Plastic, Rubber or Metal Smell

Another potentially risky realm of odors is any smell that invokes overheated metal, plastic or rubber. This is another sign that there might be something wrong with your furnace, and it’s important to call us as soon as possible if you’re experiencing this smell.

One common issue that could cause this smell is an electrical problem, so be especially cautious if you smell this odor and don’t have any record of having recently had an electrical problem to have been repaired or replaced.

For more on what various smells coming from your furnace this winter might be telling you, or to learn about any of our furnace repair or installation services, speak with the staff at FLAME Heating, Cooling, Plumbing & Electrical today.

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