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Well, That Stinks! Common HVAC Odors And How To Handle Them

There are some things that will always be smelly: trash cans, toilets, moldy food. But when your HVAC system starts releasing unpleasant odors, that's a sign that something is up. It's important not to ignore unpleasant HVAC odors because they're usually a sign of a problem that will get worse if left unaddressed. Here's a look at four common odors and what to do about them.

Metallic, Burning Odors

If the odor has a metallic smell and reminds you of the scent generated by welding or by electrical sparks, turn the power off to your unit immediately. This is a sign that the electrical system within the unit is overheating. There should be safeguards in place to turn off the furnace when this happens, but even safeguards fail occasionally. You don't want to risk an electrical fire or shorting out your home if the wires burn or fail. Contact an electrician or your HVAC specialist to diagnose and repair the problem so you don't put yourself at risk of shock.

Dusty, Scorched Odors

If the smell reminds you of scorched dust or dirt, then it probably is scorched dust. This odor usually occurs when your air filter gets too dirty and dust starts making its way into the furnace. Luckily, you can solve this simple problem yourself by just sliding the old filter out and putting a new one in its place. Buy a few extra filters while you're at the hardware store so you can remember to change them every month or two going forward.

Rotten Eggs

That sulfurous smell that reminds you of rotten eggs is a sign of a gas leak. Though natural gas itself has no odor, sulfur compounds are added by gas companies to ensure that if there is a leak, you can smell it. Turn the furnace off to see if the smell dissipates. If it does, use an alternate heat source as you wait for your HVAC tech to come repair the furnace. If the smell does not go away after you turn the furnace off, then you may have a gas leak in the gas lines, rather than in the furnace itself. Find somewhere else to stay while you wait for the gas company to come inspect. You do not want to stay in a house with a natural gas leak.

If there is any other strange odor coming from your furnace, turn it off and call your HVAC technician. You're always better off safe than sorry.


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