The warm air that emanates from a furnace on a chilly Chicago night is one of the most comfortable feelings during the winter season. The unusual smells that sometimes come with it, though—not so much.
More than being uncomfortable, an unusual smell is always indicative of an underlying issue that may warrant your immediate attention.
Let’s look at some common unusual smells that you should never ignore:
A Smoky Odor
Since most ductwork within a house is connected, malfunctions in even one corner can be felt throughout. Let’s say the chimneys are blocked or obstructed; the smoke from the furnace can travel to your living room through the ducts.
Breathing in smoke can lead to a number of health complications, including ear infections, asthma attacks, respiratory infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
If the smoke is faint, you can always call an HVAC specialist and get the chimney inspected and cleaned. If the smoke smell is too strong, it’s better to evacuate the house until the source of the smoke is determined.
Chemical smells emerge from the furnace if the heat exchanger is cracked. A compound called formaldehyde is usually behind the smell.
A heat exchanger is responsible for removing heat from the combustion chamber. When this piece of equipment breaks by any chance, there is a risk of carbon monoxide leaking into your home. Carbon monoxide poisoning is extremely hazardous to your health, and results in symptoms like dizziness, an upset stomach, chest pain, and vomiting.
Other than that, a cracked heat exchanger can also cause a fire. This is because heat exchangers usually crack when they’re overheated. The cracks are a result of the stress this puts on the heat exchanger.
A burning smell is a surefire way of knowing if the insides of the components are getting too hot, and if one of the metal components is burning. This happens when either the blower motor overheats, or if there is a problem with the wiring.
Under normal circumstances, the furnace should automatically shut off when it overheats. If it doesn’t, you may have to replace the furnace altogether.