Why Does My Heater Smell Like Something Is Burning?

If you haven’t already turned on your furnace, you will soon be doing so. And while most people love the comforts of fall—pumpkin spice everything, fuzzy blankets, warm coffee on a chilly morning— turning on your furnace for the first time of the new season might put a damper on your fall fun. 

After months of disuse, new season furnace smells are pretty common, but that doesn’t mean you should shrug your shoulders and assume all is well. Although furnace odors are rarely dangerous, they can be—which means they’re always worth investigating. Downside? Your furnace doesn’t smell so great, and now you have to figure out what’s causing it. Upside? You get to play detective. 

Here’s what those common furnace smells mean and what you can do about them.

Furnace Smells Like Burning Dust

This is the most common and (thankfully) least worrisome smell. While you’re not using your furnace in the summer months, dust settles everywhere. After that first ignition and first few cycles, the dust will burn off and create that familiar odor. No reason to panic! If it doesn’t stop after a few cycles, try changing or cleaning your filter.

Furnace Smells Like Burning Plastic

If it smells like a horse it’s probably a horse, right? First check all your vents and ducts for wayward plastic toys, plastic wrapping, or other debris—especially if you have little ones. You know better than anyone that your kids’ favorite toys end up in the most unlikely places! Checking for the obvious can save you lots of time and worry.

However, a burning plastic smell can also mean overheating. Capacitors, plastic-coated wires, and fan belts are the usual culprits of that plastic smell. Make sure to turn off the furnace and take care of this one quickly, since burning plastic is toxic.

Furnace Smells Oily or Smoky

You’ll experience this if you have an oil furnace. This usually means the oil filter needs cleaning or replacing. It could also be a blocked chimney. Regardless, turn off your unit immediately and inspect the issue further.

Furnace Smells Metallic, Electrical, or Chemical

Usually if your furnace is overheating, it will automatically shut off. But if there’s something wrong with the blower motor or heat exchanger, this safety feature won’t kick in. These overheated parts create a metallic, electrical, or chemical smell. Some people say this issue causes a smell like formaldehyde. (Oh, such fond memories of dissecting frogs in biology class.) Turn off the furnace and inspect it for damage.

Furnace Smells Like Burning Gunpowder

If you’re getting a distinct odor of gunpowder, you probably have a fried circuit board or fan motor. Turn off the furnace and call us for a safety inspection.

Furnace Smells Like Rotten Eggs

Natural gas is odorless, but your gas company adds sulfur to make gas leaks easier to find and correct. So, a rotten egg smell means you’re having an issue with your gas supply. Immediately get everyone out of your home (including you!) and then call your gas company or fire department.

Furnace Smells Musty or Mildewy 

If you turn on your furnace and it smells like a damp basement or moist dirt, there are a couple potential causes. The first thing to check is your air filter and to replace or clean it as needed. Next, check your humidifier filter (if you have one) for mold. Clean with water and vinegar for an easy fix.

Need more help with your furnace in Columbia?

When it comes to furnace and fire safety, you’re always better safe than sorry. We encourage you to sign up for one of our Scheduled Service Plans that will provide you with seasonal HVAC inspections, and help uncover potential problems before you really need your furnace or air conditioning. It’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with having a Master Technician ensure things are in good working order. Simply contact us today and ask about your options.

We take pride in keeping you safe!

Andrew was wonderful working through the night to repair our pipe so we could get our water back on. He was friendly and knowledgeable! I will be recommending them to all my family and friends!
Faith Truesdell
Faith Truesdell
19:19 17 Oct 20
I had a leaky kitchen faucet that needed to be repaired and in the process my service tech Devin discovered a damaged valve that also needed to be replaced and my main shut off valve was also leaking and needed to be repaired. He got everything done in one day. Devin was very friendly and efficient. It was a pleasure doing business with him and MasterTech.
Elena Seon
Elena Seon
05:10 02 Oct 20
We needed sink hooked up, garbage disposal installed and, we had a leak in an outside faucet. Josh did it all in one call. He was professional, offered me options to save money and explained everything he was going to do. Great experience. Now, I am a loyal customer!
Lorry Myers
Lorry Myers
02:52 01 Oct 20
Awesome service. Called on a Friday and was told wouldn’t be available until Monday, but then called me right back. They were at my house Within a couple of hours. Highly recommend them for both their professionalism and friendliness.
Jason Huether
Jason Huether
19:55 25 Sep 20
Master Tech's office and work crews are awesome. I had a broken sewer piper, (Josh, Chris, Elliot and Nate), they diagnosed it, priced, it and got it done. Then had drainage issue with HVAC Wyatt and Tyler got it fix and had me on my way in no time. Great work, great pricing, and most importantly great staff. I would recommend for future work in a heartbeat.
Damian Dean
Damian Dean
17:40 25 Sep 20
They provide such outstanding services, I wouldn't call anyone else but them, especially if you want it fixed right. Quality and fast is where Master Tech is at!!Josh and Andrew are very professional and friendly. Loved how they went right to work. I would recommend them to replace gas lines.
Kelly McDaniel
Kelly McDaniel
14:57 21 Sep 20
Devon and Andrew came out and gave me a quote on installing a water softener system. They were very professional and informative on what the cost and process would look like. Would recommend them to anyone!
Megan Miller
Megan Miller
13:23 04 Sep 20
We gave MasterTech a call on a drain line issue. The technician (Tyson) came out promptly and was very professional. He diagnosed the problem quickly and MasterTech was on the job.A company and crew that provides this high a level of customer service is a rarity today. We will definitely use them again (if ever needed) and would certainly recommend.
Chuck Kubba
Chuck Kubba
20:28 28 Aug 20
Mastertech is awesome! I needed my water heater and bathtub faucet looked at. Devin and Nate were so great. They answered all my dumb questions without making me feel stupid and gave me so many options to solving my plumbing issues. I will be using Mastertech to install a new water heater soon! Thanks Devin and Nate!
Kelsey Mescher
Kelsey Mescher
16:18 18 Aug 20
Devon and Nate were extremely professional helping me deal with a leaking water heater. They explained my options and helped me come up with a plan to address the issues. Will definitely be calling MasterTech for future plumbing and HVAC needs.
Charles Mullen
Charles Mullen
19:11 17 Aug 20
Excellent service—squeezed me in a day early—friendly, mask wearing, felt safe and secure!
A Sergel
A Sergel
21:33 11 Aug 20
We found a leak underneath our kitchen sink and was not able to turn the water off. A MasterTech technician was there within an hour. He was courteous and professional and gave us a couple of repair options. Everything he needed, he had with him and the new valves were installed quickly and he was gone. Great repair experience!
Lorry Myers
Lorry Myers
21:01 27 Jul 20
Technician was timely, professional and courteous. He made sure I understood what was going on. And how best to move forward
Zane Whorton
Zane Whorton
19:15 16 Jul 20
Tyson was incredibly kind and helpful. He came out on a Sunday to help with a stubborn shower cartridge. I would recommend him to anyone needing plumbing help!
Courtney Jorgenson
Courtney Jorgenson
16:21 14 Jul 20
Very prompt, efficient, polite, and professional. Knowledgeable of needs and recommendations fit my circumstances. Thanks!
Nathan Mozingo
Nathan Mozingo
18:02 13 Jul 20
Master Tech replaced my ac/heating unit a couple of years ago and we have been very pleased with the follow-up checkup services we receive. Always very professional!
Joanne Nelson
Joanne Nelson
19:57 10 Jul 20
Tyson was very helpful and gave us advice for the future on how to save a little money with a project. We were very happy with him and his advice.
Wesley Dahms
Wesley Dahms
19:17 10 Jul 20
Josh Burleson installed our Home Depot purchased water softener. He was on time for the appointment, very professional and addressed all our questions. He was very neat in his work and cleanup. We would highly recommend calling MasterTech and Josh for all your needs.
Bette Everman
Bette Everman
22:48 29 Jun 20
Professional, personable and informative! I am on their yearly Check-Up plan for heating and cooling. Great price for a GREAT service.
Dorsey Ragland
Dorsey Ragland
17:55 29 Jun 20
Devon W. was a pleasure to work with. Efficient, clean, knowledgeable. Happy to have me sit with him while he worked so I could ask random plumbing questions that have always intrigued me. Highly recommend this business and Devin!
Pete Goodman
Pete Goodman
19:17 18 Jun 20
Chad arrived promptly when I was notified he was in route to my house. He was very friendly and professional and keeping social distancing practices. He was able to give options to get the result I needed. The cost was lower than what I had in mind and was completed in about an hour.I felt bad for him because it was hot and humid today (about 90) and the issue was outside of the house in direct sun...I set up a patio umbrella to cast some shade on him while he worked.Thanks again Chad! I will be calling MasterTech Plumbing for any other plumbing issues that arise!
Alen Petty
Alen Petty
18:22 03 Jun 20
Isaac and Alex removed a dead snake from my AC unit. They were professional and kind with a great sense of humor given the situation. They checked everything out to ensure it ran correctly and gave me an upfront price. I was quite satisfied.
Katie Ensign
Katie Ensign
17:54 01 Jun 20
Josh was so awsome! I had a "simple" leak in my faucet. He got the parts from his truck and fixed it like new, which is saying a lot as this faucet is over 10 years old. Very knowledgeable and friendly!
Betsy Kuhn
Betsy Kuhn
22:24 28 May 20
We had a great experience with Mastertech Plumbing from the time we made the phone call to request service. Our plumber Tyson was friendly, knowledgeable & professional. I would highly recommend this company & him for any plumbing needs.
Jamie Hogan
Jamie Hogan
17:40 22 May 20
I had a clogged drain that needed professional assistance. MasterTech was able to get Devin out to my house to fix our issue in record time. Devin was great and very professional and made sure the issue was fixed, the work area was clean and that I was satisfied with his work before he left. I highly recommend MasterTech.
Jeffery James
Jeffery James
17:01 08 May 20
When I called, the phone was answered by a pleasant service representative that remembered me and was understanding to my immediate need. MasterTech Plumbing tech Chad was very professional and friendly. He kept me informed of all what was wrong and didn’t try to up sell anything. I really appreciate Chad’s skillful knowledge. The quality of his work is exceptional. I know I can rely on Chad and MasterTech Plumbing.
Angela Hernandez
Angela Hernandez
02:12 08 Apr 20
The service we received today was awesome! Punctual, efficient, and up front and honest about prices and what products that we needed. Excellent work.
Cole Stoecklein
Cole Stoecklein
14:52 18 Mar 20
Josh is great! He is the one who usually comes to our house. He installed an overhead tank toilet, which is a tricky and time-consuming job. He overcame many obstacles and stuck with it until the job was completed and done right. Price was also good. MasterTech has always taken care of all our needs in a prompt and professional manner. Emergency service has always been rapid too.
Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis
17:24 11 Mar 20
Chris was great. Dispatch was great. We were scheduled quickly. Prices were very competitive. Edit: We had great success having our pipes fixed. Due to Missouri weather things were touch and go but Master Tech sure delivered! We are so please with the fix, financing and friendliness Master tech and our technician Chris Gilpin provided us. Will forever and always us Master tech. Certainly mighty nice people
Kimberly Threatt
Kimberly Threatt
01:30 29 Feb 20
We had to have emergency service today, Saturday. A serviceman was here in less than an hour. The repairs were made quickly, the charge was not over the top, even though it was not a work day, and the individual was friendly and courteous. We have learned to expect this kind of service from Master Tech. Thank you.
Barbara Timbrook
Barbara Timbrook
03:48 26 Jan 20
I recommend MasterTech. They show up when they tell you they will show up. They provide a comprehensive estimate and also a good explanation of the work that need to be done. Their work is good quality. They usually have the needed parts on their truck so they can do the task in a timely manner. They clean up the work area after the job is finished,
Dennis Catlett
Dennis Catlett
22:15 23 Jan 20
A great experience. First, on time, service tech was sent out when promised. Second, quick assessment of the problem (faulty sump pump). The tech not only quickly replaced the pump, but he made an alteration that will make it easier whenever a replacement has to be made. Bottom line, a most professional service. Certainly would recommend Master Tech to folks needing their service.
W B Tichenor
W B Tichenor
16:08 31 Dec 19
MasterTech is so great to work with. They're quick, clean, do great work, and have fair pricing. But the best thing about MasterTech is their people. Whoever is responsible for their human resources does a terrific job of selecting and/or training them. They're so friendly and provide excellent information and customer service. I highly recommend MasterTech!
Jason Black
Jason Black
20:37 26 Dec 19
Previously I had not been impressed with master tech. However, their technician Dillon not only fixed my emergency pipe break at 1am on a holiday but also saved me as a customer. This was the best service I have ever had at my home. He arrived promptly at 1am. Provided a couple of options on how to fix my problem both in the short and long term and quickly made repairs. He also has provided advice on how to address issues related to the water damage caused by the busted pipe. This was one of the most positive bad situation we have had as homeowners. Thank you Dillon and mastertech.
Michael Grote
Michael Grote
20:35 26 Dec 19
I had to change my appointment at the last minute and they were able to accommodate my new availability without any hesitation. My tech was really professional (Dillion). I got a call and a text to let me know he was on the way. He fixed my problem quickly and was so friendly. This is the second time that I have had to use a plumber and I will use Master Tech again since I have an old house with old plumbing.
Leigh Burton
Leigh Burton
14:01 22 Nov 19
HVAC and plumbing under one roof, what else do you need?! Great team!
CJ Roe
CJ Roe
02:01 14 Dec 18
HVAC and plumbing under one roof, what else do you need?! Great team!
CJ Roe
CJ Roe
01:06 30 May 18

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