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Serving All of Southern California Since 1954
Serving All of Southern California Since 1954


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Greenleaf Heating & Cooling Blog

Why Does My Heater Smell Like That?

That’s a good question! But while it’s a good question, it’s not an unanswerable one. Heaters are pieces of machinery that work similarly to cars, meaning a professional technician can usually tell what’s making a specific smell or noise. That being said, what you really want to be asking is if that smell is normal or abnormal.

A normal smell can be something that your heater makes at the start of the season, while it burns away dust that has collected throughout the summer months. An abnormal smell could be something as brutal as carbon monoxide or a gas leak. Regardless of which particular smell you’re getting, you’re going to want to know if you need help or not.

We provide targeted repairs, maintenance, and help for HVAC systems in Whittier, CA. Keep reading to find the answers you’re looking for, and make sure to call us when you need a quick fix.

Normal Vs. Abnormal Smells

We’re going to get right down to business. Your heater can make various different smells, and it’s really up to you to parse the difference between normal ones and abnormal ones. While we might be able to pinpoint the source of a smell using equipment and our technical knowledge, we don’t live in your home as much as you do. You’re going to be the one who has to notice what smells seem bad and which don’t. So, let us help you!

Normal: The First Time You Run Your Furnace

The most important and easily identifiable normal smell is the one you get when running your heater for the first time in the season. Often times this smell can be represented in a slightly pungent burning scent, or the smell of dust being burned. In fact, that’s exactly what this smell represents!

Over the summer months, your heater collects a lot of dust. While it’s not harmful or bad for your heater to collect dust, it is going to be increasing the temperature dramatically when it starts burning fuel to heat your home. It would be the same thing if you didn’t use your oven for six months and decided to use it one day—you’d suddenly smell the scent of burning dust.

The good news is that this smell goes away rather quickly. Also, this smell is usually not that bad and its brevity is only matched by its mild annoyance. If it lasts any longer than a few minutes, or if your heater makes this smell every time you turn it on, then call us for repairs.

Gas or Carbon Monoxide

Unfortunately, there are other smells that can come from your heater. Sometimes there can be a crack in the heat exchanger or gas lines which leads to a gas leak, carbon monoxide leak, or both. A chemical called mercaptan is added to natural gas to give it that “rotten eggs” smell, so if you notice that, then turn off your heater and call for help immediately.

If you start feeling dizzy, nauseous, tired, or start suffering from memory loss, you could be dealing with a carbon monoxide leak. Don’t hesitate to turn your heater off and get help for this issue as well.

The team at Greenleaf Heating & Cooling has your back. Call us today!

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