Many Kansas City homeowners complain of various odors when they turn on the furnace for the first time each winter. Some describe these odd smells as a musty smell, like something burning, or even similar to a damp basement. While it’s not unusual to notice a not-so-pleasant odor when your first turn the heat on each winter, it could indicate a problem – although this isn’t usually the case. So, what is that weird smell?

When you notice an odor that smells like something’s burning, most of the time it’s nothing to worry about. Furnaces have heat exchangers where dust particles, dander, and even dead skin cells can collect during spring and summer months when you’re not using the furnace. When this dust burns off once the heater is switched on, it can cause an odor many people describe as a “burning” smell. After using the heat a couple of times, this odor tends to go away. A few of the things you can do to help eliminate the smell is to turn on the attic fan or open windows.

Musty odors are common, and may be caused by mold trapped in the furnace filter if you have a humidifier in your system. This can be corrected by cleaning the humidifier’s filter, or replacing depending on the type of system you have. A mixture of equal parts vinegar and water is good for cleaning humidifier filters.

Does the odor smell like an electrical burning odor? This is often caused by something dropped in the air register, such as a child’s toy. However, it could also be the result of something more serious, including a cracked heat exchanger or overheated furnace motor. When you remove registers to inspect for toys or other objects and cannot find the source of the odor, it’s better to be on the safe side and contact an experienced Kansas City heating contractor to ensure all electronic components are functioning as they should.

Notice an odor that smells like burning oil? A clogged oil filter could be to blame if you have an oil furnace. The filter should be changed to eliminate this odor.

Most of the odors homeowners notice when they first kick on the heater or furnace during winter months are not dangerous, however some can be. When you cannot determine the source of the musty or burning smell or it continues even after the first two or three times you use the furnace, contact our Kansas City heating professionals. At Schomburg Heating & Cooling, our top priorities are your comfort, and your safety. Give us a call today!