As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, you may be starting to think about turning on your furnace for the first time this fall. There are a few things you might notice and a few things you can preventatively do.

Why You Might Notice a Burning Smell from Your Furnace

First, expect the burning smell – this is not something to be alarmed about and does not mean that anything is wrong with your system. When the furnace fires up for the first time in fall, it will burn off the dust that has collected on the heat exchanger or electric elements since the last heating season. The same thing will likely happen when you turn on your gas fireplace for the first time in the fall, too. It possibly means your heating system needs attention to the overall safety and performance of your furnace, heat pump, water heater, and fireplace.

If you smell burning dust, it should only last for a few hours. If it lasts longer, you should call your heating and cooling technician.

What If Your Furnace Continues to Give Off the Burning Smell

If your furnace is giving off a burning smell later in the heating season, there might be bigger issues at play.

As is often the case, the common cause might be a clogged air filter. When your air filter has clogged dirt, it will avoid the filter and build up on the system. Another matter related to a clogged filter is overheating. If your filter is clogged, it will force your air handler to work overtime, and this can cause your blower motor to overheat and give off the burning smell. Another item that might cause a burning smell from your furnace is electrical issues. And if any of your electrical wirings are frayed or damaged, they might give off a burning smell that should be taken care of right away.

Schedule a tune-up to minimize the likelihood of a burning smell from your furnace, the best way to avoid this is setting up an annual furnace tune-up. Your components where dirt builds up will be cleaned before it can burn up and create the potent smell and will prevent problems later in the year that might cause it to develop a burning smell.

How to Plan Ahead with Your HVAC System

While the weather’s still warm, prepare for a safe and comfortable autumn and winter by following these steps.

Schedule preventative maintenance: Have preventive maintenance performed on your HVAC system by a licensed technician at least once a year – in the fall before you turn on your furnace and for best performance year-round, have air conditioner maintenance performed in the spring as well.

  • Cleaning the burners and checking that they’re lighting properly will improve safety and the performance of your furnace. Doing this will help when that first really cold night comes, and you can feel confident that your heat will come on and work as efficiently as possible.
  • This maintenance should include checking for rust and corrosion, cleaning the burners, and especially looking for any cracks in the heat exchanger.

Change your air filter when it’s dirty. A dirty air filter will restrict airflow to your furnace, which will overwork your system and can potentially increase the risk of a carbon monoxide leak. In addition, a dirty filter will allow dirt to build up on your furnace’s components, which can cause several efficiencies, performance, and safety issues. That’s why it’s important to check and/or change your filter once a month this winter. 

Prepare your carbon monoxide detectors. A carbon monoxide leak is one of the biggest safety threats that a malfunctioning furnace can pose to your home. That’s why it’s important to check that all of your home’s carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. Be sure to test the detectors in your home and install a fresh pair of batteries in each unit.

Test your smoke alarms. Certain severe furnace problems can lead to fire hazards, which is why this is the time of year that you should also be checking your home’s smoke alarms. Just like with your CO detectors, test the smoke alarms in your home and install a fresh pair of batteries in each unit.

Clear the area around your furnace clear. You can help minimize the chance of fire hazards from your furnace by keeping the area around your system clear. Avoid storing anything near the furnace, this is especially true for any flammable products or materials.

If your furnace is located outside, check that shrubs, trees, and other plants haven’t grown up around it during the summer. These can obstruct airflow and potentially pose a fire hazard. You should have at least four feet of clearance on all sides.

Let the air flow. Make sure that the return and supply vents aren’t obstructed by furniture, curtains, rugs, or other items. Don’t close registers to avoid heating rooms—this can cause air pressure problems in your system.

Test your thermostat. Once your furnace has been inspected, your carbon monoxide detectors are prepped, the area around it is clear, and the air is ready to flow, it’s time to try turning it on. Set the temperature a couple of degrees higher than the current inside temperature, then switch the furnace on from the thermostat and see if it comes on.

If it does come on and runs until reaching the set temperature, great news, your furnace is ready for the winter! However, if it doesn’t come on, it may simply be a problem with your thermostat. Try changing the thermostat batteries first and if that doesn’t work, it may be time to get a new thermostat. You may want to consider upgrading to a programmable smart thermostat that can help you save energy while keeping your home comfortable.

Prep the Rest of Your Home. Inspect your home and winterize your doors and windows. Fill in any gaps with weather stripping and caulk. You can also add carpet and rugs to your rooms to retain heat. And let some sunshine into your home by opening your windows during the day and closing them at night to keep the heat in. These small activities will keep heat from escaping, which will help your system run better AND save you money.

Heating and Air Conditioning Professionals That Will Take the Best Care of Your HVAC System in Knoxville, TN

When it comes to your HVAC, it’s a great time of year to perform routine maintenance and apply fixes that improve year-round comfort. At City Heating and Air Conditioning, we are proud to offer an annual service plan that will ensure peak HVAC system performance and your peace of mind as cooler temperatures approach. Whether your system needs routine maintenance or to be replaced entirely, City Heating and Air Conditioning has got you covered.

We proudly serve Knoxville, TN, and surrounding areas with outstanding heating and cooling services by placing the needs of our customers above all else. City Heating & Air Conditioning offers HVAC maintenance, installation, and repairs for a variety of HVAC systems. Learn more about our HVAC services by giving us a call today at 865.938.1005 or completing the contact form on our website.