Remember last week when I was telling you about watching A Christmas Story and laughing about Ralphie’s father, Frankie Parker, who went on the warpath, cussing and kicking when the old furnace sent smoke up through the vents?
As I said then, furnaces do act up and people (occasionally) do cuss. I also promised that “someday I’ll tell you what causes furnaces to smoke.”
One of my favorite sayings is “Finish the drill!” because it reminds me that following through and doing what we say we’ll do is essential to great customer service, so I thought I’d better make good on my promise to tell you what causes furnaces to smoke right now instead of waiting for “someday.”
Five Reasons Why Furnaces Smoke:
Here in central Florida, we don’t use our furnaces like many other parts of the country. Still, we DO need heating throughout the winter months. If your furnace smokes or smells like smoke, it might be due to one of these five reasons.
Your furnace is NEW
All new furnaces smoke a little. When a furnace is manufactured, the heat exchanger is coated with oil to protect it from rust. The first time that furnace is turned on, the oil burns off. Usually, the installers will run the unit long enough to burn the oil completely off, but sometimes a bit of oil lingers and burns when it’s first turned on.
The good news is that the oil smell is not a bad one. Some people think it smells sweet, like maple syrup. This kind of smoky burning is not dangerous or risky. It’s just a normal stage in the life of a furnace.
Your furnace is DIRTY
You know how your furniture gets dusty if it isn’t wiped clean regularly? The same is true with your furnace. Dust and grit, dirt and grime, can built up in your air ducts and vents. When your furnace heats the air and pushes it through the ductwork, small amounts of dust can puff up through the vents, but it’s not smoke.
If you smell a musty, dry smell, don’t worry too much.
There is no imminent danger to you, but no one wants dust in their home. Another problem with dirt and grit buildup is that your furnace becomes less efficient, working harder to exchange the heat and costing you more money.
The best way to solve this problem is to invest in regular maintenance so the technicians at ServiceOne can keep your system spic and span and in tip-top shape.
Your furnace needs a FILTER CHANGE
Clogged, dirty filters can smell bad, and sometimes, they even smell musty and a little smoky. When is the last time you changed yours?
To keep your furnace functioning at maximum efficiency, you need to change your filter every 30-45 days. If you’re in doubt about why and when you need to do this, check this out: “How Often Should You Change Your Air Filter? The Honest Answer.”
Your furnace is BROKEN
If your furnace has a component that goes bad, it may cause excess heat. Wiring can be chewed by mice, possibly burning insulation. Parts can break down after years of wear and tear. When that happens, your furnace may smoke, sending warning signals to your nose.
If your furnace motor is overheating, it, too, can smell like smoke. While this is usually caused by the burning of lubricant or extremely hot outdoor temps, you NEVER want to ignore the smell of smoke.
ServiceOne has 24/7 emergency service, and we’ll be there to make sure your furnace is not putting you at risk.
Your furnace’s heat exchanger is CRACKED
Soot is the result of something that’s burned, but it’s also something that burns. Soot is combustible. If your heat exchanger is old, it’s rare - but it is possible - that it’s cracked. When that happens, soot gets into the vents.
Soot in your heat exchanger DOES put you at risk. Cracked heat exchangers can emit poisonous fumes or start a fire.
CALL ServiceOne immediately if you see soot coming through your vents or smell the distinctive odor of smoke. (You can cuss all you want. We won’t. We know exactly what to do to fix the problem.)
Smoke and smoky smells are more common with old, oil furnaces
In A Christmas Story, the Parkers had an old coal-burning furnace, practically non-existent now in the United States. But back in 1939, coal burners were common, so smoke and soot and noise were frequent occurrences. Now, more than half of the homes in America function on gas, and here in Florida, 81% of our residents use a heat pump or an electric heating system.
Dirty, smoke-puffing, ancient coal-burning and oil-furnaces just aren’t common here and pose very little risk to your health.
But any time you have any doubt about a smell, a sound, or a whiff of smoke that comes through your furnace, call us. We’re here to take of you, your heating, air conditioning, plumbing, and drain-cleaning needs through all the seasons of the year!