Dealing With A Musty-Smelling Furnace? Here's How To Fix It
With summer long gone, it's likely you're starting your furnace for the first time in months. But that inaugural start can come with a rather unwelcome surprise – a sudden, musty or dirty odor that fills your home as you're trying to warm it up. The following gets down to the bottom of the problem and highlights a few ways you can solve it once and for all.
What's Causing That Smell?
As your furnace sits unused throughout the year, dust, dirt and other types of debris can accumulate on the heat exchanger and other portions of the furnace that are normally exposed to high temperatures. This debris runs the gamut from dandruff and dead human skin to pollen, carpet fibers and pet dander. When you fire up your furnace at the start of the heating season, all of this stuff ends up being burned on those heated surfaces, creating that undesirable musty odor.
Musty smells can also be caused by mold and mildew accumulation, especially if your furnace shares room with a central air conditioner. In most cases, mold and mildew buildup throughout the system can make its way towards the burners, heat exchanger and other heated portions of the furnace during first-time operation. A clogged condensate drain also allows mold to flourish, eventually leading to musty odors throughout your furnace.
How You Can Clean Up Your Furnace's Act
The first thing you should do is change your furnace's air filter. A dirty air filter can allow dust and debris to slip past the clogged filter and travel through the rest of your furnace. Ideally, this should be done either once a month or at least once every three months.
If your furnace is combined with a central air conditioner, make sure the A/C unit's condensate drip tray is free of mold and leftover condensate. If the condensate drain tube is blocked, use a small auger to carefully break up the clog and disinfect the drain with white vinegar or bleach.
Finally, you should have an HVAC professional perform a thorough cleaning of your furnace. This includes cleaning the ductwork as well as the heat exchanger, burners and blower wheel. In addition, your HVAC technician should also check the ducts for any signs of leaks or tears, as these can also allow dust from other areas of your home to be sucked into the ducts and circulated throughout your furnace.
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