Our Frequently Asked Questions
It’s natural for people to panic when they smell an odor coming from their heater or furnace, but odors don’t always mean something is getting ready to explode.
Here are the most common causes of odors coming from your furnace.
When you turn your furnace on for the first time after sitting idle all summer, you’ll probably smell an odor, typically dust that’s settled inside the system. When you turn the heater on, it burns the dust as it heats up, and the odor moves throughout your home’s venting system.
Burning dust isn’t cause for alarm and will usually dissipate after a few minutes. However, if you still smell an odor after an hour or so, call an HVAC technician to investigate.
Clogged Air Filter
If your air filter is clogged, your system works harder to do its job, which can cause it to overheat, causing a burning odor. Also, clogged filters contain dirt particles that may burn off as the system gets hot, releasing a smell.
Electrical Burning Odor
Most newer heaters have safety features that shut the system down when they sense it’s beginning to overheat. Without this feature, the heater is at risk of malfunctioning and causing an electrical fire. If you notice a burning odor, shut the system off and call an HVAC specialist as soon as possible.
The odor of burning plastic could be caused by a foreign object that got into the system, like a child’s toy, which begins melting as the heater heats up. Another common cause of burning plastic odor is if the wire casings fail and melt. Regardless of the cause, if you smell an odor of burning plastic, shut off the system and call for help.
Your furnace probably runs on natural gas as a fuel source, so naturally, people want to know if there’s a fire risk and how to protect themselves.
First off, yes, a furnace can catch on fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association, home heating fires are a leading cause of fires in U.S. homes.
People rely more heavily on their heaters to keep them warm as cold weather sets in.
Here are some steps you can take to prevent a heating fire.
Protect Your Heater Motor from Overheating
Failing to keep your furnace well-maintained puts you at a greater risk of fire than systems that receive annual check-ups.
To guard against overheating, you must change the air filter regularly. A dirty air filter causes the system to work harder because of the restricted airflow. As the system overheats, the risk of a fire increases.
Another way a furnace can catch fire is if the gas pressure gets too high. Your furnace needs a combination of gas and air to ensure proper combustion, so it’s important to keep your filter clean, so the system gets adequate airflow.
Also, the gas must flow into the combustion chamber at the correct pressure. If it’s too low, it can cause condensation to form in the heat exchanger, and if it’s too high, it can cause the furnace to overheat.
Again, regular maintenance and inspection will ensure your furnace gets the correct gas pressure to give you the desired heat and keep you safe.
Lastly, keep flammable materials like clothing, paper, gasoline, or cardboard boxes away from your heating system. If you must store these items in the same room as your heater, keep them at least three feet away from the unit.
Like drain clogs, low water pressure is a common household plumbing problem.
If you’re experiencing low water pressure in your home, it’s probably for one of several reasons.
The Main Water Shutoff Valve is Off
Check that the lever is in the vertical position (lever pointing up toward the ceiling) and not the horizontal position (lever pointing at the wall).
If it is already in the vertical position, try turning it off and then back on again, as sometimes this can help clear a clog.
Your Faucet is Clogged
If you’ve lost water pressure at one location, it could be that you have a clogged faucet or some other issue like hard water buildup.
When scale builds up in your fixture, a piece can break free and clog the water ports resulting in reduced pressure. You can solve this by taking the faucet apart to clean out the mess. While you’re in there, unscrew the aerator and clean it to see if that solves the problem.
You Have a Leak
Not all leaks are obvious—sometimes, they are located underground, behind a wall, or under flooring. If you suspect a leak but can’t find one, call a plumber immediately; they will be able to use specialized diagnostic tools to determine where the leak is.
Supply System Problems
If you’ve lost water pressure throughout the house, there may be a problem in the supply system that’s beyond your control.
It’s frustrating taking a nice hot shower in the morning only to run out of hot water in the middle of washing. Running out of hot water faster than you’re used to is a common problem that can happen for many reasons.
Your Family Is Bigger
A bigger family places higher demands on your hot water heater, especially as the kids get older and need to shower or use hot water more frequently. This increased demand drains your water heater more quickly than before. The solution to this problem is either upgrading to a bigger tank or investing in a tankless system.
Another reason your water heater might run out of hot water more quickly than before is if your family puts too high a demand on the system at once.
For example, say you’re doing a load of laundry while someone is in the shower and another person is running the dishwasher. All that hot water coming out of the system at once causes it to drain the tank faster.
Sediment is the number one enemy of water heaters, wreaking havoc on practically every part of the system. Sediment is caused by hard water, and if you don’t flush the tank out regularly, it builds up a thick layer, which takes up space the water would otherwise occupy.
Since your water tank doesn’t have as much storage space as before, you run out of hot water more quickly. You can fix this problem by flushing out the tank regularly to clear out the sediment.
Clogged drains come with the territory of owning a home. And when people have stubborn clogs, most of them go to the hardware store and buy a chemical drain cleaner because they’re cheap, easy to use, and seem to be effective.
However, there are many stories online about how dangerous these products are, and it’s natural for homeowners to wonder whether they’re safe to use or if they should opt for another method to clean their drains.
Well, here’s the scoop.
Drain cleaners come in liquid, gel, and crystal forms, but they work similarly. Once you pour these products down the drain, they create a chemical reaction that produces heat to dissolve the clog and clear the drain.
The problem is that these chemicals can’t discern between the material that comprises the clog and your pipes, so they eat away at everything.
Also, the intense heat these products produce can weaken PVC pipes, causing them to leak and eventually burst.
Lastly, if these chemicals fail to remove the clog, they remain sitting in your pipes. The longer they remain in your plumbing system, the more damage they can do.
This is not to mention how toxic these products are to people. They can cause severe chemical burns if they contact your skin or damage the lining of your lungs if you inhale the fumes.
That’s not to say you should never use these products, but relying on them every time you have a clog puts your plumbing system at risk, and you’re better off calling a pro for safer drain cleaning.
We get this question a lot from people who own older homes that still use fuse boxes instead of breaker panels, and it’s a good one to ask.
Fuse boxes were state-of-the-art technology in homes built in the 60s and prior but have been surpassed by breaker panels, which are safer and more efficient at delivering the power required by today’s modern families.
Now, you don’t have to replace your fuse box, and it’s probably not going to explode and burn down the house, but there are many good reasons to consider upgrading.
The first thing to consider is age. Since fuse boxes haven’t been used in new homes for many years, the existing systems tend to be old. Over time, electrical connections can wear down, making the panel less efficient.
Another reason to upgrade is that breaker panels offer safety features you don’t get with fuse boxes, such as arc fault protection.
Lastly, think about how much more convenient it is to flip a breaker switch than dig around in the junk drawer to find a fuse when a circuit blows only to find out you’re out of fuses and have to go to the hardware store.