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Community and Q&A

Noxious Smell From New Furnace

albany22 | Posted in General Questions on

We had a new furnace put in seven days ago. It is cold outside so the furnace kicks on producing a smell like volatile organic compounds or some kind of chemical. I have opened the windows a little bit because the odor is so bad it makes me feel sick. I was told an odor could last a day or two, but this is the seventh day and things are no better. I called the company who installed the Bryant brand system and they are at a loss what the odor is and what is causing this. They put in a charcoal filter a couple days ago to see if this would help and it has not. We heat with natural gas. It is not due this because in the process of investigating the odor we discovered we had some old minor natural gas leaks. This has been corrected and it passed the inspection from Duke Energy who supplies the gas and of course it passed the plumber’s meter as well. Duke has a crystal meter which is very sensitive much more than the plumber’s so it is not a gas odor. The scent started the same time the furnace was installed and ready to turn on.

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  1. Expert Member
    PETER G ENGLE PE | | #1

    Odors are very tough to diagnose. The fact that sensation of odor varies with the individual makes it even tougher. The onset being coincident with the furnace install is a helpful symptom. Typically, the "new equipment" smell would dissipate within the first day or two, as you were told, though it could last for a bit longer. If you are very sensitive to the smell, it could also take longer before you no longer smell it. Annoyingly, your mechanical contractors are probably immune to the smell by now and literally cannot sense it at low levels. The "normal" new equipment smell is mostly from machine oils and sometimes solvents cooking off the hot parts - heat exchanger, motors, etc. You can sometimes accelerate the process by intentionally running the furnace hot. Set the thermostat to 80 degrees and let the system run until the house comes up to that temperature. In your case, it sounds like you will have to open windows and/or leave the space during this process.

    There is an unlikely possibility that something else is causing the smell, and these may or may not resolve with the cooking process. Some possibilities include wiring that is too close to something hot, a dead critter that got into the system during the replacement, otherwise defective equipment, etc. Some of these would become obvious during a cooking stress test (smoke, flames.....). Some might not. If you complete the cooking stress test, air out the house, and it still smells during normal operation after that, life gets more difficult. You might have some recourse against the installer, but getting relief at that point is normally not easy.

    1. albany22 | | #2

      If I set the thermostat to 80 degrees how long would you suggest I run the furnace once it reaches this temperature to see if this is going to resolve my issue?

      1. charlie_sullivan | | #3

        Just a guess, but give it 8 hours, then give the house 4 hours to air out and cool down and it should be habitable, but then give it 24 hours with the windows still open to see if it's really better.

  2. 88cch | | #4

    I'm an HVAC contractor and we install 100's of furnaces a year from the same manufacturer, this complaint is very rare but it happens. I would agree with Peter on the course of action. I have replaced "smelly" furnaces in a few cases and the customer usually has the same complaint afterwards. It seems some people are just very sensitive to minute odors the rest of us miss. Tools and instructions manuals have been known to fall into heat exchangers during install so try to get the HVAC guy to check that before the stress test.

  3. Violetpie | | #5

    I just had a Bryant furnace put in and I'm having the same problem with this burning oil smell that won't go away after six days. I'm curious to know if yours ever stopped smelling.

    1. albany22 | | #6

      Yes, I did get rid of the smell. I had the Bryant furnace and AC removed. Selected Trane to replace these. The owner of the franchise came out suspecting the odor could be coming from a stopped up flue connected to our hot water heater. I hired a chimney company since the hot water heater was vented through our stone chimney to find one of the three flues did not have a stainless steal cap. A bird or squirrel had made a nest down in there stopping air from venting properly. The nest was removed. Trane was also very careful with their glues or products used to insure they did not add to or cause a problem with their installation. A Trane AC and furnace are much more expensive than Bryant's products yet I am so happy with the solution. I now have a good company to service my equipment since the company that sold me the Bryant and I severed our ties. I did got a full refund from Bryant on the cost of the furnace and AC. I had to call the home office to push my local Bryant carrier a little bit, but then the removal of the equipment and refund check came through very quickly and easily.

      1. Violetpie | | #7

        Oh my gosh, what an ordeal! Mine has finally stopped smelling but it took a good month and a half. Glad you had a good outcome and thanks for replying!

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