The Link Between Unpleasant Smells and Your Boiler


You wouldn’t settle for a gnarly odor from your trash cans or your refrigerator, and you absolutely shouldn’t settle for the bad stench coming from your home’s boiler. Boilers have a tendency to smell bad when something goes wrong. While you shouldn’t rely on your nose alone, the type of odor you detect from the boiler could tip you off to what the problem is. Here are some examples of that unpleasant smell and what it may mean for your home’s heating system.

Egg Smell


Your home’s boiler is a crucial element of your home, whether it’s wanting to take a hot shower before work or being able to have warm water to wash your clothes. However, when the boiler malfunctions, it may emit an unpleasant smell. If you notice an egg-like odor coming from the unit, it’s time to call a professional technician to check out the system. This could be because of a poor burner, but a gas leak is a likely culprit.

Yes, natural gas is odorless, but the chemicals added to it give it this distinctly bad smell. Many have compared it to rotten eggs, others say bad cabbage; either way, it’s a nasty stench that you can’t miss. The rotten egg smell is also common in boilers and water heaters when bacteria begins to grow. Anaerobic bacteria can build up in the magnesium and aluminum parts of a system. This could mean that the anodes need to be replaced to get rid of the bacteria and egg smell. This is basically producing the smell of sulfur.

Burning Smell


A burning scent may emerge from your heating system, which could alert you to clogs in the unit. If your furnace smells like a burning plastic, shut it off and call in a technician to assess the situation. That burning odor can mean that electrical components or wires are getting scorched because of a short or some other malfunction. It could also mean a failing fan motor or the need to replace the boiler altogether. If your home’s boiler is pushing between 15 to 20 years old, the system’s had a good run, and it’s nearing the end of its lifetime.

If your heating system emits a smoky smell, switch it off and open your windows right away to improve your indoor air quality. A clogged boiler chimney or exhaust vent can lead to a fire hazard and even a health risk. Allowing this smoke to linger could also lead to respiratory problems. Dust and sediment could also build up and lead to clogs that, if left unattended by a certified technician, could require an earlier furnace replacement than anticipated.

Gas-Like Smell


Most boilers are powered by natural gas or propane, and while both are usually odorless, they can produce a powerful odor because of an additive. This can mean there’s a loose-fitting part in the unit or that gas is leaking from a faulty point in the system. This can be a very dangerous scenario for homeowners. Continuous running of the boiler in this condition may cause significant damage and create a fire hazard. If the smell persists, get a technician in immediately to troubleshoot and fix the problem.

Homeowners can check to see if the gas valve has become loose by spraying the fittings with a mixture of soap and water. If bubbles appear, then the fix is simple. All you have to do is take a wrench and tighten the valve up. However, professional help can be obtained for this if you don’t feel confident in carrying out this test yourself. Remember, boiler and furnace maintenance as a whole are crucial to keep your plumbing paramount and have your house running unhindered by any issues.