How To: Diagnose Boiler Smells

A boiler should provide you with years of clean, efficient and safe heating power.

As with anything though unforeseen issues can arise that can compromise a boilers safety. One telltale sign that your boiler has encountered issues is if it starts producing unusual smells. Not only can these smells signify a problem with your boiler but they can also indicate that your wellbeing is threatened. Being able to diagnose boiler smells can save your life. Here are a few telltale signs to look out for and what to do if you encounter them.

The Smell of Rotten Egg

You would have probably come into contact with this smell before at some point in your life. Take lighting the hob on a gas cooker for example. While you wait for the pilot light to catch you sometimes catch the smell of a little bit of gas that doesn’t burn. These eggy, sulphur like smells can also emanate from your boiler and you should be concerned if they do.

Clacton Essex Boiler ExplosionUtility companies purposefully add these scents to natural gas so it is easier to detect should it enter the atmosphere. If your boiler is letting off a sulphur like smell it could indicate that it has a leak. As we’re sure you know, a gas leak can be catastrophic if it is exposed to a naked flame. Just take the recent gas explosion in Clacton, Essex as an example.

If your boiler starts to emit this smell you should extinguish all naked flames. You should then open doors and windows and leave your house immediately. Finally call the national gas emergency number on 0800 111 999.

The Smell of Burning or Heavy Dust

If a boiler hasn’t been used for a while, say during the summer months, it can produce a smell of burning fabric or dust upon start up. This is often just the result of the pilot light burning off accumulated dust from the boiler housing. However, if the smell persists it can indicate a serious issue with your boiler.

If your boiler produces a smell like this first give it a chance to burn off the collected dust. If that doesn’t help you can try either cleaning or replacing the furnaces air filter. If the problem persists you should contact a qualified boiler or HVAC repairman to take a look at your boiler.

Metallic, Electrical or Overheating Smells

burnt wires for boiler smell detection blog postA boiler is comprised of many electrical elements. Issues can arise with any electrical circuit when wires fray or become disconnected. These issues can be further accentuated in a boiler thanks to the exposure to heat. If these circuits or elements become too hot they can emit smells similar to burning metal, melted plastic or burning oil.

If you smell what could be something burning inside your boiler you should immediately switch it off. You should then call a qualified boiler or HVAC repairman to determine the issue. It would also be a good idea to keep an eye on your boiler to ensure nothing combusts, even after it has been switched off.

If You Smell Nothing At All

Unfortunately it’s not always as simple as smelling something that could be awry. Your boiler can emit a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that can kill those that inhale it. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are very similar to those associated with the common flu. The gases characteristics combined with its effects make carbon monoxide notoriously difficult to detect.

carbon monoxide warning for boiler odour identification post

So, what can you do to protect against it? Vigilance is always key when it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning. If you start to experience flu like symptoms get yourself checked out at the doctors. If they tell you you’re well think about where you felt ill. It makes sense to pay attention to where your symptoms occur, is it always in the same place and at the same time of day?

You can also ask others if they are feeling the same as you, this is a very clear indicator of what could be carbon monoxide poisoning. It is also a good idea to install a carbon monoxide detector near your boiler, this will remove the guess work and tell you if you have a leak.

If you are concerned your boiler has a carbon monoxide leak it’s important that you air out your house by opening all doors and windows and then immediately leave the premise. Once you are away from the danger you should contact the emergency gas number on 0800 111 999.

Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself from possible boiler malfunction is to ensure it is regularly serviced. This will help make sure that possible issues are detected before they can properly set in. Check out another of our blog posts for more HVAC health and safety tips.

Written by Ryan Hill

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