Should My Furnace Smell Like Heating Oil?

woman plugging nose from heating oil odor

Heating oil is the most dependable furnace fuel. It serves many American households each year. It makes the winter months easier to get through with its low cost, high efficiency, and steady supply. If you use heating oil and smell an odor, you have to figure out quickly what the issue is. Heating oil does have a unique oil smell but with a proper containment system, this should not be a problem. If you happen to detect a heating oil smell, the odor will probably go away quickly. If the issue continues, consult a technician from R. F. Ohl to determine what is causing the issue.

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Should You Smell Heating Oil?

Usually, it is not normal to smell heating oil inside a home, but there are instances when you might be able to smell it. Typically, cases are small and will go away quickly while others are perpetual and serious. The following are some explanations for this:

1. A Recent Oil Tank Refill

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If your heating oil tank was recently filled, it is not unusual for the odor of heating oil to be in the air for a couple of days. Give it a little time and it should go away on its own. In these cases, the odor will be weak instead of overwhelming. If it takes longer, then it’s possible the delivery crew spilled oil on the ground.

R. F. Ohl offers the most reliable and safest heating oil deliveries in Northeast Pennsylvania. You can trust us to deliver your fuel without spills or problems. Call us today to learn more about our heating oil deliveries.

2. A Clogged Furnace Filter

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The furnace filter might be blocked if you notice an oil smell. HVAC air filter replacements should be done every 2-3 months or more, depending on your home. To see if this is the problem, check your oil furnace filter. In case a replacement does not help, consider other potential causes.

3. An Underlying Furnace Problem

An oil odor could be pointing to a larger issue with the furnace, like inefficient operation. If the oil does not combust 100%, anything leftover could cause the smell to stick around. Look into oil burner cracks also because fumes might escape that way. An experienced HVAC technician will be able to identify the specific problem. Another possibility is a heat exchanger. Either way, this situation requires the skill and knowledge of a licensed, R. F. Ohl HVAC technician.

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4. The Initial Furnace Use

Heating systems are often unused for long periods of time. They are often only used again when the temperature begins to fall. The initial use of the season can produce the smell of burning oil. Fortunately, this is a normal occurrence and it will go away quickly.

Is A Heating Oil Smell Harmful?

question mark about heating oil dangers

The main concern people have with the oil smell is how it could negatively affect their health. This is something to look out for especially if you have an oil tank in your basement or an enclosed space. Ultimately though, heating oil fumes are much less harmful than natural gas. Exposure to low amounts of oil fumes is not quite as toxic as natural gas. There is no need to worry about explosions either because fuel oil is stable. Of course, avoiding any fumes would still be best.

If you notice an oil smell in your home, it’s always smart to call in an expert. Ignore it could potentially lead to more complicated issues.

Problems due to a short-term oil odor should dissipate shortly after the smell goes away. Long-term exposure could lead to serious health problems. If you aren’t sure where the odor is coming from, then call a technician for help.

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What Steps Should I Take If I Smell Heating Oil?

The first thing to do is go through the steps listed above and do any of the recommendations. This includes checking the burner for cracks, changing the HVAC air filter, and looking at the ground for spills. Next, you should turn off your heating system until the problems are gone to be safe. If the odor is inside, ventilate the area and open windows to let the fumes outside. Bring pets and children away from the area to look after their health.

If the oil spilled during delivery, use an absorbent material to try to stop the spread. Confine any damaged materials you see and clean up the surface using water and soap. If you aren’t able to deal with the problem using these tips, it’s best to call an expert for assistance. Often there is more of a problem than what homeowners can just see and smell. If you are unsure, it is always best that a technician comes to check it out.



There is a reason most people have a good sense of smell. It helps us detect any harm that we otherwise might not hear or see. Odors let us find problems and solve them right away. You should find the cause of a heating oil smell quickly. The oil should be completely contained in its tank, so it’s not normal to smell any oil. Typical causes can include oil deliveries, initial oil furnace use, blocked HVAC air filters, or hidden furnace problems. An HVAC professional can help you find the cause and fix the problem easily.

Call R. F. Ohl For Superior Home Comfort Solutions

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R. F. Ohl is an oil delivery company and HVAC company that services Northeast Pennsylvania. You can count on our oil deliveries to be fast and reliable. We also offer unbeatable heating oil prices. Additionally, our certified technicians can provide you with the best HVAC tune-ups, repairs, installations, and replacements. Our techs have the knowledge and expertise to service your HVAC system properly.

Give R. F. Ohl a call today to find out what we can do to improve your home comfort. We offer free, in-home estimates.

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