Should My Furnace Smell Like Heating Oil?

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Heating oil is a dependable furnace or boiler fuel that is used by countless households in the US annually. It is highly efficient at a low cost. It also has a steady supply. These features help you bear the cold season more easily. If you use heating oil and smell an odor, you may wonder, “Is this an issue around the house?”. Heating oil has a unique oil scent, but it shouldn’t be an issue when you have a good containment system. You may detect a faint smell of it, but the heating oil odor will likely go away on its own quickly. However, the heating oil smell may persist in some rare cases. If so, consider discussing the issue with a Van Varick & Sons technician to determine the problem and improve indoor air quality.

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Is It Normal to Smell Heating Oil?

It isn’t normal for the heating oil odor to linger inside your home. Still, some instances can let this happen. There are some trivial and fleeting cases, but others can be severe and persistent. Here are some possible causes of this phenomenon:

The Tank Was Refilled Recently

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It is not uncommon that the fuel oil smell will stay in the air after a fresh fuel delivery. It should dissipate on its own after several days. There should only be a faint and not overpowering smell near the oil tank. If it takes longer to go away, the delivery personnel may have spilled some oil on the ground.

Van Varick & Sons proudly offers the safest and most reliable heating oil deliveries in Northern New Jersey. Rest assured, we can deliver your fuel without spills or other issues. Contact us today to learn more about our heating oil deliveries and what they can do for you.

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The Initial Furnace Use

Heating systems are idle for extended periods. They are switched on again when the cold season begins. The first furnace use of the season likely generates the burning oil smell. This is normal and fleeting, so you don’t need to worry.

A Clogged Furnace Filter

The oil smell may also point to a blocked furnace filter. Replacing the air filter should be done regularly. Filter replacement is typically done every two to three months or more, depending on your home’s unique case. Check the filter in your furnace to determine if this is causing the issue. Consider other possible causes if replacing the HVAC air filter changes nothing. 

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An Underlying Furnace Problem

The odor can be a sign of a more severe furnace issue, like inefficient operation. If the oil doesn’t wholly combust, the leftover oil can cause the lingering smell. Inspect the oil burner for cracks as well. Fumes may be escaping via this component. An experienced HVAC contractor can help diagnose the exact issue. Another cause is heat exchanger failure. This situation calls for the skill and knowledge of a licensed HVAC technician from Van Varick & Sons.

Is an Oil Smell Dangerous?

Many people are worried about the smell due to how it may impact their health. This is especially true for structures wherein the oil tank is located in an enclosed space like the basement. As a matter of fact, heating oil fumes pose far less danger than natural gas. It isn’t as toxic to be exposed to low concentrations of oil fumes. Fuel oil is also stable, so you don’t have to worry about explosions. Still, it is best to avoid fumes completely. 

Always call an expert if there is a lingering oil scent in your home. Ignoring it can only cause more complex problems. Symptoms from short-term exposure should be gone as soon as the oil smell dissipates. On the other hand, severe health problems can arise from long-term exposure, so avoid it at all costs. Seek professional help from a qualified technician right away if you cannot pinpoint the source of the smell.

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What To Do If You Smell Heating Oil

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Go over the list in this article and conduct the recommendations. Replace the HVAC filter, examine the ground for spills, and inspect the burner for cracks. To be on the safe side, switch the heating system off until the problem is resolved. Ventilate your home if the odor lingers inside by opening windows where the fumes can escape. Ensure that children and pets stay away from the contaminated space to protect their health.

If an oil delivery causes some spills, try using an absorbent material so the oil doesn’t spread further. Isolate any damaged items, if there are any, and clean the surface with water and soap. These are only basic steps for minor issues. If the problem is more than you can handle, consider contacting an expert for assistance. There are times when more is happening than homeowners can smell or see. Therefore, it is best to let a professional investigate and resolve the issue. 


There’s a good reason why most people have an acute sense of smell. It warns us of the danger we may not be able to hear or see. Foul smells let us know there’s a problem so they can be resolved immediately. Take charge of finding the reason behind a furnace that smells like heating oil. After all, it isn’t normal for your heating system to emit fumes because the oil should be completely contained in the tank. Common causes are oil deliveries, initial furnace utilization, clogged filters, and underlying problems. An HVAC professional can assist you in identifying the cause and solving the problem quickly.

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Call Van Varick & Sons For All Your Home Heating Needs

For all your HVAC and oil delivery needs, contact Van Varick & Sons. We have some of the most highly qualified and professionally certified technicians in Northern New Jersey. Each of our friendly techs can conduct a variety of HVAC services, such as oil tank upgrades, boiler maintenance, ductless installations, furnace replacements, air conditioner repairs, and more.

We have various oil delivery plans and financing options. This way, you can customize your fuel deliveries to meet your needs. Our heating oil delivery and HVAC services are affordable and are done accurately and promptly at all times.

All of our services come with a guarantee. Our HVAC maintenance services improve your energy efficiency and home comfort while decreasing your HVAC costs. We can also assist you when you need to replace your heating and cooling system. We will help you find the best make and model for your home without sacrificing your budget. Our experts have the skills, training, and experience to ensure that all your home comfort needs are met. Book an appointment with us today. Call Van Varick & Sons for a free, in-home estimate.

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