I moved into a new home two months ago and the home inspection noted no problem with the furnace. Recently I noticed that the furnace has some black stuff around the tubing that is coming out of the side of the unit and a smell in the house. Is this normal or is it something I should be concerned about?
Ana G. ~ Lincoln, NE
Ana, keep in mind that a general home inspection will not delve too deep into the condition of a home's furnace and HVAC system. Oftentimes a home inspector will note the make and model of a furnace, as well as the type of fuel used and the unit's apparent age, but most home inspectors are not qualified to comment on the actual mechanical condition of a residential furnace.
I would contact a HVAC contractor who works in the Lincoln area and have them complete a thorough inspection of your home's furnace. This could also be an excellent opportunity for you to learn a little bit about your home's furnace, which may help you to better maintain it or troubleshoot any simple future problems. It's best to have your home's furnace inspected in the early fall, because during this time most HVAC contractors are not swamped with the inevitable service calls that are needed after winter's first big storm.
Without personally inspecting your home's furnace, it is difficult for me to comment on its condition, but the black soot you are seeing on the unit could be a sign that the furnace is not running as efficiently as it should. The odor you are smelling inside your home might be normal for an older oil-burning furnace, but it certainly could be a sign of a more serious problem. This is another reason why you should hire a HVAC contractor to inspect your home's furnace as soon as possible.