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Why Does My Heater Smell Like It’s Burning?

January 31, 2022 | Blog

In the chilly winter months, you may expect a smoky scent from your fireplace… but not from your home’s furnace. A burning smell from your heater could signal an issue with your heating system. Luckily, most of these problems are harmless and can be corrected easily. Explore these potential causes to determine if the unpleasant smell requires professional repair.

Prefer not to navigate this list alone? Absolute Comfort Air’s expert technicians can identify the exact cause of the strange scent.

Cause: Accumulated dust in air handler

In most cases, a buildup of dust can explain the burning smell from your heater. Most families don’t use their furnace through every season, leaving plenty of months for dust to gather. When you first turn on the heater each year, the dust will burn off, generating an unpleasant (but temporary) scent.

Solution: Dust isn’t a serious issue. Allow your heater to run for around 10 minutes and the smell should subside. If the smell doesn’t go away, there may be a different cause that requires furnace repair.

Cause: Trapped debris

Another common cause is a trapped object inside your vent. If you notice the burning smell is especially strong in a certain room, debris is the most likely explanation.

Solution: Walk through your home and see if the scent is strongest in one room. From there, try peaking in that room’s vent. If you notice something inside, open the vent and pull out the object. The smell should disappear shortly after.

Cause: Dirty furnace or air vents

If the burning smell seems a little musky, a dirty furnace filter or air vent is probably the culprit. Mold or mildew may even be present in your HVAC system, meaning your home requires a more in-depth examination.

Solution: Turn off your heater and replace your filter. Next time you turn on your furnace, the smell should be gone. Frequent heater maintenance appointments prevent mold buildup, so consider arranging a tune-up in the coming year.

Cause: Overheated blower motor

If your furnace filter was dirty and clogged for an extended period, it can spell even bigger trouble for your heating system. Poor air circulation in your vents may have resulted in overheating, damaging your blower motor.

Solution: If you’ve replaced your filters and the burning smell persists, reach out to a professional for HVAC repair or heater replacement. Your furnace may have more serious damage that needs to be addressed.

Cause: Electrical wire damage

Like an overheated blower motor, electrical damage is a more substantial, long-term problem. A burning plastic, electrical smell that isn’t fixed by the solutions above could signal wire damage.

Solution: If you suspect electrical damage, immediately turn off your heater. Reach out to a professional right away for repairs. If electrical wires remain unfixed, they could permanently damage your HVAC system or even cause a house fire.

Cause: Natural gas leak

If you have a propane furnace and notice a sulfur-like stench similar to rotten eggs, you might be dealing with a natural gas leak.

Solution: This potential situation is the most dangerous. Prolonged exposure to natural gas can cause breathing problems and nausea. Leave your home as soon as possible and contact both your gas company and heating company.

Stop Smells Before They Start

Though a few of these scenarios sound scary, don’t worry. Most burning smells are simply a short-term inconvenience. However, if you want to guard your furnace against future damage, find a go-to Winder heating company for regular tune-ups.

Absolute Comfort Air‘s customer-focused team can keep your home toasty and scent-free through the winter months. Our seasoned technicians have worked with heating systems of every brand and model, meaning we’re trained to quickly resolve the issues above for a competitive price.

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