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Why Is There a Burning Smell Coming From My Heater?

As the weather turns colder, it’s time to switch from air conditioning to heat. But what should you do if you suddenly sense a burning smell coming from your heater? You don’t necessarily need to panic or call the fire department. There could actually be a number of different reasons for that smell. And some are more serious and concerning than others. In order to know what to do, you will need to figure out what the cause is. So, how can you tell what the issue may be? Read on below to find out more.

Why is there a burning smell when I first turn it on?

A burning smell can come from your heater if you turn it on for the first time in a while. This is typically not anything you really need to worry about. If that is the culprit, the burning smell will likely go away before too long. Sometimes, it only takes a couple of minutes. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should ignore it, though. It could still indicate a problem that you should keep an eye on.

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What could the problem be?

One common cause of a burning smell from your heater is a clogged air filter. Dirt, dust, and dander accumulating on an air filter can lead to a number of HVAC system problems. It is incredibly important to change your air filters regularly. How often you should change your filters can depend on the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, they should be changed every couple of months.

If you’ve had the same heater for a while, it could be that some part is worn out. You can ask an HVAC system technician if that part needs replacing.

Another reason could be if your heater is too close to something flammable. Make sure you double-check that this isn’t the case and move any flammable objects further away from the unit. Problematic objects could include fabrics or plastics.

What are the different types of burning smells to look out for?

What the potential problem is can also depend on what exactly the burning smell resembles. Is it an electric burning smell? Does it smell more like burning plastic? Or is it more of a musty odor?

What if the smell coming out of your heater is more like rubber or plastic?

It may be that some object is caught in your HVAC system. If you have children, it’s possible one of their plastic toys somehow made it in there. It could also be something as small as a bottle cap. You can contact a technician to check it out and remove the object if there is one.

Musty odor?

You may not be surprised that the cause of a musty odor is usually mold or mildew related. Taking care of this problem could be as easy as changing the filter more frequently. If that doesn’t take care of it, you might want to have your HVAC system inspected by experts.

Which types of smells are more serious?

If there is an electrical burning smell coming from your heater, that might be a sign of a major issue. It could be that your heater’s motor is overheated and/or damaged. Or it could indicate damaged wires. In some cases, it could even mean that the wires are so overheated they are actually melting.

Another smell you should take seriously is if the smell coming from your heater is smoky or smells like burning oil. This should only occur if you have an oil furnace. However, that doesn’t mean it’s business as usual. First of all, make sure to change the oil filter. If that doesn’t take care of the smell, you should absolutely reach out to a professional.

Some individuals have reported a smell from their heaters that is similar to gunpowder. The common reason for this smell is that the circuit board has overheated. That is a very serious problem that needs taken care of as soon as possible.

Either oil or gunpowder types of smells are likely problems that only a professional can handle. So make sure to contact HVAC technicians as soon as you notice them. For extra safety, turn off the heater as soon as you can. And don’t turn it back on until after the technician makes sure that the problem has been taken care of.

Here at Entek, we have a 24/7 emergency line for issues that need immediate attention. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

Can you prevent a burning smell from the heater?

If it’s not quite time to turn on the heater yet, there are still some steps you can take to avoid the burning smell in the first place.

Before the seasons change, contact an HVAC service to get your furnace inspected and tuned up. This can take care of certain small issues so they can be stopped before turning into a major problem. If your heater needs any parts replaced, this is the time to get that done. A tune-up typically includes a thorough cleaning of your unit as well. This gets rid of that dust, dirt, dander, mold, or mildew.

Make sure to change the air filter before you turn it on. When it’s been a while since you’ve used the heater, it can be easy to overlook this. But it is one of the easiest steps to take to ensure your heater keeps working effectively.

In addition to helping figure out the reasons for the burning smell coming from your heater, you can also trust Entek technicians with your other HVAC system concerns and needs. Our highly rated technicians have the expertise and experience to handle any problem. We also recommend an inspection at least once a year, which can help prevent many of these heater issues. You can find more information about Entek on our website. Once you start working with us, we’re sure you’ll see why we are the Portland area’s longest-serving Carrier dealer.


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