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Top Reasons Why Your Heater Smells Burnt


Turn on your heater on a cool day, and you’ll likely expect a few things to happen. After a few seconds, you’ll start to feel warm air blow through your vents. But before that happens, you might expect a distinct burning smell to fill the room. This can range from a gentle scent that gives you pleasant memories of cold holidays and breezy mornings to a burning smell so strong, you might be tempted to evacuate the building. 

Experts in home heating repair in Alpharetta recommend that you call a professional technician if your heater produces a burning smell, either around the unit itself or from your vents.

These are the top reasons why your heater may smell like it’s burning, and what the specific types of burning smells may point to.

Burning Dust

A combination of smoky and dusty, burning dust is a common odor produced when you turn on the heater for the first time in several months, typically in the late fall. Dust has settled onto the heat exchanger and other internal components of the heater, then is burned away when you re-ignite the system. Something similar may happen when you use your AC in the spring for the first time.

If the burning dust smell doesn’t go away after the first few days of use, contact a heating unit repair team to inspect and clean your filters or air ducts.


Electrical Fire

An electrical burning scent is cause for more concern, especially if you have electrically powered heating and cooling units. The blower motor in your heater may be overheating, even though it’s designed to get very hot. While most furnaces will auto-shut-off if they sense overheating, this safety feature can potentially fail. Clogged filters and grates on the unit are common causes of this alarming scent.

Other causes include frayed wires, a fried circuit board (which may also emit a gunpowder odor) or other urgent power issues that need immediate repair.

Burning Plastic

The unpleasant scent of burning plastic often means that a foreign object is inside the furnace, or something near the furnace is igniting. Never store objects beside or around your heater. Turn off your heater immediately to prevent a fire, then inspect the area around the heater. If you can’t find the source of the fire do not–under any circumstances–try to investigate the inside of the heater yourself. This is incredibly dangerous. Call HVAC installation and repair technicians to inspect the unit safely.

Oil or Smoke

A smoky, oily odor you could almost associate with an outdoor grill or fireplace may signal an issue with the gas or oil supply that powers your unit. Turn off the heater right away. Then call for home heating repair in Alpharetta to inspect the fuel system in your heater and prevent a hire. If you leave a gas or oil heater running under these conditions, the heater can catch fire.

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