Why My Heater Smells Like Something is Burning

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As cold weather arrives and it’s time to turn on the heater, you may wonder why there is a burning smell coming from the heater. While this is concerning for many homeowners, there are several reasons your heater is giving off a foul smell. The Torrance HVAC team at Total Home Environmental has a few troubleshooting tips to help you locate the source and prevent future issues. Why Does My Heater Smell Like It Is Burning?There can be more than a few reasons for a burning smell to be coming from your heater. Let’s discuss these reasons and when to call for service in greater detail. Dust On the CoilsHave you ever turned on the heater before the first cold snap and noticed that the furnace smells like burning hair? The most common reason for a burning smell is dust on the furnace coils. Since most homeowners rarely turn on the furnace in the summer months, dust can settle on the coils, heat exchangers, and burners.Turning on the heat triggers the component to heat up and burn the dust, causing a burnt smell throughout your home. Fortunately, this is a common issue and should disappear as the heater runs for several minutes. You can check the coils and see if you notice any dust. However, if the smell gets worse or does not disappear, call your local company for help. Burning Plastic SmellIf your furnace smells like burning plastic, feeling alarmed is normal. The good news is there is a simple reason for this smell. If you smell plastic when you turn on the heater, chances are a few toys, or other items made their way into the vent. Bottles, toys, or plastic packaging are a few things to check for in the unit. Remove the items if you see them; if not, call your local professionals. If the electric heater smells like burning plastic after you remove the items, turn the unit off and call for help. Bacteria & Mold GrowthAnother reason you may wonder why your heater smells like it’s burning are bacteria and mold growth. This issue can often smell like dust burning on the coils. You may also notice a musty odor like an old clothes smell. Bacteria and mold growth take a long time to build up, so keeping your vents and air ducts clean is important to prevent this growth. The best way to do this is to change your furnace filter every few months.  Dirty Air FilterIf you’re wondering, “Why does my heater smell like burning plastic or dust,” you may want to check your furnace air filter. Dirty air filters can clog your system and prevent proper airflow. This issue makes your unit work harder and eventually reduces its lifespan. Your furnace’s oil filter is another reason you may notice a burning smell. The issue is likely more serious if you still smell the odor after replacing the air and oil filters. Electrical Wiring FailureWhen a heater overheats, it usually shuts down to conserve power and maintain safety. However, if you smell a burning odor, it’s likely because the heater did not shut down when it overheated. This means the automatic shutoff feature is damaged, and you should immediately call for professional help. Damaged HeaterDamages to the heater can also cause a burning smell to spread throughout your home. If one component overheats or stops working, but the heater is still running, you may notice a strange smell. The number one cause of a damaged heater is a lack of maintenance. Keeping with regular heater maintenance is essential for extending the life of your heater. Schedule annual maintenance with your local professionals so they inspect each part and ensure your system is working properly. Issue With the Fan MotorThe fan motor is an important part of your HVAC system that circulates hot and cold air throughout your home. If it overheats, it will cause your house to smell burnt. Turning off your system and contacting your local company is the best thing to do. Other Heater ConcernsEven if you don’t smell a burnt smell from your furnace, but you smell a gunpowder or rotten egg odor, this is cause for concern. A rotten egg smell could mean a gas leak in your home, and you should get everyone out quickly. Turn off the furnace if you can, and call your local gas company immediately. If you notice a gunpowder smell, it’s likely you have an overheated fan motor or circuit board. This can happen if your system is older and needs a replacement. Call your local HVAC company and schedule a visit right away. Contact Us For ServiceWhen you need help with your furnace in Torrance, California, contact the team at Total Home Environmental for service. We will schedule a time to come inspect your furnace and offer the best solution for your home. We look forward to working with you.  

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