Why Does My Heater Smell Like It’s Burning?

Different types of furnace smells can indicate different issues or non-issues. From something as simple as a filter change to more serious issues like an overheated blower motor, learning how to recognize and differentiate the smells can help you save money and time. With the arrival of cold weather, your furnace may be getting its first use in months. It’s common to experience some strange smells the first few times the furnace is used, especially if it’s been inactive for a while. But some smells are a signal your furnace needs maintenance or there’s a more serious problem. Let’s explore some of the different types of smells and what to do if you experience them.

Burning Dust Smells

This is the most common smell when turning on your furnace for the first time in a while. While unused, the unit collects dust. This dust burns off when the unit is turned on, creating a dusty, burnt smell. This odor coming from your vents is usually not a cause for concern. The smell should dissipate within a few hours but, if the problem persists, try changing your air filters.

Oily or Smoky Smells

The smell of burning oil occasionally happens with an oil furnace. It’s important to turn off the heater immediately before changing the oil filter. If changing the oil filter doesn’t solve the issue, contact an HVAC technician as this can be a sign of a potentially dangerous problem.

Electrical Burning Smells

This can be a sign of a serious problem like an overheating blower motor or other electrical component. Properly working furnaces should automatically shut themselves off when overheating begins but, if the safety feature is no longer working, the motor can quickly become dangerously hot. Frayed electrical wiring and other electrical problems can create similar foul smells. Turn off your heater immediately for your safety and contact a certified HVAC technician to come take a look to diagnose the problem.

Musty Smells

Musty, damp or foul-smelling air usually dissipates with time. If not, change the air filter and see if the air quality improves. The smell may also indicate the presence of mold in your unit or vents that require proper cleaning and restoration. Contact Air Pros Heating & Cooling so one of our certified technicians can come diagnose the problem and find a solution.

Gunpowder Smells

The gunpowder smell is a distinctive odor that may be a result of a fried circuit board or fan motor. Turn off your motor immediately as use can further exacerbate the issue. Call an Air Pros Heating & Cooling technician as soon as possible.

Burning Plastic Smells

This is one of the most dangerous smells because the fumes from burning plastic are toxic. Turn off the furnace immediately. It’s not safe to leave the furnace running and continuing to breathe the air. The smell often signals that a foreign object like a toy or packaging may have been caught in or near the furnace. Try to locate the object and remove it. If you aren’t able to find the source of the problem, call us at Air Pros Heating & Cooling for assistance. We’ll find the problem and get your furnace up and running as soon as possible so you can enjoy be toasty warm all winter long.

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