Life has so many to-do lists, it can sometimes feel overwhelming. Buying groceries, paying bills on time, making sure the kids do their homework, preparing a work presentation. So it’s completely understandable to groan in frustration if you turn on your heater, only to realize it smells like it’s burning. One more thing to worry about.
Strange smells should never be ignored, especially those coming from your HVAC system. Your system isn’t meant to smell, and if it does, that could be a sign of a very serious problem.
In the spirit of making life easier for you, below we have listed the most common reasons why your heater may smell like it’s burning.
8 Reasons Your Heater Smells Like Burning
If a burning smell erupts from your heater when you switch it on, there could be a number of possible culprits. The best thing you can do is to learn what could be causing the problem so you can put an end to it right away.
1. Overheating Heater
If it has been a while since you changed your system’s filters, then a clogged air filter could be the reason for that burning smell. It’s possible that all the dirt and debris stuck to your air filters is obstructing airflow, which in turn, causes your heater to work harder than it should. When this happens, the motors can overheat and start to emit that burning smell that is flowing through your house.
Although there are many factors that influence how often you should change your air filters, a good rule of thumb is to at least check them once a month and always change them at the start of a new season.
2. Burning Dust
Leaving your heater off all summer may be the cause of your burning smell. Living in Florida, it’s pretty standard to leave the heater untouched for most of the year. Because of this inactivity, dust particles start collecting in the air ducts.
Once you finally turn on your heater, all that built up dust burns off, emitting a burning odor. This smell then gets sent through your vents and into your entire home.
This is generally a problem that will only happen once a year when you first turn on the heat for the winter. However, if you want to prevent this unpleasant stench, don’t skip your. Your HVAC technician will clean your entire system, preventing this problem.
3. Your Heater Needs to Be Replaced
If your heater was installed over a decade ago, it may be time to replace it. One of the most common signs that it’s too old is if you often find yourself having to call for repairs.
Another sign that your heater is working harder than it should is that in addition to the burning smell, your electricity bills are higher than usual.
4. Electrical Malfunction
Sometimes, it’s more than a lack of maintenance causing the burning smell. If your heater is still letting out a smoky odor after its initial startup for the season, it could be a sign of a much bigger problem. Electrical shorts and other malfunctions may be occurring in your heater, leaving your HVAC unit and home in danger. If you have a constant smoky smell coming from your vents, turn off your system and call an HVAC professional at once.
5. Burning Electrical Wires
Sometimes the issue is something more serious, like burning electrical wires. For the most part, the heater should shut off on its own, but to play it safe, turn off the breakers that send power to your system to eliminate a fire hazard and call an electrician.
6. Gas Supply Issues
While this may smell somewhat like there’s something burning, it’s accompanied by the unpleasant odor of rotten eggs. If this is the case, turn off the heater, ventilate your home as much as possible, get everyone outside, and call your gas company immediately. It’s better to overreact than to risk carbon monoxide poisoning.
7. Cracked Heat Exchanger
If the burning smell comes accompanied by the smell of chemicals, there may be a crack in your heater’s heat exchanger. This may happen if your system wasn’t installed properly, if it hasn’t received adequate maintenance, or simply if your heater is very old.
8. Rodent or Large Bug Died Inside the Ducts
Since heaters emit hot air, it’s only a matter of time before it starts burning off a dead mouse or roach that may have gotten stuck inside your air ducts. Even though this sounds disgusting, only worry about this possibility if, in addition to the burning smell, you get a whiff that something is decomposing.