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Heater Smells Like It’s Burning? Possible Causes & Fixes

girl holds her nose because of a bad smell

Heater Smells Like It’s Burning? Possible Causes & Fixes

For any Tampa homeowner, the last thing you want happening during a cold winter night is your heater starting to smell like it’s burning. Tampa, Florida’s coldest month is January, according to Weather Spark.  It is alarming to smell burning dust on a cold night in January or any other winter night. 

Fortunately, there are a few reasons your heater might be emitting that unpleasant burning odor and some straightforward solutions.

So, if your heater smells like it’s burning? Possible causes and fixes are listed below. Read on to learn more.

Dust in the Heater

With the muggy and hot summer days in Tampa, your air conditioner worked overtime while your heater sat idle. Dust may have accumulated in your heater during those off months.

Dust is usually the number one reason your heater smells like it’s burning when first turned on. However, inspecting your heating unit thoroughly before turning it on for the first time in the winter is a good idea.

How to Fix 

You may not have to call an HVAC technician just yet. Allow your heating system to burn off the dust. The burning odor should dissipate shortly. Depending on how much dust your home can accumulate, an annual cleaning might help.

Old Furnace Filter or Dirty Vents

As a homeowner, consider your home’s indoor air quality when you encounter a musty smell. This musty smell indicates that mildew may have grown in your air ducts.

Unfortunately, a new furnace filter or cleaning a dirty vent may not resolve this musty smell.

Common causes of mildew and mold are hot and muggy summers. Mildew and mold thrive in moisture. The musty smell can be harmful to the health of your loved ones. Mildew and mold can cause respiratory issues and allergies.

How to Fix 

This is an easy fix by simply changing the furnace filter. The furnace odor might disappear. Once you replace the old filter,  recycle the old furnace filter

If the smell doesn’t go away, calling 3H AC to inspect your HVAC system is your best option. 

Electrical Issues

Buildup and a dirty filter are one thing, but electrical smells are signs of a serious problem brewing in your heating system.  Immediately turn off your heating unit if you suspect an electrical issue.

Your HVAC system takes a beating as it works hard to keep your home comfortable. Unfortunately, normal wear and tear or improper installation can cause wires within the unit to malfunction – increasing the risk of disastrous overheating.

How to Fix 

An electrical problem is a dangerous repair for a homeowner. An HVAC technician is the best choice to handle an electrical burning smell. Electrical components may need replacement, and the experts at 3H AC can handle all your heating repairs.

Debris Trapped in the Heating System

Debris, such as small household items and toys that cause the heater to smell like burning plastic, can destroy your heating unit.  Foreign objects will speed up the need for a furnace repair or replacement.

If you encounter a rotten egg smell, this is not a case of debris stuck in your heating unit. Call the fire department and the gas company immediately.  That rotten egg smell is a gas leak.

How to Fix  

Removing a foreign object, cleaning, and replacing air filters can be a simple fix. However, if you can’t reach the foreign object or can’t locate it, call an HVAC technician. 

Burning Smells: Non-Central Heat Sources

One vital thing to remember when using non-central heat sources is to recognize if you’re getting a burning smell. Burning smells can come from a space heater, baseboard heater, or radiator heater.

The following non-central heating sources do not require heat exchangers or heat pumps, but they need repair or replacement if there is a burning odor.

Space Heaters

Heater smells from your space heater can occur for multiple reasons. Frequently it can be dust or the extension cord is getting too much electricity. If the space heater is malfunctioning, turn it off immediately, and replace it. 

Baseboard Heaters

The burning smell from a baseboard heater can be due to dust or a foreign object inside the baseboard heater. Similar to a central heating unit, an electrical issue might also lead to burning odors.

 If the smell sticks around after a few minutes, it’s probably time to call an HVAC technician for a professional inspection – you don’t want any electrical issues going unchecked! 

Radiator Heat

Radiators are not immune to debris and dust. A burning odor can have an easy fix of cleaning or removing a foreign object. However, mildew or mold could also be the reason behind the heater smells. Calling an HVAC professional is recommended.

Can You Avoid a Burning Smell From Your Heater? 

If you do encounter a burning smell from your heater, pay attention.  It could signal a need for a furnace repair or electrical work.  If the smell doesn’t dissipate after a short period of time, or if it becomes stronger, turn the unit off and call for service immediately.

One of the best ways to prevent a burning smell from your heating unit is to change your air filter. But how often should you change the air filter in your heating unit?

You should change your heating unit’s air filter every 90 days or according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Schedule Your Heater Maintenance Today

Don’t ignore a burning smell in the hope that it will go away on its own. The sooner you address the burning odors or musty smells, the better off you’ll be. 

Annual heating system maintenance will ensure your home stays warm and comfortable all winter. Schedule an appointment today!

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