Nine Reasons Why Your Heater Smells Like It’s Burning

When the cold weather finally comes, everyone suddenly remembers their home heating systems. And after quite a long time, the heater is active again to maintain comfort in the homes. However, there is a small issue — the heater produces a burning smell.

Is this a big problem that requires professional attention, or can you handle it on your own? This is a question that many people may ask themselves if they notice something is wrong.

Well, it all depends on the cause of the smell. Consequently, you need to understand why the heater smells like it’s burning. 

Continue reading to learn the answer to the question, “why does my heater smell like burning matter?”.

Top Reasons Why Your Heater Smells Like It’s Burning

  1. Dusty Furnace

Most homeowners might not use their furnaces often, especially those in warmer regions or during the summer months. As a result, the furnace accumulates a lot of dust. The dust will eventually settle on some parts of the furnace, such as burners or heat exchangers.

During the cold season, when you activate your heater, the chances are that you will start smelling the burning dust. This burning smell usually comes from the vents that connect to your home’s heating. And the smell will circulate throughout the house.

Luckily this should not concern you too much, as the smell does not last for long. Simply examine your unit without touching it and look out for any dust buildup. Let the unit run for about ten minutes to check whether the smell disappears or subsides.

If the smell gets worse, switch off your heater and reach out to a professional, like one of the experienced technicians at Anderson Air.

  1. Burning Plastic

If you’re wondering, “why does my heater smell like burning plastic?”, the answer is simple. The burning plastic smell is a result of foreign objects accessing your heating unit. These objects might include pieces of food packaging, bottles, or toys.

Burning plastic smells contain fumes that are harmful to your family’s health. So, switch off your heater anytime you notice an odor of burning plastic and examine your floor vents.

If there is visible plastic, you can get rid of it. If it isn’t, reach out to an HVAC technician.

  1. Clogged Air Filter

If your heater smells like it is burning, there is a possibility that your system is overheating due to overworking. And overheating might result from clogged air filters.

For this reason, check on the air filters. The problem could be that they are clogged and need changing or cleaning. Always change them frequently to guard your unit against the consequences of dust and dirt buildup or clogging.

  1. Bacteria and Mold Buildup

Another reason why your heater might be smelling like it’s burning is due to bacteria accumulation. If you notice the musty smell or a “dirty sock” odor, it is a result of the bacteria. This burning smell from the heater is almost similar to that of burning dust.

Usually, the bacteria buildup is due to instant usage after a long time. And to remove this unpleasant smell, you should replace your furnace filter regularly.

Mold can also be another reason for this smell. Cleaning your air ducts is the best way to get rid of that mold and the burning smell at the same time.

  1. Electrical Burning

Are you wondering, “why does my electric heater smell like burning matter?”. If that’s your concern, here is one major cause. Failure to power off automatically.

In most instances, heaters are built to power off whenever they overheat. In case that feature in your heater is damaged, the heater will end up smelling like it is burning.

Unlike other causes of the burning smell, this one is a serious problem. For instance, there is a risk of an electric fire if the electrical furnace is overheating.

If it is not taken care of by a professional, the electrical fire can lead to major losses and even deaths. The technician will examine your system thoroughly if you happen to smell electrical burning from your air vents.

  1. Oil Filter

Oil filters are another reason why your electric heater smells like it is burning. That funny smell from your heater might be an indication that there is a problem with your oil filter.

To resolve this problem, replace the oil filters as soon as possible. If the smells still persist, you should contact an HVAC professional immediately to properly maintain your heater. Also, ensure that you replace your air filters after every three months or as required.

  1. Damaged Heaters or Furnaces

In other cases, a burning smell from your heater is an indication of a damaged furnace. There are a lot of issues that cause your furnace to malfunction – the main one is forgoing maintenance.

Since you probably cannot handle a damaged furnace on your own, seek assistance from an HVAC technician. They will examine your entire unit to determine what the damage to your furnace is and rectify the issue.

  1. Faulty Electrical Wiring

A burning smell from your furnace might also be a result of faulty electric wiring. That’s right!

If you notice that your heater is smelling like it’s burning, and it’s not because of the above-mentioned reasons, check on the unit’s wiring. Incorrect installation or general usage can cause problems to your system’s electrical wiring. Damaged electrical wiring tends to emit a choking smell. If it is not contained, it can cause respiratory issues or worse.

An overheating blower motor or a cracked heat exchanger are other major causes of faulty electrical wiring in your unit. These are major problems that need the attention of a licensed HVAC professional. But before contacting them, switch off your system immediately.

  1. Fan Motor Overheating

The fan motor is a very important component in an HVAC system. If the fan motor overheats, it will undoubtedly produce that burning smell.

Usually, the issue produces odors that smell more like gunpowder. And an overheating circuit board will also produce a similar smell.

To resolve these two issues, switch off your system and contact a professional for help. Never fix any internal components of your HVAC unit on your own if you don’t have the necessary experience or skills. It might lead to even more damages or losses.

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