Why Do Heaters Smell Like They’re Burning When First Turned On?

Why Do Heaters Smell Like They’re Burning When First Turned On?

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There are many smells that remind us of winter. For some, it’s the smell of pine trees or a holiday dinner in the oven – for others, it’s that smell you notice when you first turn on the heat for the season. Many Atlanta homeowners become concerned because their heater smells like burning when it’s first turned on, but do you really need to worry? Find out why this odor occurs, if it’s safe, and if you can avoid it.

Why There’s a Burning Smell Coming from Your Heater

In Atlanta, heating systems sit dormant for much of the year. As furnaces and heating systems rest throughout the spring, summer, and fall, dust settles within the equipment as air continues to circulate throughout your forced air heating and cooling system. 

When the first cold day comes and you want to fire up your furnace, this fine layer of dust will burn off furnace components after the system starts up. Your heater smells like burning when first turned on due to the smell of burning dust.

Is a Furnace Burning Smell Normal?

Generally, it’s completely normal that a heater has a burning smell when first turned on, and you don’t need to worry! In most cases, this odor dissipates in an hour or so. As long as the smell of burning doesn’t continue for more than a day, this odor is just a normal occurrence.

Can the Burning Smell Be Avoided?

Some Atlanta homeowners don’t mind a burning smell when they turn on their furnace for the first time, while others do. While the heater smell is a normal part of starting the system for the season, there are some measures you can take to reduce it.

  • Have a furnace tune up performed before heating season. This service includes cleaning your heating system interiors, which removes much of the dust that typically burns off at first use. As long as your heating system receives maintenance ahead of that first cold day, the burning smell will be greatly minimized – if not avoided altogether.
  • Change your furnace filter. With a new filter in place, dust particles are captured so they don’t continue to recirculate into your living areas, causing the odor to linger. A clean filter allows proper airflow so the odor filters out quickly, whereas a dirty filter can cause it to stick around.

Burning Smells That Aren’t Normal

If your heater emits a burning smell when first turned on, it’s likely normal. If you smell a distinct burning odor when using your furnace throughout the year, this is cause for concern.

  • A burning plastic smell can result if the furnace has worn-out components, such as a fan belt or capacitor. Call your HVAC technician to replace them.
  • A burning plastic smell can also be caused by melting wiring insulation inside the furnace, which can occur if there is an electrical fault in the system. Turn your furnace off and have your trusted technician fix the issue.
  • An electrical burning smell could also be caused by an overheated blower motor. Check your filter and replace it if dirty, as restricted airflow due to a clogged filter is a common cause of overheating. If the smell continues, call your HVAC technician.

Contact Estes for Furnace Services

Don’t be bothered if your heater has a burning smell when first turned on! Avoid this odor with a heating tune up from Estes Services each fall. When burning smells don’t seem normal, contact us for quick furnace repairs performed by our NATE-certified furnace repair technicians.