What Causes Burning Smell from Your Heater?

Mar 9, 2020

Odors can often indicate that something is wrong, whether it’s something you smell in the refrigerator, outdoors, in your vehicle, or elsewhere in your home. The furnace can sometimes be another source of strange odors, and often that odor is a burning smell. In some circumstances, this can be of concern and warrants a call for a heating and air conditioning service in Snellville, GA. In other cases, this burning smell might be nothing to worry about. Here are some things to help you know when to seek professional help for your heater.

Dirty Air Filter 

Homeowners are told time and again to regularly change air filters, but it’s one of those maintenance tasks that’s easily overlooked because it doesn’t seem to have much impact in the short term. However, a dirty air filter can sometimes produce symptoms that you’ll notice in the form of a burning smell. This happens because the blower motor works a lot harder when the filter is clogged, which causes overheating. The overheating produces a burning smell. It can also produce a smell like burning dirt or dust because a dirty filter causes more dirt to accumulate on the furnace, which burns off when the heating cycle begins.


Dusty System 

A dirty filter gives off a burning odor the same way your system does the first time it kicks on in the fall or winter. This smell is normal when the furnace hasn’t been used for a few months. The dust settles on the heat exchanger and burners, so when the system starts up again, you’ll notice that unique smell everywhere in the home until the dust is all burned away, and the system runs cleanly again.


Gunpowder Smell 

The smell of gunpowder is definitely cause for concern, but not because there’s actual gunpowder burning. If the circuit board in the furnace starts to overheat, it gives off a smell that’s similar to that of gunpowder. The same smell often occurs with an overheated fan motor. This smell shouldn’t be ignored, and you should call an HVAC company right away.


Burning Plastic 

Burning plastic can often mean that some small plastic item has worked its way into the furnace. While it’s unlikely that a small object will cause a fire, burning plastic can give off dangerous fumes that could affect your health. It’s always best to contact the professionals if you smell burning plastic or rubber to make sure the furnace is working properly and to remove any foreign objects.

Electrical Burning 

Electrical burning smells require immediate attention because they can mean that the safety feature isn’t working properly to shut down the system when overheating. This drastically increases the chance of an electrical fire. If you smell a burning electrical odor, be sure to turn off the furnace, and get help immediately.


Oil or Smoke 

The smell of oil or smoke in an older furnace is of special concern because it means that your furnace isn’t burning the fuel properly. It could also mean that the heat exchanger is cracked, which puts you at a high risk of fire and exposure to dangerous combustion byproduct fumes. The furnace shouldn’t be used at all until a technician can check it out.

Call Emperor Cooling & Heating, Inc. today for any concerns or any other needs. They can also help you with your HVAC installation in Snellville, GA, when it’s time for you to replace your system.