Many smells can be attributed to household problems that are easy to fix; however, if you smell something burning when you turn on your heating unit, there’s probably a bigger problem and it may be time to call in the experts. This is because the smell does not come from your house but rather where it originated: under your home. Several signs can tell you if there’s a problem with your furnace or if the smell comes from another reason.

Why There’s a Burning Smell Coming From Your Heater

There is a waste heat recovery system that works to heat the air blowing out of vents. This system uses a secondary heater, powered by gas or electricity, and creates what you think of as hot air; it also helps cut down on your energy bill. However, this unit is not efficient enough and often ends up heating the earth underneath your home.

The burning smell results from this secondary heater heating walls and insulation, which in turn heats trapped moisture. As the wiring burns, it releases a chemical odor that will linger long after you have shut your heater off.

Is a Furnace Smell Normal?

Generally, it’s completely normal to smell a burning odor when you turn on your furnace for the first time during the cooling season. The smell may not be pleasant, but it’s nothing to worry about since it isn’t an indicator of a larger problem. There are two reasons that you might get a burning smell from your heater.

One reason is that it’s a sign the furnace is working and heating your home. This smell happens when you turn on a fan or blower in your system; during this period, it’s normal to find the odor unpleasant due to the burning wires inside the unit.

The second reason is the smell indicates your heater needs service. If you notice an electric burning smell before turning on your AC, it’s a sign that your heater has a larger issue. Many people neglect to have their heating unit checked regularly and choose instead to let the smell dissipate on its own. This is usually a bad idea. In some cases, the wire insulation will deteriorate enough to affect your system’s performance or even cause a fire.

Is It Possible to Avoid the Burning Smell?

If your system smells when it’s heating up, the cause could be that you have a dirty filter or dust somewhere. In these cases, simply troubleshooting where the smell is coming from will solve the problem.

If you notice an electric burning smell before turning on your HVAC system, it’s important to call in for service right away. This is a sign that your heater has a larger issue and should be inspected immediately to avoid the possibility of an electrical fire or other dangerous side effects.

If you notice any other changes in how your system operates, such as the temperature is different from normal or there’s a musty smell, you might have a bigger problem. In some cases, this could be a sign of mold growing on your filter. Mold growing on your filter must be taken care of immediately before it causes damage to your indoor air quality. If mold isn’t the issue, it may be an indication of a system malfunction that will worsen over time.

What Are Some of the Unusual Burning Smells?

It’s not normal to smell burning regularly. A burning smell indicates that your system needs service. There are some instances, however, where an unusual odor will be more than just a sign of trouble.

If you notice what smells like plastic or electrical wires when turning on your heater for the first time in the season or after working on it, it’s likely caused by sulfur gas. This means that your system has absorbed water or humid air, which in turn causes combustion problems with the wires and components inside the unit.

If you notice a strange odor coming from the vents, it could be a gas leak. This is often caused by an issue with your flue pipe and will require service to inspect and fix the problem. A gas leak could be deadly, so it’s important to call one of our technicians immediately.

Other Types of Burning Smells Coming From the Heater

A variety of different problems could cause other burning smells.

1. The Smell of Rubber or Burning Rubber

This may indicate that there’s a leak in one or more components, such as the belt. This will require service so that technicians can inspect and replace the components that are leaking. If your belt frequently burns through because you use your heater a lot, it may be time to consider replacing your heater.

2. Burning Smell From the Blower Motor

The most common cause of this is that the bearings are worn out and need to be replaced. Also, there could be a problem with your motor’s capacitor, which will require replacement as well. This is often an indication that your heater needs service or repair work.

3. The Smell of Burnt Dust

In many cases, the smell will dissipate after a short period as your heater warms up and air flows through it. In some cases, however, this could indicate dust or other material on your fan wheel or around its motor. This can be cleaned off or removed from the fan, but it’s important to have the system inspected by a professional so that this doesn’t become an ongoing problem.

When Is It Time to Call a Furnace Repair Company?

If you notice any other changes in how your system operates, such as the temperature is different from normal or there’s a musty smell, it’s important to call for service. This could be a sign that your unit requires attention right away.

The smell isn’t always normal, but it’s also important not to ignore the bad burning odor. If you sense something wrong with your unit, make an appointment with our HVAC technicians today for furnace repair or other services. At SDAC Heating & Air Conditioning, we have been the trusted local heating and air conditioning experts for years.

How to Avoid Future Heater Issues

It’s important to have your heater installed by professionals who know what they are doing. The professionals at SDAC Heating & Air Conditioning are highly skilled and can help you get your heater working properly so that you’re not dealing with problems in the future.

Contact the Heating Experts

Our technicians at SDAC Heating & Air Conditioning offer service for both furnaces and air conditioners in Lakeside, CA. Regardless of the weather, our team is ready to help you with all of your heating and cooling needs at any time of the year. Contact SDAC Heating & Air Conditioning today for any HVAC service, repair, or replacement needs. We can also help you with indoor air quality services, humidifier installation and repair services, and more.

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