Warming your home during the cold season is essential to your comfort and even your survival. Usually, that’s not a problem. You merely have to turn on the heater and wait for the magic to happen. In a short while, your home will be warm and cozy. Sometimes, however, turning on the heater might be accompanied by a burning smell.
If the situation doesn’t correct itself on its own within a few minutes, it should provoke your concerns because it could indicate a fault with your equipment. You might want to turn off the device to prevent permanent damage and inspect the system to determine the exact cause of the problem. If a simple solution isn’t immediately obvious, it is advisable to call in an expert to help you diagnose and fix the issue. For residents of Salem or the nearby areas, Woodward Heating is always available to lend assistance. We don’t recommend DIY fixes because they could damage the furnace further, result in secondary problems or even pose the danger of personal injury.
Before delving into the different reasons for what might result in your heater producing a burning smell, it’s worth mentioning that this occurrence isn’t always cause for alarm. New heaters sometimes react in this fashion. After installing a new heater, there is a high chance that you’ll notice a burning smell initially, but this should go away after a brief interval. Unless it persists, it’s perfectly innocent.
In fact, so is the first item on our list below. Beyond that, however, you should consult an expert if your heater continues to emit a burning smell. It can often mean that your heating system is suffering from a serious problem. Let’s consider some of the main culprits.
Dust Buildup in the Heater or Furnace
The most common reason for the burning smell when you turn on an older heater for the first time in the season is a buildup of dust accumulation burning off. It’s the result of disuse over the summer and the settling of dust inside the equipment. This smell lasts a few minutes and stops. It is normal and safe. If the burning smell doesn’t die off in a few minutes, then you should call for an expert’s help in determining the cause.
Debris in the Vents
Debris could fall inside the vents, especially in central HVAC systems. Children playing around them might drop plastic, rubber, cloth or other solid debris inside. When exposed to heat, these items could burn, and that might be the reason for the smell you’ve noticed.
After detecting a burning smell, you can conduct a simple search to determine the source. Check your vents to see if there are any objects inside them. If you can’t remove them safely or isolate the cause of the problem, call in professional help.
Clogged Air Filter
Your air filter is actually a vital component of your equipment. It prevents dirt, dust and debris from entering your system and fouling the operation. However, you have to remember to inspect and change it routinely. An old air filter that has done its job properly will have accumulated a thick layer of detritus. This blocks the necessary air circulation into your system. The equipment has to work much harder due to the restricted airflow, and that could lead to a burning smell coming from the ignition chamber or blower. If a clogged air filter forces the blower to work harder than normal, it can cause the motor to overheat.
Clogged filters can also allow dust and dirt into the furnace, which can build up. This can cause a burning smell similar to the one that occurs at the start of the cold season when the furnace is first used after a long period of neglect. In this case, however, the smell won’t go away until the issue is corrected. If that’s your problem, it’s one you can handle on your own. A professional will perform this task during a tune-up, but you don’t need to call one in merely to change the filter on your heater.
Faulty Internal Components
When the burning smell recurs every time you turn on the heater, it implies that the furnace has a serious issue. You could hunt for the cause of that to no avail. The fault might lie with a compromised or broken part within your system. If internal components are damaged, your heater could emit a burning smell when ignited. The issue could be with various parts of the furnace from the fuel lines to the ignition chamber. It might also be that some of the wiring inside your appliance is melting or shorting out, indicating an electrical fault. In this situation, a professional inspection is in order. After the inspection, you’ll have a clear picture of the cause of the burning smell, and the technician will help you address the problem.
Burning Smells Coming From Portable Heaters
If you use decentralized heaters to warm your home, a burning smell could indicate burning objects around the device. It could be clothing, drapes, carpet or debris. As soon as you notice the burning smell, react swiftly by turning the heater off. You can then inspect the area around the heater for any burnt objects. The area immediately surrounding such a device should always be kept completely clear, and one should not be left unattended when it’s turned on.
A system malfunction can also cause a burning smell in decentralized heaters. Issues with the internal compartments or the power source could cause the wiring or plastic parts of the heater to burn. Even debris in the internal components can result in system malfunction and fire. Inspect the outside of the device for charring. If you can’t seem to locate the exact cause of the problem but you still smell a burnt odor, chances are there is an internal malfunction. Take the device to a service shop for inspection and repair.
If you are using an electric heater to warm your home, a burning smell could also indicate an issue at the power source. This type of device should always be plugged directly into a wall outlet, not a power strip along with other items. You also shouldn’t run one off of an extension cord. These practices pose fire hazards.
Professional HVAC Assistance Locally
Are you looking for a local HVAC expert to assist you in solving an issue with a burning smell coming from your home’s central heating system? At Woodward Heating, we’ve assembled an entire team of them, and they’re at your disposal. Our NATE-certified technicians perform heating and cooling installation, repair and maintenance, and they can handle all makes and models. We assist people throughout Salem and all of Marion County, and we’ve been doing it since 1989. You can also rely on us for gas piping, fireplaces and any concerns you have about indoor air quality. Our company is certified by both the EPA and NCI, and we’ve built a reputation for excellence over the years. If you’d like to arrange an inspection, consultation or service appointment, call us today.