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Does It Smell Bad When You Turn On Your Heater?

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If you’re one of our local customers, then you know that winter in California is practically non-existent and that we barely use our heaters/heat pumps. But on the off chance that you actually do get cold in California, you want to make sure your heater is in the best form possible! 

If it’s not, then it’s time for a system replacement or tune-up ASAP. You could be saving so much money every month, let me show you why.

When it gets to winter and the weather starts to cool down, a lot of people will turn their heat on for the season. But it can be easy to forget that those temperatures don’t directly stay constant – turning up your thermostat might feel warm for a few minutes, but soon enough, you might experience a terrible burning smell that persists throughout your entire home. 

Should you be worried?

Bad smell when turning on heat in house

4 Problems That Can Cause a Bad-Smelling Furnace

There are a few likely causes of a smell entering your home when you turn on your furnace or another heating unit. You should always call in an HVAC professional for major issues. But if you just notice something not quite right, the most common causes are:

Dust in the furnace

A common cause of a heater burning smell is dust. If you stop using your heater throughout the nicer months, it will collect dust. When this gathers on components like the heating exchange or burners, your heater might emit an unpleasant smell.

Bad smell when turning on heat in house

If you’re in a region that has seasonal changes, like the Mid-Atlantic, it might be tough to remember when last you used your furnace. The next time you feel a burning smell when turning the heater on, consider that it may actually be because of dust that’s accumulated over time. 

If you don’t use your furnace for months on end, dust will collect on it. And the resulting effect is the release of an unpleasant odor.

Debris trapped in the HVAC system

While your heating system wasn’t in use, somebody might have accidentally dropped something into it. The object could have gotten into the ductwork if that’s how your central heating and cooling are set up. 

If you can identify the smell of a certain room in your house with multiple vents, have a look for any potential smells coming from the vent. There could be something trapped inside that’s causing the odor.

If you notice a plastic- or rubber-burning smell coming from your heating, it’s because something is blocking the vents or ducts somewhere in the unit. Maybe there’s a toy or some other small household item stuck in the HVAC system. 

After turning the heater back on after the warm season ends, there’s often a new plastic-burning smell coming out of the vents.

Dirty furnace filters & air vents

If there is a dirty filter or clogged air vents in your furnace and you don’t clean it, mold or mildew can grow inside your appliance. This can cause an unpleasant musty smell when you turn on the system.

If you don’t change the filters in your heating system on time, it will clog the system and make it smell. Old air filters can also create a musty smell by attracting mold. 

Damaged electrical systems 

This cause results in a more serious problem than the other ones listed. If there’s a burning electric smell coming from your heater/heat pumps, it could indicate you have a serious electric problem. That electric wiring issue could spread throughout your entire HVAC system if you don’t take action as soon as possible!

Furnace Replacements/Tune-Ups

Bad smell when turning on heat in house

You may look at some of these problems and think to yourself: “It’s not that big of a deal I can wait until next month to get this fixed…”

That’s the thought process of 95% of people who have these problems. Be the 5% that makes the right money moves. 

By getting an estimate for a furnace replacement or tune-up as soon as you notice these problems, you save hundreds of dollars by stopping the burning smell in its tracks! 

The reason you’ll be saving money by doing this sooner rather than later is that the longer you wait the more damage will be done. These problems are not a one-time occurrence, it’s a systemic problems that will continue to increase in damage as time goes on. 

Take control of your finances every month and equip yourself with the necessary knowledge and informational toolkit to really understand your old furnace systems. Get that replacement or tune-up as soon as possible!

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