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Why is There a Burning Smell When I Turn on my Heat?

One of our technicians makes needed repairs to a gas furnace in order to restore heating to a local home.

When you turn on your heat and smell something funky, that doesn’t always mean there is cause for concern.

When the days start to get brisk and you finally decide it is time to turn on your furnace for warmth in your Western New York home, nothing is worse than having to open your windows to air out the smell. Don’t panic, a smell coming from your furnace when you first turn it on, isn’t always a bad thing and may be normal. We are going to answer the question, “Why is there a burning smell when I turn on my heat?” and review some of the potential causes for the unpleasant odor.

Common Causes for a Burning Smell Coming from Your Heat

As previously mentioned, when you turn on your heat and smell something funky, that doesn’t always mean there is cause for concern. When you are asking yourself, “Why is there a burning smell?”, take the time to check over your furnace to see if there is any immediate cause for concern.

Let’s review some of the most common reasons that your Western New York furnace may smell like burning when you turn on your heat for the season.

– Dust Burn-Off: Furnaces commonly accumulate dust buildup when they have been dormant and unused for several months. Just like unused items can gather dust in your Western New York home, your furnace collects layers of dust and debris during its off-season. The accumulated dust eventually burns away when you fire up your furnace for the first time. The dust burn-off can send a tell-tale burning odor through your ductwork and to your entire home. This odor should dissipate after a few minutes, and if not, you should contact a local HVAC professional to inspect your furnace for other issues.

– Dirty/Clogged Air Filter: When turning on your furnace for the season, you should ensure your air filter is clean and ready to go. Dirty, unchanged filters are a leading cause of issues with Hamburg, NY and Erie County HVAC systems, including an unpleasant smell. Changing the air filter on your furnace can keep it from putting off a burning smell. With a dirty and clogged air filter, the blower motor has to work much harder, which can cause it to overheat, in turn, creating a burning smell. A clogged filter also causes dirt to collect on the furnace, which will burn off and produce a burning odor when the furnace heats up. Changing your Western New York home’s air filter is important to your furnace and can help to prevent your furnace from smelling like it is burning when you turn on your heat.

– Electrical Issues: If you notice a burning electrical smell coming from your furnace, you should contact a HVAC professional immediately. An electrical fire odor usually smells a bit fishy due to the chemicals and plastic, that are used for coating electrical components, heating up and starting to melt/burn. Typically, furnaces are built to power down when they start to overheat, but if the safety feature is broken, you may notice the burning smell when you turn on your heat. This is cause for concern, as it puts you and your family at risk of an electrical fire.

– Burning Plastic: Before you turn on your Western New York furnace for the year, you should ensure there is nothing in it, touching it, or around it. If you want to avoid asking yourself, “Why is there a burning smell when I turn on my heat?”, you need to be vigilant before you start your furnace for the season. If you smell a burning plastic odor, that could be due to a foreign object being in or near your HVAC system. If you notice this smell, shut off your furnace and contact a local furnace repair expert as soon as possible to avoid breathing in the harmful fumes and a potential fire.

We have only reviewed a few reasons why there may be a burning smell when you turn on your heat for the season. While some are no reason for concern, others could indicate a larger issue.

Having an annual furnace tune-up before you are ready to use your heat for the season, can help you to identify and prevent any potential issues for your system. You should schedule a furnace tune-up every year in the fall. Duffett Plumbing, Heating & AC is your team for heating repair, maintenance, and installation services here in Hamburg and Erie County.

If you turn on your Western New York furnace and have to ask yourself, “Why is there a burning smell when I turn on my heat?”, you should contact Duffett Plumbing, Heating & AC. We’re Hamburg’s Day or Night heating repair team. We’re proud to be there for your home with fast and responsive emergency service. Best of all, we don’t charge you anything extra for work on nights or weekends. All you need to do is give us a call, and we’ll get an experienced technician out to your home as soon as possible. We’re your top choice for heater services in Hamburg, NY.