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Why is There a Burning Smell when you Turn on the Heat?

There are quite a few smells that remind you of the winter season. For some people it is frosted pine while for others it is the smell of firewood or even the smell that occurs when you first turn on your heater. However, experiencing a burning smell when you turn on the heat causes concern for many homeowners.

If you are experiencing a burning smell that doesn’t go away after your heat first kicks on and runs for a few minutes then it’s time to call in the professionals. There are many things that can cause this burning smell, however it doesn’t always mean that something is wrong! In this blog we will discuss why there may be a burning smell when you turn on the heat.

Is this Smell Normal?

The first question that probably crosses your mind if there is a burning smell when you turn on the heat is, “is this smell normal?” And generally the answer is yes! In many cases the smell will dissipate within an hour or so however, if the smell continues for more than a day then there is a much bigger problem occurring.

Reasons Why There is a Burning Smell When You Turn on the Heat

In Virginia, heating systems typically stay dormant for a large portion of the year. So while your furnace and heating system are resting during the spring, summer, and part of fall dust will begin to settle within the machine. Which is the first reason we want to cover in regards to why there is a burning smell when you turn on the heat!

Dust on the Furnace

Dust on your furnace is probably the most common reason why there is a burning smell when you turn on the heat. As we mentioned before, in Virginia it is common for the furnace to stay off for a long stretch of time allowing dust to collect on its surface. Because of this when you turn your heat on for the first time this dust will begin to burn off and create a burning smell throughout your home.

Damaged Electrical Wiring

On the more serious side, the reason why there is a burning smell when you turn on the heat could be the result of a serious electrical problem like damaged electrical wiring. General wear and tear over time or even an incorrect installation can cause damage to your system’s electrical wiring. Damaged wiring can result in a variety of problems such as the blower motor overheating or a cracked heat exchanger. If you think this may be the cause of a burning smell when you turn on the heat you need to contact an HVAC professional immediately.

burning smell when you turn on the heat

Debris Trapped in the Heating System

The next culprit that may be behind the burning smell when you turn on the heat is trapped debris. While it may seem like debris could not possibly get trapped in your heating system, the fact is that over time small particles will accumulate within your furnace. This can be caused by a variety of factors such as burning leaves near your HVAC unit or even an animal making its home inside! It is even possible that an object accidentally fell into your HVAC device or into the ductwork if your home has central heating and cooling. If you do have central heating and have multiple vents throughout your home try your best to pinpoint the smell to one room. If you are able to do this then it is quite possible that there may be something trapped inside your vent that is causing the burning smell when you turn on the heat.

Dirty Furnace Filters & Air Vents

The last thing we want to discuss that may be the cause behind a burning smell when you turn on the heat are dirty filters and air vents. Taking the time to have regular heating maintenance services is essential to preventing a burning smell when you turn on the heat. If your furnace has dirty filters or the air vents are clogged it can result in mold or mildew to grow inside of your ductwork causing a strange and unpleasant smell when your system is turned on. Regularly scheduled maintenance will help to prevent this from occurring.

Can You Avoid the Burning Smell?

While some people don’t mind the burning smell when you turn on the heat, some people do. While this smell is typically a normal occurrence there are some things that you can do to reduce the potency of the smell.

Burning Smells to Worry About

While the burning smell that occurs when you first turn on your heat is most likely normal there are some smells that can happen that are a cause for concern.

We can Help if There is a Burning Smell When You Turn on the Heat!

If you have been experiencing a burning smell when you turn on the heat, give our team at Express Tech Air a call! While it may be just be your furnace kicking back on after a few months of being off, we are here to help ensure that there is nothing working improperly within your furnace during the cold winter weather!