Why Is There a Burning Smell When Turning on the Heater?

Furnace repair in Anaheim, CA

Some people try to delay turning their heater on for as long as possible for the first time of the year. Once you take the leap and turn it on, you may notice a burning smell. While it’s not unusual to have a light burnt smell for a short period when you turn a unit on after a prolonged period off, a more intense or longer-lasting burning smell signals a potential problem. Our professional technicians at Alps Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. are here to help Orange County homeowners with all their furnace needs.

Causes of Burning Smells

The most common cause of a burning smell, when you turn on a furnace, is dust accumulated on the furnace during the off-season. You’ll notice a slight burning smell as the excess dust burns off. Typically, this will only happen once during the season as long as you’re using the furnace regularly. If the burnt smell is more intense or lasts longer than a short period, there could be a different issue. While some of these are simple, others are more complex and require immediate action. Some of the potential causes include:

  • Clogged burner
  • Dirty air filter
  • Overheating components
  • Items blocking vents
  • Electrical issues

The only way to know for sure is to have an experienced technician out to determine what’s going on. Ideally, you’ll schedule a furnace inspection and maintenance appointment before you need to use the heater for the first time this year. This gives our technicians a chance to clean up the unit and spot anything that needs to be addressed without you having to sit in a cold home until the appointment.

Addressing These Smells

The way you address the burning smell depends on the cause. Having the furnace cleaned during an inspection and maintenance appointment can prevent dust-related burning smells. The inspection can also provide you with other steps to take so the furnace can last all winter long without failing. During the inspection, the technician can open the furnace and dust off internal components. Not only can this prevent the burning smell, but it can also help the furnace to continue to work as long as possible because clean components can work better than dirty ones.

The technician will also replace the air filter. A clean air filter won’t smell burnt because it doesn’t have accumulated dirt and contaminants. Typically, the air filter needs to be changed once every one to three months, depending on the air quality within your home. Our technicians can tell you how often they recommend and get you on the schedule for these filter changes. In some cases, the issue with the burning smell is dust burning off in the ductwork. Having the ducts cleaned may be beneficial. If this is done and the furnace has been cleaned, the issue may be that there are items too close to the vents. The heat coming from the vents can cause furniture and other objects against them to heat up.

If the cause is due to electrical issues or worn components, repairing or replacing the items can alleviate the possibility of a burning smell. Addressing these issues promptly is crucial because burning components or electrical wiring can lead to fires and other very serious issues. Furnaces are made to last 15 to 20 years if they’re properly maintained. If a furnace is nearing the end of its life, you may start to notice burnt or stale smells coming from it. This could be due to components that are completely failing. At this point, the question becomes whether you want to pour more money into the current unit or if you want to invest in a new unit.

Schedule Furnace Maintenance Today

You shouldn’t have to play a guessing game about the smells coming from your home’s furnace. Having a pre-season furnace inspection done by our team at Alps Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. unearths any potential issues before they become major problems. A primary benefit of having a furnace inspection and maintenance appointment is that you can improve the unit’s efficiency. A more efficient furnace can provide consistent heat without causing an exorbitant increase in your heating bill. Apart from heating systems, we are also proficient in servicing cooling and indoor air quality systems, making us a comprehensive HVAC maintenance company.

Schedule a furnace inspection and maintenance appointment for your Orange County home with us at Alps Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc..