Why Does My Heater Emit a Burning Smell When On? | IT Landes
Furnace Repair in Harleysville, PA

After a long time of not turning on your heater, you might realize there is an unpleasant burning smell when you finally do. While it is normal to have a burning smell from a heater that has not been turned on for a while, sometimes the odor might indicate a severe condition requiring an HVAC professional’s attention.

What Is Causing a Burning Smell From Your Heater?

There are several reasons why there might be an alarming smell when you turn on your heating unit. It is always advisable to call a professional to handle significant issues with your heater. However, some issues are not severe, and you can try and troubleshoot them on your own and get to know the cause of the smell.

Below are some of the causes as to why your heater might have a burning smell and some of the ways you can stop it.

Dust on the Heater

A dust buildup on your heater can also cause a burning odor. If you live in a region that experiences varying seasons, it is possible that the heater has not been used for a long time. Therefore, dust will collect on the heater for the time it will remain untouched. After turning on the heater, the dust will start to burn off hence the burning smell.


Dust on the furnace should not be a cause for alarm. If you suspect that dust is the cause of the smell, inspect and see if you notice the dust buildup. While inspecting the dust buildup, do not open or touch the heater. Let the heater run for a while and wait if the smell will disappear or subside. If it remains constant or gets worse, turn off your heater and contact an HVAC specialist.

Trapped Debris in the System

At times, some objects can get trapped in your heating system. Objects might get trapped in the ductwork if you own a central heating and cooling system. There are several vents throughout your homestead if you have a central heating and cooling system. Therefore, you can identify a specific room that has a burning smell. If you identify a specific room, an object is trapped in your vent that is causing the burning smell.


If you successfully identify the object’s origin, try accessing the vent once you reach it, peer inside or open it. You might see a part of the heating system, a toy, or any other object trapped. Safely, try removing the foreign object from the vent and then wait and see if the odor persists. If the smell continues or you cannot safely retrieve the object from the vent, contact a HVAC specialist to help you.

Clogged Air Vents or Furnace Filters

Maintaining your gas heater is vital. It can help prevent a burning odor from your heating system by preventing clogged air vents or dirty filters. The mildew and mold can cause a burnt or unpleasant stale smell when the heater is turned on.


If you notice a stale smell coming from your heating system, turn off your heater after turning off the heater. Clean or replace your filter and then turn on your heater. If a clean filter does not get rid of the smell, consult an HVAC specialist and have them inspect your ductwork.

Faulty Electrical Wiring

A severe electrical problem can cause a burning smell from your heating system. Incorrect installation or ordinary wear and tear can destroy your heater’s electrical wiring. If your wiring is broken, it could lead to a fractured heat exchanger, overheating the blower motor, and other issues you would rather avoid. These issues are severe and need immediate attention from a licensed HVAC professional.


If you suspect that the burning smell from your heater is due to faulty wiring, turn it off and contact a licensed HVAC specialist to fix the issue.

Types of Smells

All the above causes of burning smell have different smells. Below we take a look at some specific examples of the various causes and their associated smells:

Burning Dust Smell

It is caused by accumulated dust on the heater. This can be caused when the heater is turned on after a long time or in seasons where it’s not used frequently. A burning dust smell will be similar to smoke, but you can feel an obvious thick dusty texture. If any visible particles are floating around in the air coming from your furnace, then most likely, this is what you’re smelling.

Electrical Burning Smell

This is caused by faulty electrical wiring. If the wiring is left damaged for too long, it can lead to overheating. This will cause the heat exchanger or blower motor to melt down, giving off a burning electrical smell.

Rubber Smell of Burning Plastic

It is caused by a foreign rubber or plastic that has reached the heating system. The cause of this is usually something that has fallen into the vent system or hardware failure.

Musty Smell

This is caused by mold or mildew that might have grown in your heating system.

When Is it Necessary to Have a Heater Repair?

You can easily fix most of the problems mentioned. However, there are some instances where you could be requiring a complete heater repair. In these scenarios, the burning smell does not reduce even after trying all the quick fixes. When faced with such a situation, there might be a bigger problem with your furnace, and therefore you should call an HVAC expert to look at your heater.

At IT Landes we can also assist you in other heating and cooling solutions such as:

  • HVAC maintenance plans
  • Furnace replacement
  • Buyer’s guide to heat
  • Heating tune-ups
  • Indoor air quality services
  • Air conditioner installment
  • Heat pump installation
  • Cooling systems and ductless heating
  • Humidifier installation and repair

How to Avoid a Burning Smell From Your Heater

Scheduling regular maintenances for your heater with a licensed HVAC expert is one of the best ways to avoid burning smells from your heater. The maintenance should be scheduled at least once a year or twice for specific heating units. Regular maintenance visits will allow the technician to clean your heater and notice any fault in the electrical setting of the system. At IT Landes, you will receive the best maintenance from highly qualified technicians. We will also clean off your heater, preventing any smells caused by a dirty heater.

Are you looking for a quick and reliable fix to your burning smell issue in Harleys, PA? Then call IT Landes now! Our experts will be able to respond and provide you with a quick fix quickly. Moreover, our technicians will also let you know if the issue is due to any damage to your heater or whether it’s just a simple problem that can be fixed easily without causing any long-term harm.

Back To Top