Turning on your heating system and suddenly smelling a strong burning odor can be disconcerting. After all, the last thing you want to risk is something catching fire. Let’s take a quick look at the possible reasons that heaters can produce burning smells and what they mean.
Dust Accumulation From Sitting Idle
It is perfectly normal for a furnace to produce a burning smell at first when it has sat unused for any length of time. When you turn your heating system on for the first time in a season, it will generally always produce a burning smell for a few seconds. This smell results from the dust that collects inside the furnace quickly burning off when it first starts, and it should go away within a couple of minutes at the very most. If you notice a burning smell coming from your heating system any other time, it is something you will want to have checked out immediately.
Overheating and Electrical Issues
If it smells like burning plastic or rubber, it usually indicates that the furnace is overheating for some reason. This can lead to the insulation covering all of its wiring beginning to melt, and this can create a serious fire hazard. The same problem can also be caused by a short or loose electrical connection, but this is less common as it will typically either trip the circuit breaker or cause the furnace not to turn on. This smell is definitely something you want to take seriously, and you should immediately shut off your heating equipment until it can be professionally inspected.
Furnace Flame Rollout
Another possible cause is a flame rollout, which is when some issue causes flames to escape out of the furnace’s combustion chamber. This can allow the flames to reach parts of the furnace that aren’t designed to handle the heat and potentially cause them to start burning or smoking. It can also heat up and singe the outside of the furnace, which could easily start a fire.
Flame rollouts occur due to a build-up of combustion fumes inside the furnace. This typically happens either because the heat exchanger or the exhaust flue is clogged and preventing the combustion fumes from escaping. Due to the huge risk of both a fire and serious damage to your furnace, this is another issue you will need to get taken care of as soon as possible.
If you notice burning smells or any other unusual odors coming from your heating system, our technicians at Xtreme Air, Inc. can inspect your heating system to quickly determine the cause. We service and repair all types of furnaces as well as air conditioners, heat pumps, and ductless mini-splits. Our team also specializes in HVAC installation and maintenance as well as indoor air quality services for customers throughout the Phoenix area. Give us a call today if you need a heating inspection or other HVAC service.