Larry Cook Heating & Cooling

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

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Burning smell coming from the furnace

The season is changing and the temperatures are getting cooler. During this season, it’s normal for homeowners to prepare their furnaces to be turned on to heat their home. We’ve received panicked phone calls from homeowners after they have attempted to turn their furnaces on for the first time and find their furnaces are not heating their home properly, or, when homeowners notice a burning smell after their furnace has been turned on for the first time.

If you notice a burning smell when you turn your heat on, you should know that a burning smell the first time you turn your furnace doesn’t necessarily mean that you have an HVAC problem. While it’s true that odors from your HVAC system can be a sign of HVAC issues, there are some smells that are common. In this article, we spend time discussing common reasons for furnace burning smells and what you can do about it.

How Long will the Burning Smell Last?

When furnaces are not being used throughout the year, it’s common for dust and other particles to accumulate inside of the furnace. When furnaces are turned on for the first time after long periods of time with no use, often the dust and other particles that have accumulated on the furnace are burnt off. If you notice a burning smell when you turn your furnace on, it’s likely just dust and other particles being burned away. The burning smell should not last long. If the burning smell persists for longer than approximately thirty minutes, or if the burning smell lingers or worsens, then our best recommendation is to turn off your furnace and contact an HVAC professional.

There are odors that should cause concern. While it’s true that an initial burning smell when turning your furnace on may be normal, the following odors are simply not normal:

  • Rotten Egg/Sulphur Odors. If you notice an odor that resembles rotten eggs, there is a chance that you are dealing with a gas leak. Turn your furnace off immediately and call for professional service.  
  • Electrical, Metallic, or Plastic Burning Odors. Does the odor you sense smell electrical, metallic, or like plastic is burning? If so, it’s possible that you are dealing with electrical or mechanical issues. This is an instance where you should contact an HVAC professional to troubleshoot your furnace issue as soon as possible.

Also, keep in mind that burning smells emitting from your HVAC system could be caused by a multitude of issues. For instance, on repair service calls, we’ve found that burning smells from a furnace have been caused by items such as, dirty furnace filters, debris being trapped within the furnace system, and damaged/faulty electrical wiring. It’s always best to be safe, so if you are concerned about whether your furnace is operating properly, call an experienced HVAC professional.

How to Get Rid of the Burning Smell

Seasonal HVAC maintenance is the best way to avoid expensive and dangerous furnace disasters. When it comes to timing your HVAC maintenance appointments, we recommend that our customers schedule maintenance four times a year, in every season. When an HVAC technician arrives at your home during a maintenance appointment in the Fall or Winter, you can expect your technician to complete a comprehensive furnace, air handler, and humidifier check-up and cleaning, inspect your electrical connections, heat exchange and/or heater elements, burner assembly, and fan components, replace dirty filters, check all safeties to protect components, oil motors if needed, and much more. By maintaining your HVAC systems properly, you’ll be able to extend the life and safety of your HVAC equipment. The majority of problems that result in HVAC failure can be prevented if discovered early!

Some HVAC companies recommend their customers only receive HVAC maintenance on a yearly basis. While any maintenance is better than no maintenance, seasonal maintenance is the best way to ensure that your HVAC system is running properly and efficiently.

If you’re experiencing a persistent burning smell emitting from your furnace, turn off your heater and contact an expert. You can reach Larry Cook Heating & Cooling by calling 316-322-5668. We offer emergency HVAC service because we understand that HVAC emergencies often occur outside of regular business hours. 

Do I Need a New Furnace? 

If you are noticing a burning smell coming from your HVAC system that isn’t getting better with time, there is a good possibility that your furnace is not working as it should. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to replace your heating system, but you should contact an HVAC professional to look at your HVAC system to determine what the issue may be to ensure that you are safely heating your home.

If you’re looking for a heating and cooling company that you can rely on in the Wichita metro area, call Larry Cook Heating and Cooling at 316-322-5668. We offer emergency HVAC services because we understand that furnace emergencies cannot be planned. In addition, if you’re considering the installation of a new HVAC system, Larry Cook Heating and Cooling offers free consultations to customize the best HVAC system for your specific needs. We pride ourselves on providing quality service to our customers.

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