With winter just around the corner, the nights are beginning to get real cold and you’ve probably tried turning on the heater in your home, but you smell like something is burning. A burnt smell emitting from your heating system when you first turn it on for the season can be normal, but there are other smells that could indicate a more serious issue that will merit your immediate attention. Don’t fret as I’ll help you figure out if the smell that’s coming out from your heater is harmful or not.
A heater that’s been unused for the past few months will accumulate dust or dirt on components such as the heat exchanger or burners so the first time that you turn it on, those particles will burn away, giving off that burning smell. But this is normal. The smell should go away once all the foreign particles are burned off.
If a musty smell like dirty socks is coming out from your heater when you first turn it on, this is from mold or mildew that has built up in either the heating coils or ductwork. Only a heater with a heat pump will have to deal with this problem for more than a day, since a furnace gets hot enough to kill off the bacteria immediately. The smell will go away on its own, but if it lingers, then you need to clean or change the air filters.
Rotten egg, sulfur and electrical burning smells.
If you ever experience any of these three smells when you turn on your heater, turn it off immediately. The smell of a rotten egg or sulfur is typically emitted from gas furnaces and usually indicates that there is a gas leak. A furnace is fed natural gas through enclosed gas lines. The gas then ignites inside the furnace to create heat and warm your home. However, these gas lines or the furnace itself can sometimes have leaks, allowing the gas to escape the heating system and seep into your home. And a small spark could cause a deadly explosion or ignite a fire. An electrical burning smell also means there is a serious problem in your heating system due to either a malfunctioning motor or a frayed wire and if left unfixed, could burn out your motor and cause a fire. Any of these three smells warrant immediate attention and service from your HVAC company.