Does your heat smell like it’s burning?

First time firing up your heater? Find out what odors are normal and when to get expert help

A burning smell coming from your heater when you turn it on for the first time doesn’t mean it’s time to call the fire department. However, you shouldn’t ignore it either. Some odors are common and some may be a symptom of a potentially dangerous problem.

Man smelling air from heat ventShutterstock Photo By Serenethos

Now that temperatures are falling, many of us are firing up our heating systems for the first time in months. For many of you, (that’s why you’re reading this after all) that first rush of warm air may come with a burning odor or other unpleasant smell. What is it? Should you worry? Let’s find out.

Burning dust smell

WHAT IT IS: This smell is most common when you turn on your heating unit for the first time of the season. After a long period of time without use, dust and other debris can settle on the heat exchanger, burners and other heating components. You may get a smoky odor as these particles burn off.

WHAT TO DO: Not to worry. That smoky odor should stop once all dust and other particles are burned away. If the smell lingers over time or gets worse – turn off your unit and call your heating and cooling expert for emergency maintenance.

Musty smell

WHAT IT IS: A must or mildew smell coming from your heater is usually a sign of mold or mildew in either your heating system or ductwork.

WHAT TO DO: In some cases, the buildup is attached to dust and other debris that will eventually burn off. If the smell doesn’t go away, you should first clean or replace your filters. If your filters are new or cleaning doesn’t improve the smell, contact your local Trane Comfort Specialist™ to clean and inspect your ductwork.

Electrical burning smell

WHAT IT IS: A burning electrical smell could mean you have a serious electrical problem. If your unit is damaged or defective, the blower motor can overheat, which would explain the smell. It could also just be damaged electrical wiring. Even more troubling, an electrical burning smell can be a sign of a cracked heat exchanger – a serious and potentially dangerous problem.

WHAT TO DO: Get help. An electrical burning smell is a symptom of a serious problem. Turn off your unit immediately and call an expert for help.

Schedule seasonal maintenance

The best way to get the most out of your unit (and avoid unwanted odors and issues) is to have a Trane Comfort Specialist™ inspect and service your heating and cooling system regularly. We recommended:

  • Air Conditioner – Service once a year. Schedule in spring before hot weather arrives.
  • Furnace – Service once a year. Schedule in the late summer or fall before cold weather arrives.

Still have questions or want to schedule your seasonal maintenance? Contact your local Trane dealer today.