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When Your AC Turns Up the Heat (or Smells Like It)

dirty and dusty air conditioning vent

If you’ve ever noticed a burning smell coming from your AC system, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, this is a common problem that can be caused by different things – and it makes homeowners worry every time!

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the different types of burning smells that can come from your AC system, the likely causes, and what you should do when your HVAC system has a burning odor. So if you’re wondering what to do about that burning scent coming from your air conditioning system, read on!

Your Air Conditioner Smells Like Burning: What Could Be the Cause?

If your air conditioning system smells like a fire, that’s a bad sign. But don’t panic! In most cases, the burning odor is a result of overheated components, a worn-out fan belt, or electrical issues. While these problems can be serious, they can be repaired by a qualified HVAC technician. Let’s break down each problem and learn a little about what’s going on with your AC unit.

Burning Smell: Overheating

woman replacing a clogged air filter for her ac

One common issue that will cause a burning smell is a clogged air filter. When air filters are clogged, it restricts airflow. Sometimes this makes the blower motor overheat and results in distinct burning odors. However, this issue doesn’t usually smell like plastic or rubber. If you haven’t changed the filter in a long time, change it out and restart the system to see if that helps.

If your AC unit still has a foul odor, your overheating motor might have to be replaced. But don’t worry, a qualified HVAC technician can take care of it!

Burning Rubber Smell: Old Fan Belt

Newer systems have a direct-drive blower that connects the AC fan directly to the motor. However, some older AC units have a belt drive blower that uses rubber bands to spin the fan blades, pushing cold air through your home. Over time the rubber belt can create a burnt smell when it becomes weak or wears out due to normal wear and tear.

You’ll be able to smell burning rubber if your overheating belt drive motor is melting or wearing down. An HVAC expert can replace the fan belt and get rid of that smell!

Burning Plastic Smell: Electrical Issues

wall plug with a small electrical fire

If your AC smells like burning plastic, it could be a sign that there’s an issue with your air conditioning electrical components (and even a dangerous electrical failure).

Worn electrical connections, old components, loose screws, defective breakers, and short circuits can all cause a burnt smell when the plastic components surrounding your AC wires start to melt. Burning electrical components can smell like plastic or even rotten eggs!

Overheated circuitry is bad news. Burning wires can start dangerous electrical fires. If you notice that your AC smells like either of these things, turn off your HVAC unit and call an expert (or the fire department if the odor doesn’t go away!).

Burning Dust: Turning on AC Systems for the Winter

Throughout the summer, you won’t turn on the heat. And that means that your heat pump or furnace will collect dust. When you turn on your indoor unit for the first time in winter, the dust burns off. In this case, let the motor run and the scent will go away after a few minutes.

What to Do When You Notice a Burning Smell

woman in her home pinching her nose from a burning smell

The best thing to do when your AC unit smells bad is to turn off the system, especially if it smells rubbery or like plastic. Then, you can either try to resolve the issue by changing the filter – or just call a professional!

Fixing your HVAC system yourself can be dangerous. So get yourself back on track for cool air the safe way, call a company like Cool Rays AC to fix electrical problems, motor bearings, power surges, AC capacitors, and other components. We’re the best AC service under the sun for a reason – so reach out today!

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