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Why does my heater smell like it’s burning?

It’s been a long, hot summer, and we’re looking forward to the cooler weather that the coming months will bring. In Florida, autumn means more than ordering all the pumpkin spice we can get our hands on and laughing at our friends up north who have to rake leaves. We know that it actually gets colder in the Sunshine State. As we turn on the heat for the first time in months, it can leave us wondering why does my heater smell like it’s burning? There could be several reasons. Some of them are nothing to worry about; however, others may require immediate attention to avoid serious and possibly dangerous situations. You can resolve some issues with a quick fix. In other cases, you’ll need to call a professional for long-term assurance that your system is safe and working correctly.

Looking for causes behind your AC’s burning smell? Check out our air conditioning guide here!

What do you mean by dangerous situations?

dusty air filter

One of the most common reasons a heater smells like it’s burning is dust that gathers in ducts and on coils during the off season. This will actually result in a dusty smell, and it is nothing to worry about.

On the other hand, if the burning aroma has a mildew odor, this can mean that there is mold in your system. This can be a health hazard that requires a more thorough cleaning of the system, and you should call in a professional HVAC service.  WebMD has a great list of questions to help you determine if there is mold in your system.

If your heater’s burning smell is more electrical in nature, this can be a signal of a serious problem that can lead to a fire. Turn off your system immediately and call an HVAC expert right away. 

What can I do to help?

vacuum cleaner

Dust in the System:  Most times the particles will burn off and the situation will resolve itself. You can ensure that your system is as dust free as possible by regularly changing your air filters. Vacuuming supply and return vents is also helpful; you can remove the vent covers and vacuum the entries to your ducts as well. Pet owners should be sure to vacuum carpets and fabrics often since pet dander can contribute to clogged filters.

Mold and Mildew:  This requires a service call from an HVAC professional who will be able to clean your ductwork and exchanges thoroughly. In fact, allergists recommend having your ducts cleaned every season. Dr. Adrian Casillas of the clinical immunology and allergy department at UCLA School of Medicine suggests it’s better not to be in the house when ducts are being cleaned since the process can release spores and dust into the air (as cited in Carroll, 2013). Waiting several hours after the cleaning, and vacuuming carpets upon your return should help keep your home safe and comfortable.

Electrical Issue:  Again, when it comes to a suspected electrical problem, turn off your system at once, and call a professional.

How can I get long-term protection and peace of mind?

coffee with pumpkin

In order to ensure that your heater runs safely and efficiently now and in the long run, system experts and medical professionals agree that regularly scheduled maintenance by a trusted HVAC service company is best. A reputable company should offer a service maintenance plan, and some plans may even include discounts on repairs. If you’re in Brevard, check out Cool Rays Comfort Club; they’ll not only keep your system up and running, but they can extend the life of your heater as well.

So, while our northern friends are busy battling piles of leaves and icy temperatures, here on Space Coast, we’re enjoying some of the nicest weather Florida has to offer.  Make sure you get the most out of this beautiful season by having your heater checked and serviced.  This way, the only thing burning this autumn will be your desire for more pumpkin spice.

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