Why Does My AC Smell Like It’s Burning When I Turn the Heat On?

January 11, 2018

So the temperatures are dropping in your Tampa home and you’ve finally turned on your heater. The only problem is the unsettling burning smell that’s now coming from your AC—is it a problem or is this normal?

The good news is that it’s most likely just your heater burning through a layer of dirt and dust that’s accumulated over the summer.

But there is the possibility that something in your heating system is overheating—or worse—on fire.

So how do you tell the difference between a normal smoke smell and a problematic smoke smell? Read on and we’ll tell you.

Worried that the smoke smell isn’t normal? Just give us a call or schedule online and we’ll quickly send out a tech that can inspect your heating system for problems.

It’s not normal to smell smoke after turning on the heat if…

1. The smell doesn’t go away

If the smoke smell appears the first time you turn on your heat but disappears after a day or two of running the heater, it’s probably normal.

Like anything inside your home, the inner components of your heating system most likely have a thick layer of dirt and dust from not being used for 9 months. And, of course, as soon as you blast that heat, your heater will burn up that dust and debris, creating a smoke smell.

But if you find that the smoke smell doesn’t go away after letting your heater run a few cycles or if the smell appears every time you turn on the heat, it’s most likely a bigger problem. Have a professional inspect the system for issues such as an overheating motor.

2. You see smoke coming from your vents

Okay, so this one’s pretty obvious—if you ever see smoke coming from your vents, that’s NOT normal. You should immediately turn off your heater and call a professional.

Chances are, you have something inside the heating system that’s on fire or severely overheated.

3. There’s a burning plastic, rubber or electrical smell

Burning dust and dirt smells slightly musty. Anything other than a smoky, musty smell means you have a bigger problem.

For example, if you smell a…

  1. Burning plastic or rubber smell, it could actually be a foreign object that’s melting or on fire inside the heating system. Even something as seemingly harmless as a child’s toy or a piece of broken plastic from elsewhere in the furnace can cause a big stink. The worst case scenario is that you have a larger electrical problem. You see, electrical mishaps can cause the plastic wire casings to melt away and create that burning plastic scent.
  2. Burning electrical smell (sometimes described as a sharp, burnt metal smell), it could be an overheated motor somewhere in the system or a cracked heat exchanger. A cracked heat exchanger will leak potentially fatal carbon monoxide into your home so you should call a professional immediately if this is what you smell.

Need help from a Tampa tech?

Just contact us. We’ll send out an experienced tech to inspect your AC/heating system to make sure it’s safe and functional.

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