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Smell Something Burning When You Turn On The Heat? Here’s Why.

As the temperatures begin to fall, many of us are turning off the AC and starting up our heating systems for the first time in months. In some situations, that first gust of warm air may come with a burning odor or other unpleasant smells. These unexpected smells can be worrisome, but they are oftentimes normal. 

The initial burning smell should be nothing to worry about if the smell goes away rather quickly and may find that this smell only occurs when you turn on your heating unit for the first time during the fall/winter season. When your heating system has been idle for months, dust and other debris can collect on your system’s heat exchanger, burners and other heating components. As the particles begin to burn off, your system may start to emit a smoky odor that can cause an initial concern. 

Steps to reduce the smell

If the smell happens when you first kick on the heating system, don’t panic. The burning odor should stop once all of the dust and other particles have burned away completely. To help prevent this smell, it is recommended to replace your HVAC units filter every 90 days. This can help reduce the amount of dust in the ducts and reduce the opportunity for those particles to burn off.

You should check your filter each month to see if it looks dark or clogged (signs to change the filter). It is also recommended that every fall you should replace your unit’s humidifier wick filter and set the humidistat to be between 35%-40% relative humidity. 

The best way to get the most out of your unit is to schedule seasonal maintenance checks on your HVAC unit. We can help.

How to know when to take action

If you continue to smell the same odor over time or the smell gets worse, turn off your unit immediately. Continuing to run the HVAC system can cause costly damage.  A persistent smell can be a sign of something more dangerous such as electrical burning within your unit, overheated motor or a number of other electrical problems. 

Once the unit is off, contact Five Star Plumbing and Air to come and take a look at the unit for a diagnosis. 

Wondering how to stay on top of your HVAC unit’s health? Here’s a quick checklist to keep you in top shape.

HVAC Maintenance Checklist:

  1. Inspect refrigerant lines each month. 
  2. Replace your air filter every 90 days. 
  3. In the summer, turn off water to furnace humidifier. 
  4. In the fall, replace the humidifier filter and turn on the water. 
  5. Clean your AC condensation line with bleach 
  6. Take a look at your AC unit to make sure that it is standing on level ground and is free of debris. 

If you follow this list of maintenance tips, your HVAC unit should run well for a long time. The average unit has a lifespan of 10-25 years, but when you take preventative measures to keep your unit in the best condition you can expect your unit to last closer to the 25 year mark than the 10 year. I

If the burning smell lasts longer than a few heating cycles or you just want a routine check of your unit, give Five Star Plumbing and Air a call to receive upfront pricing and reliable service.