Living in the warmer southern regions of the U.S. means that you rarely need to use the heating system in your home. It’s possible that you only need your furnace for 2-3 months of the year.

It can be alarming when you experience a burning smell in your furnace vents after turning on the heat. What might this smell mean?

Is the Burning Smell from Your Furnace Always Dangerous?

If you’ve recently turned on your heater and it smells like something is burning, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in danger and need to call the fire department. Different burning odors can indicate different problems, and not all of them are serious.

Don’t ignore these smells. Use them to investigate the potential cause and form a plan of action.

This article will help you classify the burning smell from the heater in your house and determine how to respond accordingly.

3 Causes of a Burning Smell from Your Heater or Furnace

Discover three common causes of the burning smell coming from your heater. If you’ve just turned your heat on for the first time this season, there’s a strong possibility that the first cause, burning dust, is the culprit.

However, different smells can indicate different causes, so analyze each potential issue before deciding what to do next.

1. Burning Dust

In warmer southern areas like Houston, your heating system can easily go through 8-10 months of disuse. During this time, it’s common for dust to settle on heating components like your furnace burners or heat exchanger.

burning smell from heater in house

It’s common to experience a burning smell when your furnace comes on for the first time each year due to the burners igniting and burning off accumulated dust. This burning odor can even set off your fire alarms under certain circumstances. However, the burning smell from your furnace vent will generally dissipate after a few hours.

If you’re concerned that the issue could be more serious, don’t hesitate to contact the HVAC team at URETEK Gulf Coast for expert heating repair in Houston and its surrounding areas.

2. Burning Plastic

A burning plastic smell can be a more serious issue than burning dust in some instances. Your furnace or heating system could smell like burning plastic due to faulty parts such as:

  1. Plastic-coated wiring
  2. Capacitor
  3. Fan belt

In other scenarios when your house smells like burning plastic after turning your heater on, it could simply be due to plastic or rubber items that have made their way into your ductwork. If you notice an inconsistent burning plastic or rubber smell, try to isolate the area where the smell is the strongest. Check nearby air vents for any obstructions that could be causing the odor.

burning smell from furnace vent

If you think a serious problem could be affecting you, contact our HVAC team to help with the necessary repairs of your heating components. If the burnt plastic aroma persists and becomes more pronounced, consider calling your local fire department to help prevent an emergency.

3. Electric Burning

Another cause of the burning smell when your heat is turned on could be due to electrical issues. For instance, an overheated blower could give off a burning electrical odor. Most furnaces have a built-in safety shut-off system that powers down the motor of your blower when it overheats, but these safety shut-offs can sometimes fail.

If you’re not sure whether this is the case, you can address the issue by first replacing the air intake filter for your heating unit. A dirty filter can put a strain on your blower, causing it to work harder.

A faulty circuit board is another electrical issue that can give off a gunpowder smell. However, replacing your filters is not always the best course of action when this happens.

If the problem continues after replacing your filters, consider calling the HVAC technicians at URETEK Gulf Coast, or contacting your local fire department if you believe the situation to be an emergency.

URETEK Gulf Coast Offers Quality HVAC Services in Houston

Our team has been serving Greater Houston for nearly 20 years. Our HVAC team (HVAC Technician License Number: TACLB38232E) offers affordable service calls and attractive maintenance and service agreements to keep your home in great condition.

Contact URETEK Gulf Coast today if you’re interested in a Home Fall Check-up from our trusted team!