Turning on the heat in your home for the first time? Scott’s Air explains that strange burning smell and why you should pay attention.

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Ooh that smell? Can’t you smell that smell? When winter rolls around, concerned customers often call Scott’s Heating & Air Conditioning to report an odd burning smell when they first turn on the heat. It may be a sign that your HVAC system needs minor maintenance, or a more costly problem could be looming.

“You should never ignore a strong burning smell,” said Scott. “While it is most likely just burning dust particles, it could be a blocked duct or overheated motor.”

Try to find the source of the odor to avoid costly repairs in the future. Scott offers the following tips:

What causes the smell of burning dust?

When your heat is not used for long periods of time, dust can collect on the heat exchanger and in the air ducts. When the heat is turned on, the dust burns off and releases an odor. It is normal for dust to burn off when the heat is turned on for the first time in the winter season and not a cause for concern. This smell should disappear in a few hours.

How do I get rid of musty odor smells in the heater?

Schedule regular HVAC system maintenance and inspect the filter once a year; replace or clean as needed.

What causes an electrical burning smell?

If you notice an odor that smells like burning plastic or burning electrical parts, it could be something more serious. For example, a foreign object in your HVAC system’s ductwork could start to smell once it gets overheated. Remove your air vent registers and visually inspect them. It could also be something more serious, such as an overheated motor or cracked heat exchanger. If the smell persists, call Scott’s Air to check the HVAC’s electrical components.

Could it be system damage?

Something other than dust may be burning. Your HVAC system can also overheat due to age, wear, and lack of AC maintenance. If the smell does not go away after a bit, you should turn off your system and call a professional HVAC technician to evaluate the problem for you.

Closed vents could be an issue

If too many of the vents in your home are closed or blocked off, then it could be a reason for that burning smell. Your HVAC system tries to push out all the warm air to your home but when the vents are shut off, that air becomes trapped, causing a variety of issues for your system. Unlike cool air, you can actually smell too much heat being accumulated.

“With winter coming, it is time for us to take a look at your heating system and perform maintenance to keep it working at its peak efficiency,” said Scott. “It doesn’t get too cold for too long in Florida, but when it does, we want our heat to work properly without emitting a nasty odor.”


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