Burning Smell from AC Unit? Here’s What You Should Know.

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Woman in living room holding her nose from the burning smell from ac unit.

Updated November 3, 2021

We are approaching November in Florida, which means that in the next few months, you are going to be turning on your heater for the first time in months. When winter rolls around, concerned customers often call Scott’s Heating & Air Conditioning to report an odd burning smell from the AC unit 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 an overheated motor.”

What Causes the Smell of Burning Dust?

When your heater 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 is not a cause for concern. However, the smell should disappear in a few hours. If the burning smell from AC does not clear, then further inspection is needed!

What Causes an Electrical Burning Smell from AC Units?

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.

Troubleshooting the Burning Smell from Your AC

  • Check to See If Your Air Filter Is Clogged

    • We all sometimes forget to change out our air filters in a timely fashion. However, if you wait too long, the filter could pile up dust and debris, restricting airflow and straining the motorized components of your air conditioning unit. A similar burning smell could be emanating from these components.
    • Check the air filter and replace if it’s clogged. As a rule, try to change your air filter each month. If you have pets, your air filter might have to be changed out more often.
  • 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 accumulating in the ducts.
  • 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.
  • You May Have a Broken Capacitor

    • An AC capacitor acts as a temporary battery for your air conditioning unit. It starts the motors in your system and keeps them operating by building and storing electricity. AC capacitors can break down for a number of reasons including power surges, overheated circuitry as well as general wear and tear.
    • If the capacitor is not performing optimally, it becomes very easy for the motors to overheat, giving off a burning smell. You will likely need a replacement for the capacitor.
  • Your Belt Drive Motor Needs a Replacement

    • Most AC systems either have a belt drive or direct-driven fans. In a direct drive configuration, the fan motor is connected to a shaft or fan axle which allows the fan blades to rotate at the same speed as the motor. In a belt-driven system, one or multiple belts connect the blades and the fan motor instead of the axle.
    • Over time, those rubber belts could wear down causing a burning smell to emanate from the AC unit. This is as simple as calling Scott’s Heating and Air Conditioning to come replace the belts as part of a maintenance visit.
  • You Could Have Electrical Failure

    • Many of these odors that we have previously discussed have a similar smell of dust burning. However, if you smell something that combines rotten eggs smell with burning plastic, you could be experiencing electrical failure.
    • There are plastic components that surround your wiring. If the plastic components protecting your wiring are compromised, you will notice the odor. Short circuits, worn electrical connections and defective breakers can all cause this issue.

If you are experiencing this smell, turn your system off immediately and call your local AC company.

“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.”

Call Scott!

As we approach winter, it’s important that you check out your system before turning on the heat. A 20-point tune up from Scott’s Heating and Air Conditioning is all you need to ensure that your system is primed and, more importantly, safe to use for heating your home.

Schedule a 20-Point AC Tune-Up

  
 

Scott’s Heating & Air Conditioning is a full-service heating and air conditioning company and a Bryant® Factory Authorized Dealer in Central Florida. Whether you need repair, maintenance, or installation of a new heating or cooling system, we provide efficient, cost-effective, and professional service. When it’s hot, call Scott!

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AC Service Testimonials

I had called many different companies. They all either wanted to charge commercial fees due to ladder size or they couldn't get out for days. I called Scott's on a Tuesday. They had me scheduled for Wednesday. When they got here they quickly realized a 24ft ladder wouldn't be long enough to reach our roof (2 story condo) they drove back to their warehouse to get a 32ft ladder. They then got on the roof and diagnosed the problem and got it fixed. It was decently priced and quick service. We will definitely be using them again if need be
Corey Maul
Corey Maul
1716394428
This is hands down the best AC company in central Florida. Their customer service is outstanding. We use them personally and for our business. Highly recommended!
MYRNA STEELE
MYRNA STEELE
1716209972
Just replaced my AC with Scott’s and it was a very pleasant and professional experience. They came out to service our old unit and showed me exactly what was wrong, didn’t talk down to us and was very upfront about all of our options. During pricing gave us several detailed options and even priced a different manufacturer that I had requested. Didn’t pressure us into one or the other it was very much our decision. Booked everything quickly and it was easy to get a hold of them. When we priced with different providers they were not our cheapest option, however the difference in the quality of service was completely worth it.
Megan McLeod
Megan McLeod
1716042110
Great company with great employees
Kim R
Kim R
1715651256
Terrific company to deal with. Top notch install team and great office support.
ben chernow
ben chernow
1715354897
The Staff at Scott's Airconditioning provided an excellent experience in getting our new air conditioning system installed
Roger Perra
Roger Perra
1715027728
From my first call with Jessica, my appointment with Craig, the salesman, then to my dealings with the installers, Dan and Nate, everyone has been kind, polite, patient, professional and knowledgeable; so great to have a service company provide real service. Would highly recommend Scott's!
Deborah Temple
Deborah Temple
1714731928
Clif the technician was very, very knowledgeable and explained the issue the previous company did not fix. He is an asset to Scott's Heating and AC.
Heather Poulin
Heather Poulin
1714005134
Santiago and Michelle were great. Our AC went out on Sunday night. I called at 8AM on Monday morning and spoke with Michelle, who quickly found us an appointment. By 9AM Santiago was at our home, and by 930 the AC was fixed. They were very helpful, friendly, professional, and knowledgeable. We have used Scott’s for several years now and we are continually impressed by their friendly and knowledgeable employees! We will continue to use them because of their employees!
Tyler Olson
Tyler Olson
1713840294
Extremely satisfied with my new HVAC system from Scott's. I received prompt attention from Craig, our salesperson, with explanations and quotes for units to fit our needs. The installation team, Josh and Will, were professional, courteous, extremely proficient at their job and left not one spec of debris behind. Jessica, office staff, was helpful with follow-up and checked to ensure all my questions were answered and system was working well. I chose this company for their A+ BBB rating and have been very satisfied.
D S
D S
1713611145
Great company! Customer service is top notch and my technician Santiago was professional and took the time to explain everything so I could understand.
Melinda L.
Melinda L.
1712104146
Scott’s did a fantastic job with replacing our HVAC unit. They were kind, courteous and very transparent with their process and pricing. I would highly recommend them!
Emily Eades
Emily Eades
1711119724
Great job Philly, many thanks.
Amazing service, very professional, and affordable.
Phillip Mackes
Phillip Mackes
1710533285
Very professional company from the phone calls to the service rep!I am glad I made that first phone call to Scott's to get my A/C serviced. The tech was incredibly knowledgeable and explained what he was doing and why. I told him he's the only tech that spent so much time servicing my system! He really cares about what he does! Great job! I'll keep signing up for the annual service on the A/C!
Sydney Bingman
Sydney Bingman
1710188390
Great salesperson, installers and product!
Annamaria Zeoli
Annamaria Zeoli
1709924292
Very professional, work very neat and cleaned up and removed stuff. Very impressed with all of the staff and the company.
Scott's Heating & Air Conditioning is one of the very best companies that I have ever dealt with. Each and every employee is very knowledgeable, polite, effecient, and responds quickly to each task. The products and prices are reasonable, and quality is excellent. I highly recommend Scott's Heating & Air Conditioning!
Caca B
Caca B
1709829582
Highly recommend service rep Shaquille was prompt, courteous and very knowledgeable
Mark Rosenblatt
Mark Rosenblatt
1709817835
I know Clif from previous service calls and was so impressed I ask for him by name. This call he was precepting a new tech, Dan Kelly, who has been in the business a long time. Both men are very knowledgeable, professional and eSy to communicate with. Millie and Kim in the office are immediately responsive to any question or concerns. As someone who used to teach customer service and service recovery, this businesses customer service is excellent on all fronts.
Debbie Johnson
Debbie Johnson
1709390516
Been using them for years.
Beverly Parker
Beverly Parker
1708883088
Great team
Tran Lee E.
Tran Lee E.
1707306535
These guy's came out twice to work on my Carrier Heat Pump expeditely. Except for bad fan motor out of the box, they fixed unit quickly and where very professional.
Greg Ashley
Greg Ashley
1706737173
Scott’s heating and air has an awesome team. They are all extremely knowledgeable and their sales team is on point, responsive and helpful. Highly recommend this company!!!
Karissa P
Karissa P
1704341692
This has truly been a 5 star experience, from the time I requested an install quote, up to and including the inspection. I am differently recommending this team and company to everyone I know.
D
D
1703354329
Always honest and does a great job
David Moss
David Moss
1703194429
Tiago and Riccardo were awesome!! Glad they swung by. i will definitely be back
Dame
Dame
1702913467
Scott’s AC is the best in the business. Their technical aptitude is exceptional and the professionalism is over the top. Don’t look any further, Scott’s AC is your solution.
Rick Brisson
Rick Brisson
1701222089
pricing was reasonable and super timely responses
Monique r
Monique r
1700505330
I have always used Scott's because they are the best! This service was for an installation of a new unit. Craig, Dominic, Jessica, Desmond and Sybil were all great! There was a young man who came out to help with the thermostat setup, he was great too. Very nice experience
Wonderful team of professionals. Everything was first rate, the installers were excellent .
Great crew; on time, knowledgeable and professional. Excellent installation of new system.
Linda Baker
Linda Baker
1694146382
Very happy with their work
Eric Garms
Eric Garms
1693329572
Oh my god what an amazing company! I literally called one hour ago and said that my thermostat wasn’t working and there was a knock on my door within the hour! They told us what to do to fix it therefore saving us a $600 bill. They came right away, none of that we can see you in 48 hour junk. Amazing.
Joelle Vick
Joelle Vick
1693328507
They were able to provide me with same day service, friendly and very responsive. Also, I got 2 other quotes and the pricing was the most competitive.
So thankful and impressed! My dad returned home after having open heart surgery to a completely dead HVAC system in the middle of summer. Definitely not ideal. The repair was going to be pricey so he opted for a new unit. A crew came out on a Saturday and did a very clean and efficient install. Highly recommend this company!!!
Brooke Tobben
Brooke Tobben
1692362381
Our AC decided to quit during one of the hottest heatwaves in years. We called Scott's and someone was at the house to give us a quote in 30 min. From the moment they answered our first phone call through the install everyone was amazing, professional and provided a quality product and excellent service. Craig, Jose, Dexter were awesome! One of the new guys brought us a portable unit at 9:30 PM on a Friday so we could sleep. We missed his name, but shout out to him as well (he likes to give high fives). Thanks Scott and team for everything. We highly recommend!!!
Shane Harper
Shane Harper
1692132893
For the past week I've worked with Craig on getting estimates for a new A/C unit, and he has been great at answering my questions and addressing any concerns. Very responsive and knowledgeable, straight shooter and direct! I didn't have to deal with any up-selling like working with a used car salesman (I experienced that with other bigger local A/C companies providing quotes). For these qualities alone I would recommend Scott's A/C, even though I will disclose that we ultimately went with another quote from a family referral of an A/C company. Had that family referral not been apart of our consideration, we would definitely choose and recommend Scott's for new A/C installs and service!
rwoodunder
rwoodunder
1691677447
Dan in sales, outstanding jobgoing over equipment and helping us make what was the best decisions for us on purchasing new a/cinstall, plus scheduling the next day!Boris and Justin were excellent with communications while install and after! very clean, professional taking old out and installing new!ty
T F
T F
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