With temperatures dropping here in California, you might have finally turned on your heater after a long time. However, what should you do if it has a burning smell? This blog will go over why it’s normal and what causes the burning smell when you turn on the heater.

What Causes the Burning Smell

When people turn on their heater and get a burning smell, they panic and worry if somethings wrong with their heater. First of all, that burning odor is relatively common and, in most cases, harmless. This is likely to happen after not using the heater for a long period of time, such as at the beginning of winter. However, it can also be indicative of broken components or electrical problems. If so, then some maintenance or fixing will be required.


When the furnace isn’t used often, dust and dirt can settle on the burners and heat exchangers. When the heater is turned on, the dust will burn away, thus causing that commonly known burning smell. The good news is that this smell usually clears up after a few minutes. This is not indicative of a problem with the heating system.

Clogged Air Filter

Your heating system’s air filter could be clogged with dust, pet hairs, and other debris. When the hot air passes through the filter, it can also create a burning smell. The solution to this problem is to simply replace your air filter with a new one. This is a simple fix that can easily be done. It is recommended that you change your air filter regularly to avoid this problem. If the burning smell continues after changing the air filter, then the problem can be coming from a different issue. You may need to call our technicians for an inspection of your heating system and repair.


What Causes the Burning Smell When I Turn on The Heater?


Wiring Issues

In rare cases, the burning smell can come from your system’s electrical system. These types of problems aren’t common but do happen from time to time. It is important that you get to the bottom of that smell before continuing the use of your heater. For this issue, we recommend calling a professional. Especially if the burning smell is mixed with the odor of burning plastic. One of our Atlas HVAC heating and air technicians can help fix the issue.

Not-So-Normal Smells that Require Professional Attention

While that initial burnt or dusty smell is fairly normal, there are also a few different smells that indicate different problems. If you smell one of the following odors, then your heating system may need professional attention:

  • Musty/Moldy Smell – This smell could be caused by a mold or bacterial buildup in your HVAC system. Another source can be the growth or organic growth on your cooling coil or evaporator. Either way, both require professional cleaning by an HVAC contractor.
  • Rotten Eggs/Sulfur Smell – Whenever you smell rotten eggs or sulfur when gas appliances are in use at home, then you must immediately leave the premises and call the gas company. Gas leaks are dangerous and should be handled by a professional.

Although the burning smell that comes from your heating system is fairly common, it’s important that you know all the different issues that can arise from these weird odors. The best way to avoid problems with your HVAC is to conduct a yearly maintenance. We are currently offering a performance check-up special at the special price of $49.99! At Atlas HVAC Inc, we use the latest methods to inspect and diagnose your heating and cooling system. If you’re thinking of performing HVAC maintenance, then give us a call at (877) 452-8527 or visit our website.