The cold time of year has finally arrived, and if you’re like many homeowners, you’re finding yourself cranking up your home’s thermostat far more often. You may have noticed that sometimes, usually when you first turn your heater on for the season, it’s producing a strange burning smell. Many people tend to be concerned when they experience this odor, but it’s not something that you should panic about. In many cases, it’s a completely normal and harmless occurrence. However, there are certain scenarios in which it shouldn’t be ignored, as it can sometimes be indicative of a problem with your furnace. By learning to understand the meaning of any furnace odor you encounter, you’ll be able to respond appropriately and be proactive about keeping your equipment functional and your household healthy.

What Does That Smell Mean?

There are multiple things a burning odor from your furnace can mean, but the most common cause is completely harmless. If you’re noticing this burning smell only when you first turn on your heater, especially after not using it for a while, it’s probably just a layer of dust being burned off. This is particularly common at the start of winter. If your heater has been sitting dormant for a significant amount of time, it’s only natural that a layer of dust is going to build up both on and inside of it. When you first turn up the thermostat, that layer of dust will be immediately burned off, resulting in an odd smell that should only last a few minutes. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about.

However, if the burning smell you’re noticing doesn’t go away quickly, it could be a symptom of a more serious issue. If what you’re smelling resembles the odor of burning plastic, it could mean that one of your furnace’s components is worn or wearing out, such as the fan belt or capacitor. It could also mean that some of the wiring insulation inside your appliance is melting, which could indicate an electrical fault. Alternatively, that smell might be telling you that the blower motor is overheating, which is most commonly caused by a clogged air filter. If you notice this persistent odor, your first step should be to turn off the heating system and check to see if the filter needs replacing. If that doesn’t seem to be the case, you’ll want to bring in a trained heating technician to get to the bottom of the issue. For residents of Albany and the surrounding areas, our team at Grasshopper Heating & Cooling is available and always willing to help.

Can That Smell Be Avoided?

Because the burning smell when you first turn on your heater is being caused by dust accumulation, your best bet to avoid it is by preventing that dust from building up. There’s no guaranteed way to completely avoid dust buildup, but there are a couple of ways to minimize it. Replacing the furnace air filter is a good place to start. The air filter is what prevents dust, dirt, and other small debris from building up inside of your heating system. If it isn’t changed out regularly, though, it gets dirty and clogged, and it’s no longer able to do its job effectively. If you replace it at the start of winter and on a regular basis going forward, you can minimize how much dust builds up in the furnace, and there won’t be as much of it to burn off.

Another good option is to invest in a furnace tune-up. Cleaning out the interior of your heating system is typically a routine part of any maintenance visit. This will remove a lot of the dust that has already built up and should, at the very least, minimize that burning smell. Lastly, removing dust from your home in general can help as well. Consider regularly wiping down your surfaces with a wet rag. Take any cushions or rugs outside and shake them out. This way, there will be less overall dust around to make its way into your heating system’s workings.

Since 2016, our experts at Grasshopper Heating & Cooling have been offering high-quality comfort services to the Greater Albany area. Our top priority is allowing the residents of our community to stay comfortable throughout the entire year. We are proud to be a woman-owned and -operated company, and we continue to build our reputation for reliable heating and cooling services, including installation, repair and maintenance. We treat everyone like family, and we want our customers to have a great experience in their dealings with us.

You can count on us to handle your comfort needs. Call us up at Grasshopper Heating & Cooling today, and make an appointment with a friendly member of our team.

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