Why Does my Heater Smell When I Turn it On?

By October 14, 2015Heating, HP News, HVAC, Tips
heater smell HVAC Little Rock

The leaves are beginning to turn colors, the flowers are beginning to wilt and the temperatures are starting to drop. While Autumn remains a lot of people’s favorite season, it does mean that cold weather is right around the corner. What does this mean for the temperature control in your home and your HVAC unit? A lot of people are in that limbo stage where they fight with themselves to hold out a little longer before blasting the heat in their homes (because turning on the heat admits that cold weather is here to stay). We’d like to help you take preventative measures in ensuring that your unit is up for the challenges that late Autumn and Winter temperatures have to offer.

As your unit has been used for the last several months to keep you cool, you can imagine that the lack of exercise for your heater during the Summer months could mean maintenance issues out of the gate as it gets chilly. Does your heater smell when you run it? Any smell that your home ventilation system may be emitting means that there is maintenance to tend to; the question is the severity of the issue and how intensive the maintenance needs to be. It could be that there isn’t actually an issue at all. It could mean that it’s a minor issue that you can take care of yourself. But it could also mean that you need to give us a call. Regardless of the severity – any smell merits investigation. So what sorts of smells are you experiencing and how do you go about fixing it?

Dirty and Dusty? – As your heater has been sitting over the last few months it is natural for dust and/or dirt to settle in your registers and ventilation systems. As you flip the heat on for the first time you may experience a minor dusty fragrance. It’s reasonable to assume that this odor will subside as you continue to use your unit. The warm air that is being circulated will kick around the dust that has settled. Over (a short) time, you should notice that the smell dissipates; problem solved! If it does not, it could mean that your filter is old and you simply just need to change it. This is very common, especially if it’s been awhile since you’ve last changed it.

Musty and Damp? – This is also a common problem due to the level of humidity that the Summer months provide. Moisture has a tendency to collect inside of your unit’s filtration system. If you have a humidifier attached to your unit, it could also be attributed to the moisture that has collected in it’s filter as well. These filters should be checked annually. If not replaced, they should at the very least be cleaned. This can easily be accomplished by removing the filter(s), soaking them in equal parts water and vinegar, and gently cleaning by hand with a damp cloth. Be sure to let them air dry before putting them back into your unit, otherwise you are allotting for more moisture to pass through your system.

Electric Smell? – This is one of the issues that could be an easy fix or require the attention of professionals. First step would be to manually check all of your registers and ducting. Sometimes things can fall or be spilled into the register, causing them to overheat and emit an odor. If you have kids or pets, definitely keep your eyes peeled for small children’s toys and/or food. Removing these objects and cleaning these problem spots could be exactly what you need. If this doesn’t resolve the problem, it could mean something with your actual unit could have gone awry and you need to reach out to our professionals.

*Note* – It can also be as simple as opening your registers. If they have been closed and you simply forget to open them back up, that warm air gets trapped in the ducting with no way to escape resulting in a “burning smell.” Unlike cooler air, heat can emit an alarming odor if not circulated properly.

Smoke or Oil – Some of what you’ll read in this section only applies to those that own oil furnaces. This smell could just mean that you need to add fresh oil to your furnace. This is the case if it’s not been changed in a while. Just like a car, dirty or old oil can keep your unit from running with ease resulting in an overheated and overworked unit. If adding oil doesn’t fix it, it could mean that there is a clog in the oil filter; in which case, simply locate and change the filter. A smoke smell indicates that there is a clog in your chimney system, allowing a smoky odor to emanate through your ventilation system.If this is the issue, please contact us at BR McGinty and we will be happy to help you to resolve the issue by unclogging and/or cleaning any problem spots.

Adjusting to the colder weather presents a lot of issues in other aspects of your day to day life. Be sure to take the actions necessary to avoid adding fixing your HVAC unit to the list. Act now by giving us a call and scheduling an appointment  so we can make that difference for you before the colder air decides it’s here to stay!