Why Your Heater Smells Like It’s Burning

Feet in wool striped socks by the fireplace.

In Florida, we are privileged to enjoy mild winters. When that temperature does dip, it’s nice to have a working heating system to take the chill off. But after months of sitting dormant, you might notice a burning smell when you first turn it on. Now in general, a burning smell coming from your heater is common—no need to panic. However, it’s important to be able to identify the type of burning smell and determine if it could be more serious. Let’s explore the types of burning smells you may encounter and what to do.

Burning Dust

Anything that is not used regularly when tend to collect dust—especially if there’s no routine maintenance. Same goes for your heater. If you notice the smell of burning dust when you first turn on your heat, it could due to a dirty or clogged air filter. As the heat passed through the filter, it may give off the smell of burning dust. This is why regular maintenance is important. We recommend checking and changing your air filters every 30–60 days.

Dust can also collect in the heater and cause an initial burning smell. As the dust burns off, the smell should go away after a cycle or two. If the smell persists, request an appointment with an Air Hawk technician. We will help determine the best solution to keep your home comfortable—without the smell.

Burning Plastic or Rubber

No one likes the smell of burning plastic or rubber. If you notice this smell when you first turn on your heat, there could be a foreign object such as a toy somewhere in your heating system. Burning plastic can potentially give off hazardous fumes. When you smell burning plastic, immediately turn off your heat and locate the object. If you can’t find the object after a thorough check of your system, contact Air Hawk immediately.


An electrical smell is never a good sign. If you smell electrical burning when you turn on your heat, there might be an issue with the blower motor. Typically your system should automatically shut off when it gets overheated—if it doesn’t, it’s likely due to a malfunction or serious damage. If not handled immediately, your system could get dangerously hot. Do not hesitate, call Air Hawk immediately at (813) 929-4295 and request an appointment.

The smell could also be from exposed or frayed wiring. If you believe there might be an electrical issue, do not attempt to fix it yourself. Please contact a professional immediately. It could also be from a cracked heat exchanger which can be very dangerous. Again do not hesitate, call the Air Hawk team without delay.

While a burning smell is quite common, you shouldn’t just ignore the smell. It’s important to make sure there isn’t a more serious underlying issue. If the burning smell continues beyond a heating cycle and you can’t seem to identify the cause, contact Air Hawk. We will send one of our NATE-certified technicians to help diagnosis the issue and get your system working efficiently.

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