Why Does My Heater Smell Funny When I Turn It On?

Here in Anaheim, CA, we’re only just now beginning to use our heating systems with any regularity. Our long So Cal summers mean that we rely on air conditioners more than heaters, and only now has the weather gotten cool enough to justify extended use of the system. Homeowners turning their heaters on for the first time may discover an unpleasant smell emanating from their vents. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon and it’s certainly nothing to panic about. It does usually require the services of a technician to properly diagnose and address, however.  The cause of smells in the heater varies by smell, but can include the following:


Burning smells that persist often come from components overheating, especially electrical components or rubber. Modern furnaces have an automatic shut-off feature that will turn the heater off is a component is overheating, but older heaters may not have such a feature.

Rotten Eggs

A rotten egg smell typically arises from a gas leak, which is a very dangerous state indeed. Again, more modern furnaces have safety features that will turn the furnace off rather than risking a gas leak, but if you spot this smell, turn the heater off and clear the home of occupants.

Dust and Dirt

Dust and dirt will naturally accumulate in your heating system during the long hiatus, and it’s perfectly normal to smell burning dust when you first turn the system back on. If the burning smell continues, however, it could indicate a problem. Changing your air filter may help – it should be changed on a regular basis regardless – and if you haven’t scheduled a maintenance session since last winter, that’s an excellent way to get rid of that dust and dirt.

If you detect an odd smell coming from your heater when you turn it on, shut it off immediately and call the experts at JC Mechanical Inc. today!

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