There are a variety of reasons why you may notice a smell when you turn your heater on, especially if it is the first time you have turned your heater on for the season. You need to pay attention to what you smell, the timing and duration of the odor. If possible, you need to determine the cause of the odor. It could be something minor such as a dirty filter, but it could also indicate a major problem like a clog or broken component. The second highest source of house fires in the United States is a result of something wrong within the home owners’ heating system.
It is not uncommon to smell a dusty odor the first time you turn your heater on. Dust can collect in the ductwork or in the heat exchange but it should burn off after an hour or so after turning the heater on. If you smell a damp or musty smell, it could be a result of dirt and dust collecting in the ductwork along with a high level of humidity. There could also be mold tramped in the furnace filter or the humidifier filter if your unit has a humidifier, which could cause that musty odor. If you have a humidifier, the filter of the humidifier will collect mold and will need to be changed or cleaned on a regular basis. If the smell persists, you might need to replace all the filters so they can catch the dirt, mold, and dust blowing into your home.
You could also notice a burning odor. It might smell like burning electrical parts or burning plastic. You will need to visually inspect your unit to see if something has been dropped in the register that might be causing the smell or if something has been spilled in the register or in the ductwork. If after removing the register and doing a visual inspection the burning smell persists, you will most likely need to call a technician to make sure there isn’t a more serious problem in the motor or heat exchanger all within the furnace. If you have a furnace that uses oil, you might notice an oil smell indicating that the oil filter inside your furnace needs to be changed. If you smell smoke, it is most likely the chimney is clogged which will send smoke back through the unit and into your house.
Preventative maintenance is the best way to protect your heating system. Having a scheduled maintenance check up prior to the winter season will reduce the potential for any errant odors in your home along with identifying any areas that may need to be replaced before doing more damage. The maintenance check up should include a change of filters and making sure all the critical components of your heater are checked.
Call Climate Tech Air Conditioning and Heating if you are in need of an HVAC expert to make sure that your heater is running as safely and efficiently as possible.