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Why Is My Heater Making a Burning Smell?


Autumn in Massachusetts! It’s time for fall festivities, planning your Thanksgiving holiday, spending more time indoors, and turning up the heat to stay cozy. But what is that burning smell coming from the heater? Oh, no! Is it an emergency?

This is a common concern, and we’re happy to help you sort through what’s going on. It’s quite likely you can handle this yourself with a little guidance, but we’ll also cover what to do if you can’t resolve the problem and you do need heating repair in Boston.

Dust on the Heater

It’s entirely possible that your only problem is dust. We’re not saying your house is messy! The parts that heat up (the heat exchanger in a gas furnace or the heating element in an electric furnace) generally develop a bit of dust during the summer period of disuse. You shouldn’t try to access or clean those parts yourself, although if you do schedule regular maintenance, this is part of what the technician will do. If you wait (and perhaps air out the house a bit) the dust will simply burn away. In an hour or so, the smell should vanish.

Dust in Other Parts

Perhaps dust has gathered in your ductwork. Again, this will resolve itself in a short time. In this case, it’s not so much that the dust is burning. It’s just being carried out on a waft of hot air, likely scented by the burning dust from the heater itself. Or perhaps you have a boiler, with registers throughout your home that have been collecting dust. It may help to wipe down dust around vents or registers.

Clogged Filters

You should be able to change the air filter in your heating system yourself. If it has a thick layer of dust on it, any hot air being forced through it will smell like hot dust. That layer also makes it harder for the heater to do its job, decreasing efficiency and increasing wear and tear, so it’s important to change it anyway. If you’re unsure how to do that, check your owner’s manual, or reach out to us for a little direction.

When You Need a Professional

If cleaning the filter, wiping down dust, and waiting an hour don’t seem to resolve the problem, and the smell of burning persists, it’s time to call in a qualified professional. The burning smell could be caused by a problem with a motor, electrical wiring, or the heating element. Because this is a safety concern, contact us right away. A member of our team can determine the exact cause, provide a solution, and get you back to enjoying your fall festivities, safely, in your cozy home.

Reach out to Cooling Unlimited, Inc. with any questions or concerns about your heater or to make an appointment for heating repair.

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