First off: Don’t panic. It’s completely normal for your heater to give off a burning smell when you turn it on for the first time after several months of not using it. If you’ve just turned on the heat and you smell burning but your smoke detectors aren’t going off, chances are very good that everything is fine.
Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about why your heater might be putting out that alarming smell. When your heat isn’t turned on for several months, dust collects on parts such as the heating element and the heat exchanger, and sometimes in the ducts. When the heat gets turned on for the first time, that dust burns off, and it can smell pretty bad when it does.
The smell should only last for about forty-five minutes. If it continues for much longer than that, you should get the unit inspected because there may be loose insulation in the ducts or debris inside or around it causing the smell.
Speaking of inspections, ironically, when you turn on your heat for the first time in the fall, the real danger you may face doesn’t have a smell at all. If your heat exchanger has developed holes or cracks over the summer months, turning on your heat could release completely odorless carbon monoxide into your home. According to the CDC, over 150 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States each year, and thousands more go to the hospital for treatment. That’s why it’s so important to have fall preventive maintenance done on your HVAC system every year.
That annoying burning smell will be gone soon, but regular preventive maintenance by a trained technician can help to ensure that your family stays safe and warm all winter long. If you haven’t done it already, why not schedule an appointment today?