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During this time of the year, the fire department usually receives a lot of calls reporting a burning smell in their house. This happens after turning a heater on for the first time after a couple of months. Anybody would be alarmed by the burning smell, and it’s reasonable to call a professional, whether the fire department or your HVAC service experts, to check if something is wrong. The good news is this smell is completely normal once you turn your heater back on after not having it on for a while. However, there are instances that it can mean trouble.

It’s important that you pay attention and make sure there really is no risk of a fire or damage to your unit. Here are some reasons why your heater might emit the odor and what you can do to fix and avoid it.

It’s the First Time You’ve Used it in the Winter

The most common reason, as mentioned above, is that it is the first time you’ve turned your heater back on since last winter. Dust might have settled in your system during the time it wasn’t being used and maybe stirred up once you use it. Dust will burn off quickly and the smell should go away soon.

The Filter is Clogged

If your filter is dirty and clogged, the dust might move through your furnace, causing an intermittent burning smell. You need to check and replace your filters to avoid this. Another option is to use reusable filters that can save you money. Once your filter is clean, the smell should not be a problem.

Have a Proper Clearance

Foreign materials should not be placed beside or near the unit or vents. When your heater is being used and something is placed too close, there is a chance that it may become hot and might burn. Check for fabric, plastics, or any flammable material near your unit and remove it. Regular inspection should also be done by a professional for such clearance to ensure safety.

Other Cause

If you start to smell something burning, you should immediately check your system and look for possible causes mentioned above. But if you smell something different, like gas, do not let time pass by, and be sure to call a professional for help right away.


Most of these instances are totally preventable and should not be a cause of worry. Before fall, you should already have your system inspected by a professional to make sure it will serve you better as winter comes. While the dust that is causing the smell can burn off and will be gone eventually, it is still important to have it checked since it can leave a residue that can cause harm to your heater. Remember, preventive maintenance is the key and should be done regularly. It can help you sleep warm and comfortable during your winter nights while also being sure of your safety.

Keeping yourself comfortable during the winter season should not mean being worried about the risk of a fire. Comfort Experts can keep your home safe by conducting maintenance service regularly and by answering any questions you may have in regards to your heater repair.

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