Why Does My Heater Smell?

Winter is nearly here, and it’s chilly here in Arlington! Now that we’re in the thick of heating season, many people may be starting to notice odd things about their heater, especially those who skipped an annual heating tune-up.

Weird smells are among the most common complaints people have about their heaters. But which smells are normal and which are cause for alarm? As a savvy homeowner, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs of a heating issue and to know when it’s time to call for heating service. Here’s a list of common heater smells and what they may mean.

Heater smells like burning

Identify exactly what kind of burning odor you are smelling. If it’s the first time you’re turning on your heater for the season, it’s normal for you to smell a weird odor as dust burns off the unit, and the smell should dissipate. However, if you smell something like overheated metal or burning plastic, you may have a bigger problem with your wiring or an internal component that isn’t working properly. Immediately turn off your heater and call for service to avoid a potential fire hazard.

Heater smells musty

A musty smell coming from your vents may indicate an issue with mildew or mold. While not an emergency, this could affect the quality of your indoor air and may be an issue for asthma or allergy sufferers. It’s a good idea to have your heater and vents inspected and cleaned.

Heater smells like rotten eggs

If you have a gas furnace and notice a rotten egg or sulfuric smell, you may have a natural gas leak. Natural gas is odorless, so in order to make it detectable, a chemical called mercaptan is added. This chemical is responsible for that unpleasant smell. Since natural gas is highly toxic and can be fatal, it is imperative that you shut off your heater, vacate your family (and pets!) from your home, and immediately call your gas company.

Heater smells like fish

Smell something fishy? Many people assume that they have a dead animal in their crawlspace, but it’s more likely that you have an overheated, burning electrical component in your heater. As this is a serious fire hazard, you should shut off your heater and call for heating service.

Need heating service? Tom’s Mechanical, Inc. is available 24/7 for your convenience. Give us a call today!