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Is the Burning Smell Normal When I Turn on My Heat?

January 14, 2022 | Blog

Have you ever turned on your heater and been surprised by a strange smell? Some smells are normal while others may be a cause for concern, but how do you know when it’s time to call in a professional? Have no fear! At Air Clinic DFW, we’ve created this guide to help you tell these odors apart and when it’s time to make a call.

Types of Burning Smells Coming From Your Heater

Before you call a professional, you should first identify what the smell is. Here are some common smells that may come from a heater or furnace.

Burning Dust

If you turn on your heater for the first temperature drop of the winter season and start to smell burning dust, that is completely normal. During those summer months when the furnace is not being used, dust collects on the unit. This is especially true in Texas, where your AC runs for most of the year. When the heater is turned on for the first time that year, the furnace burns that dust off. If you continue to smell burning dust after the first use, this may be an issue with your air filters and you should check them to see if they need replacing. If the odor persists, give us a call! Your system could need cleaning, repair or replacement.

Burning Electrical Smell

A metallic or burning electrical smell could mean that parts of your HVAC system are overheating. It could also mean that one of your bearings is worn or that you have a wiring issue. If it’s coming from a specific vent, locate it and take a look inside. If you don’t see a foreign object in the duct, it’s time to call one of our professional HVAC technicians at Air Clinic DFW. It could be  a serious issue and needs to be dealt with quickly.

Rotten Eggs

If you turn on your heat and start to smell rotten eggs or sulfur, turn off your furnace ASAP and call your gas company! These smells indicate a possible gas leak and should be taken seriously. This sulfur or rotten egg smell is the product of a chemical compound called mercaptan which is added by the gas company to ensure that gas leaks don’t go unnoticed.

Musty or Earthy Smell

If you smell something earthy, musty or like rotten wood, it could be mold. Mold is a common HVAC complaint because it can technically grow on any surface as long as there is moisture present, but do not take it lightly. Mold can cause flu like symptoms for inhabitants and cause illness that sticks around for years. If you suspect mold in your heater, the EPA recommends hiring a professional to clean out your heating system. Give us a call and we will be glad to help you out.


If you’re smelling a strong chemical smell in your home, your HVAC might need a repair. The heat exchanger could be cracked, emitting a formaldehyde-like smell. If you are experiencing this odor, shut off your system and call us at Air Clinic DFW immediately. Our team of certified, experienced technicians is here to help.

Call Air Clinic DFW For HVAC Repair and Maintenance

Don’t ignore funny smells coming from your heating system this winter. If you’re worried about a smell coming from your heater, suspect you may have a dirty furnace or want to talk about scheduling a repair, give us a call today! Air Clinic DFW is your go-to Dallas heating company and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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