Winter is quickly approaching, and the nights are already starting to get cold. Chances are, you’ve probably already had to turn on the heat in your home at least once. Did you notice a weird smell? A lot of people notice strange smells coming from their heating systems when they first turn them on for the season. Some of these smells are perfectly normal and harmless, while others can indicate a more serious issue that needs to be fixed. Here is a short guide to help you figure out what might be making your heat smell when you first turn it on.

Heat Smell #1: Dusty or Burning Smell

If you detect a dusty or mild burning smell when you turn on your heat, don’t worry—this is normal. Your heating system has been sitting unused for the last few months, so dust, dirt, and debris have inevitably settled on the heat exchanger, burners, and other components of your heating system. When you first turn on your heat, those particles will burn away, giving off that dusty or burning smell.

The smell should go away as soon as all the foreign particles are burned off. If the smell continues to linger even after a few days of running your heat—or if the smell gets worse—then you need to turn off your heat and call a professional HVAC company to take a look at your heating system to find and fix the cause of the problem.

Heat Smell #2: Musty or Mildew Smell

Does your heat smell like dirty socks when you first turn it on? This type of musty smell will occur if mold, mildew, or bacteria has built up in your heating coils or ductwork. Only those with a heat pump will have to deal with this problem for more than a day; a furnace gets hot enough to kill off bacteria, but a heat pump does not produce that level of heat. Heat pump coils will typically only reach between 105 degrees and 130 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the perfect temperature for microorganism growth.

This may sound like a scary problem, but you don’t have to worry because it’s easy to fix. If the smell does not go away on its own, the first thing you should do is clean or replace your air filters. If that doesn’t work, you should contact an HVAC company to clean and inspect your heating system and ductwork.

Heat Smell #3: Sulphur or Rotten Eggs Smell

If you notice a rotten egg smell when you turn the heat on, you likely have a serious problem that you must deal with immediately. This heat smell is typically emitted from gas furnaces and usually indicates that there is a gas leak in your home. A furnace is fed natural gas through enclosed gas lines. The gas then ignites inside the furnace to create heat and warm your home. However, sometimes these gas lines or the furnace itself can have leaks, allowing the gas to escape the heating system and seep into your home. If there is a leak in the gas lines, a small spark could cause a deadly explosion or ignite a fire.

Noticing this type of smell when you turn on your heat means your home isn’t safe. You should turn the heat off and evacuate the building. Contact an HVAC professional immediately for emergency service so your heating system can be repaired.

Heat Smell #4: Electrical Burning Smell

An electrical burning smell is not a normal smell when you turn on your heat. This type of smell means you have a serious problem in your heating system. The cause could be a malfunctioning motor, a frayed wire, or another electrical problem. Electrical problems can be very dangerous, and repairing the damage they cause can be quite costly. If an electrical problem goes unfixed, it could burn out your motor or, even worse, cause a fire.

Any time you notice an electrical burning smell, you should always turn off whatever is emitting it. To avoid household fires and expensive repairs, you should immediately turn off the heat and call an HVAC company so one of their professionals can find the source of the smell and fix it before it can harm your heating system or your home.

Get Your Heating System Checked by an Experienced HVAC Company

If you detect any strange smells when you turn on heat for the first time, the best thing you can do is contact a reputable HVAC company to have a look and see what the problem is. An even better plan of action is to schedule maintenance on your heating system before it’s time to turn the heat on. This way, an HVAC professional can make sure everything is in proper working order so that you won’t run into any weird smells or other issues when the time comes to switch on the heater.

City Heating and Air Conditioning has over 50 years of experience offering quality HVAC maintenance and repair in East Tennessee. Our HVAC technicians are trained to provide honest and reliable service that will keep your heating and cooling systems operating as they should be. If you notice any issues with your heat when you turn it on this season, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We will respond as quickly as possible to find the source of the problem and provide the right solution. You can also sign up for an annual maintenance contract through which we will service your system twice a year to stop any potential problems before they can start. Whether you need to fix a problem with your heat or want to schedule preventative maintenance before turning your heat on, City Heating and Air Conditioning can help. Give us a call at 865-938-1005 today to schedule HVAC repair or maintenance with the best HVAC company in Knoxville, TN.