woman making a heated beverage

My Heater Smells like it’s Burning? What to Expect when turning on your Heater.

As the holiday season begins, houses begin to smell like sweet notes of cinnamon, pumpkin spice, and everything nice. The long sleeves start making an appearance and for the first time all year, your heater sputters to life.

Suddenly, it starts to smell less like pumpkin pie and more like fire. The distinct smell of smoke starts spreading through your home and images of flames enter your mind.

Your home is on fire!!

Except, it’s not. In fact, it’s pretty normal, there is no need to panic.

What to expect when your turn your heater on for the first time

As your heating unit sits unused throughout the year, it collects dust and other small debris all over. When it heats up for the first time, those particles that settled on the unit burn off and produce that burning smell. The scent should disappear on its own after about 30 minutes once all the debris have been burnt up.

If the smell has not left after those 30 minutes, try switching out your air filter. A clogged filter can make your heating system work harder and overheat, which can cause a burning scent. If the burning smell persists even after you’ve checked your air filter, this could be a sign of a more serious issue, and means it’s time to turn off the unit and call in the experts at Quarter Moon.

As a homeowner, it’s important to be in tune with your house and be able to recognize any danger signs. While the faint smell of burning dust is no concern, there are a few scents that mean danger.

If your heating system smells like:

Musty or Mildewed

This can mean that mold or mildew is growing inside your HVAC system. Mold can trigger allergic reactions or worsen the symptoms of asthma and other respiratory conditions. Mold can also increase your risk of bronchial and fungal infections such as bronchitis or sinus infections, according to the World Health Organization.


A fishy smell coming from your vents could hint at an electrical failure in your system. Electrical components inside your HVAC system are often coated in heat-resistant chemicals that give off a fishy smell when they burn or overheat. An electrical fault in your system is hazardous and should be taken very seriously. Turn off your HVAC system and call a Quarter Moon specialist for help immediately.

Quarter Moon can inspect and maintain your heater

During this holiday season, the last thing you want to be doing is worrying about your HVAC system. Let Quarter Moon put your mind at ease and call us for a heat check. Our experts will inspect your HVAC system to ensure it is in tip-top shape for the demands of the colder months.

Take advantage of our limited-time special and get a free heat check ($99 value) with the purchase of an air purifier.

Indoor air can be five times as polluted as the air outdoors because of the lack of circulation, according to the EPA. Air purifiers remove pollutants from your air and in turn help relieve symptoms of asthma, reduce allergens, neutralize odors, and prevent the transmission of airborne diseases such as COVID-19.

Schedule your appointment today by calling Quarter Moon Plumbing & AC at (210) 651-5899 and get your HVAC system, or plumbing professionally inspected for your convenience!