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Burning Smell When you Turn on your Furnace?

Updated: 2 days ago

Your AC kicks on and you’re hit in the face with a horrible burning smell–all the sirens in your head are definitely going off at this moment. What’s that smell? Is something burning? Is my AC broken? Is my house burning down?!

match burning that smells like furnace just turned on

Although a burning smell is definitely not a great sign, seldom is it the harbinger of a housefire, as long as you make sure to act quickly once you smell that dreadful smell. There are plenty of reasons for your AC to smell like it’s burning that don’t include a housefire, which we will talk about below.

Most common reasons for that burning smell

You need to replace the electrical components.

What does it smell like? If you’re smelling a burning, plastic scent with a hint of sulfur, it could be the electrical components. This could mean that the plastic casing surrounding the electrical components is overheating, melting, and malfunctioning. This could be a sign of bigger issues and can also cause bigger problems, meaning it needs to be taken care of immediately.

What do I do? If this is the case, it’s vital to turn off the AC immediately and phone for professional help.

The belt drive motor.

What does it smell like? If it smells like burning rubber, it could very well be your belt drive motor overheating. After much wear and tear, the rubber belts in some air conditioners can start to wear down and even begin to melt.

What do I do? Replacing the belt and possibly replacing the belt blower if it has become damaged or worn down as well.

A broken capacitor.

What does it smell like? If the smell is plastic and is stronger when you’re near the outside vents, it is likely that your capacitor is broken. The capacitor is a vital component that helps the motor run, and without it, the motor can quickly overheat and cause a burning smell.

What do I do? Turn off your AC unit immediately and call for professional help to have your unit checked out and have your capacitor replaced.

An overheating motor.

What does it smell like? If it simply smells hot and burnt, it could be an overheating motor. This can be caused by a myriad of reasons, like bearings wearing out over time.

What do I do? Turn off your system and let it cool down. You can then go in and lubricate the bearings in the motor. If this doesn’t solve the problem, you may have to replace your motor. Call professional help.

Clogged air filters.

What does it smell like? Burning, possibly burning hair. If your air filters haven’t been replaced within the past few months (especially if you have pets), this could be causing an unpleasant odor. Since air filters are meant to capture and hold pollutants, like dust and hair, from circulating the home, clogged air filters can emit a really unpleasant smell. Likewise, a clogged air filter can complicate air flow, making your AC work harder, and thus causing it to overheat.

What do I do? Replace your air filters immediately.

Dust is burning off.

What does it smell like? Simply burning. If you turn on your AC (or heater) after much disuse, dust could have very well collected on your unit and is being burned off as it runs. If this is the case, the smell will usually dissipate. However, if you find that the smell persists, it may be a bigger issue.

What do I do? If the smell does not go away after a short period of time, call in a professional to have a look.

Call us

Need help with a strange smell coming from your AC or heating system? Please, don’t hesitate in giving us a call here at Tri-Point Refrigeration. We’re happy to hear from you and are excited to help you along the way.

For a direct line to any of our employees ready on the line to help you, please call…(512) 651-4565 for our Austin, Texas community (806) 686-0050 for our Lubbock, Texas community. Or check out our website at


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