Every autumn and winter-, fire departments receive frantic calls from residents turning on their heat after months of disuse. While it’s always good to be cautious about HVAC issues, chances are that burning, musty or otherwise strange odor probably has a non-alarming cause.


Not surprisingly, a dusty smell in the air is caused by actual dust in your heating system, which doesn’t see much action in the warmer months. Fortunately, the cause of that odor — turning on the heat — is also the cure. As air circulates through the heating ducts, the slightly burning, dusty smell will soon dissipate, often within the hour, as those particles burn off.


Sometimes the debris that’s collected in your heating ducts over the summer smells less like hot dust, and has more of a damp, musty quality. That’s often because the debris and dirt has picked up the smell of your basement, or has taken on some mildew. Again, it doesn’t amount to much to worry about in terms of the condition of your heating system, but it may indicate a need to change your air filters.


A burning smell is obviously among the most worrisome of all. If it doesn’t dissipate right away, it may not be dust burning off, but can still have a relatively simple explanation. Sometimes small items fall into radiator grills, or a minor heating component needs replacing.

Still Worried?

Occasionally that burning or odd smell may have a more urgent cause, like a short in the system or a problematic motor. If there is smoke, or an oil-like odor, contact us. We’ll be happy to check it out for you and repair any issues.