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2018

Having an odor come out of your HVAC system is a red flag. Sometimes, the bad odor will go away, especially if you haven't used that system in a long time. Although in most cases, a burnt plastic odor, or a musty smell could mean there's a bigger problem that needs to be investigated. So, you are noticing your HVAC unit smells like burning plastic? Continue reading on to see what may be the causes of different smells coming from your HVAC system.

HVAC Smells Like Burning Plastic

Burning Smell Coming From Heater or Furnace

A burnt plastic odor coming from your heater probably means you have an electrical or wiring problem. Any number of things could cause this - from poor electrical connections during installation, all the way to using poor coating for the wire. Either of these could start a fire, so it's good to take precautionary measures whenever you smell this odor. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, home electrical fires account for about 51,000 fires every year. This ultimately winds up with nearly 500 deaths, more than 1,400 injuries, and property damage that equates to about $1.3 billion. Therefore, your immediate first step should be to turn off your heater and then to contact an electrician.

 

If you've gone a long time without turning on your heater, it may give off the same slightly burnt rubber odor. This is most likely as a result of dust accumulating in the vents. Give it a few minutes to dissipate. If the odor is resistant, then switch it off and call the electrician.

Mildew & Musty Odor Coming From Your HVAC Units

If you know anything about mold, it's that they can grow anywhere. For the most part, a leaking pipe or defrosting after a particularly intense winter could provide the right conditions for them to grow since it now has adequate humidity.

 

The worst part about mold growing in your HVAC unit is that their micro particles can get into your respiratory system directly through the air being blown. Mildew and mold in vents are thus infinitely less safe than if those growing on your bathroom walls.

 

It's better to take preventive measures against vent mold, because sometimes the musty odor commonly associated with mold may be absent.

Sour Or Putrid Smell

Identifying the different odors coming from your HVAC unit can be the difference between a costly maintenance or a DIY solution. If you notice a particularly intense putrid smell, it's possible you have a dead pest on your hands. This is common, since most pests look for where to hibernate during winter and turning on the air conditioner/heater could kill them.

 

If your HVAC units are easily accessible, taking the dead pest out and doing a thorough clean up could take away the horrid odor, and you may not need to call anyone for help.

Regular Maintenance Prevents All Odors

If you regularly check your HVAC system for any discrepancies, you’ll be able to avoid having to deal with any odors coming out of your system. Remember that one of the worst case scenarios for when your HVAC smells like burning plastic is that it could cause your house to burn down. This is especially with all the electrical works and gas lines within close distance.

 

One major advantage of regular HVAC maintenance is that, because your heaters and air conditioning systems are working at their peak, they'll consume less energy - thus lowering your utility bill.

Next Steps

HVAC smells like burning plastic? Odors being emitted from your HVAC system is usually a red flag of other underlying issues. It’s key to get these checked out right away so that you can prevent any further damage to your home. Some smells that you should keep an eye out for include burning plastic, mold or mildew, or a sour and putrid smell.

If you have a heating system in your home, you probably are using one equipped with one of the most common furnaces around; gas or electricity. Modern furnaces have come a long way from the early versions that used wood and coal. It is therefore expected that most people will always ask, "How does a furnace work in a house?"

 

How Does a Furnace Work in a House?

Understanding how a furnace works also helps you in operating and maintaining your unit. In case of any hiccup, it becomes easy to know where to look and also troubleshoot the whole setup. Worlock HVAC suggests that having this knowledge also helps when it comes to picking among the heating systems to tell which will better suit your house and save energy.

 

The basis of all the furnaces is forced air heating, which means that the heated furnace transfers heat to the air which is then sent through the duct system of your house by the blower fans and distributed all around the house. You do not have to worry about space and how you will fit two duct systems in the house because the furnace heating systems easily share the same duct work with the home's air conditioning unit. This is the brevity of how a furnace works. To fully understand the details, you need to know the various parts of the furnace heating system and their roles.

How Does a Furnace Work in a House

Parts of a Furnace

1. Thermostat - All furnace unit systems contain a thermostat. Its purpose is to detect the temperature levels in the house. It is usually preset to the appropriate degrees. Should the temperatures in the house fall below the set number, the thermostat activates the furnace by sending a signal which opens up the gas valve and a device called a pilot light ignites the furnace.

2. Burners - Gas powered burners are designed to maintain a constant even flame. They all have to be lit for the system to kick on since internal sensors usually shut down the mechanism if even one burner is not lit.

3. Heat Exchanger - Heat from the burners is directed to the heat exchanger which is what warms the air as it is more efficient compared to if it was up to the burners alone. If this component is not working, then you will not get warm air.

4. From the heat exchanger, the warm heat is blown through the ducts and across the whole house by the blower fans propelled by a motor. Once the desired temperature is reached, the thermostat sends a signal to shut down the entire mechanism.

 

In an electric furnace, the process is the same only a few different components are involved. In place of a pilot light, there is electronic ignition, and in place of gas burners and heat exchanger, we have conductive coils through which air passes through, and it gets heated up for distribution. 

 

The right furnace system will save you a lot of energy since much of the fuel burnt will be used up for heating the air with very little going to waste. You have to check for the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency when choosing a furnace.

 

Safety

Although furnaces and heaters keep you warm over the colder months, it's important to be aware of the safety precautions when it comes to heaters. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires and more than 300 deaths are caused each year by space heaters. More than 6,000 Americans receive hospital emergency room care annually for burn injuries associated with room heaters.

 

Conclusion

How does a furnace work in a house? The answer lies in knowing the roles of the major parts of the system. You can split it into three to have controls which is the thermostat, the heat source like the burners and the distribution which are the duct and vents system. 

residents raking up flammable debris near a houseIf you are wondering if wildfire safety projects are worth the effort, check out the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network’snew blog, “Does Wildfire Mitigation Work? 16 Examples and Counting.” The article explores success stories shared from seven western states including Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, and California.
The stories highlight the importance of working on wildfire preparedness projects focusing on the home and the area surrounding the home, the Home Ignition Zone. One example of a home in Redding, California that survived the Carr Fire was a home owned by Randal Hauser. He not only had made changes to his home including a metal roof and clean gutters but also paid attention especially to the five-foot zone around the home using cement walkways, crushed rock, and other non-combustible materials.
In Nevada, another homeowner who made updates to his home including a class A rated roof, concrete border and deck made with synthetic materials was given assistance by the Nevada Division of Forestry to help with supplemental fuels work. Even though the Berry Fire came within feet of his home, his home was spared and he is credited with creating a safer location for firefighters to stage their firefighting efforts.
For other great stories of success and survival check out the Fire Adapted Learning Network’s blog.  Also, check out other examples of Firewise USA® site success stories. Wildfire project safety work does make a difference. We can all play a role in creating safer neighborhoods and cities. Learn more about how you can get involved today!
Image credit: Residents engage in wildfire safety project work in Bustins Island, Maine. Photo by Faith Berry, NFPA.
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