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What Is Causing a Burning Odor in My Home?

You may have noticed a burning smell coming from somewhere in the house, and you just aren’t quite sure where to place it. The lingering odor may be coming from somewhere in the living room, the kitchen, or even the bathroom. While it might be tough sometimes to pinpoint just where the smell is coming and what’s causing it, here are some ideas of what to look into to put that scent to bed.

HVAC System


If you notice a burning odor from your AC or when you turn on your furnace, it is possible that the issue is stemming from your HVAC system. It is possible that something in your air conditioning system is overheating, and that’s never a good thing. Inside your air conditioner, there is a fan that circulates air throughout the home. The fan motor’s bearings can wear out, which causes the motor to overheat, creating that burning smell.

Another common reason for the air conditioner smell could be a bad capacitor. The capacitor is what helps the motor run and, if it goes bad, this can also lead the motor to overheat. Regardless of what is causing the burning odor, it is a good idea to shut off your air conditioner immediately and call an HVAC technician.

In the event you are just turning on your heater or furnace for colder weather, that burning smell can actually be your heater burning off dust collected in the ductwork throughout the year from lack of use. That strange smell may disappear after a few minutes, but turn off the heat if the issue continues and consult an HVAC technician if it does not.

If the odor is more of a mildew smell, similar to that of rotten eggs, it could be a problem with your dirty air filter or even something as harsh as an animal in your ductwork. Either way, your AC system is not something to fool around with, so for your family members’ health, you should check your vents and call a technician.

Electrical Issues

Burning smells, particularly that burning plastic smell, near electrical outlets can be the indication of serious problems with the wiring and layout of your home.


If you notice sparking or charring near your outlets, contact the fire department immediately as a precaution for an electrical fire. While it may not be that serious, there are a variety of electrical problems can cause that odor, including:

  • Exposed wires
  • Wiring that was not properly installed
  • Damaged wiring
  • Overloaded circuits
  • Foreign objects stuck in your electrical box

To prevent further damage, try and detect which outlet the smell is coming from, and cut off its electrical supply through your home’s breaker box. However, it can be dangerous to work with electrical connections, especially if the burning smell is being caught by exposed wires. Contact an electrician or qualified professional to handle any electrical issues immediately.

Water Heater

If you notice the smoking and burning smell coming any time you try to use hot water, the issue may be stemming from your water heater. If it is a burning plastic smell, turn off the power source to the water heater. The insulated coating on wires connecting the heater could be overheating and burning.

If the odor happens to be emanating from your kitchen, and you haven’t just cooked a meal, contact the fire department. It is possible that a gas leak could exist, and you will need to vacate your property.

It is important in any situation to have knowledge of the layout of your home to be prepared to shut your breaker box or conduct any immediate changes to try and prevent these situations. Further understanding the layout of your home also prepares you for having children, having guests stay over, or even how to prepare your home for a cat with limited vision.

Be sure to also be wary of debris, and anything inhibiting easy access throughout the household.

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