Don’t Panic! 4 Common Causes of Burning Smells in the Home

You’ve had a hard day at work, but now you’re home with your kids and all is well. Except suddenly, your 3-year-old tells you, “Mommy, there’s a funny smell.” Kids are more sensitive to the slightest change, and that includes unusual smells. What could your child be smelling?

Clearly you should not panic, but you should ask yourself the following: Where is the smell coming from? Is this urgent, and should I call the fire department?

That first question is key. Once you have spotted the source, then you can decide what you should do. Here are four places you should check:

The Kitchen Stove

Image via Flickr by Terence Gilheany

The first place to look is in the kitchen itself. If you have done something recently that might be causing the smell, then perhaps that is what your child is smelling. Check your stove-top to make sure it has not been turned on accidentally. Moreover, if you have spilled something in your oven, then that could well be the cause, too. Ensure your oven is turned off and cool before checking for any food spillages.

The Tumble Dryer

Electric appliances are usually reliable. Even when they break down, they rarely represent a hazard. A tumble drier is very rugged, but it takes a lot of punishment. Therefore, it’s worth checking to see whether it is the source of the smell. If so, turn off the appropriate circuit breaker and call an electrician.

A Faulty Furnace

If you are smelling smoke, then your furnace may be causing the problem. There are a variety of reasons why your furnace may be misbehaving:

  • One-Time Dust Burn-Off — You should keep your furnace location clean.
  • Electrical Issues — If the system is old, then problems may arise.
  • System Malfunctions — Again with age, you may develop problems.
  • Poorly Placed Combustibles — This is something to be avoided.

Checking out the space where your furnace is located will tell you whether this is the source of your burning smell. Sometimes, you will need to call your HVAC and furnace contractor. If you have an immediate concern, then turn off the appropriate circuit breaker.

Old Electrical Wiring

Normally, electric appliances and electrical wiring system are safe and should last for years. However, if your house is old and the wiring system has not been updated, then this may be where your problem smell is arising. A sharp, acrid smell that burns your nose may well mean some electrical appliance or wiring is burning. In this case, switch off the particular electrical circuits and call an electrician.

Should You Call the Fire Department?

Since house fires sometimes spread rapidly, you may wonder whether to call the fire department immediately if you smell something burning. Fire departments always recommend to call them if you have any concerns. However, if your problem is not serious, then you may be taking up time the fire department could be using more effectively to save others. If you have any doubt, then call them, but do a little detective work first to locate the smell.

With burning smells, it is always worth reviewing whether it could all have been handled more effectively. Regular maintenance of your home appliances and housekeeping for your heating system is recommended, especially if you’ve had them for years. Not only will repairs save you more money than a full replacement, but you will also ensure the safety of your family and your home.

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