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I Just Turned My Heat On – What’s That Smell?

whats that heater smell
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The fall season is upon us and we as Floridians just don’t like the cold – period. If the mercury goes below seventy degrees you can bet on seeing scarves, gloves, jackets, etc. If it gets below sixty you would think that we all moved to the tundra the way that everyone is dressed.

That said, it brings us to today’s topic of what happens when you decide to turn the heat on in your air conditioning system. There are two types of systems that are used for the rare occasions we need the heat. One is referred to as a “straight cool” system and the other is a heat pump.

Let’s start with the straight cool style system. Straight cool is the most common application used here in South Florida and in terms of the equipment, the outdoor unit has no job when it comes to heating with straight cool. A straight cool system has a series of coils that electricity passes through to help take the chill off the air. If you want to get an idea of what these coils look like, turn on your hair dryer and look down the business end. Those glowing coils in your blow dryer are the exact same concept that is employed for heating in a straight cool system.

That leads us to today’s topic of what that smell is when you turn the heat on. The answer is very simple. We use the heat so rarely that you get a small amount of dust build-up on the coils over the months that we don’t use the heat. When the heater coils are energized that small amount of dust is burning off, ergo the nasty smell. If all is normal with your system the burning smell should go away in ten or fifteen minutes. If the smell continues much longer than that I strongly suggest you shut the system down and bring in the professionals. One of the easiest ways to avoid the smell is to flip the heat on for two or three minutes every time you change your filter.

On to the heat pump style system. In this type of system both the indoor and outdoor come into play. As we have discussed in past articles, Freon circulating from the indoor coil to the outdoor coil causes the indoor cool to absorb heat and produce cold. In a heat pump style system to get heat there is a valve that causes the refrigerant to flow in the opposite direction thus the indoor coil absorbs cold and produces heat. The biggest difference between a straight cool system and a heat pump is performance. A heat pump system is much more powerful and can actually heat a home to eight five or ninety degrees if you wanted to. A straight cool system will only take the chill off the air and if you got much more than seventy-five degrees when it’s chilly out you’d be doing great. If you really want true heat when shopping air conditioners choose a heat pump style for the best results.

Until the stars align in a way that we meet again friends, I recently saw an ad for funeral services and thought well that’s the last thing I need.

House Whisperer out!


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