Why My Space Heater Smells Like Burning Plastic?

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The cold is about to set in, and most people will scramble to have their heaters working. Maybe you’ve finally turned on your space heater, and you detect a whiff of burning plastic in the air.

That could prompt a curious reaction from you. After all, it isn’t every day a space heater smells like burning plastic. Sometimes this happens when the space heater plug gets hot. But that isn’t the only cause, so let’s look at the other reasons and what you need to do.

Why Does My Space Heater Smell Like Burning Plastic?

It might be any of the following things if your space heater emits a burning plastic odor.

  • There is some trapped debris in the heater

Space heaters have a high capacity for heat. That means they burn anything that gets trapped inside pretty fast. Therefore, the smell of burning plastic might be because there is some plastic debris inside the heater.

Rubber will also have the same effect. To determine if it’s something inside the heater, examine and smell the surrounding area. If you determine that the smell is most potent just above the heater, then you can be sure something is inside the space heater.

  • The Heater is Next to an Extension Cord

One of the many regulations for using space heaters is that you don’t have them next to extension cords. The heater radiates heat throughout its surrounding. Therefore, if you have a power extension cord within the vicinity of the heater, there will be a smell of burning plastic. That’s why you need to ensure the space heater is as far away as possible from all extension cords.

  • The Space Heater Gets Plug Hot

High wattage space heaters require an immense amount of power to work. That means they are likely to trip the breaker if you have one. The other thing they can do is get the plug scorching hot.

Too much power passing through electric wires builds up resistance that makes the space heater plug get hot. It then produces a smell like that of burning plastic. When this happens, check the plug for any damage. You might find that the space heater plug melted and caused the smell.

  • The Heater Is Burning Up its Parts

Some heaters have plastic components. With the outrageous amount of heat they produce, it isn’t surprising to smell burning plastic. Some heaters even burn up the whole plastic casing and keep only the interior parts.

  • Burning Wires

The space heater has wires that transmit the power needed to generate heat. Sometimes the power might be too much such that the cables burn. That will cause a burning plastic smell.

If that happens, it means the heater has an issue you will most likely need to repair.

  • The Furnace Motor is Overheating

If your space heater smells like burning plastic, you should be worried. That’s because it could point to a severe problem like an overheating furnace motor. At times, it could also be that the heat exchanger has started getting cracks.

If that happens, then you need to call an HVAC specialist to check the heater.

What to Do When Space Heater Smells Like Burning Plastic

Whenever you notice the smell of burning plastic from your space heater, try the below actions.

  • Check for an extension cord that might be in the vicinity of the heater and remove it. Sometimes it could be that some plastic items might be lying around the heater.
  • Clean the space heater to remove any plastic or rubber debris that might cause the smell of burning plastic. You will have to open it and check the inside.
  • Get an HVAC professional to check the space heater for any motor issues. Do this only after determining it isn’t plastic debris that’s causing the smell. They will check the wires and other parts of the heater to resolve the problem.
  • Check if the space heater plug has melted and needs replacing. Ideally, it would help if you got a surge protector to protect the heater from sudden power surges. That will ensure the heaters plug and other parts don’t fry with the power surges.

What other Burning Smells Will a Heater Produce?

It is common for a space heater to produce the smell of burning plastic. However, that isn’t the only type of smell it will produce. 

  • Space Heater Smells Like Burning Dust

This is a common occurrence if you haven’t used your space heater for some time. When this happens, it probably means that the heater is dirty and contains a lot of debris from underuse.

Open the heater and clean it to remove the dust to eliminate the smell of burning dust. The smell of burning dust shouldn’t worry you that much since it doesn’t point to any underlying issues with the heater.

  • Electric Burning Smell

This happens when the wires inside the heater start burning. The smell might at times resemble the smell of plastic burning due to the rubber on the wires. If this doesn’t stop after some time, call a professional to help you check out the issue.

The electric burning smell could signify that the motor has a problem or the heat exchanger is overheating. A more ominous sign would be the smell of gunpowder in the air whenever your heater is working. That needs you to call a professional as soon as possible.

  • A Musty Smell

Musty smells are often a result of molds and other fungi growing inside the space heater. Again, this is common in space heaters that haven’t been in use. Again, they can be easy to remove once you clean the space heater.

Maintaining and Caring for Your Space Heater

some space heater burning smells you can easily prevent by taking better care of your space heater.

  • Dust and Clean Your Space Heater

One sure way to prevent the smell of burning dust is to dust and clean your space heater regularly. The space heater will routinely collect dust even when in use inside your house. That’s why you need to clean it as regularly as possible.

  • Regularly Remove and Clean the Filter

Modern space heaters come with sophisticated filters that help them work fine. You need to clean this filter regularly to ensure dust doesn’t accumulate inside the heater.

  • Follow Manufacturer Instructions

Manufacturers will often include several steps you can take to maintain and care for your space heater. Always follow them to ensure your space heater is working fine and doesn’t produce any weird smells.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can the smell of burning plastic from a heater signify danger?

Yes, the smell of burning plastic should alert you to the danger of the space heater burning or making your house unsafe. Besides the risk of an explosion happening, they could be a potential fire hazard. That’s why you need to check it immediately.

Can I repair a space heater myself?

While small heating equipment, space heaters can be hard to repair if you don’t have the expertise. It is best to live the repairing to a professional. You don’t want to risk damaging it while trying to repair it.

Final Thoughts

We hope you understand why your space heater smells like burning. Often it is because it is near plastic items such as toys or extension cords. Other times it is because something plastic has fallen inside it, causing the smell of burning plastic.  With what we have outlined, you should now be ready to deal with the issue when it next crops up.

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