Space Heater Smelling Like Burning? Here’s Why

Does your space heater smell like burning? Of course, when you smell burning, you immediately think – fire, panic. Find out in this article whether the burning smell is something that should alarm you and what you can do about it.

‎‎Here’s why your space heater smells like burning:

  1. You have it plugged into an extension cord
  2. It is new
  3. It is burning dust
  4. Something is covering it
  5. It is overheating

There are many reasons why space heaters smell like burning. There are some that should concern you and others that are surprisingly normal. To find out more about the smell coming from your space heater, take a look at the guide below.

5 Reasons Why Your Space Heater Smells Like Burning

You turn on your space heater and expect to be able to sit back and enjoy the warmth. Instead, you are introduced to a rather pungent and potent burning smell. Why does your space heater suddenly smell like burning and what should you do about it? Find out in this section.

Reason #1 You Have It Plugged Into an Extension Cord

Are you powering your space heater via an extension cord? Then please, plug it out immediately.

Space heaters are too powerful and draw more electricity than an extension cord can take. So if you smell burning while your space heater is plugged into one, that could be because the heater is burning the extension cord. It could also be malfunctioning because you have plugged it into an extension cord.

To prevent this from happening again, only plug your space heater directly into a wall socket.

plug space heater into wall outlet
Only plug your space heater directly into a wall socket

Reason #2 It Is New

Did you just open up the box to your swanky new space heater? You plug it in for the first time and expect a toasty warm evening. And warm it is, but you can’t help but be put off by the smell of burning while the heat runs. After all, you don’t expect something new to smell.

It might surprise you that it is quite normal for your space heater to smell like burning. This is because it is warming up for the first time and burning the materials left on the machine after its manufacturer. It is also likely burning off the dust where the machine was in storage after its manufacture.

So what can you do to prevent this from happening? Well, not much. But I would recommend using a new space heater on a warm day for the first time. That way you can open up the windows and let the burning smell out.

The smell should go away after the first or second use. If it doesn’t, you should discontinue the use of the heater. You will need to contact your manufacturer to take a look at the unit. They should be able to arrange a repair or replacement for you.

Reason #3 It Is Burning Dust

You’ve had a couple of months of great weather and you haven’t needed to use your space heater for a while now. You plug it in for the first time and it begins to smell like burning. What could be the issue?

If your space heater has been out of action for a while, dust has likely settled on it. That burning odor is burning dust. This is nothing to worry about and should go away after a couple of uses.

If you find the burning dust smell particularly offputting, there is something you can do:

  1. Cover the space heater when it is not in use. This will prevent dust from settling on it.
    • Note: Make sure the space heater has cooled down completely before you cover it. Ensure you remove the cover before using the space heater again.
  2. Replace the filter. If your space heater has a removable filter, change it. You should do this at least once a year or after the heater has been in storage for a while.
  3. Dust the outside of the space heater. The heater will routinely collect dust even when it is in use. So you’ll need to give it a clean now and again to keep it from smelling like burning.
space heater away from carpet
Keep the heater free from dust

Reason #4 Something Is Covering It

If there is something covering your space heater it will heat that item up until you start to smell it or it begins burning. This is not something you should ignore and you should try to find the root of the smell straight away. To stop this from happening, do the following:

  1. Inspect the outside of the heater. Ensure that there isn’t anything stuck to it that could be burning. Even a little dust will make the heater smell so make sure you give it a good wipe down. Give the heater a dust when taking it out of storage.
  2. Remove anything that is blocking the air inlet or outlet. If there is anything blocking these chambers, that could be the source of the smell.
  3. Ensure you keep the heater away from other materials and objects in the room. It should not be any closer than 3 feet to other objects. Be careful when keeping a heater close to materials such as curtains and bed linens. Do not leave the space heater unattended. Keep the heater out of the reach of children.

Reason #5 It Is Overheating

Another more serious reason why space heaters smell is because they are too hot. A space heater that gets too hot can end up doing the following:

  • Overheat the blower motor
  • Burn the wiring inside the unit
  • Burn the plastic components inside the unit

An overheating space heater is not good. But thankfully, the most modern models come with an automatic shut-off feature. This feature turns the heater off when it detects that it is overheating.

But what can you do if your heater doesn’t have this feature? Here’s how you can prevent yours from overheating:

  1. Stick to intermittent heat settings. A setting that allows the heater to turn on and then turn off and have a chance to cool down is best. Do not run the heater on high for hours on end.
  2. Keep the heater free from obstructions. It should be at least 3 feet from any other object. Always use the space heater on the floor and keep it upright.
  3. Always use the space heater when you are in the room. Do not leave it unattended. Keep the space heater out of reach of children.

But what can you do if you suspect that the space heater has already started overheating? Then you should stop using it and have it looked over by a professional. They will be able to check the unit’s wiring and notify you of any repairs that you should do. If the heater is old, the repairs could be costly. So, you might be better off getting a new one.


Does your space heater smell like burning? There are a number of reasons why it’s smelling such as it being dusty or having something covering it. I’m sure this article has helped you to see whether the odor is something that you should worry about and what you can do about a smelly space heater.

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Have a great day!


I've been helping homeowners with appliance repair since 2016. Starting out as an enthusiastic amateur, I've since worked with many Appliance, HVAC, and DIY experts over the last 7+ years. My mission is to help fix your appliances and prevent future issues - saving you stress, time, and money. Visit my author page to learn more! Read more