Electrical Smells: Fire, or Something Else?

Electrical smells are a sign that something may have gone wrong in your systems – but what? Here are some of the most common smells you are likely to notice and what they usually mean in the home.

A smoky or spicy smell

Sometimes you simply smell smoke – and it's a good idea to find out what the source is. Unless you have a traditional wood fireplace, your home shouldn't smell of smoke. Once you have cleared up the basics like kitchen overcooking, these smoky/spicy electrical smells are often caused by dust in your filters and heating elements. This can happen to nearly any type of heating device, where dust that has settled inside heats up and starts smelling (it even happens to computers). This smell usually fades, especially if you haven't used the device in a while. However, in some cases, parts of your fan or motor could be burning because of overheating.

A bitter, metallic smell

This type of smell typically occurs in furnaces and means that your furnace components are getting a little too hot. When coatings wear off or components get too close to flame or hot air, they tend to start burning. It's a sign that you need to shut down the furnace and see what the problem is. Consider calling in a technician for a more accurate look at what's wrong. This smell primarily happens with older furnaces.

An acrid, burning smell

These are some of the most dangerous electrical smells to notice inside your house. It means that plastic is burning and requires immediate action. There are two common causes:

  1. Plastic near a heating element or motor has started to melt. Sometimes this happens to odd devices, including dyers and dishwashers, which have heating elements. The element or motor may need to be replaced.
  2. Wires are burning. This happens in old, frayed electrical wiring. It's very dangerous because it can happen at sockets and outlets as well as in your walls. If the source is hidden, it could start burning. Determine the source and call the fire department if necessary. It's worth noting that depending on coatings and composition, the burning plastic may also have a "fishy" odor.

While safety is important, you should also think about getting your electrical systems repaired or replaced when something goes wrong. Contact Ragsdale for fast, effective electrical repair.

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