Water Heater Smells Like Burning – Why So?

The water heater is the workhorse, and we do not think about it generally unless something is wrong. The earliest sign of trouble is the water heater itself or water containing a bad smell.

Your water heater can smell badly due to different reasons. If you get a burning odor, it may be the electrical problem, sulfur reactions, dust and dirt burning, gas, and many more.

Causes and Solutions Of Water Heater Smells

There are different kinds of smell you observe from your water heater that helps you to diagnose the issue for which there are various solutions. Common causes and solutions are discussed in brief below

Fault In Wiring

Electrical water heaters may get short. Sometimes, Loose wires come in contact to generate heat, and if your water heater is going from such problems, you might have observed the smell of the burning wire.

If the insulation of the wire starts to melt, the water heater smells like burning plastic. This sort of water heater malfunction comes out suddenly. If it has an electrical issue, do not try to solve it on your own.

Two common elements in the heater may fail and cause an electrical burning smell.

Overheat Electrical Contacts

Hot wiring or electric fire smell shows that you must check out your wiring properly for arcing. Electrical contacts may erode and cause higher resistance.

Whenever this happens, contacts arc and heat up, which results in heat generation at contacts in place of the fire rod. Heat contacts release the electrical smell of burning.

Failure Of Fire Rod

Fire rods can short out and cause cracks. The excess current from the short can result in heating wiring and thermostat releasing the electrical burning odor.

How To Fix it?

Both of these problems will need an expert plumber for repair. It needs replacing your water heater at this time instead of repairing. If there is an electrical problem, do not try to solve it yourself. Also, unplug your water heater immediately to prevent fire or other damage.

Gas Leakages

With any gas fueling appliances, water heaters can get a leak. If you smell something weird like gas within your water heater, close your machine and call the fire department as soon as possible.

Suppose you know ways to shut off the gas to your appliance or home; try it out. But do not fuss with things unless you know about them correctly. Once you shut off gas, your safety is ensured.

How To Fix It?

If you observe any issue regarding gas, immediately turn off the gas. Call the plumber or the gas company for checking and fixing the leakages. If you do not know how to turn off gas, you will have to evacuate your house and call the fire department immediately.

Dust And Dirt

Old water heaters can accumulate dirt, grime, and dust. If debris or dust contacts the hot part of the machine, you may observe a burning smell. It is usually the easy fix.

How To fix?

Shut your water heater off if it is too hot to touch, and then clean it with a damp cloth. If the smell continues, contact the professional. Wipe off the dust and debris that accumulate with time for resolving the problem if possible.

Gunpowder Smell

Another gunpowder-like odor can be the result of a burnt fan motor or circuit board. It is a bad idea to continue running your heater if it releases this sort of smell.

How to fix it?

Call the expert to perform the emergency inspection before turning ON the heater.

Oily Or Smoky Smell During Hot Season

You might encounter an oily or smoky odor in your house when you heat your home with an oil furnace. You might not have to smell an oil furnace inside the house, but something is getting worse if it happens.

How to fix it?

First, find out the problem by shutting off the heater and replacing the oil filter. If you see the problem, turn off the unit and call the help of experts as soon as possible.


The perfect way to find out the solution to the burning odor from the water heater is to follow your nose and determine the source of the problem.

A bad odor from the heater can be a regular occurrence, but the burning smell can be the problem discussed above. Read the causes and solutions in the article.