Why does my radiator smell?

Posted in: Energy and Heating
A white convector radiator

If you switch on your heating and get a strong smell from one of your radiators, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is an emergency. However, nor does that mean it should be dismissed out of hand. Any kind of burning smell is something that should be investigated further.

In this article, we’ll cover the most common types of radiator smell, what they mean and what you should do about them.

Musty smell

A musty smell from your radiators most often happens when you switch you central heating on for the first after a long time of disuse – such as late summer or early autumn.

During the period of time when your radiators have not been used, dust particles will settle on the rad and are then disturbed when the rad heats up. This is particularly common with convector radiators, which have rows of metal fins in between the panels where dust often gets trapped.

Keeping your radiators dust-free using a duster and long radiator brush will help to prevent getting a dusty smell from your rads in future.

Burning smell

This is a fairly common smell if you have an electric radiator and are switching it on for the first time in a while.

During a period when the rad isn’t being used, dust particles can come to rest on the internal components of the radiator. When these heat is switched on, these bits of debris are burnt off, which can give off an initial burning smell. Usually this should pass fairly quickly.

If it doesn’t, you should switch off your electric radiator immediately and call a professional, as it could be that there is a problem with your heater and it is getting too hot.

Gas smell

Radiators can’t leak harmful gases like carbon monoxide (which is odourless), so any gassy smell you detect coming from a radiator is unlikely to be any cause for panic.

However, if you can smell something sulphurous or egg-like then there might be a build up of hydrogen sulphide in your radiator. While this isn’t harmful for your health, it isn’t so good for your central heating system as it can cause corrosion, so this will need attention.

Draining your radiators should remove the problem, though they also may benefit from a power flush to give them a good rinse out. Call a professional heating engineer and get them to give your system a full inspection in case it identifies any other issues.

If you can smell gas when your heating system isn’t running then open external doors and windows and call your gas supplier immediately, just in case of a leak.

Annual heating maintenance

To ensure your central heating system is working efficiently, it’s recommended that you have a heating engineer perform an annual check on your boiler and other heating components.

Just like a car, your central heating system needs servicing to avoid a potential breakdown when you need it most. Having a Gas Safe Engineer check on your system will identify any potential issues and keep your heating running smoothly.

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9 February 2021