Burning plastic is not a pleasant smell. If you have it in your home and you’ve narrowed it down to the water heater, you may wonder why your water heater is putting off this smell. Burning smells are not something you should ignore, even though it’s not likely your water heater is on fire. It’s still a safety issue. Before you can get your plumber to drop by, you can look for these potential causes of a burning plastic smell from the water heater.

1. Plastic Parts

There are some plastic parts within the water heater. If the contacts are overheating, then they may generate enough heat to actually melt or burn the plastic components within the water heater. If you suspect this is the case, you should turn off the power to the water heater and wait for a professional to address the problem.

2. Hidden Plastic

This potential cause of that awful burning sound is much easier for homeowners to find and deal with by themselves. Your water heater generates a lot of heat and is quite warm to the touch. If a plastic object is leaning up against the heater, then it may melt or burn. Take a look around the heater to see if anything has accidentally ended up next to it, especially kid’s toys and pet’s toys.

3. Wire Insulation

Wire insulation has at least some plastic in it. Some electrical problems, wiring issues, and other problems may cause the wire insulation to melt or burn, creating the smell. If this is the problem, you should turn off the power to the water heater and get a professional to fix it.

4. Burning Dust

Are you sure it smells like plastic? If it is a more generic burning smell, then it may be dust that is burning instead. A build-up of dust inside or outside of the water heater could eventually lead to a burning smell, particularly if the heater was turned off for a little while. During the water heater’s regular maintenance, your plumber should clean off the water heater to prevent this problem.

5. Gunpowder

Do you think you smell the distinct burnt smell of gunpowder? This could mean that the fan motor or the circuit board has fried or suffered serious damage. You should turn the water heater off and call a professional right away if you smell gunpowder.

6. Overheating

Not sure what else could be causing the problem? Most burning smells are created by water heater overheating for one reason or another and then affecting some component within the heater. Overheating is a safety concern, and it can also damage components of your water heater. Potentially one part, or the whole thing, may need to be replaced if overheating is allowed to continue.

Even if you suspect that the cause of the burning smell is dust, you should still reach out to a professional to make sure. Burning smells can indicate serious problems.