Ceramic heaters allow you to increase warmth in drafty homes, garages and large rooms as well as increase the temperature in certain spaces without overheating the entire home. While ceramic heaters are relatively safe and cost-effective, they can emit a rather unpleasant scent, which ranges from mildly annoying to a bit disconcerting, smelling as if something is on fire.
Ceramic heater odor is usually strongest during the first few uses or when dust and dirt build up on the unit. If a high-heat setting and cleaning fail to resolve the issue, contact the manufacturer of your unit.
New Ceramic Heater Odor
New ceramic heaters tend to emit an unpleasant scent during the first use; by setting the heater to the highest setting, you can shorten the length of time that the scent persists. Refer to your owner's manual for instructions. If you do not have an owner's manual, you can usually find one online by searching for the brand and model with the word "manual," for example, "Lasko heater model CD08210 manual."
Generally, you will need to plug the ceramic heater into a wall outlet and position it away from the wall. Do not place it in or around a natural walkway, in front of a door or near anything flammable, including drapery and upholstered furniture. Ceramic heaters become hot to the touch once turned on.
Turn the heater on and set it to the highest temperature. Usually the instructions will tell you to let the heater run on this setting for 30 minutes, or until the initial odor wears off. Open windows and doors, if desired, while the heater is running to air out the smell from your home and reduce the room's temperature. Once the scent diminishes, turn the heater down to your desired temperature or turn it off to let the room cool.
Continued Burning Odor
If your space heater smells like it is burning after this initial procedure, repeat this process during the first few uses if necessary. In some cases, the smell may take several uses to completely disappear.
Ceramic Heater Maintenance
Before performing any maintenance, turn the heater off and unplug it from the wall. Let the ceramic heater cool completely before proceeding. Newer models may take only 10 to 15 minutes to cool, while older ceramic heaters may take longer. Brush the intake vents with a soft, old toothbrush to remove any excess dust and dirt. After the initial scent wears off from a new heater, the most common cause of odors is dust.
Next, clean the ceramic heater, including the intake vents, with a vacuum outfitted with an upholstery bristle. Work your way from the top down and then vacuum the bottom of the heater as well. Do not take the heater apart.
Wipe the heater down with a lint-free cloth or dust cloth if desired or necessary. Never use water, dish detergent, alcohol or any other cleaner on the ceramic heater. Do not use a damp rag. Dry cloths, a vacuum cleaner and an old toothbrush eliminate the odor-causing dust and dirt efficiently without risking damage to the ceramic heater.
Ceramic Heater Maintenance Schedule
Repeat this process every two weeks to maintain the heater and prevent smells before they start. In some homes, you may need to vacuum the heater off once a week or more to prevent buildup on the unit, especially if you have pets.
You should always make sure that you turn your heater off before leaving your home, or before leaving the room if it's far from where you'll be for a long period of time.
Amanda Bell spent six years working as an interior designer and project coordinator before becoming a professional writer in 2010. She has published thousands of articles for various websites and clients, specializing in home renovation, DIY projects, gardening and travel. Bell studied English composition and literature at the University of Boston and the University of Maryland.