Space Heaters

Is it normal for an oil heater to smell?

Heating Trends, last updated on December 3, 2022

If you've noticed your oil filled radiator started to smell, you might wonder what could be the cause and whether it might be serious. Lets take a look at possible causes.

#oil radiator#guide

Is it normal for an oil heater to smell?

Oil filled radiators shouldn't normally smell, although a slight odor is very common the first time you turn on your new heater, or use your old one for the first time after it's been sitting in the garage the whole summer.

There's a couple of characteristic smells that are expected to occur on first use which you shouldn't worry about, but also some causes of smell on radiators that have a few years under their belt.

Smell coming from a new oil heater

When you purchase a new electric oil radiator and turn it on for the first time, it's quite possible you'll sense a smell someone would call a smell of new. This is absolutely normal and probably even mentioned in a user manual.

The metal body of the heater is coated with a paint formulated for metal surfaces and it'll probably burn a bit since it's heated up for the first time.

The other possible reason for the first-time use smell are small residues of oil, grease or other chemicals used during manufacture. It usually depends on the process and quality control within the factory. If you notice the heater has some dust or residues on it, unplug it and give it a quick wipe with a wet cloth.

In both cases, the smell should go away on it's own after a couple of hours of use. If you still sense a smell after prolonged use, check other possible causes in this article.

Our readers also liked

Where does an air conditioner pull air from?

Smell coming from a used oil heater

How would you describe the smell coming from your heater, is it a smell of burning plastic, is it a chemical smell or a smell of burnt rubber? The type of smell is usually a good indication of the potential cause. Make sure that something hasn't been spilled over the radiator causing it to smell.

Oil heater smells like burning dust or spills

Your heater could just be dusty or got dirty when left unused when it's not heating season. Maybe you've had a party and Meghan drank one too many and spilled some wine over it. Check for dust and discoloration and just give it a good wipe with a wet cloth. Make sure to unplug it first and let it cool for a while.

Oil heater covered in dust

Oil heater smells like burning plastic

The smell of burnt plastic could be a sign of overheating of either electrical wiring or wall outlet.

When the connections of electrical wires in the heater get loose as a result of many years of use, overheating occurs which can lead to burning of the wire isolation or in the worst case - sparks or fire.

Did you plug your heater into an extension cord? Extension chords usually aren't designed to withstand the amount of power an oil radiator needs. Oil-filled heaters are rated at 10-15A, and most extension cords tolerate up to 15 amperes. Because of their small cross-sectional area of the wires, they might not be able to handle the excessive amount of current which can as a result overheat, or melt the insulation. You might also notice that the wire plug is warm or hot at times.

Read more on why using an extension cord with a space heater is not a good idea.

Try using the space heater without an extension cord and see if you can still smell something's not right.

If you still suspect the plastic or rubber might be burning, the problem could be with the heater wiring or your wall outlet. You can try plugging the heater into another socket to try and solve the problem. In both cases it would be wise for an electrician to inspect and repair the malfunction.

Oil heater smells like oil

As mentioned before, slight, oily smell could be due to some manufacturing oil residues on new heaters. Assuming you haven't spilled some liquid over your heater, the smell shouldn't occur in heaters you've been using for some time.

You should inspect your heater and check for any potential oil leaks. Turn it off, unplug it from the wall and let it cool down. Check top, sides and the bottom of the radiator. Use a paper towel to run along the metal casing and see if the towel has any wet, oily spots on it. Although rare, it's possible your radiator has cracks and is leaking oil. Especially if it's stored in a damp storage when not used and it corroded.

The thermal oil is factory filled and permanently sealed. It never needs to be filled up and shouldn't be leaking. If the oil is leaking, you should dispose the heater as the hot oil leaking from the radiator could be dangerous.