I'm trying to find what is causing an irritating smell in the house stronger in the room closest to the garage. It smells like burnt dust--like the smell when the heat comes on and the registers are dusty. Whatever it is makes my eyes burn.

I did have a broken line in the AC and freon was leaking. It was repaired a month before. Could that be the problem, still lingering.

  • A burnt smell of old dusty stuff could come from an overheating electrical connection. An electrical connection can overheat if the connections are loose. You may want to see if you can trace the smell to electrical outlets, switches or light fixtures in that room.
    – Michael Karas
    Sep 29, 2016 at 11:10

2 Answers 2


Obvious starting point: close all doors for a couple of days and see if you can isolate it to a particular room. If your place is an "open plan" design, this might still work, or you might need to hang plastic sheeting temporarily to isolate areas. After that, all I can suggest is trying one corner at a time to see if it's stronger in a particular area.

Actually, if you think it's electrical, youi mght want to try turning off circuit breakers for similar time periods and see if you can find it that way. Though if it is electrical and not obviously related to something like an electric stove, I agree that you probably don't want to spend too much time looking for it.


On the high end, a thermal camera might be of use. On the low end, feel for warm spots on the wall/floor/ceiling. I doubt it has anything to do with a refrigerant leak a month ago - it sounds like the smell of overheating electrical to me - if there are any junction box covers or outlets in the rooms, start near them feeling for the warm. You might ask your fire department if they'd be willing to come play with their thermal camera and perhaps save themselves a trip later while training someone on its use. Depends on your fire department - some are more neighborly than others.

Else, head straight for the "call in an electrician and get it sorted" before it gets worse. Worse would involve the fire department in their more usual role.

  • On the low end, if the problem is consistent with the use of an electrical appliance, or consistently appearing, tripping off a series of breakers may help to narrow down the circuit that could be causing the problem. If access to the panel is possible and ownership of an inductive ammeter is included, checking current draws on each breaker may also be of help.
    – fred_dot_u
    Sep 29, 2016 at 15:56
  • IME, the stench of burnt insulation persists a surprisingly long time after the active burning is stopped, so I am skeptical of the likely success of this method - still might be worth a shot - identify the refrigerator, freezer, HVAC if the weather demands it, make sure those have power, shut everything else off and see if it gets better...
    – Ecnerwal
    Sep 29, 2016 at 16:01

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