Why Does My Air Conditioner Smell Bad?


After spending time outside or working on a sweltering summer day, you look forward to sitting in your air-conditioned home to cool off. You grab a cold drink from the refrigerator, click on the TV, and sit down to enjoy a break from the day’s activities.

However, you notice that your home does not smell quite right. Read more here for reasons that your air conditioner smells bad.

Gas Scents

One of the most concerning smells for a homeowner is that of natural gas. Though the gas itself does not have a scent, utility companies add one so that leaks can be detected.

Your air conditioner is not operated by natural gas, but the scent can indicate a gas leak from another source. If you smell rotten eggs or methyl mercaptan, turn off the source of the natural gas. Leave the premises and call the gas company.

Electrical Issue

Another disconcerting scent is that of burnt plastic. This can indicate an electrical issue, which means you should turn off the air conditioner. Then you should contact your certified HVAC specialist. The specialist will determine the root cause, which could be your circuit board, wires bringing power to your unit, the fan motor, or the compressor shorted out.

A much less serious cause can be dust in your unit. If you are just turning your air conditioner on for the first time, after a long winter’s rest, this can be the reason for the smell. This will be short-lived, and there is no need for assistance.

Excess Moisture

That damp, musty smell of closed-up buildings can be another indicator of an issue with your air conditioner. Often, mildew or mold are creating this problem. You will need to contact your local HVAC expert for assistance. Not only do you need to eliminate the root cause of the moisture, but you also need to have all of the mildew and mold removed from the air conditioning units and ductwork.

Clogged Filters

Your air conditioner has filters to remove particles from the air. If the filters are clogged and dirty, they can also begin to smell. The filters need to be changed, which many homeowners can do. But if this has caused the mold and mildew to spread from the filters, you need your HVAC technician to fully clean your units.

If anyone in your home smokes, the filters in your HVAC system will absorb the smells. If you notice stale smells, your filters probably need to be removed and replaced with clean ones.

Drainage Problems

Scents associated with air conditioning drainage problems are similar to old sneakers. This can mean that you have water that is not draining from your unit, and is accumulating in one or two places. This sitting water will begin to smell over time. You will need your qualified technician to clean the clogged drains and remove any mold that has begun to grow.

While some of these issues can be corrected by a homeowner, always make sure that you can perform any work safely for you and your family. Your HVAC technician has the tools and knowledge to address any of these concerns.

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