When your air conditioner starts spewing weird or unappealing odors, it is necessary to take notice because it could be a sign of a major problem. Ignoring unpleasant smells coming from your air conditioner can lead to additional damage to your air conditioning or even pose a risk to your health and safety.
Depending on what you're smelling, the root of the problem could be bacteria or fungus in the system. In other cases, it could also signal something mechanically wrong with the air conditioner. Some smells are even indicative of a hazardous scenario, including a natural gas leak.
At Service Max Heating & Air Conditioning, we have a nose for these sorts of things. If you smell something weird coming from your cooling system, you can bet that our team of qualified specialists has smelled it, too—and fixed it! We’ve earned a reputation as the premier company for air conditioning repair in Arlington.
What does a particular smell coming out of your AC mean? Here are some typical air conditioner odors and what they may mean:
My Air Conditioner Smells Like Feet
If your air conditioner smells like feet, it could be because of a buildup of bacteria or fungus inside of it. When moisture collects inside the unit, it can establish an environment that is beneficial to the development of bacteria and fungus. This can result in a bad odor that is often described as smelling like dirty feet.
Another potential reason for the stench of dirty feet may be a dirty air filter. When the air filter becomes filled with dirt, dust and other contaminants, it can result in poor air quality and a musty smell that bears a resemblance to feet.
To fix this problem, it's important to have an experienced specialist inspect and clean your air conditioning system, including the evaporator coil, drain pan and condensate drain line. It's also important to change the air filter regularly to provide good air quality and restrict the growth of bacteria and fungus.
My Air Conditioner Smells Like Rotten Eggs
If your air conditioning unit reeks of rotten eggs, it could be because of a natural gas leak in the unit or in the surrounding area. Natural gas has a unique odor, often described as smelling like rotten eggs or sulfur, which is because of a substance added to it to make it easily detectable.
A natural gas leak can be very dangerous and requires immediate attention. If you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, immediately open windows and doors to ventilate the area, make everyone leave the building and call your gas company or emergency services immediately.
My Air Conditioner Smells Like Mildew
If your AC is giving off an odor like mildew, it might be due to a buildup of moisture inside the unit. When moisture accumulates inside an air conditioner, it can foster the growth of mold and mildew. This can cause a musty smell that bears a resemblance to mildew.
Another possible explanation for the smell may be a dirty air filter. Once the air filter becomes clogged, it can cause poor air quality and a musty smell that has a resemblance to mildew.
Routine air conditioning maintenance from Service Max Heating & Air Conditioning can help protect against both of these problems, because a good cleaning, inspection and filter change is a very good way to keep your system operating at its best!
My Air Conditioner Smells Like Urine
One of the most distressing situations is when the air coming out of your HVAC system smells like urine.
If your air conditioning smells like urine, it could be due to a variety of factors. One potential cause is a accumulation of bacteria or mold in the air conditioning system. This can happen in the event that moisture accumulates in the system and creates a damp environment that can promote bacterial growth. The bacteria can create a foul odor that is like urine.
Another feasible cause of the stink could be a clogged drain line. The condensation that forms inside the air conditioning unit needs to drain away properly, but if the drain line becomes filled with debris, it can cause water to back up and build up inside the unit. This can create a musty smell that resembles urine.
My Air Conditioner Smells Like Burning Plastic
If your air conditioning system smells like burning plastic, it might be because of an electrical concern with the unit. After a while, the electrical parts in the air conditioning system can wear out or break, which can produce a burning smell that resembles plastic.
Another possible cause of the smell could be a foreign object lodged in the unit. If something foreign gets stuck in the air conditioning system, it can get hot and emit a smell like burning plastic.
If you notice something that smells like burning plastic coming from your cooling system, it’s important to call a professional right away.
My Air Conditioner Smells Like Gas
If your AC smells like gas, it could be because of a natural gas leak in the unit or in the surrounding area. Natural gas has a recognizable smell, often described as smelling like rotten eggs or sulfur. That’s because this scent is added to natural gas to make sure that it is easily detectable.
As we said previously, a natural gas leak can be VERY harmful and calls for immediate attention. When you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, open windows and doors to air out the home, evacuate the building and contact your gas company or emergency services as soon as possible.
Why My Air Conditioner Smells Like Fish
Should your air conditioner smell like fish, this could be a sign of a build-up of bacteria or mold in the unit. Moisture produces an environment that is conducive to the growth of bacteria and mold. This can cause a strong odor that can be described as smelling like fish or, as mentioned earlier, it also can result in a smell like dirty feet.
Another plausible explanation for the smell could be a dead animal or other biological material caught inside the air conditioning system. This often can happen if an animal such as a mouse or bird gets trapped inside the unit and dies.
To correct the issue, it's often necessary to have a professional inspect and clean your HVAC system. They should be able to identify the source of the smell and take the proper steps to remove any contaminants and prevent the problem from recurring.
Why My Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar
There could be numerous reasons an air conditioner smells like vinegar. One possible cause is a clogged air filter. Another potential cause of the smell might be a refrigerant leak. Sometimes after the refrigerant leaks, it can create a chemical odor that resembles vinegar.
To fix the issue, it's beneficial to have a skilled mechanic examine and clean your air conditioning. If the odor continues after the cleaning and exchanging the air filter, it's best to reach back out to a professional to find and repair any underlying issues with your air conditioning. Or, they can tell you if your air conditioning should be replaced.
If you are looking to upgrade, Service Max Heating & Air Conditioning can help locate the correct unit to fit your home’s needs. We provide trustworthy, professional air conditioner installation in Arlington.
My Air Conditioner Smells Like Chemicals
If the smell of chemicals is coming out of your air conditioning equipment, it could be caused by a refrigerant leak. When the refrigerant leaks, it can create a chemical odor that is often described as smelling like chemicals or paint thinner, vinegar or acetone.
One other possible source of the smell could be a problem with the electrical wiring or hardware inside the air conditioning system. This can cause a burning smell that resembles chemicals or burning plastic.
If you think your system has a refrigerant leak or an electrical concern, it's important to shut off your air conditioning system as soon as possible and contact a professional to inspect and repair the unit. Refrigerant leaks can be hazardous and may require immediate attention to protect against injury or damage to your home.
Strange Smell Coming from Your AC? Call the Pros at Service Max Heating & Air Conditioning
If your air conditioner reeks and you aren’t able to fix it smoothly on your own, reach out to the cooling specialists at Service Max Heating & Air Conditioning. We have plenty of experience working with a wide variety of cooling systems. Our crew has fixed countless air conditioning problems over the years—including strange smells. Call us today for quality AC repair in Arlington!