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Why Is There a Weird Smell Coming From My AC?

May 8, 2023


What It Means & How to Fix It

The air coming from your air conditioner is never going to smell like roses, a freshly cut lawn or your favorite fragrance. But considering how much time we spend indoors, you really don’t want your air to smell like anything at all. It should smell fresh, but free of any scent—good or bad.

And bad is simply unacceptable. If your air conditioner is giving off an unusual smell, there’s definitely something that needs your attention (or ours, depending on how serious the problem is). But you might not know what’s causing the smell. That’s what we’re here to help with. If you still don’t know what the problem is after reading this post, we can step in and provide the prompt AC repair you need.

That Smell Might Be Caused By:

  • Built-up debris and bacteria. If the smell is putrid, like a giant pile of wet socks that’s been left out for days, then your AC is probably clogged and very filthy. When an AC can’t properly drain, it becomes a breeding ground for mold, bacteria and all sorts of debris. Your unit will need to be thoroughly cleaned and equipped with a new air filter.      
  • Something overheating or burning within the unit. Standard air conditioners contain several electrical components, such as the fan motor and circuit boards. If it smells like something is burning, don’t take any chances. The smell could be due to a faulty electrical component or burning wire. Either way, turn the unit off and call a professional to fix whatever’s causing the smell.
  • A dead animal. Sadly, there are instances when animals can die after seeking refuge in your ductwork or AC. If you notice a nasty rotting smell, the issue is likely a dead animal. If there’s one vent where the smell is strongest, open it up and see if you can locate and remove the dead animal. If you don’t see anything, you should call in a professional to delve deeper and remove the carcass. It’s also important to consider the possibility of a gas leak. While most air conditioners don’t run on natural gas, your AC can be circulating the gas that’s leaking elsewhere in your home. If you notice the rotten egg smell that we all associate with natural gas, evacuate your home immediately and call your local fire department and the gas company.
  • Mold and mildew growth. Part of an air conditioner’s job is to remove moisture from the air. But if the moisture and water cannot properly drain from the unit, it creates the perfect environment for mold and mildew to grow. In addition to the unpleasant smell, having mold anywhere in your home, including the AC and ductwork, can be harmful to your health and cause all sorts of upper respiratory issues. If mold is the culprit, you’ll want to have a professional clean the unit and your air ducts to remove the source and get everything back to its clean, original state.
  • A refrigerant leak. Refrigerant is the cooling agent that runs through your air conditioner. If you notice an unusual odor that smells sweet, there’s likely a refrigerant leak. Call a professional to locate the leak, seal it up and prevent chemicals from contaminating your indoor air.

Not Sure How to Fix It? That’s What We’re Here For!

If you notice an unusual smell coming from your car, you would (hopefully) take it to the mechanic. Well, the same goes for your air conditioner. If your AC is giving off a weird smell, don’t wait and hope the problem will go away on its own. Doing so will only make the problem worse and more expensive to fix. It can even cause your AC to shut down permanently, forcing you to replace the unit much earlier than you were expecting.

Count on our NATE-certified technicians to not only remove the smell, but eliminate the source. There’s no point in treating only half of the problem and not all of it. Once we determine what’s causing the odor, we’ll discuss your options and work our magic to treat the problem in its entirety.

To schedule AC service for your California home, please contact us online or call Timo’s Air Conditioning & Heating at 760.475.9542 today.

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