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6 Common Air Conditioner Smells Decoded and How to Fix the Problem

April 21, 2021

When your air conditioner is spotless and operating right, you shouldn’t be smelling anything odd. Unusual air conditioner noises and odd smells are a sign that something is out of whack. If your air conditioner is getting older or you haven’t had a tune-up completed within the last year, they can be a sure sign you need pro air conditioning repair in Portland.

Here are six of the most common air conditioner smells and how you can solve them.

1. Central Air Conditioner Smells Like Chemicals

If your air conditioner smells bad when turned on, especially a chemical scent, isn’t a good sign. You could also observe your:

  • Air conditioner smells like paint thinner
  • Home air conditioner smells sweet

These sweet, chemical smells are typically a clue that your air conditioner is experiencing a refrigerant leak. Your system needs this gas to move heat through copper coils, which can crack as time passes.

4 Hints You Are Experiencing a Refrigerant Leak

Aside from the strange smell, here are four other hints that you are dealing with a refrigerant leak.

  1. Bubbling or hissing sounds when your air conditioner runs.
  2. Frost on refrigerant lines or the evaporator coil.
  3. Trouble keeping your residence cold or having your set temperature.
  4. Increasing electrical costs.

How You Can Fix It

A refrigerant leak requires experienced assistance from a heating and cooling company like Three Rivers Heating & Cooling. Your cooling pro will find and repair the leak before recharging your system with refrigerant.

Fixing a refrigerant leak usually costs between $225 and $1,600, based on nationwide averages assembled by HomeAdvisor. Your precise cost will depend on the location and severity of the leak, as well as how much time it needs to solve.

If your air conditioner was installed before 2010, there’s a good chance it runs on R-22 or Freon refrigerant. This refrigerant is no longer being produced as a result of its negative effects on the ozone layer. Consequently, repairs can be very expensive so it may be best to do air conditioning installation in this situation.

2. Air Conditioner Smells Like Gas

If your air conditioner smells like rotten eggs, there’s probably nothing wrong with it. But there’s a significant likelihood you have a natural gas leak in your residence. Natural gas has a sulfur-like additive to warn you when there’s a leak, since the gas can be fatal in large amounts.

How You Can Solve It

If you notice a sulfur or rotten egg odor, we recommend:

  • Turning off your gas supply.
  • Opening windows.
  • Going outside right away.
  • Call your gas company without delay.

3. Air Conditioner Smells Musty

Homeowners who call us about this situation often share their air conditioner smells like feet, dirty socks or a locker room when it’s on. Also known as dirty sock syndrome, this smell is typically linked to a dirty evaporator coil that has mold, mildew and bacteria buildup. Moisture can also make your home air conditioner smell bad. Dirty sock syndrome is most common in climates where you need heating at night and during the morning before turning on cooling later on.

How to Repair It

The best approach for preventing dirty sock syndrome is to routinely change your air filter and schedule yearly air conditioning maintenance with Three Rivers Heating & Cooling. We’ll keep the evaporator coil clean and the drainage system unclogged, since stagnant water can also result in noxious odors.

4. Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

If you are dealing with air conditioner mildew smell or a pungent, vinegar-like odor, it might be prompted by several issues, including:

  • A dirty filter
  • Extra condensation
  • Blocked condensate pan or drain line
  • Moldy air conditioner or ductwork

How to Resolve It

Check your filter first. If you haven’t put in a new one within the last three months and can’t see light through it, we recommend replacing it. If that doesn’t resolve the problem, reach Three Rivers Heating & Cooling at 503-213-4433.

5. Air Conditioner Smells Like Burning Plastic

If you’re noticing an air conditioner burning smell or that your air conditioner smells like fish, there could be a couple of things wrong. These entail:

  • Broken capacitator that’s overheating the motor.
  • Motor that should have lubrication.
  • Broken fan belt.
  • Electrical trouble.

Electrical malfunctions should be examined immediately to prevent a fire. If you smell burning plastic when your air conditioner is operating, switch it off and reach us at 503-213-4433 right away.

6. Air Conditioner Smells Like Cat Pee

A strong ammonia odor means there may be mold spreading within your air conditioner or ductwork. The smell isn’t the mold itself, but the mycotoxins that mold produces.

How to Fix It

Mycotoxins are hazardous to your wellness. That’s why you should have a pro like Three Rivers Heating & Cooling check your air conditioner and ductwork and clean it when recommended.

Our Pros Can Eliminate Odd Air Conditioner Smells Fast

You deserve to be comfy in your house and shouldn’t have an air conditioner that smells bad. When you are seeking relief from your noxious air conditioner, contact us at 503-213-4433. We’ll determine the issue quickly and resolve it at a competitive.