When your air conditioner starts spewing weird or unappealing smells, it is important to take notice because it could be a sign of a major problem. Dismissing unpleasant smells coming from your air conditioning may lead to further damage to your AC or even pose a risk to your health and safety.
Depending on the smell, the cause could be bacteria or fungus in the system. In other cases, it could also sign something mechanically wrong with the air conditioner. Some smells are even indicative of a hazardous problem, such as a natural gas leak.
At Three Rivers Heating & Cooling, we are skilled at diagnosing and fixing these type of problems. If you smell something weird coming from your air conditioner, there's a good chance our team of qualified professionals has smelled it, too—and fixed it! We’ve earned a reputation as the premier company for air conditioning repair in Portland.
What does a certain smell coming out of your AC mean? Here are several frequent air conditioner aromas and what they may mean:
My Air Conditioner Smells Like Feet
If your air conditioner smells like feet, it can be because of a buildup of bacteria or fungus in the system. When moisture builds inside the unit, it can create an environment that is favorable to the spread of bacteria and fungus. This can produce a nasty odor that is often described as smelling like feet.
Another likely explanation for an odor of stinky feet might be a dirty air filter. When your HVAC system's air filter becomes filled with dirt, dust and other particles, it can cause low air quality and a musty smell that it similar to the smell of feet.
To correct this unpleasant situation, it's important to have a quality service tech inspect and clean your air conditioning system, including the evaporator coil, drain pan and condensate drain line. It's also important to replace the air filter on a regular basis to promote good air quality and prevent the formation of bacteria and fungus.
My Air Conditioner Smells Like Rotten Eggs
If your reeks of rotten eggs, it might be due to a natural gas leak in the unit or in the surrounding area. Natural gas has a recognizable 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 allow gas to escape the area, evacuate the building and call your gas company or emergency services immediately.
My Air Conditioner Smells Like Mildew
If your AC smells like mildew, it might be due to a collection of moisture inside the unit. When moisture collects inside the air conditioning system, it can promote the growth of mold and mildew. This can cause a musty odor that it similar to mildew.
Another possible reason for the smell may be a dirty air filter. Once the air filter becomes clogged, it can result in poor air quality and a musty smell that is similar to mildew.
Annual air conditioning maintenance from Three Rivers Heating & Cooling can help prevent both of these issues, 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 unpleasant situations is when an air conditioner smells like urine.
If your air conditioning stinks like urine, it could be traced back to a number of things. One likely cause is a accumulation of bacteria or mold in the your HVAC. This can happen if moisture accumulates in the system and creates a wet environment that favorable for bacterial growth. The bacteria can produce a foul odor that resembles urine.
Another possible cause of the scent of urine could be a blocked drain line. The condensation that forms inside the air conditioning unit needs to drain away effectively, but if the drain line becomes choked with debris, it can cause water to back up and build up inside the unit. This can generate a musty smell that is sometimes described as smelling of urine.
My Air Conditioner Smells Like Burning Plastic
If your AC smells like burning plastic, it might be because of an electrical issue with the unit. After some time, the electrical components in the air conditioning system can wear out or malfunction, which can create a burning smell that resembles plastic.
Another possible root cause of the smell could be a foreign object lodged in the the air conditioner. If something foreign gets trapped in the air conditioning system, it can get hot and emit a smell like burning plastic.
If you think you smell burning plastic coming from your air conditioner, 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 another part of your home. Natural gas has a distinct smell, often described as smelling of rotten eggs or sulfur. That’s because an odor is added to natural gas so that it is easily detectable.
As stated previously, a natural gas leak can be VERY dangerous and needs immediate attention. When you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, open windows and doors to air out the home, leave the building and contact your gas company or emergency services straight away.
Why My Air Conditioner Smells Like Fish
Should your air conditioning equipment smell like fish, it could be due to a build-up of bacteria or mold in the unit. Moisture produces an environment that fosters 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 create a smell like dirty feet.
Another plausible explanation for the smell could be a dead animal or other biological material stuck within the air conditioning system. This often can take place if an animal such as a mouse or bird becomes trapped inside the unit and dies.
To correct the issue, it's worthwhile to have a professional check out and clean your HVAC system. They should be able to identify the source of the smell and take the correct steps to remove any contaminants and keep the problem from recurring.
Why My Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar
There could be numerous reasons your AC smells like vinegar. One possible cause might be a clogged air filter. A second possible cause of the smell could be a refrigerant leak. If the refrigerant leaks, it can make a chemical odor that resembles vinegar.
To fix the issue, it's beneficial to have a skilled specialist inspect and clean your air conditioning. If the odor lingers after the cleaning and replacing of the air filter, it's best to reach back out to a professional to diagnose and repair any persistent issues with your air conditioning. Or, the tech can tell you if your air conditioning ought to be replaced.
If you are planning to upgrade, Three Rivers Heating & Cooling can help locate the correct unit to fit your home’s needs. We provide reliable, professional air conditioner installation in Portland.
My Air Conditioner Smells Like Chemicals
If the smell of chemicals is coming from your air conditioner, it could be caused by a refrigerant leak. When the refrigerant leaks, it can create a chemical odor that some people describe as smelling like chemicals or paint thinner, vinegar or acetone.
Another possible reason for the smell could be a problem with the electrical wiring or elements inside the air conditioning system. This can cause a burning smell that is like chemicals or burning plastic.
If you believe there is a refrigerant leak or an electrical concern, it's important to shut down your air conditioning system as soon as possible and contact a professional to inspect and repair the unit. Refrigerant leaks can be dangerous and may require immediate attention to protect against injury or damage to your house.
Strange Smell Coming from Your AC? Call the Pros at Three Rivers Heating & Cooling
If your air conditioner stinks and you aren’t able to fix it smoothly on your own, contact the cooling experts at Three Rivers Heating & Cooling. We have years of experience working with a wide variety of HVAC systems. Our crew has fixed a multitude of air conditioning concerns through the years—including funky smells. Call us today for quality AC repair in Portland!