Why Does My AC Smell? (And What to Do)

Your AC unit is an important part of making life in your home as comfortable as it should be.

It gets you and your loved ones through hot summers and chilly winters. Also, when it is well taken care of, it can improve your indoor air quality significantly.

On the other hand, your AC can make life miserable when its neglected. You may not be able to ignore it for long, as it is likely to emit some sort of foul smell when something is amiss.

Some odours are worse than others, but you should always be paying attention for the slightest smells coming from the AC.

Sometimes the problem can cause a few sniffles or is just a bit unpleasant, while other times the fumes may be toxic.

  • Wondering what that strange smell is coming from your AC?
  • Want to know exactly what you should do about it?

Read on to find out.

A Musty Smell

A musty smell coming from your AC could be a sign of mould, mildew and dirt in general.

It is not uncommon at all, and most people with an air-conditioner have experienced this problem to some degree.

Because of how dark and often humid it is in your AC (due to the condensation that occurs), it is the perfect breeding ground for mould.

Sometimes moisture in the system does not drain properly, leading to the growth of mould. This can allow mould spores to be blown into your home and circulated by the AC itself.

Apart from causing a nasty smell, mould spores can lead to respiratory infections and trigger asthma attacks in those who are asthmatic.

This problem can easily be fixed by having your air-conditioner cleaned and disinfected.

While you can clean and replace most filters yourself, a HVAC technician will perform a more thorough clean by getting into the internals of the system. This can minimize the chances of the problem coming up again.

Sulphur or Rotten Eggs

This is an odour that is particularly hard to ignore. The smell of sulphur or rotten eggs is a sure sign of a natural gas leak, which is extremely dangerous.

While natural gas is odourless in its natural state, manufacturers are obligated to add a chemical that gives it that distinct smell. This is a safety measure which alerts you to a leak the moment it occurs.

If this happens, do not attempt to fix the problem yourself.

Open the doors and windows to allow as much airflow as possible and evacuate your home. Then, call the gas company to assist.

The Smell Of Something Burning

A burning smell is an indicator of exactly that – something burning.

In air-conditioners, it is commonly an electrical or mechanical problem such as faulty wiring, an overexerted motor, a short circuit, etc.

If this happens, turn the AC off immediately and contact an aircon technician to assess the situation.

If you suspect that it is a fire hazard, evacuate your home and call the fire department to confirm whether it is safe to proceed with the help of your technician.

Stale Cigarette Smoke

If you or anyone else in the house are prone to smoking indoors, the cigarette smoke can accumulate in your air-conditioners filter.

This may affect the overall indoor air quality, and lead to that distinct smell of old cigarettes when the AC is turned on.

The smell is not just unpleasant, but second-hand smoke can cause respiratory issues for non-smokers in the home, even long after the cigarette has been put out.

Consider having your AC system thoroughly cleaned and changing the filter. Also never smoke indoors, switch to smoking outdoors instead.

Smelly Feet

The odour of stinky feet or dirty socks is a general indicator that your AC unit needs a good cleaning.

This smell can come from dirt that is clogging the system. This dirt could be sitting in water that is not draining properly and begins to smell as it builds up over time.

Simply contact a technician to drain the water and clean the AC professionally.

General Rotting Smell

A rotting smell may remind you of old trash and is more than likely a sign of a dead critter in your air duct.

Small animals like mice and birds often take shelter in warm, accessible parts of your AC. If they get stuck and die in there, they will soon cause a smell that you cannot ignore.

You may not be able to see and remove the dead animal yourself, so it is perfectly reasonable to contact an AC technician to handle it for you.

Other Smells

There could be several other smells coming from your AC that you just cannot put your finger on.

If you are unsure what the cause may be, it is still advisable to call a technician. They will help you to diagnose the problem.

Do not attempt to mask the odours coming from your AC with air freshener or other types of products.

Not only is masking the smell unhelpful and likely to make the odour worse, but it may lead to bigger problems if the root of the issue is not addressed immediately.

An air-conditioner with a funny smell is generally an unhappy air-conditioner. And an unhappy air-conditioner is sure to wreak havoc on your entire home.

How To Minimize The Chances Of A Smelly AC

Although some problems are unavoidable, many odd smells can be prevented from entering your home.

An AC maintenance plan, for instance, is a perfect way to schedule regular servicing for your AC system.

By having your aircon system inspected, cleaned, and fixed on a regular basis, you either avoid the potential problems altogether, or catch them in their early stages.

Your air conditioning unit makes life at home pleasant, no matter the weather. It helps to keep you cool or warm and makes the air around you healthy and worth breathing.

It deserves to be taken care of, and there are endless benefits in doing so. Also by paying more attention to it you will be more aware of when an issue like a strange noise or funny smell begins.

Next time you are struggling with an awful smell coming from your AC system, act fast to find the cause and resolve the issue. Then schedule regular maintenance going forward, for a happy and healthy home.