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What To Do If Your Air Conditioner Smells Bad?

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air conditioner near window

air conditioner near window

Imagine coming home after a long, tiring, and hot day, taking off the boots, unloosing the tie, and turning the AC on. But there is a problem. You smell an odor from your air conditioner and are forced to turn it off.

Why does it smell bad? Is there an easy fix? Can you fix it yourself, or do you need to call someone? How much does it cost to fix it? Suddenly you are hit by a lot of questions!

From a damp sock-like smell to a smoky odor, an air conditioner can emit various types of foul smells and take away your home comfort. This article will discuss some smells that come from an air conditioner and find out the reason for these odors and how to get rid of them. 

Types Of Bad Smells And Odors, Their Possible Causes, And Solutions

1. Smells Like Exhaust Fumes

Air conditioners use some fluids to run. Typically, when these fluids are heated, your air conditioner may smell like exhaust fumes. This type of smell mostly means that there is a leakage in the refrigerant line. A refrigerant leak may hamper the function of the air conditioning unit. Besides, it is unsafe for the environment because some chemicals may get released into the air.

You must get your air conditioner checked by a qualified professional without any delay. Meanwhile, open all the windows to make sure the room is ventilated. This will remove the smell. Also, check if there are any harmful effects of the chemical leak.


2. Smells Like Plastic Or Gunpowder

There are many electrical parts, such as power wires, circuit boards, compressors, fans, etc., in an air conditioning unit. If you find a smell like something is burning, particularly like burning plastic or gunpowder from your air conditioner, it may be because one or more than one of these electrical parts are burning. Such problems with electrical components need immediate attention, and you need to contact a qualified HVAC professional immediately. Do not try any DIY tactics in this case; it can turn out dangerous.

There is one more reason for such a smell in an AC. If you do not turn your AC on for a long time, dust settles in the air conditioning unit. Then, after a long period when it is turned on, the settled dust may burn off and cause an unpleasant odor. This odor is temporary, and you do not need to be worried about it. But if you think the smell is very pungent and is not going away, turn your air conditioner off right away and consult with a professional.


3. Smells Like Rotten Eggs

This type of smell is pretty obvious, and you cannot misinterpret it for something else. It is usually caused by dead animals, such as birds, rats, etc., that are stuck in the air conditioner. Insects or birds creep into the ductwork and take shelter, where they get trapped or perish due to natural causes.

With time, these dead animals emit pretty awful smells. If you do not take immediate actions, these smells can cause diseases. Moreover, stuck or dying animals can cause damage to different parts of the air conditioning unit.

Always pest-proof your unit to prevent such a scenario. A professional can always help you to fix this problem. However, if you want to fix this by yourself, that is also possible. You will need to find out from which duct the smell is coming from. Then remove the cover with a screwdriver and remove the dead animal. After removing, clean the area, ensure it's dry, and put on the cover back.


4. Smells Like Mildew

It is the most common type of smell released from air conditioners. The usual cause of this smell is the collection of water in the drip lines or drain pan, eventually causing the growth of fungus or mold.

Another cause of this smell is filthy filters. If you live in a place where the climate is hot and humid, and you need to run your air conditioner for a long time, moisture may accumulate in the filters. You need to contact an expert to clean your AC's filthy parts to remove the smell.


5. Smells Like Gas

This is the most alarming type of smell. This means there is a leakage of gas within the unit, particularly Methyl Mercaptan.

Natural gas usually does not have an odor. But utilities and gas distributors add Methyl Mercaptan to give it a distinctive smell. This makes sure that gas leakage is readily detected. If this happens, stop your gas supply right away and contact your electricity supplier to resolve the issue and improve your indoor air quality.


6. Smells Like Cigarette Smoke

If you are a smoker, there is a possibility that eventually, your air conditioner will smell like stale cigarette smoke. Such a smell can give you headaches and cause allergic reactions.

The filter and evaporator coil takes up the smell from cigarette smoke, and when you turn the AC on, they knock loose the tobacco particles and spread it in your home, causing the smell. To remove this smell, clean your air conditioner routinely and try to change your air filter every one or two months. Also, build up the habit of smoking outdoors.


7. Smells Like Dirty Socks Or Bad Foot Odor

This smell means a clogged and dirty system. If the system cannot drain completely, water accumulates inside it, becomes stagnant, and eventually releases an odor. A professional and full-service clean will resolve the problem.


Make Sure To Take Precautions Before A DIY

Water and electric components are not a good match. There is always a high risk of electric shock. So, it is always wise to call an expert to fix any issue. If you think you are qualified enough for doing a DIY, make sure to follow the operating and maintenance manuals of your AC. Gather the right set of tools and always use proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job. Do not forget to switch off the power supply of your air conditioner.

Now you know all the reasons why your air conditioner can release an unpleasant odor and how to get rid of it. Do not try to mask the smell using an air freshener or air purifier. Delaying the repair work may damage it even more, and you may need to buy a new air conditioner.



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