Reasons Why Your Air Conditioner Smells

A woman holding her nose due to a bad smell from air conditioner.

Our air conditioners can have funny ways of telling us something is wrong. Sometimes, they’ll make loud noises to let us know that a part needs to be replaced or repaired. In other instances, they’ll produce bad smells — much to our disgust.

Is your home currently filled with a pungent stink? Some of these foul odors are easy to remove, while others require careful attention and professional assistance. Let’s discuss the potential reasons why your air conditioner smells and what you can do about it.

Dirty Air Filter

Your HVAC system filters dust, pollen, and other pollutants out of the air before it’s pushed out into your home. However, neglecting to replace or clean the air filter can have its drawbacks — such as a foul, musty smell. This particular odor is usually caused by mold spores collecting on the filter.

If your air conditioner smells bad when turned on, a clogged or dirty air filter could be to blame. Fortunately, replacing the filter can usually fix the problem. However, if the issue continues, you might want to inspect your AC’s drain line.

Clogged Drain Line

Your air conditioner produces condensation during the cooling process. In order to avoid mold growth, it sends this excess moisture out of your home via a condensation line (or drain line, as it’s sometimes called).

If your air conditioner smells bad when turned on, a clogged drain line could be the culprit. When excess moisture gets trapped inside your air conditioner, you may start to notice strange, musty smells inside your home.

Scheduling routine maintenance for your air conditioner can help you avoid this problem. However, if you already have a clogged drain line, contact a professional HVAC technician for a cleaning.

Dirty Evaporator Coils

There are several likely reasons why your air conditioner smells — but it’s worth mentioning that not every odor is the same. If your AC smells like dirty socks, you could be dealing with dirty evaporator coils.

These evaporator coils play a key role in the cooling process. However, failing to keep up with your air conditioner’s maintenance needs can lead to several problems, including dirty coils. You can either clean or replace the coils with the help of a professional.

Refrigerant Leak

Does your air conditioner smell like chemicals, acetone, or exhaust fumes? These foul odors can indicate a refrigerant leak. Refrigerant is a vital component in the cooling process, and without it, your home would feel humid and hot.

Low refrigerant levels are a cause for concern and can be one of the top reasons why your air conditioner smells. If you suspect there’s a refrigerant leak, contact a Thousand Oaks air conditioning specialist for a repair.

Pest Infestation

The smell of rotten eggs or expired food inside your home is never a good sign. In the event that your air conditioner smells bad when turned on, there could be a dead animal in your air ducts. Mice, birds, and other animals like to take shelter in warm areas during the colder months — and sometimes, that can be inside a home. It’s best to schedule a professional air duct cleaning to remove the animal and remedy your smelly air conditioner.

Circuit Board Shortage

When you smell something burning inside of your air conditioner, there could be a problem with the circuit board. The smell can also be similar to gunpowder in some instances. In most cases, circuit boards inside AC units can short due to old age. You’ll want to contact an HVAC technician as soon as possible to address the problem.

Gas Leaks

There are many potential reasons why your air conditioner smells, but you should never ignore the scent of gas. Gas leaks of any kind are incredibly dangerous and should be handled with extreme care. Leave your home right away and call a professional for assistance.

Keep Your AC in Top Shape With RR Electric

When you return home after a long day, your air conditioning system should help you feel cool and comfortable. If suddenly your air conditioner smells bad when turned on, don’t hesitate to schedule a repair. At RR Electric, our HVAC technicians have been keeping our local residents comfortable since 1995. Contact us to schedule air conditioning service in Camarillo, CA, and the surrounding areas!