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9 Bad Odours That Come From Your Air Conditioner & How To Remove Them

gas mask for air conditioning odours

On hot and humid days, air conditioners are your knights in shining armour, but they’re not without their faults. They can produce a bad odour, make you choke, and can cause allergies and sinus problems. Air conditioners contain a ton of electrical parts that can create a multitude of odours. Before you call for A/C repair services, be sure to know what the source of the bad odour from your air conditioner is and how to remove it.

how to remove bad odour from ac

#1. Burning

You’re not alone if you find yourself getting a headache out of this one. Odours like burning plastic, rubber, or metal are usually a sign that something electrical is malfunctioning. The smell of burnt toast is most likely caused by overheated wires, motor malfunction, or a problem with the AC’s compressor. 

You can usually tell if this is the case when you hear some slight crackling during operation or when little smoke starts coming out of the unit. 

How to fix

When you identify the problem, it’s best to call in an HVAC repair professional. Fixing it on your own can be extremely dangerous as you could be at risk of electrocution.

#2. Rotten eggs

The sulfuric smell of rotten eggs is usually a sign that a natural gas leak getting into your system’s ductwork. This is a serious safety hazard as it can lead to an explosion, so you should shut off your AC immediately and call a professional to check for leaks.

How to fix

While you should always leave natural gas leaks to be fixed by a professional, there are some things you can do to make sure your home is safe in the meantime. 

  • First, open all the windows and doors to ventilate the area. 
  • Next, find the source of the leak and turn it off if possible. 

If you can’t find the source or suspect there may be more than one, evacuate the premises and call your HVAC contractor from a safe location.

#3. Mould or mildew

Mould and mildew love warm, humid environments but can grow just about anywhere. This is why it often appears in AC units. Fungi can cause serious respiratory problems, especially for people with allergies or asthma, so getting rid of them as soon as possible is important.

mould and mildew can make your ac smell bad

How to fix

You can usually get rid of mould and mildew by cleaning your AC unit with a bleach solution. Just be sure to wear gloves and a mask when doing so, and open all the windows to ventilate the area. 

You can also prevent mould and mildew from growing in the first place by regularly changing your AC’s air filter and keeping the unit clean.

#4. Musty smell

A musty smell is usually caused by dust, dirt, mould, and mildew building up in your AC unit. This is a common problem, especially in homes with pets or smokers, as the air filter can’t always catch everything.

How to fix

The best way to get rid of a musty smell is to clean your AC unit, including the air filter, coils, and drain pan. You can also try using an air purifier to help remove any lingering odour.

#5. Dirty socks

This one’s a bit of a mystery, but some people say their AC units smell like dirty socks. The most likely explanation is due to bacteria growth on the unit’s evaporator coils, which can happen when the coils are dirty or when the air filter is clogged. 

Standing water in the AC’s drain pan can also create this odour.

How to fix

To get rid of a dirty sock smell is to clean the evaporator coils and drain pan and change the air filter. You can also try using a dehumidifier to help remove any moisture in the air. You don’t need a contractor for this one.

#6. Cigarette smoke

If your AC unit smells like cigarette smoke, it’s likely because there’s a smoker in the house. Smoke can easily get into the ductwork and build up over time, causing the AC unit to smell like an ashtray.

cigarette odour can come from your air conditioner when a smoker lives in the hosue

How to fix

The best way to get rid of cigarette smoke is to stop smoking in the house. If that’s not an option, you can try using an air purifier to help remove the odour. You can also try cleaning the AC unit, but likely, the smell of smoke will just come back if smokers continue to smoke.

7. Exhaust Fumes

If your AC unit smells like exhaust fumes, it’s likely because there’s a leak in the exhaust system, most probably the refrigerant. This is a serious safety hazard as it can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, so you should shut off your AC immediately.

How to fix

You should always leave repairs to a professional, but there are some things you can do to make sure your home is safe in the meantime. 

  • First, open all the windows and doors to ventilate the area, as exhaust fumes can quickly build up to dangerous levels. 
  • Call an HVAC company to come and check for leaks
  • Do not use your AC unit until it has been repaired.

8. Garbage

A garbage stench coming from your AC unit usually indicates that small animals such as rodents or birds have gotten into the ductwork and died. This is a serious health hazard as their bodies can release harmful bacteria into the air, so it’s important to get rid of the smell as soon as possible.

How to fix

You will need to call a professional to clean the ductwork and remove any dead animals. In the meantime, you can try using an air purifier to help remove the odour.

9. Vehicle coolant

A sweet, syrupy smell from your AC unit is most likely due to a coolant leak. Coolant can be toxic if inhaled, so it’s important to shut off your AC unit immediately and call your HVAC technician.

10. Skunk

The smell of a skunk is often the first sign that your AC unit is sucking in outside air, which can happen if there’s a hole in the ductwork. This is a problem because it means your AC isn’t filtering the air properly, which can lead to all sorts of respiratory problems.

How to fix

Fixing a hole in the ductwork is a job for a professional, but you can temporarily get rid of the skunk smell by placing a bowl of vinegar in the room where the AC is located. The vinegar will absorb the odour, and you can simply empty it when the smell is gone.

Eliminate odour from your air conditioner ASAP!

Any odour from an air conditioner is a sign that there is something wrong and it needs to be cleaned or repaired. The best way to get rid of any odour is to clean the AC unit, including the air filter, coils, and drain pan. You can also try using an air purifier to help remove any lingering odour and get your home smelling fresh again!

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