The HVAC unit in your home is one of the most-used appliances, and it’s inconvenient and uncomfortable when it isn’t working. Fortunately, it’s pretty good about giving signs when it needs servicing. One of the key things that many homeowners notice is bad aromas coming from the unit. An odor problem doesn’t necessarily mean that the repair will be expensive. It could be a dirty air filter or condensation which has created mold in the unit.
Troubleshoot the Smell
Listen for banging or knocking. Look for excess water on the ground or other liquids which don’t belong. Many times, the smells are not dangerous, just indicative that your system needs service. However, some smells, like rotten eggs or gas are more serious. If you are experiencing an electrical, burning odor, or gas smell, turn off the unit and call your HVAC technician right away. Other AC smells are more innocent, but you may still want to address them promptly to prevent your home from stinking.
Musty or Moldy Smell
A smell like mildew or mold is probably the most common ailment of HVAC systems. When the AC is running, there is a lot of condensation within the unit. When the moisture doesn’t drain properly, it can escape into the ducts and cause mold. Finding where the mold buildup is and getting it cleaned up will solve the problem. The dehumidification process causes water to collect on the evaporator coils, where it drips into the drain pan. Moisture can also linger on the air filter or in the ductwork. If excess water doesn’t evaporate or drain away, mold can start growing within just 24 to 48 hours, causing the signature musty odor to develop. The best way to eliminate this AC smell is to replace the air filter and ensure the drain pan is emptying properly. If your efforts aren’t enough, call an HVAC professional to perform a thorough cleaning. Mold and mildew smells are not problems with the unit that are serious, but the poor air quality does increase the risk of respiratory infections in both adults and children. Although you can still use the unit while you’re waiting to make repairs, you shouldn’t put off repairs for the sake of your family’s health.
The Smell of Dirty Socks
Although this smell may be coming from the air conditioning unit, it is not actually the unit that is the problem. Most likely, organic material has not been heated to a high enough temperature to prevent its growth. In most units, the heat exchanger kills the organic material, but those with heat pumps do not reach those temperatures. When the spores and mold are released into the air through the heat ducts, it produces poor quality air. Stagnant water sitting in a clogged drain pan can cause the smell. It won’t hurt you, but you don’t want this odor circulating around your home! Plus, standing water quickly leads to mold growth. Start by replacing the filter and unclogging the drain pan if possible. If it appears that moisture is building up somewhere else in your system, have a professional check it out.
It’s possible for a small bird or rodent to find their way into your air ducts. If the animal gets stuck, it could die and begin decomposing. Then, every time the AC runs, it blows the smell of rotting garbage into your home. Not withstanding the odors you may smell when the air conditioning unit is off, the putrid smells may be more pungent when your system is on. Mice urinate in tiny amounts, but it does produce an odor. This thought might make you queasy, but a dead animal in the ductwork isn’t particularly dangerous. Still, you undoubtedly want a professional to remove the decomposing remains as soon as possible.
Old Tobacco Smoke
If someone in your home smokes a lot, or you buy a new home where the past owner was a heavy smoker, that smoke can be pulled into the condenser coil. Just like mold, once that smoky smell permeates the coil, it will contaminate the air blowing into your house. Now, if it smells as if something is actually burning, there might be a mechanical problem with the AC unit’s fan or compressor. Check the central air conditioning unit to see if you smell anything burning around the actual unit. If it is burning, then turn off the unit immediately to prevent further damage or fire. But if the smell is of stale tobacco smoke coming from your AC vents, the source is innocent enough. All this odor means is that the condenser coil and air filter have absorbed old cigarette smoke. If you’re a heavy smoker, it’s important to schedule regular maintenance to prevent smoke residue on the coils from causing performance problems. Fortunately, a good cleaning and air filter replacement are typically all you need to eliminate old tobacco smoke smell from your AC vents.
If you need help getting rid of any hazardous or harmless AC smells, please contact us today. We can answer any of your questions and perform the necessary cleaning and repairs to make your home smell better when the air conditioner runs.
Make sure to choose your heating and cooling partner wisely. Teegarden HVAC is a knowledgeable, trustworthy, and affordable HVAC company that enjoys and respects customers throughout all of the Greater Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky area.
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