The comforts of modern living are incredibly addictive, so much so that it’s impossible to think of life without them. The residential heating and cooling system is one such equipment that has become critical to indoor comfort. Regular and timely maintenance of the equipment is the best way to ensure no disruption in comfort. Nevertheless, when everything seems to be okay, sudden strong and unpleasant odors can be frustrating. Air conditioner smells are, in fact, a signal that something somewhere within the HVAC system is not correct.
Before we begin tackling the possibilities that could lead to these awful smells, there is one truth you need to keep in mind. The HVAC system circulates indoor air. There is a pretty good chance the odor you are getting a whiff of is not coming from the AC. Instead, its root is elsewhere in the house, and the HVAC system is simply circulating that smell. Therefore, you need to ensure the smell is not being picked up from one part of the house and circulated everywhere.
Six Common Air Conditioner Smells And How To Repair The Issue
Once you have verified the odor originates from the HVAC system, it’s time to tackle the issue headlong. So here are the six possibilities and their solution:
1. A Sweet Sickly Chemical-Like Smell – When you get a whiff of some sweet smell that is almost alcohol-like, chemical-like, or like that of a paint thinner, the issue you are dealing with is that of a refrigerant leak. A refrigerant leak can spring due to the following reasons:
1. Blunt force trauma to the copper coils containing the refrigerant or the coolant. The trauma may occur if a solid object like a tree branch or heavy stone hits against the refrigerant line.
2. Age-related wearing out of the refrigerant line may also result in leaks.
The smell is not the only clue that points towards a low refrigerant level in the air conditioner. Here are a few other signs that you may come across.
1. Frozen evaporator coils or ice buildup over the refrigerant line.
2. A bubbling or hissing sound comes from the AC when it is running.
3. The indoor temperature will not reach the desired level as quickly as before, making the AC run longer and harder.
4. High utility bills for no good reason that you are aware.
Resolving The Issue – Fixing a refrigerant leak is not simply about plugging the hole. First, all sources of leaks need to be identified. Leaving even one undetected will be a failure. The next step is to plug or seal all the leaks, and finally, the refrigerant will need to be topped up to the requisite level. No homeowner can tackle this job by themselves. It is because the job is tricky, and you will be handling hazardous materials. The only way to resolve the issue is by calling an HVAC technician. So you have no option but to place a call to your HVAC contractor.
2. Gas-like Or Sulfur-like Smell – Natural gas is odorless. Therefore, a potent additive having an unpleasant smell is added to it. It makes gas leaks easy to detect. Some people even associate the smell with rotten eggs. It is that unpleasant and that awful. If you get a whiff of any such smell while the heating and cooling system is running, beware because you are dealing with a gas leak.
Resolving The Issue – Before doing anything, shut down the HVAC system, turn off the power, and gas supply. Next, open all the windows and immediately vacate the house. Now call your gas company and wait for them to address the problem. Apart from keeping yourself and your family safe, there is nothing else you can do.
3. A Pungent Vinegar-like Smell – A stale, musty, or pungent vinegar-like smell can come from the air conditioner for several reasons. Some of them are:
1. Blockage in the condensate line.
2. Dirty air filters.
3. Too much condensation.
4. Mold in the ductwork or air conditioner.
Resolving The Issue – You start by checking the air filters. If they are dirty, switch them out with new ones and remember to do this periodically. Next, check the condensate line. If water is not flowing out properly, disconnect it from the drip tray, and using your household wet/dry vacuum cleaner, suck out the blockage. Reconnect the drain line to the drip tray, and you’re all set. In case of mold in the ductwork, you will have to call professional duct cleaners.
4. Musty Smell Resembling Dirty Socks – Also called the Dirty Socks Syndrome, this smell finds its origination in dirty evaporator coils. Over time, the evaporator coil becomes dirty and accumulates dust, dirt, bacteria, grime, condensation, and sometimes even mold. Typically, this smell is encountered in homes where heating is required at night and early morning, after which cooling is turned on.
Resolving The Issue – It’s a simple matter of ensuring the cleanliness of the evaporator coils. All a homeowner needs to do is ensure timely maintenance of the AC, and they will never have to face such an issue.
5. The Smell Of Ammonia – The odor of ammonia emanating from the AC is a sign of mold infestation. The smell is not a result of the mold. Instead, it comes from the mycotoxins that the mold produces.
Resolving The Issue – Mold in any form is a health hazard. When you first inhale air that smells like ammonia, you should get your complete heating, and cooling system checked for the presence of mold. Once its occurrence is confirmed, call professional mold cleaners to help eliminate it.
6. Smell Of Burning Plastic – When a component inside the AC overheats, its casing or the surrounding plastic may heat or burn, resulting in a burning plastic or burning rubber smell. It is a sure sign of an electrical issue.
Resolving The Issue – Electrical problems require expert handling. If your AC is giving out a burning plastic or burning rubber smell, switch it off immediately and call your local HVAC contractor to check out the problem and correct it.
Air conditioner smells are a sign that you have been neglecting your AC. If you don’t want to encounter these unpleasant and unwanted smells, ensure that your unit gets timely maintenance year after year. As long as you take good care of it, the AC should serve you well, and that, too, for years to come.
If you dwell in West Palm Beach and have forgotten to schedule your AC maintenance, let’s not delay it further. Pick up your phone and dial +1-888-729-8452 to talk to the air experts at Aztil Air Conditioning, a premier HVAC contractor of South Florida.