6 Common Air Conditioner Smells Explained and How to Fix the Issue

April 21, 2021

When your air conditioner is clean and operating correctly, you shouldn’t be smelling anything odd. Unusual air conditioner noises and odd smells are a sign that something is off. If your air conditioner is getting older or you haven’t had a tune-up completed lately, they can be a clear sign you need pro air conditioning repair in Columbia.

Here are six of the most common air conditioner smells and how you can solve them.

1. Central Air Conditioner Smells Like Chemicals

If your air conditioner smells bad when turned on, especially a chemical odor, isn’t a great sign. You may also report your:

  • Air conditioner smells like paint thinner
  • Home air conditioner smells sweet

These sweet, chemical smells are typically a sign that your air conditioner is suffering from a refrigerant leak. Your system relies on this gas to transfer heat through copper coils, which can break out as time goes on.

4 Hints You Are Dealing with a Refrigerant Leak

Aside from the odd smell, here are four other clues that you are dealing with a refrigerant leak.

  1. Bubbling or hissing sounds when your air conditioner runs.
  2. Ice crystals on refrigerant lines or the evaporator coil.
  3. Trouble keeping your house cool or achieving your desired temperature.
  4. High electrical bills.

How You Can Fix It

A refrigerant leak requires professional repairs from a heating and cooling company like Watts Electric & A/C Inc. Your cooling specialist will find and mend the leak before recharging your air conditioner with refrigerant.

Resolving a refrigerant leak often costs between $225 and $1,600, according to nationwide averages assembled by HomeAdvisor. Your exact cost will depend on the location and severity of the leak, as well as how long it needs to solve.

If your air conditioner was installed before 2010, it’s likely it has R-22 or Freon refrigerant. This refrigerant is no longer being manufactured due to its adverse effects on the ozone layer. Because of this, repairs can be significantly expensive so it may be smartest to do air conditioning installation in this instance.

2. Air Conditioner Smells Like Gas

If your air conditioner smells like rotten eggs, there’s probably nothing wrong with it. But there’s a high probability you have a natural gas leak in your house. Natural gas has a sulfur-like additive to alert you when there’s a leak, because the gas can be fatal in heavy concentrations.

How You Can Fix It

If you notice a sulfur or rotten egg odor, we suggest:

  • Shutting off your gas supply.
  • Opening windows.
  • Leaving your home as soon as possible.
  • Getting in touch with your gas company now.

3. Air Conditioner Smells Musty

People who reach us about this issue often mention their air conditioner smells like feet, dirty socks or a locker room when it runs. Also called dirty sock syndrome, this smell is often linked to a filthy evaporator coil that has mold, mildew and bacteria buildup. Condensation can also make your home air conditioner smell bad. Dirty sock syndrome is most common in climates where you need heating at night and during the morning before turning on cooling later on.

How to Solve It

The best approach for preventing dirty sock syndrome is to frequently get a new air filter and schedule regular air conditioning maintenance with Watts Electric & A/C Inc. We’ll keep the evaporator coil clean and the drainage system unblocked, since standing water can also result in unpleasant odors.

4. Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

If you are dealing with air conditioner mildew smell or an acidic, vinegar-like odor, it could be caused by several issues, including:

  • A filthy filter
  • Extra condensation
  • Plugged condensate pan or drain line
  • Moldy air conditioner or ductwork

How to Repair It

Check your filter first. If you haven’t put in a new one within the last three months and can’t see light through it, it’s time to replace it. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, reach Watts Electric & A/C Inc at 601-736-7362.

5. Air Conditioner Smells Like Burning Plastic

If you’re experiencing an air conditioner burning smell or that your air conditioner smells like fish, there could be several things wrong. These involve:

  • Broken capacitator that’s overheating the motor.
  • Motor that needs lubrication.
  • Broken fan belt.
  • Electrical malfunctions.

Electrical problems should be inspected quickly to stop a fire. If you smell burning plastic when your air conditioner is running, switch it off and contact us at 601-736-7362 immediately.

6. Air Conditioner Smells Like Cat Pee

An overpowering ammonia odor means there could be mold growing within your air conditioner or ductwork. The smell isn’t the mold itself, but the mycotoxins that mold makes.

How to Solve It

Mycotoxins are hazardous to your health. That’s why it’s important to have a professional like Watts Electric & A/C Inc look at your air conditioner and ductwork and clean it when recommended.

Our Professionals Can Get Rid of Unpleasant Air Conditioner Smells Fast

You deserve to be cozy in your house and shouldn’t have an air conditioner that smells bad. When you are seeking relief from your noxious air conditioner, contact us at 601-736-7362. We’ll diagnose the problem quickly and fix it at a fair price.