When your air conditioner starts emitting unusual or gross smells, it is important to take notice because it could be a sign of a big problem. Disregarding unpleasant smells coming from your cooling system may lead to additional damage to your AC or even pose a risk to your health and safety.

Depending on the cause of the odor, the culprit could be bacteria or fungus in the system. On the other hand, it could also sign something mechanically wrong with the air conditioner. Some smells are a warning of an unsafe scenario, including a natural gas leak.

At Watts Electric & AC, we are skilled at diagnosing and fixing these type of problems. If you smell something odd coming from your AC, there's a good chance our team of skilled pros has smelled it, too—and fixed it! We’ve earned a reputation as the premier company for air conditioning repair in Columbia.

What does a certain smell wafting coming from your air conditioning mean? Here are several frequent air conditioner aromas and what they may mean:

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Feet

If your air conditioner smells like feet, it might be because of a buildup of bacteria or fungus in the unit. When moisture collects inside the unit, it can create an environment that is favorable to the growth of bacteria and fungus. This can cause a foul odor that is often described as smelling like stinky feet.

Another possible cause of an odor of stinky feet might be a dirty air filter. When the air filter becomes clogged with dirt, dust and other particles, it can lead to low air quality and a musty smell that resembles feet.

To correct this issue, it's important to have a quality service tech inspect and clean your air conditioning system, including the evaporator coil, drain pan and condensate drain line. It's also important to replace the air filter routinely to ensure good air quality and prevent the development of bacteria and fungus.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Rotten Eggs

If your air conditioner stinks like rotten eggs, it could be caused by a natural gas leak in the unit or in the surrounding area. Natural gas has a distinct odor, often described as smelling like rotten eggs or sulfur, which is added to it to make it easily detectable.

A natural gas leak is a situation that is extremely dangerous and requires immediate attention. If you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, immediately open windows and doors to allow gas to escape the area, get everyone out of the building and call your gas company or emergency services right away.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Mildew

If your air conditioner is giving off an odor like mildew, it could be due to a accumulation of moisture inside the unit. When moisture accumulates inside a cooling system, it can cultivate the growth of mold and mildew. This can cause a musty smell that resembles mildew.

Another possible cause of the smell could be a dirty air filter. When the air filter becomes clogged, it can result in poor air quality and a musty smell that has a resemblance to mildew.

Annual air conditioning maintenance from Watts Electric & AC can help protect against both of these situations, because a good cleaning, inspection and filter change is a great way to keep your system operating at its best!

Your AC Smells Like Urine

One of the most distressing situations is when an air conditioner smells like urine.

If your air conditioner stinks like urine, it could could be caused by multiple factors. One possible cause is a buildup of bacteria or mold in the your HVAC. This can happen if moisture accumulates in the system and creates a moist environment that is conducive to bacterial growth. The bacteria can produce a foul odor that is like urine.

Another possible cause of the scent of urine could be a clogged drain line. The condensation that forms inside the air conditioning unit needs to drain away correctly, but if the drain line becomes choked with debris, it can cause water to back up and accumulate inside the unit. This can generate a musty smell that can stink like urine.

Your AC Smells Like Burning Plastic

If your air conditioner smells like burning plastic, this could indicate an electrical issue with the unit. After some time, the electrical components in the air conditioning system can wear out or bust, which can produce a burning smell that resembles plastic.

Another possible cause of the smell could be a foreign object stuck in the the air conditioner. If something foreign gets trapped in the air conditioning system, it can get hot and result in a smell that reminds people of burning plastic.

If you notice something that smells like burning plastic coming from your AC unit, it’s worthwhile to phone a professional right away.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Gas

If your AC smells like gas, it could be due to a natural gas leak in the unit or in another part of your home. Natural gas has a distinctive odor, often described as smelling similar to rotten eggs or sulfur. That’s because a smell is incorporated into natural gas to make it easily detectable.

As stated earlier, a natural gas leak can be VERY harmful and needs immediate attention. If you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, open windows and doors to air out the home, evacuate the building and call your gas company or emergency services right away.

Why My Air Conditioner Smells Like Fish

If your AC smell like fish, this could be a sign of a build-up of bacteria or mold in the unit. Moisture causes an environment that promotes the growth of bacteria and mold. This can cause a disgusting odor that is often described as smelling like fish or, as mentioned earlier, it also can result in a smell like dirty feet.

Another plausible explanation for the smell could be a dead animal or other biological material trapped within the air conditioning system. This often can happen if an animal such as a mouse or bird gets trapped inside the unit and dies.

To solve the issue, it's important to have a professional examine and clean your cooling system. They can determine the source of the smell and take the proper steps to remove any contaminants and prevent the problem from recurring.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

There could be numerous reasons a home's air conditioning system smells like vinegar. One possible cause of the smell could be a dirty air filter. Another likely cause of the smell might be a refrigerant leak. Sometimes after the refrigerant leaks, it can make a chemical odor that resembles vinegar.

To fix the issue, it's essential to have a skilled mechanic inspect and clean your air conditioning.  If the odor lingers after the cleaning and exchanging the air filter, it's best to reach back out to a professional to identify and repair any persistent issues with your air conditioning. Or, the mechanic can tell you if your air conditioning should be replaced.

If you are planning to upgrade, Watts Electric & AC can help find the right unit to fit your home’s needs. We provide trustworthy, expert air conditioner installation in Columbia.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Chemicals

If the smell of chemicals is coming out of your air conditioning unit, it could be caused by a refrigerant leak. If the refrigerant leaks, it can create a chemical aroma that people sometimes describe as smelling like chemicals or paint thinner, vinegar or acetone.

One other possible reason for the smell could be problems with the electrical wiring or elements inside the air conditioning system. This can produce a burning smell that it similar to chemicals or burning plastic.

If you believe there is a refrigerant leak or an electrical problem, it's important to turn off your air conditioning system as soon as possible and contact a professional to inspect and repair the unit. Refrigerant leaks can be hazardous and may require immediate attention to prevent injury or damage to your residence.

Weird Smells Coming from Your Cooling? Call the Pros at Watts Electric & AC

If your air conditioner stinks and you aren’t able to fix it smoothly on your own, reach out to the cooling specialists at Watts Electric & AC. We have plenty of experience working with a wide variety of HVAC systems. Our crew has fixed many air conditioning troubles through the years—including funky smells. Call us today for quality AC repair in Columbia!