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

April 21, 2021

When your air conditioner is clean and working properly, it’s not normal to be smelling anything strange. Unexpected air conditioner noises and strange smells are a clue that something is wrong. If your air conditioner is aging or you haven’t had service scheduled recently, they can be a sure sign you need skilled air conditioning repair in Sacramento.

Here are six of the most frequent 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, particularly a chemical odor, isn’t a good sign. You might also notice your:

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

These sweet, chemical scents are frequently a clue that your air conditioner is experiencing a refrigerant leak. Your system uses this gas to shift heat through copper coils, which can crack over time.

4 Signs You Are Experiencing a Refrigerant Leak

Besides the weird smell, here are four other hints that you have a refrigerant leak.

  1. Bubbling or hissing sounds when your air conditioner is operating.
  2. Ice crystals on refrigerant lines or the evaporator coil.
  3. Difficulty keeping your house comfortable or achieving your programmed temperature.
  4. High electrical costs.

How You Can Repair It

A refrigerant leak requires experienced repairs from a heating and cooling company like American HVAC Inc. Your cooling pro will find and repair the leak before recharging your air conditioner with refrigerant.

Fixing a refrigerant leak typically costs between $225 and $1,600, based on nationwide averages put together by HomeAdvisor. Your exact cost will depend on the location and severity of the leak, as well as how much time it takes to fix.

If your air conditioner was installed early than 2010, there’s a high probability it uses R-22 or Freon refrigerant. This refrigerant is no longer being produced because of its harmful effects on the ozone layer. Consequently, repairs can be significantly expensive so it may be smartest to schedule air conditioning installation in this situation.

2. Air Conditioner Smells Like Gas

If your air conditioner smells like rotten eggs, there’s possibly nothing wrong with it. But there’s a good probability you have a natural gas leak in your house. Natural gas has a sulfur-like additive to signal you when there’s a leak, as the gas can be toxic in large amounts.

How You Can Solve It

If you smell a sulfur or rotten egg odor, we advise:

  • Turning off your gas supply.
  • Opening windows.
  • Going outside right away.
  • Getting in touch with your gas company now.

3. Air Conditioner Smells Musty

Homeowners who call us about this situation usually share their air conditioner smells like feet, dirty socks or a locker room when it’s on. Also referred to as dirty sock syndrome, this smell is often created by a dirty evaporator coil that has mold, mildew and bacteria buildup. Moisture can also make your home air conditioner smell bad. Dirty sock syndrome is most typical in locations where you use heating at night and during the morning before switching to cooling later in the day.

How to Repair It

The best approach for preventing dirty sock syndrome is to routinely get a new air filter and schedule annual air conditioning maintenance with American HVAC Inc. We’ll keep the evaporator coil clean and the drainage system unblocked, since standing water can also produce unpleasant odors.

4. Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

If you are dealing with air conditioner mildew smell or a pungent, vinegar-like odor, it can be the result of several situations, such as:

  • A clogged filter
  • Excess condensation
  • Plugged condensate pan or drain line
  • Moldy air conditioner or ductwork

How to Resolve It

Examine your filter first. If you haven’t put in a new one within the last three months and can’t see light through it, we recommend replacing it. If that doesn’t fix the issue, reach American HVAC Inc at 916-243-6714.

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 a couple of things wrong. These involve:

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

Electrical issues should be examined immediately to avoid a fire. If you notice burning plastic when your air conditioner is running, switch it off and reach us at 916-243-6714 right away.

6. Air Conditioner Smells Like Cat Pee

A strong ammonia odor means there could be mold spreading in your air conditioner or ductwork. The smell isn’t the mold itself, but the mycotoxins that mold produces.

How to Repair It

Mycotoxins are hazardous to your wellness. That’s why you should have a pro like American HVAC Inc examine your air conditioner and ductwork and clean it when recommended.

Our Professionals Can Get Rid of Strange Air Conditioner Smells Fast

You deserve to be cozy in your home and shouldn’t have an air conditioner that smells bad. When you are looking for relief from your stinky air conditioner, contact us at 916-243-6714. We’ll diagnose the issue quickly and take care of it at a reasonable.