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

April 21, 2021

When your air conditioner is spotless and running correctly, it’s expected you won’t be smelling anything odd. Unusual air conditioner noises and weird smells are a hint that something is off. If your air conditioner is past its prime or you haven’t had a tune-up scheduled within the last year, they can be a clear sign you need professional air conditioning repair in Auburn.

Here are six of the top 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 scent, isn’t a good sign. You could also notice your:

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

These sweet, chemical odors are often a clue that your air conditioner is suffering from a refrigerant leak. Your system uses this gas to shift heat through copper coils, which can wear out as time goes on.

4 Hints You Are Dealing with a Refrigerant Leak

In addition to the weird smell, here are four other signs that you have a refrigerant leak.

  1. Bubbling or hissing sounds when your air conditioner runs.
  2. Frost on refrigerant lines or the evaporator coil.
  3. It’s hard keeping your house cool or reaching your programmed temperature.
  4. Increasing energy bills.

How You Can Repair It

A refrigerant leak requires experienced support from a heating and cooling company like Forster Heating. Your cooling specialist will pinpoint and mend the leak before recharging your AC with refrigerant.

Fixing a refrigerant leak typically costs between $225 and $1,600, based on nationwide averages assembled by HomeAdvisor. Your exact cost will depend on the location and severity of the leak, as well as how long it requires to repair.

If your air conditioner was installed prior to 2010, there’s a high probability it has R-22 or Freon refrigerant. This refrigerant is no longer being made due to its harmful effects on the ozone layer. Due to this, repairs can be extremely expensive so it may be wisest to schedule air conditioning installation in this situation.

2. Air Conditioner Smells Like Gas

If your air conditioner smells like rotten eggs, there’s likely nothing wrong with it. But there’s a good chance you have a natural gas leak in your home. Natural gas has a sulfur-like additive to signal you when there’s a leak, since the gas can be toxic in big amounts.

How You Can Repair It

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

  • Turning off your gas supply.
  • Opening windows.
  • Going outside right away.
  • Contacting your gas company immediately.

3. Air Conditioner Smells Musty

People who reach us about this problem often report their air conditioner smells like feet, dirty socks or a locker room when it’s running. Also referred to as dirty sock syndrome, this smell is frequently linked to a dirty evaporator coil that has mold, mildew and bacteria buildup. Excess water can also make your home air conditioner smell bad. Dirty sock syndrome is most common in locations where you use heating at night and during the morning before transitioning to cooling later in the day.

How to Fix It

The best way to prevent dirty sock syndrome is to regularly get a new air filter and schedule routine air conditioning maintenance with Forster Heating. We’ll keep the evaporator coil clean and the drainage system unclogged, since stagnant water can also produce noxious odors.

4. Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

If you are dealing with air conditioner mildew smell or a strong, vinegar-like odor, it might be the result of several problems, like:

  • A dirty filter
  • Extra condensation
  • Clogged condensate pan or drain line
  • Moldy air conditioner or ductwork

How to Resolve 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, we recommend replacing it. If that doesn’t resolve the smell, contact Forster Heating at 530-885-8081.

5. Air Conditioner Smells Like Burning Plastic

If you’re noticing 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 requires lubrication.
  • Broken fan belt.
  • Electrical trouble.

Electrical issues should be inspected immediately to stop a fire. If you detect burning plastic when your air conditioner is operating, switch it off and call us at 530-885-8081 right away.

6. Air Conditioner Smells Like Cat Pee

An overpowering ammonia odor means there might be mold spreading inside your air conditioner or ductwork. The smell isn’t the mold itself, but the mycotoxins that mold produces.

How to Solve It

Mycotoxins are hazardous to your health. That’s why we recommend having a pro like Forster Heating look at your air conditioner and ductwork and clean it when recommended.

Our Professionals Can Get Rid of Unpleasant Air Conditioner Smells Rapidly

You deserve to be cozy in your home and shouldn’t have an air conditioner that smells bad. When you need relief from your smelly air conditioner, reach us at 530-885-8081. We’ll diagnose the trouble quickly and fix it at a competitive.