May 17, 2021
Dirty AC in Northeast Florida

There are few things as uncomfortable as an extremely hot house in the summer. Air conditioning usually helps, but some people experience a horrible smell as soon as they turn on their AC.

If you’re having an issue with the smells coming from your air conditioning unit, don’t panic. While many smells associated with ACs aren’t pleasant, they generally aren’t dangerous. However, it’s important to know what these issues are so you can address them early on. Here’s a list of some of the most common causes of bad smells coming from your AC.

Dirty Sock Syndrome

Dirty sock syndrome is a term that describes the unpleasant smell sometimes associated with using an air conditioning system. The smell is similar to dirty socks, which leads to the name.

This odor is usually a consequence of mold and mildew. You should take this smell seriously because it can point to cleanliness and air quality issues that could affect your health. It can also affect your home value as potential buyers typically won’t buy a house with mold growing inside it.

Dirty Filters

Filters need to be changed every three months. Many people change their AC filters when they get their air conditioners serviced. We recommend changing them more frequently.

AC Duct

You may not realize it, but an AC duct is a common place for bacteria and mold to grow. This can be really dangerous to your health. Your air conditioner can become a giant breeding ground for all kinds of air pollution.

Fungi that cause musty smells could grow in and around your outside AC ducts. If this is the case, you should also clean the exterior of your air conditioning unit to remove any debris or anything else that could trap moisture around your system.

Ruptured Sewer Vent Pipes

There are many reasons why odors might come from the ventilation system in your home. It could be a backed-up sewer line or even a small leak of methane. Keep in mind that methane can become explosive if left unchecked.

Blocked Drainage Line

As a general rule, you should inspect the drain line on your central air conditioner once a year. If you notice a musty or mildewy smell, it could mean that something is blocking the drain. A blockage can cause a buildup of bacteria and mold in the drain line, which will create odors that seep into the air ducts and into your home.

Stagnant Water

You can find stagnant water at the bottom of your unit, and it usually appears as a brown liquid. This dark gunk is causing your unit not to drain properly and is one of the leading reasons people are experiencing a vinegar smell from their supply registers.

Electrical Problems

The thing about a burning smell is that it can mean just about anything. The burning smell could come from the motor for the blower or fan, or it could even indicate a broken wire that is causing the motor to short. If you aren’t sure what exactly is causing the smell, contact an expert AC technician immediately; this could be a dangerous issue. The technician will get to the root of the problem without the guesswork.

Contaminated Evaporator Coils

If your air conditioning system smells like a musty sock, the cause could be associated with a contaminated evaporator coil. The evaporator coil is what cools your air and makes it cold. As the air passes through the evaporator coils, the heat turns the refrigerant into gas. Then, the gas is pumped outside of the house through the condenser coils.

Smoke Infiltration

A lot of people don’t realize that AC units can actually absorb odors from the air. One phenomenon is smoke infiltration. The chemicals in cigarette smoke can travel through ducts and vents and can cause issues for the coils and the rest of the cooling system. Most of all, it’ll push out a noticeable smoke smell. Many homeowners are unaware of the damage that smoking can have on their air conditioners.

Is a Smelly Air Conditioner Dangerous?

When your air conditioning smells like rotten eggs, it’s a good idea to figure out the cause of the smell. While some odors are perfectly normal, others could indicate a more serious problem with your air conditioner that needs addressing. An HVAC technician can help you determine the source of the odor and rectify it immediately. This type of inspection is necessary, especially when you consider:

  • Harmful Gases – According to the EPA, HFCs are synthetic chemicals developed to replace ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) in air conditioners. Companies introduced HFCS in the late 1980s and early 1990s as substitutes for CFC. HFCs don’t harm the ozone layer, but they do contribute to global warming.
  • Freon – The Freon gas that cools our homes and offices travels through a closed copper coil, and the refrigerant can damage the environment. It is a colorless gas that is also known as R-22, R-12, R-502, and dichlorodifluoromethane. Manufacturers have extensively used this gas for decades in the refrigeration and air conditioning industries. There are various types of Freon gas available in the market today. The most common varieties of Freon gas are R-22, R-134a and R-500. It is highly toxic and dangerous to your health. If you have an air conditioner or a window unit that uses Freon or R-12 and the unit fails, you must be sure to dispose of it properly so it does not leak into the atmosphere.

How Can I Make My Central Air Conditioner Smell Better?

Temperatures are starting to rise, so it’s time for you to think about getting your air conditioning unit prepared for the hot months ahead. While your air conditioner is always there for you, it’s easy to forget that it needs a bit of TLC during the off season to ensure that you have a cool home when you need it. Make sure to have scheduled maintenance checks.

The best way to get your AC running like new is to get a tune-up from an expert technician. Normal cleaning does not easily remove dust, dirt, and allergens that are trapped inside cooling system coils. To reduce dirty sock syndrome, regular maintenance is a must. In a coil cabinet, evaporator coils are usually not accessible by homeowners. Not only do air conditioning experts clean the evaporator coil, but they also clean the blower compartment.

Contact a Professional

The last thing you want in the summer is an apartment that smells bad when you cool it down. Some may assume they don’t need HVAC maintenance because their systems are still working, but you should never ignore the terrible smells coming from your unit. Hire our professional air conditioning experts to make sure that your AC is working correctly. We understand the ins and outs of installation, repair, and tune-ups. We also offer services for mini-split systems and attic insulation. If you want to eliminate all of the strange smells in your cooling system today, call McGowan's Heating & Air Conditioning. We’re ready to answer all your questions.

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