6 Common Air Conditioner Smells Explained and How to Repair the Problem

April 21, 2021

When your air conditioner is spotless and working right, it’s expected you won’t be smelling anything odd. Out of the ordinary air conditioner noises and strange smells are a clue that something is off. If your air conditioner is old or you haven’t had maintenance scheduled recently, they can be a clear sign you need professional air conditioning repair in Carson City.

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, particularly a chemical odor, isn’t a great sign. You might also observe your:

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

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

4 Signs You Have a Refrigerant Leak

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

  1. Bubbling or hissing sounds when your air conditioner is operating.
  2. Frost on refrigerant lines or the evaporator coil.
  3. Trouble keeping your house cold or achieving your desired temperature.
  4. Higher electrical costs.

How You Can Fix It

A refrigerant leak needs skilled support from a heating and cooling company like Anderson Heating & A/C. Your cooling professional will pinpoint and fix the leak before recharging your AC with refrigerant.

Fixing a refrigerant leak often 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 much time it requires to fix.

If your air conditioner was installed prior to 2010, it’s likely it uses R-22 or Freon refrigerant. This refrigerant is no longer being produced because of its adverse effects on the ozone layer. Consequently, repairs can be extremely expensive so it may be best to do 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 high likelihood you have a natural gas leak in your residence. Natural gas has a sulfur-like additive to alert you when there’s a leak, because the gas can be deadly in large amounts.

How You Can Fix It

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

  • Switching off your gas supply.
  • Opening windows.
  • Evacuating your home as soon as possible.
  • Call your gas company now.

3. Air Conditioner Smells Musty

Homeowners who contact us regarding this situation 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 typically linked to a filthy 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 areas where you use heating at night and during the morning before turning on cooling later on.

How to Solve It

The best way to prevent dirty sock syndrome is to regularly replace your air filter and schedule annual air conditioning maintenance with Anderson Heating & A/C. We’ll keep the evaporator coil clean and the drainage system flowing, because excess water can also produce noxious odors.

4. Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

If you are dealing with air conditioner mildew smell or a pungent, vinegar-like odor, it might be prompted by several issues, such as:

  • A filthy filter
  • Too much condensation
  • Blocked 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, we recommend replacing it. If that doesn’t solve the smell, reach Anderson Heating & A/C at 775-230-7628.

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 needs lubrication.
  • Broken fan belt.
  • Electrical problem.

Electrical problems should be checked quickly to stop a fire. If you smell burning plastic when your air conditioner is running, turn it off and contact us at 775-230-7628 right away.

6. Air Conditioner Smells Like Cat Pee

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

How to Solve It

Mycotoxins are hazardous to your health. That’s why we recommend having a specialist like Anderson Heating & A/C examine your air conditioner and ductwork and clean it when needed.

Our Specialists Can Get Rid of Weird Air Conditioner Smells Rapidly

You deserve to be cozy in your home and shouldn’t have an air conditioner that smells bad. When you are seeking relief from your smelly air conditioner, contact us at 775-230-7628. We’ll diagnose the trouble quickly and take care of it at a reasonable.