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

April 21, 2021

When your air conditioner is fresh and running correctly, it’s not normal to be smelling anything odd. Unusual air conditioner noises and strange smells are a hint that something is off. If your air conditioner is aging or you haven’t had a tune-up completed lately, they can be an obvious sign you need professional air conditioning repair in Monroe.

Here are six of the most frequent air conditioner smells and how you can resolve them.

1. Central Air Conditioner Smells Like Chemicals

If your air conditioner smells bad when turned on, especially a chemical scent, isn’t a great sign. You could also notice your:

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

These sweet, chemical smells are typically a sign that your air conditioner is experiencing a refrigerant leak. Your system needs this gas to transfer heat through copper coils, which can break out over time.

4 Signs You Have a Refrigerant Leak

Aside from the odd smell, here are four other signs that you have a refrigerant leak.

  1. Bubbling or hissing sounds when your air conditioner is cooling.
  2. Ice crystals on refrigerant lines or the evaporator coil.
  3. Difficulty keeping your home cool or reaching your desired temperature.
  4. Higher electrical bills.

How You Can Fix It

A refrigerant leak calls for professional support from a heating and cooling company like Lanz Furnace and Fireplace. Your cooling technician will find and repair the leak before recharging your AC with refrigerant.

Resolving a refrigerant leak often costs between $225 and $1,600, according to nationwide averages put together by HomeAdvisor. Your total cost will depend on the location and severity of the leak, as well as how long it needs to solve.

If your air conditioner was installed before 2010, there’s a high probability it uses R-22 or Freon refrigerant. This refrigerant is no longer being manufactured as a result of its damaging effects on the ozone layer. As a result, repairs can be very expensive so it may be smartest to consider air conditioning installation in this instance.

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 probability you have a natural gas leak in your residence. 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 Solve It

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

  • Turning off your gas supply.
  • Opening windows.
  • Leaving your home promptly.
  • Call your gas company immediately.

3. Air Conditioner Smells Musty

Individuals who reach us about this problem frequently share their air conditioner smells like feet, dirty socks or a locker room when it’s on. Also called dirty sock syndrome, this smell is often caused 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 common in locations where you need heating at night and during the morning before turning on cooling later in the day.

How to Solve It

The best method for preventing dirty sock syndrome is to frequently replace your air filter and schedule annual air conditioning maintenance with Lanz Furnace and Fireplace. We’ll keep the evaporator coil clean and the drainage system unblocked, as stagnant water can also lead to unpleasant odors.

4. Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

If you are living with air conditioner mildew smell or a pungent, vinegar-like odor, it can be prompted by several situations, like:

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

How to Repair It

Inspect 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 issue, contact Lanz Furnace and Fireplace at 608-291-3606.

5. Air Conditioner Smells Like Burning Plastic

If you’re dealing with an air conditioner burning smell or that your air conditioner smells like fish, there could be several things wrong. These include:

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

Electrical issues should be checked right away to prevent a fire. If you smell burning plastic when your air conditioner is running, shut it off and contact us at 608-291-3606 immediately.

6. Air Conditioner Smells Like Cat Pee

A strong ammonia odor means there could be mold flourishing within 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 it’s important to have a specialist like Lanz Furnace and Fireplace look at your air conditioner and ductwork and clean it when needed.

Our Pros Can Eliminate Odd Air Conditioner Smells Quickly

You deserve to be comfortable in your house and shouldn’t have an air conditioner that smells bad. When you are seeking relief from your smelly air conditioner, give us a call at 608-291-3606. We’ll diagnose the issue quickly and fix it at a reasonable.