How come my air conditioner smells so bad? What should I do if the air from my central AC smells like chemicals? What does freon smell like?
As HVAC contractors, these are the most common questions we get from businesses and homeowners.
Most of the time, there’s no good reason for your air conditioner to start smelling bad. It is definitely bad for your health.
Even worse, some smells are dangerous and need to be taken care of right away. Here are the top six problems and how to fix them.
Your air conditioning unit is one of the things you use most often in your home. Because of this, when it breaks down, it hurts and is very inconvenient.
We’re lucky that it does a great job of telling us when it needs to be fixed.
One of the most important things that many people notice about their air conditioner is if it smells bad.
But an odor problem does need to be looked at, and it doesn’t always mean that fixing it will be expensive.
A freon leak, a broken sewage vent pipe, or a sewer line that backs up next to ducting are all worse than a dirty air filter or mold growth caused by too much moisture in the HVAC system.
Here are the six smells from an air conditioner that are the most noticeable and could be dangerous:
- Burning smells or electrical smells
Electrical smells are common in air conditioning, and they could be caused by a mechanical problem with your air conditioner’s compressor or fan, a broken electrical part, or a wiring problem.
Because these parts are made of different chemicals and metals, it is not healthy to be around their smells for a long time.
The first few times an air conditioner is turned on, it may give off a burning smell that may smell like electricity or dust.
After 20 to 30 minutes, the smell usually goes away. If so, the dust inside the appliance was probably being burned off.
This usually happens after the device hasn’t been used for a while.
Talk to a qualified HVAC contractor to find out what’s wrong and fix the unit if it needs it.
If you’re a bit of a DIYer, here’s an article for you on DIY AC repair.
Most of the time, electrical smells are caused by the compressor, fan motors, or wiring.
If you try to fix these on your own, you could hurt yourself very badly. If you don’t feel comfortable making repairs on your own, ask an air conditioning expert in your area to take a look.
- Gunpowder was in the air.
There is a link between the smell of electricity and the smell of gunpowder.
If a fan motor or circuit board has burned out, it may smell like gunpowder.
These, too, may be bad for your lungs because they are made of different metals and chemicals.
After a long time of sleeping, a system should be checked by a professional before it is turned back on.
- A smell of rotten eggs
If you smell sulfur or rotten eggs coming from your air conditioner and you haven’t hidden any rotten eggs anywhere else in your house, it’s probably a natural gas leak that got into your ventilation system.
Even though gas has no smell, utility companies add the smell to warn customers of a serious leak. So, if you smell gas, something is wrong.
Another reason why your AC might smell like this is if there are bugs or dead animals in your attic or air ducts.
So, it would be best to have that checked out. If you find a dead animal, you should call pest control to take it away.
Low levels of exposure are bad for your health on their own, but high levels can deplete the oxygen in your blood, make you lose consciousness, or even kill you.
Gas causes death each year because it is very flammable and explosive.
If you smell this kind of smell at home or at work, open all the windows and leave the building right away.
Talk to the natural gas provider in your area as well.
- exhaust fumes
Even if your AC or heating systems don’t use gas, some of their parts may still leak fluids, and exhaust gases may still be present.
If you smell something like exhaust, call an HVAC specialist in your area to have the problem looked at by a professional. This will help you avoid dangerous situations.
When oil and other liquids are burned, they can give off a lot of dangerous gases into the air. The chemicals that make up this gas may be different from how they were when it was a liquid.
When you breathe in these airborne particles, they can be very harazdous for your health. They reduce the amount of oxygen in your blood, which can cause a wide range of serious health problems.
- Smells of Chemicals Chemical smells can be found in a lot of different places.
Using the information below, you might be able to figure out which one is most likely to be the criminal.
Chemicals in containers that are open
The smell might not be coming from your AC at all. The source could be open chemical containers kept close to an air conditioning intake or ducting.
Once these smells are picked up by the airflow, they will quickly spread to the rest of the house.
Homeowners and business owners often store chemicals in garages and attics to keep them safe.
These, on the other hand, could leak over time if they are not well sealed and get into the airflow.
Please find all of the chemical storage containers at your home or business and put them somewhere safe that they won’t get in the way of your air conditioning system.
The air conditioner itself
Your air conditioning system should be checked to see if it smells like paint thinner, formaldehyde, or any other chemical before you turn it on.
A lot of fluids are used by your air conditioner. When the appliance breaks down, it could be the cause of a number of smells that smell like chemicals. Talk to an HVAC contractor in your area to get a correct diagnosis.
If you just had work done on your ducts, that could explain why your home smells like chemicals.
As the glue for putting in ducts dries, it can give off a strong chemical smell. In this case, you will have to wait for the smell to go away since it won’t go away right away.
Turn on the AC fan and open the windows in your home or place of business to wait for it to pass. If the problem doesn’t go away, call a local HVAC technician.
Freon is a chlorofluorocarbon, which is also called a CFC or a refrigerant. Freon is used to pull heat out of the air and put it somewhere else, usually outside your home or place of business.
This helps you stay cool on the inside. But unfortunately, it can also be dangerous if it isn’t kept in the right place.
Freon is moved through a closed system by coils and lines in the condenser and evaporator. Most of these coils and lines are made of copper, but sometimes they get cracks that let refrigerant leak out.
Leaks of Freon could be bad. If you think there might be a refrigerant leak, talk to a local HVAC contractor. They can use a freon leak detector to find the problem and fix it.
- Smells of mildew or mold
Does the smell of the air conditioner remind you of dirty socks?
The smell of mold and mildew is one of the most common smells coming from an HVAC system.
When the AC is running, a lot of condensation builds up inside the unit.
If it isn’t properly drained, this moisture could leak into the airflow, get into the air ducts, and cause mold to grow in your ductwork.
This could happen if the condensate drain line is clogged. So, it should be looked into.
Call an HVAC contractor in your area to check for mold and mildew in your HVAC system and air ducts.
They will also check your condensate line for blockages if you don’t know where to look.
Cleaning your ducts is an easy way to improve the quality of the air inside your home.
The mold problem with the air conditioner is not a big one.
Your family’s health is at risk because the mold in your system makes the indoor air quality less healthy.
Mold makes it more likely for both adults and children to get lung infections.
You should turn off your air conditioner until this problem is fixed.
If your AC smells mold, the best thing to do is to have a professional look at it.
How an air conditioner should smell
Now that you know about the different types of AC smells, you can talk to your local HVAC contractor about a solution.
Use all of your senses to figure out how to solve a problem. Listen for abnormal sounds like knocking when the HVAC system is running.
Look around the appliance for liquids that don’t belong or extra liquids.
Most of the time, the system just needs to be serviced, based on how it smells. But smells like sulfur or gas mean there is a bigger problem.
If you smell something burning or like electricity, turn off the appliance right away and call an HVAC technician in your area.
Your local HVAC contractor can quickly figure out what’s wrong, and they can also give you a number of tips for keeping your AC safe.
Hire a contractor right now!
So, if your HVAC system needs emergency service and you need a technician to fix your air conditioner or furnace repair, we can help.
Call BJC Plumbers North Bergen if you don’t want bad smells coming from your air conditioner to ruin your day.
We have the best local, independent home service providers who know about all kinds of HVAC systems.
Also, if you need a replacement filter, we can help you.