Why Does My Air Conditioner Smell?

Dirty AC in Idaho

As the hot weather has settled in around Meridian, you have finally started up your air conditioner. To your surprise, when you did, there was an awful smell that accompanied the cooler air. Find out what is causing the distinctive aroma and what you can do to fix it.

The Wrong Size System

Having the right size system for your home is important to keeping the temperature comfortable. When your system is too big, the cooling cycles are very short, preventing it from dehumidifying your air. If your home’s humidity is greater than 50%, it can lead to a musty smell.

Dirty Evaporator Coil

The evaporator coil is located inside the unit, usually with your furnace or air handler. The air passes through the coil, transferring heat to the refrigerant to be vented outside. As air passes through the coil, it deposits small particles that already made it past your air filter.

These particles collect over time, restricting air from flowing through the coils effectively. As the system runs, it condenses moisture from the air, which these particles absorb. The air and particles compound and emit a dingy smell as the air circulates back into your house.

Clogged Condensate Drain

When your system is running normally, the condensate drips down from the evaporator coils onto a drip pan. This drip pan is equipped with a small drain to allow the moisture to escape before it causes any problems within your system.

This drain may become clogged over time with small hard particles from inside your unit and dust and dirt from the pan. This trapped moisture will allow mold and algae to grow, leading to a very distinct and unpleasant smell.

An Electrical Short

You may notice a burning smell as your system is running. This is likely due to an electrical short in your system, and it can be a possible fire hazard. The common areas that may experience a short include the control board and the blower motor.

If you smell a burning odor similar to fireworks, go to your breaker, and kill the power to your unit. Call a professional HVAC technician to investigate the smell to prevent further internal damage to your system.

Malfunctioning Motor

The blower motor has other ways it can cause odors beyond an electrical short. Your motor may emit a smell similar to automotive exhaust, even though it does not burn fuel. This smell indicates a possible overheating motor or a wiring problem.

Like an electrical short, this smell can indicate a problem and a possible safety hazard. Turn off your system at the breaker. If the smell does not dissipate, take everyone out of your home, and call for an HVAC technician. The smell may indicate burning parts, and the fumes may be extremely toxic, depending on their source.

Sewage Problems

You may not think of your air conditioner as having a sewage smell since the two systems are completely independent. However, you may notice a foul sewage smell while your system is running.

This is often caused by a crack in your sewage line near your HVAC system. The odors will get be sucked in by the circulating air and sent out into your home.

If you smell sewage, turn off your system, and then try to identify the source. Consider contacting a professional plumber to help solve the source of this particular problem.

Preventing AC Odors

Like most things in your home, the best way to deal with odors that your system may emit is to prevent them in the first place. First, be sure your system is the right size for your home. Then, be sure to change your air filters regularly to allow the right amount of air to flow through the system.

Have routine maintenance performed on your system every spring as well. During a maintenance visit, your technician will clean your evaporator coil and circulating fan wheel and will also check your condensate drain to make sure there are no clogs.

The technician will inspect the control board and test your circulating fan motor to ensure they are both in good working order. If the professional finds an issue, you have the time to schedule a repair before it becomes a much larger and more dangerous problem.

[company_name] has served those around Meridian since 1956 with expert air conditioning maintenance and repair. We also provide trusted heating and electrical services so you have a single contact for most of your home repair needs. Call our friendly team to schedule your air conditioning service call today.