6 Common Air Conditioner Smells Decoded and How to Repair the Issue

April 21, 2021

When your air conditioner is clean and working properly, you shouldn’t be smelling anything odd. Unusual air conditioner noises and strange smells are a clue that something is out of whack. If your air conditioner is getting older or you haven’t had maintenance scheduled within the last year, they can be a clear sign you need pro air conditioning repair in Ellsworth.

Here are six of the top 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, specifically a chemical odor, isn’t a great sign. You may also report your:

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

These sweet, chemical scents are typically a hint that your air conditioner has a refrigerant leak. Your system relies on this gas to transfer heat through copper coils, which can wear out as time passes.

4 Clues You Are Experiencing a Refrigerant Leak

Besides 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 residence comfortable or reaching your desired temperature.
  4. Increasing utility costs.

How You Can Repair It

A refrigerant leak requires skilled repairs from a heating and cooling company like Walter's-Eaton's Electric, Plumbing, Heating & AC. Your cooling technician will locate and fix the leak before recharging your air conditioner with refrigerant.

Fixing a refrigerant leak usually costs between $225 and $1,600, based on nationwide averages compiled by HomeAdvisor. Your total cost will depend on the location and severity of the leak, as well as how long it takes to solve.

If your air conditioner was installed before 2010, there’s a high probability it has R-22 or Freon refrigerant. This refrigerant is no longer being manufactured due to its adverse effects on the ozone layer. Due to this, repairs can be extremely expensive so it may be best to do air conditioning installation in this circumstance.

2. Air Conditioner Smells Like Gas

If your air conditioner smells like rotten eggs, there’s probably nothing wrong with it. But there’s a high likelihood you have a natural gas leak in your home. Natural gas has a sulfur-like additive to warn you when there’s a leak, because the gas can be deadly in large amounts.

How You Can Repair It

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

  • Shutting off your gas supply.
  • Opening windows.
  • Evacuating your home as soon as possible.
  • Contacting your gas company now.

3. Air Conditioner Smells Musty

Individuals who contact us about this situation usually report their air conditioner smells like feet, dirty socks or a locker room when it runs. Also referred to as dirty sock syndrome, this smell is often created 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 often seen in climates where you need 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 frequently change your air filter and schedule yearly air conditioning maintenance with Walter's-Eaton's Electric, Plumbing, Heating & AC. We’ll keep the evaporator coil clean and the drainage system flowing, as excess water can also result in unpleasant odors.

4. Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

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

  • A filthy filter
  • Excess 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, it’s time to replace it. If that doesn’t solve the issue, reach Walter's-Eaton's Electric, Plumbing, Heating & AC at 715-318-6728.

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 requires lubrication.
  • Broken fan belt.
  • Electrical issue.

Electrical problems should be inspected quickly to avoid a fire. If you smell burning plastic when your air conditioner is on, switch it off and call us at 715-318-6728 right away.

6. Air Conditioner Smells Like Cat Pee

A strong ammonia odor means there could be mold present in your air conditioner or ductwork. The smell isn’t the mold itself, but the mycotoxins that mold makes.

How to Repair It

Mycotoxins are hazardous to your health. That’s why it’s important to have a specialist like Walter's-Eaton's Electric, Plumbing, Heating & AC look at your air conditioner and ductwork and clean it when needed.

Our Specialists Can Eliminate Unpleasant Air Conditioner Smells Fast

You deserve to be comfy in your residence and shouldn’t have an air conditioner that smells bad. When you are looking for relief from your smelly air conditioner, give us a call at 715-318-6728. We’ll figure out the trouble quickly and take care of it at a reasonable.