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Why Does My Air Conditioner Smell So Bad?

Air Conditioner Smells Bad

Air conditioning… it’s got to be one of the greatest pleasures of modern life. Except when it’s not. An air conditioner that (there’s no way to put it delicately) stinks will smell up your whole house and might even be dangerous — to your home, your indoor air quality, and your health.

It all depends on exactly what type of unpleasant odour your cooling system happens to be producing. So take a look at this list of 6 possible AC smells and find out which one applies.

Dirty Coils

Your evaporator coil (the part inside your furnace which gets really cold) can get dirty – so dirty that it gives off a sort of “dirty sock” smell, reminiscent of the aroma of sweat socks after a heavy workout. Expert AC cleaning will be needed in order to freshen up the atmosphere, improve the indoor air quality, and help your air conditioning work more effectively.

Overheating Motor

A burning smell signals that your indoor air conditioning unit’s fan motor is beginning to overheat. Whether it is due to worn-out bearings, a faulty capacitor, or other electrical problems, this is a potential fire hazard. Stay safe – if there is a burning smell coming from your vents, shut off the air conditioner until you can have your system professionally inspected and repaired.

Dead Animal

Probably the most pungent air conditioning odour you may ever experience is that of a dead animal trapped in the unit. At the very first whiff, turn off your cooling system and open the windows to ventilate your home. As well as an HVAC technician, you might need to call a pest control pro, especially if you suspect there are more critters or nests.

Gas Leak

Never ignore a bad odour that smells like rotten eggs. This is the classic warning sign of a natural gas leak in your house (stemming from the gas supply to your stove, water heater, furnace, etc.), which is being circulated via your heating and cooling duct system.

WARNING: Natural gas is highly explosive. You should turn off the main supply line if you can do so safely and quickly. Evacuate your building, leaving doors and windows open. As soon as you are outside, call the gas company or 911.

Mould in AC System

You’ll have to put in a little detective work to track down a mouldy smell. Start by checking the HVAC air filter; it will need replacement or cleaning if it’s dirty, clogged, or moist. (Damp air filters are frequently a problem in early summer, when Calgary residents first start up their air conditioners for the season.)

In a more serious situation, the AC is either not draining properly or leaking. The accumulated stagnant water will start to give off a stale, mildewy smell. Worst case scenario: Mould and mildew have already formed in your ductwork.

These problems will need prompt professional attention and possibly duct cleaning. Exposure to mould spores can cause wheezing, irritation, headaches, and other health symptoms, particularly if a family member already has breathing difficulties or a weakened immune system.

Refrigerant Leak

Do you detect a slight smell of chemicals from your HVAC system? It could be leaking refrigerant as the result of a crack in the coils. The aroma of Freon (R-22 refrigerant) is described as faintly sweet, chloroform-like, or even metallic. Don’t be fooled, though – its odour may not be strong, but Freon in your indoor air can be highly toxic. Another telltale sign is if you notice your air conditioner running all the time. You’ll need to have the leak located and fixed ASAP.

Stop AC Smells At Their Source

Never just cover up unpleasant odours from your air conditioner. Eliminate the source and get rid of smells for good!

Knight’s expert HVAC service will ensure your air conditioning is running efficiently — to keep you healthy, happy, and safe.

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