6 Common Air Conditioner Smells Decoded and How to Repair Them

April 21, 2021

When your air conditioner is spotless and working correctly, it’s expected you won’t be smelling anything weird. Peculiar air conditioner noises and weird smells are a hint that something is out of whack. If your air conditioner is getting older or you haven’t had service done lately, they can be a sure sign you need professional air conditioning repair in Tucson.

Here are six of the most common 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 positive sign. You could also observe your:

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

These sweet, chemical scents are often a sign that your air conditioner has a refrigerant leak. Your system needs this gas to shift heat through copper coils, which can break out over time.

4 Clues You Are Dealing with a Refrigerant Leak

Besides the odd smell, here are four other clues that you have a refrigerant leak.

  1. Bubbling or hissing sounds when your air conditioner is on.
  2. Ice crystals on refrigerant lines or the evaporator coil.
  3. Trouble keeping your house cold or having your set temperature.
  4. Increasing utility expenses.

How You Can Fix It

A refrigerant leak calls for skilled repairs from a heating and cooling company like Ambient Air. Your cooling technician will pinpoint and mend the leak before recharging your air conditioner with refrigerant.

Fixing a refrigerant leak typically costs between $225 and $1,600, based on nationwide averages put together by HomeAdvisor. Your exact cost will depend on the location and severity of the leak, as well as how many hours it takes to fix.

If your air conditioner was installed before 2010, there’s a good chance it has R-22 or Freon refrigerant. This refrigerant is no longer being made as a result of its adverse effects on the ozone layer. Consequently, repairs can be significantly expensive so it may be wisest to do 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 home. Natural gas has a sulfur-like additive to warn you when there’s a leak, because the gas can be toxic in big amounts.

How You Can Solve It

If you smell a sulfur or rotten egg odor, we advise:

  • Shutting off your gas supply.
  • Opening windows.
  • Leaving your home promptly.
  • Contacting your gas company immediately.

3. Air Conditioner Smells Musty

Homeowners who reach us regarding this problem usually mention 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 linked to a grubby 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 areas where you use heating at night and during the morning before turning on cooling during the afternoon.

How to Solve It

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

4. Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

If you are dealing with air conditioner mildew smell or a strong, vinegar-like odor, it can be the result of several situations, including:

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

How to Repair It

Inspect your filter first. If you haven’t changed it 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, call Ambient Air at 520-201-3871.

5. Air Conditioner Smells Like Burning Plastic

If you’re experiencing an air conditioner burning smell or that your air conditioner smells like fish, there could be a couple of things wrong. These include:

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

Electrical problems should be checked right away to stop a fire. If you detect burning plastic when your air conditioner is on, shut it off and contact us at 520-201-3871 right away.

6. Air Conditioner Smells Like Cat Pee

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

How to Fix It

Mycotoxins are hazardous to your wellness. That’s why we recommend having a pro like Ambient Air look at your air conditioner and ductwork and clean it when necessary.

Our Pros Can Take Care of Strange Air Conditioner Smells Fast

You deserve to be cozy in your residence and shouldn’t have an air conditioner that smells bad. When you are seeking relief from your stinky air conditioner, contact us at 520-201-3871. We’ll diagnose the trouble quickly and resolve it at a reasonable.