Sometimes, your AC smells musty and appears to have dirty sock syndrome, which indicates a problem with the system. When it’s working correctly, there should be no smell coming from the AC system. So, if your AC smells bad, you need to find the odor’s root cause and address the problem accordingly.
If you’re wondering, ‘why does my AC smell musty?’, it’s likely the smell of mildew or mold that has settled inside your ductwork or the AC’s evaporator coil. Your AC might be distributing mildew or mold spores throughout your home, which can worsen allergies and cause harm to your health.
So, let’s outline some of the common causes of air conditioner smells and solutions that you can apply to leave your home odor-free.
Reasons Why My Air Conditioner Smells Musty
If your air conditioner smells musty, it’s likely due to:
- Water accumulating in the drip lines or drain pan
- Water accumulating inside the ducts of your AC system
- Dirty filters inside your AC unit (especially prevalent in hot and humid climates)
- A dirty evaporator coil (the component that cools the air; once dirty, this part of your AC becomes a breeding ground for mold)
Additional Types of Air Conditioner Smells
Your AC Emits a Burning Smell
Many electrical components are working in synergy within your AC unit. The system has power wires, circuit boards, compressors, and fans. If there is a burning smell coming from your air conditioning, it could mean that one or multiple components are burning.
In these instances, switch off your air conditioner immediately and consult a professional. Never attempt to DIY in these circumstances, as faulty electrics can be dangerous.
Another reason for burning smells coming from an AC unit is excess dust, which accumulates after periods of inactivity. If your AC has been turned off for a long time, it can fill with dust. Once switched on, this dust can combust and give off a burning smell. Luckily, in this case, the smell is only temporary. However, if the burning smell remains or worsens, switch off your AC and call a professional immediately.
Your Air Conditioner Smells Like a Car Exhaust
An internal combustion engine doesn’t power your AC unit, so it shouldn’t smell like exhaust fumes. However, the refrigerants that cool the air as it leaves your AC can smell like exhaust fumes if they are leaking.
Leaky refrigerant lines are quite common in AC units that are 10 years and older and refrigerant leaks can harm the environment.
So, if your AC starts to emit a chemical smell, you should have it checked by a professional. While a leak can be dangerous, a technician can easily fix it. While you wait, be sure to open windows and doors to ventilate your home.
Your Air Conditioner Smells Like Gas
More often than not, if your AC system smells like gas, there is a leak within the system. The skunk-like smell that is oozing from your AC is Methyl Mercaptan. Manufacturers add this chemical to AC gas to give it a distinctive smell so that you can immediately detect it and prevent any harm or damage that results from a gas leak.
If there is a skunky, gassy smell emitting from your AC system, immediately switch off the gas and call your utility provider so that they can find the source of the problem.
Solutions When Your Air Conditioner Smells Bad
Prevention is the best method to keep your house from filling with strange smells from your AC unit. But where do you start? Some homeowners use annual maintenance contracts to help them maintain their appliances and avoid dust buildup and refrigerant leaks. Moreover, with an annual maintenance contract, a professional can clean your AC’s evaporator coil and check the drain line. With routine AC maintenance, a pro can usually catch a majority of the problems that cause bad smells.
Additionally, regularly changing the filters on your AC unit and cleaning around the unit can prevent the accumulation of mold and dust, and may prevent some types of odor.
When to Call a Professional for Help
Earlier in this article, we mentioned a few instances when you need to call for help. However, you should also seek professional assistance if:
- Your AC is located in an awkward place, making cleaning difficult
- A continuously musty smell is coming from your AC unit
- Excessive mildew forms in and around the AC unit
Calling in a professional can help when an air conditioner smells musty. Another solution that can help homeowners is a First American home warranty plan. Home warranties can cover the repair or replacement of covered home systems and appliances when they break down. Contact us to get a free quote today.
The contents of this article are provided for general guidance only. First American Home Warranty does not assume any responsibility for losses or damages as a result of using this information.