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What’s That Smell? Why Your AC Smells Bad

Whats That Smell AC Repair Clay County FL

Now that spring is in full swing in Clay County, Florida, you’ve probably turned on the air conditioner to beat the heat.  If you’re one of the many homeowners who immediately said, “What’s that smell?” when the AC kicked on, this article is for you.

If your AC smells bad, ask yourself the following questions to help identify the cause and solution.

Does it smell like dirty socks or mold?

If your house smells like stinky feet, you might have “dirty sock syndrome.” The name refers to the foul-smelling mold or mildew odor, similar to dirty socks, that occurs when homeowners switch from using the heater to the air conditioner. Dirty sock syndrome happens when moisture, dust and dirt accumulate in your AC system, creating a perfect environment for stinky bacteria to grow.

This growth can happen on the evaporator coil, in drain lines, or in the drip pan. Bacteria can also grow right on a dirty air filter. To prevent dirty sock syndrome, use a good-quality air filter and change it regularly to prevent dust and dirt from entering your system. Also schedule regular preventive maintenance with an AC technician, who will clean the evaporator coil, drain lines, and drip pan to remove the smell-causing bacteria.

Does it smell like decay?

If your house smells like something died inside, it probably means there is a dead animal in your ductwork. Birds, squirrels, small rodents, and even lizards can find their way into your ductwork and get trapped. Once the air kicks on, the smell is stirred up and spread throughout your home.

If you can locate the source of the smell and are able access the ductwork, you can remedy the situation yourself. Remove the vent or register cover and carefully remove the carcass, then thoroughly clean and dry the area. If you’re unable to reach the carcass, contact an AC technician for removal. In either case, ask your AC technician to inspect your unit for damage and seal any entry points.

Does it smell like something is burning?

There are usually two possibilities for a burning smell coming from your AC system. The first, and most common, is dust burning off the unit. When a unit is inactive for long periods of time, dust can settle within the system. As the unit powers up and starts running again, dust will burn off and create a smoky smell that typically dissipates within a few minutes.

However, if you smell burning plastic or gunpowder, it could mean something is on fire. AC units are made up of several electrical components, such as circuit boards, power wires, fans and compressors. Any of these could short and lead to an electrical fire. If the burning smell persists for more than a few minutes, turn off your unit and call your AC technician immediately. If you see smoke, call the fire department.

Does it smell like rotten eggs?

A rotten egg smell signals a gas leak. Since natural gas is odorless and tasteless, a substance called mercaptan, which smells like sulfur or rotten eggs, is added so that a leak can be detected. Many homes use natural gas in their central heating systems, not to mention their home appliances and fireplaces – all potential areas for a gas leak.

Although natural gas isn’t toxic, it is flammable and can cause health issues with prolonged exposure. If you suspect a gas leak, immediately leave your home, and call the emergency service and gas company to confirm and fix the leak.

DDI will keep your AC system smelling great!

Your home should make you feel comfortable, not make you hold your nose. Our AC technicians at DDI Southeast can help you address why your AC smells bad, and set up a preventive maintenance schedule to keep your unit clean and odor-free.

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