6 Common Air Conditioner Smells Explained and How to Repair the Problem

April 21, 2021

When your air conditioner is clean and operating right, you shouldn’t be smelling anything odd. Unusual air conditioner noises and weird smells are a hint that something is off. If your air conditioner is old or you haven’t had a tune-up completed lately, they can be an obvious sign you need skilled air conditioning repair in Des Moines.

Here are six of the most frequent air conditioner smells and how you can resolve them.

1. Central Air Conditioner Smells Like Chemicals

If your air conditioner smells bad when turned on, especially a chemical odor, isn’t a good sign. You could also report your:

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

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

4 Clues You Have a Refrigerant Leak

In addition to the strange smell, here are four other clues that you are dealing with a refrigerant leak.

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

How You Can Take Care of It

A refrigerant leak calls for experienced repairs from a heating and cooling company like Kohles & Bach Heating & Cooling. Your cooling professional will find and repair the leak before recharging your air conditioner with refrigerant.

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

If your air conditioner was installed prior to 2010, it’s likely it uses R-22 or Freon refrigerant. This refrigerant is no longer being produced because of its damaging effects on the ozone layer. Because of this, repairs can be extremely expensive so it may be wisest to consider air conditioning installation in this circumstance.

2. Air Conditioner Smells Like Gas

If your air conditioner smells like rotten eggs, there’s possibly nothing wrong with it. But there’s a significant probability you have a natural gas leak in your house. Natural gas has a sulfur-like additive to signal you when there’s a leak, since the gas can be fatal in large amounts.

How You Can Repair It

If you detect a sulfur or rotten egg odor, we recommend:

  • Shutting off your gas supply.
  • Opening windows.
  • Evacuating your home promptly.
  • Getting in touch with your gas company immediately.

3. Air Conditioner Smells Musty

Homeowners who call us regarding this situation frequently share their air conditioner smells like feet, dirty socks or a locker room when it’s running. Also called dirty sock syndrome, this smell is usually created by a grubby evaporator coil that has mold, mildew and bacteria buildup. Excess water can also make your home air conditioner smell bad. Dirty sock syndrome is most common in locations where you turn on heating at night and during the morning before transitioning to cooling later in the day.

How to Solve It

The best way to prevent dirty sock syndrome is to regularly get a new air filter and schedule regular air conditioning maintenance with Kohles & Bach Heating & Cooling. We’ll keep the evaporator coil clean and the drainage system unblocked, because standing water can also result in nasty odors.

4. Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

If you are experiencing air conditioner mildew smell or an acidic, vinegar-like odor, it might be prompted by several issues, such as:

  • A clogged filter
  • Too much condensation
  • Clogged condensate pan or drain line
  • Moldy air conditioner or ductwork

How to Fix 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, we recommend replacing it. If that doesn’t fix the problem, contact Kohles & Bach Heating & Cooling at 515-207-6569.

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 include:

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

Electrical problems should be checked immediately to avoid a fire. If you detect burning plastic when your air conditioner is operating, turn it off and contact us at 515-207-6569 immediately.

6. Air Conditioner Smells Like Cat Pee

A powerful ammonia odor means there might be mold present 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 health. That’s why it’s important to have a professional like Kohles & Bach Heating & Cooling examine your air conditioner and ductwork and clean it when necessary.

Our Pros Can Take Care of Unpleasant Air Conditioner Smells Rapidly

You deserve to be comfy in your home and shouldn’t have an air conditioner that smells bad. When you need relief from your noxious air conditioner, reach us at 515-207-6569. We’ll diagnose the trouble quickly and fix it at a competitive.