After a long, hot, humid day in the sun, you’ll want to come home to a refreshingly cool house. You enter your home, walk past an air conditioning vent, and something pungent hits your nose. What is that awful smell coming from your air conditioner? Is this going to require an HVAC technician for an AC repair

Possibly. The air flowing from your AC vent isn’t supposed to smell, so it’s best to call an expert in Champaign, IL, to assess the situation. In this article, we’ll review some common reasons why there may be strange smells coming from your air conditioning unit. 

Why Strange Smells Should Be Addressed 

When it comes to strange odors, your air conditioner can produce quite a variety. Whether it’s dirty socks, rotten eggs, or a musty scent coming from your ductwork, it’s a clear sign that there’s a problem to address. 

Your AC unit may produce a burning scent at the beginning of the season as it burns off the dust collected throughout the colder months. A rotten egg smell could mean there is a gas leak or a dead critter in your vents. You could have a mold issue if you detect a dirty sock or musty smell.   

Musty odors mean pollutants are moving through your AC system. It’s a dark and humid environment, the ideal climate for bacteria to grow. This means that your unit is blowing mold spores and other contaminants through every room in your home. Breathing these particles in can lead to several health issues for you and your family.  

Homeowners in Champaign should never ignore strange odors that come from the HVAC system. What’s the best way to solve this problem? Call an expert cooling services technician to inspect your system. 

Causes of a Smelly Air Conditioner 

While we don’t recommend trying DIY AC repair, it can be helpful to the technician if you provide as much information as possible. This helps streamline the process and quickly gets your unit back up and running without the nasty odor.  

Here are a few common reasons why your AC may smell funny and what you can do to find out what is causing the problem.  

Frozen Evaporator Coils 

Air conditioners absorb warm air from inside, remove the humidity as it cools, and send the air back into your home using return vents. For this process to work, there must be nothing blocking airflow, including the air filters.  

Dirt and debris accumulate and restrict airflow, causing water droplets to form on the evaporator coils. As the refrigerant cools the air, these droplets will begin to freeze. Check the evaporator coils while waiting for your cooling services technician to arrive. This component is located inside or near the air handler.   

When your technician arrives for your AC repair, they will need to let the condenser coil thaw and change dirty filters to resolve any obstructions. 

Full Drain Pan 

An air conditioner doesn’t actually blow cool air. It cools your home by removing the humid air, causing water droplets to accumulate in a drain pan. This component goes through much wear and tear, so deterioration is normal. 

Once the degeneration reaches a certain point, the drain pan begins to accumulate mold. This causes a musty smell throughout your home as the unit moves air around. You can check your drain pan by looking under the system’s evaporator coils. 

Scheduling an AC tune-up with a reputable HVAC company can help prevent this problem.  

Moisture Surplus in Ducts or Vents 

High humidity levels or a drainage leak can lead to a surplus of moisture in air ducts or vents. If a smell permeates your nose once the unit starts running, mold and mildew have likely crept into your ducts. Some ductwork may be in your ceiling or in a crawlspace, meaning only a professional should access it to inspect the area. 

Breathing in mold can lead to upper respiratory health issues, so you need to contact an HVAC technician immediately to have your ducts cleaned and checked. If the mold gets out of hand, you may be looking at an AC replacement instead of a repair. This is another issue that can be prevented with regular AC tune-up services.     

Blocked Condensate Line 

The condensate line is a small PVC pipe near the condenser unit located outside your home. Its primary job is to remove water from the drip pan into your grass or a storm drain. Because of the consistent presence of water, this line is susceptible to mold, mildew, and sludge, leading to clogs and unwanted odors.    

This small but essential pipe can be checked for blockages during your regular AC tune-up. 

Indoor Smoking 

If you or someone else smokes inside your home, chances are high that your AC will begin to smell like stale cigarette smoke. This can cause allergic reactions and headaches. 

Your air filter absorbs everything, including cigarette smoke. Evaporator coils can absorb this aroma, too. Eventually, when you switch on the AC, the tobacco particles begin swirling around your home. 

The best way to combat this problem is to remove old tobacco smoke from your AC vents. This is done by changing your air filter monthly, or at least every other month. Smoking outdoors will reduce this problem as well. 

Burning Electrical Components 

Air conditioners are not lacking in electrical parts. There are circuit boards, wires, fans, compressors, and so on. If there is a burning smell coming from your unit, something is probably smoldering. You need to quickly turn off the unit and call a local professional for the next steps. This is definitely not a time to attempt a DIY solution!    

Refrigerant Leaks 

Freon is a refrigerant that is no longer used in HVAC systems. But if you have an older unit, it could contain this type. Freon absorbs heat from the inside and releases it outside. However, it’s not good for the environment. If you suspect you have a Freon leak, proceed with caution and call a cooling services specialist to address the problem. 

You can identify Freon because it will smell sweet like chloroform or similar to the coolant used in your car. If you smell anything like this, schedule an appointment as soon as possible with an HVAC technician. 

As of January 2020, Freon is no longer being produced, so it may be difficult to get more, making your only option an AC replacement.  

How to Remove the Smell 

You can go down a rabbit hole on the internet searching for the most effective way to eliminate the smell coming from your air conditioner. 

The only way to ensure the smell is gone and prevent it from coming back is by calling a professional HVAC technician. They understand the complex components of these appliances and are familiar with the many causes of dreadful smells.

An experienced contractor has the knowledge and industry-approved tools to combat the problem. If it’s a simple fix, they can typically make minor repairs the same day. But if the problem is beyond repair, you may need to schedule another appointment for a complete AC replacement.    

Does Your AC System Smell Funky? 

When your air conditioner starts smelling funny, don’t put off calling a professional like Castle Home Comfort Heating & Cooling in Champaign, IL. Harmful contaminants may be floating around your home, decreasing the indoor air quality. We can also schedule your routine AC maintenance to prevent these issues.   

Call Castle Home Comfort Heating & Cooling today to help your home start to smell better!