When your air conditioner starts putting out unusual or unappealing smells, it is a good idea to take notice because it could be a sign of a major problem. Ignoring unpleasant smells coming from your air conditioning may lead to further damage to your HVAC system or even pose a risk to your health and safety.

Depending on the cause of the odor, the cause might be bacteria or fungus in the system. In other cases, it could also sign something mechanically wrong with the AC. Some smells are a sign of a dangerous problem, such as a natural gas leak.

At Home Comfort Heating & Air, we are experienced at getting to the root cause of stinky smells. If you smell something weird coming from your AC, chances are our team of qualified professionals has smelled it, too—and fixed it! We’ve earned our reputation as the go-to team for air conditioning repair in Elk River.

What does a specific odor coming from your air conditioning mean? Here are a few common air conditioner smells and what they might mean:

Your AC Smells Like Feet

If your air conditioner smells like feet, it might be caused by a buildup of bacteria or fungus in the system. When moisture accumulates inside the unit, it can establish an environment that is favorable to the development of bacteria and fungus. This can result in a bad odor that is often described as smelling like dirty feet.

Another possible cause of an odor of stinky feet could be a dirty air filter. When the air filter becomes filled with dirt, dust and other contaminants, it can lead to low air quality and a musty smell that bears a resemblance to feet.

To solve this unpleasant situation, it's important to have a professional inspect and clean your air conditioning system, including the evaporator coil, drain pan and condensate drain line. It's also important to change the air filter on a regular basis to provide good air quality and protect against the development of bacteria and fungus.

Your AC Smells Like Rotten Eggs

If your air conditioning unit smells like rotten eggs, it may be caused by a natural gas leak in the unit or in the surrounding area. Natural gas has a distinct odor, often described as smelling like rotten eggs or sulfur, that is added to it to make it easily detectable.

A natural gas leak is extremely dangerous and requires immediate attention. If you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, immediately open windows and doors to air out the area, get everyone out of the building and call your gas company or emergency services immediately.

Your AC Smells Like Mildew

If your cooling system smells like mildew, it might be due to a buildup of moisture inside the unit. When moisture collects inside a cooling system, it can cultivate the growth of mold and mildew. This can cause a musty odor that bears a resemblance to mildew.

Another possible cause of the smell may be a dirty air filter. Once the air filter becomes clogged, it can lead to poor air quality and a musty smell that has a resemblance to mildew.

Routine air conditioning maintenance from Home Comfort Heating & Air can help protect against both of these situations, because a good cleaning, inspection and filter change is a very good way to keep your system operating at its best!

Your AC Smells Like Urine

One of the most undesirable situations is when the air coming out of your HVAC system smells like urine.

If your air conditioner stinks like urine, it could could be caused by multiple factors. One possible cause is a collection of bacteria or mold in the your HVAC. This can happen in the event that moisture accumulates in the system and creates a wet environment that favorable for bacterial growth. The bacteria can create a foul odor that resembles urine.

Another feasible cause of the scent of urine could be a clogged drain line. The condensation that forms inside the air conditioning unit needs to drain away correctly, but if the drain line becomes clogged with debris, it can cause water to back up and accumulate inside the unit. This can produce a musty smell that can stink like urine.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Burning Plastic

If your air conditioner smells like burning plastic, this could indicate an electrical concern with the unit. After a while, the electrical parts in the air conditioning system can wear out or bust, which can make a burning smell that resembles plastic.

Another possible reason for the smell could be a foreign object that somehow got in the the air conditioner. If something foreign gets stuck in the air conditioning system, it can become hot and result in a smell like burning plastic.

If you smell burning plastic coming from your cooling system, it’s worthwhile to phone a professional right away.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Gas

If your air conditioning smells like gas, it could be due to a natural gas leak in the unit or in your home. Natural gas has a distinctive smell, often described as smelling of rotten eggs or sulfur. That’s because this scent is added to natural gas to make it easily detectable.

As mentioned earlier, a natural gas leak can be VERY harmful and calls for immediate attention. If you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, open windows and doors to air out the home, get everyone out of the building and contact your gas company or emergency services as soon as possible.

Why My Air Conditioner Smells Like Fish

If your air conditioning equipment smell like fish, you may have a situation where there's a build-up of bacteria or mold in the unit. Moisture causes an environment that is conducive to the growth of bacteria and mold. This can cause a disgusting odor that is often described as smelling like fish or, as mentioned earlier, it also can create a smell like dirty feet.

Another possible cause of the smell could be a dead animal or other biological material trapped within the air conditioning system. This often is possible if an animal such as a mouse or bird gets trapped inside the unit and dies.

To fix the issue, it's worthwhile to have a professional inspect and clean your HVAC system. They will be able to identify the source of the smell and take the correct steps to remove any contaminants and prevent the problem from recurring.

Your AC Smells Like Vinegar

There could be multiple reasons a home's air conditioning system smells like vinegar. One possible cause of the smell could be a plugged air filter. Another potential cause of the smell might be a refrigerant leak. When the refrigerant leaks, it can make a chemical odor that is described as smelling of vinegar.

To fix the issue, it's important to have a skilled specialist examine and clean your air conditioning.  If the odor continues after the cleaning and replacing of the air filter, it's best to reach back out to a professional to diagnose and repair any underlying issues with your air conditioning. Or, they can tell you if your air conditioning ought to be replaced.

If you are planning to upgrade, Home Comfort Heating & Air can help select the correct unit to fit your home’s needs. We offer trustworthy, expert air conditioner installation in Elk River.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Chemicals

If the smell of chemicals is coming out of your air conditioning equipment, it could be caused by a refrigerant leak. When the refrigerant leaks, it can create a chemical scent that people sometimes describe as smelling like chemicals or paint thinner, vinegar or acetone.

An additional possible cause of the smell could be a problem with the electrical wiring or components inside the air conditioning system. This can produce a burning smell that resembles chemicals or burning plastic.

If you believe there is a refrigerant leak or an electrical concern, it's important to shut down your air conditioning system as soon as possible and contact a professional to inspect and repair the unit. Refrigerant leaks can be harmful and may require immediate attention to avoid injury or damage to your house.

A Nasty Odor Coming from the Air Conditioning? Call the Pros at Home Comfort Heating & Air

If your air conditioner stinks and you aren’t able to fix it easily on your own, call the cooling experts at Home Comfort Heating & Air. We have lots of experience working with a wide variety of cooling systems. Our crew has fixed countless air conditioning problems over the years—including weird smells. Call us today for quality AC repair in Elk River!