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Why Does My AC Smell Bad?


When your air conditioner is operating normally, there should be little to no smell coming from the air vents, although you may occasionally detect a slightly musty odor on startup. Strong, continuous odors may be a sign that there is a problem with your air conditioning system and, in most cases, it is best to have a professional inspect it.

Common AC Odors

Unpleasant smells can make your home less comfortable, but, depending on the cause, they could also affect your health. Here are some of the most common AC odors and their causes:

Dirty Sock or Foot Odors

Often called “Dirty Sock Syndrome,” this odor is usually caused by standing water in the condensate system. It could be the result of a clogged condensate drain or failed condensate pump. In other cases, it could indicate that there is mold growing on the evaporator or in the ductwork. While most species of mold are harmless, some could be dangerous.

Burning Plastic or Smoky Odors

Burning or smoky smells could indicate that the blower motor is damaged, or that an electrical component has short-circuited or failed. If the odors do not go away quickly, the system should be shut off.

Rotten Egg Odors

In most cases, rotten egg odors indicate that some type of animal, such as a mouse or a squirrel has found its way into the ductwork and died. The ducts will need to be inspected and cleaned if that is the case. Rarely, rotten egg, or skunk-like smells could be from an additive in propane or natural gas, indicating that your AC system is drawing in vapors from a gas leak. If you suspect a gas leak, leave the house and call your utility provider or the authorities for assistance.

Mold or Mildew Smells

Mold or mildew odors indicate that there is significant moisture allowing mold growth somewhere in the system, such as the evaporator, ductwork, or condensate drain. Have the system inspected and cleaned if mold is found, paying special attention to the ductwork.

If you encounter these or any other unusual smells, have a professional inspect your system for problems, especially if you cannot verify the cause. While most odors are not harmful, some can be dangerous to your health.

HVAC Services in Lakeland & Polk County, FL

For help with unusual odors, contact our team at Iceberg Cooling today. We can inspect your air conditioner and find the cause of the problem quickly. If required, we offer complete AC repair, maintenance, and duct cleaning to take care of any problems we find, and our services are reliable and cost-effective. For over 70 years we have served homeowners throughout the Lakeland and Polk County areas, providing quality heating and air conditioning services.

Contact us today at (863) 223-1849 for an appointment!

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    “ Chuck arrived within a day after my call. He was very kind, courteous and professional. He looked at my unit and told me what my options were as far as the unit. I felt very confident that he was telling me the true issues with my unit and what would be in my best interest.”

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