The primary reason most air conditioners smell bad is due to the heat coming out of them. When heat comes in through the air, there is a formation of condensation inside the AC unit. This puts off unpleasant odors. Bad smells can also happen due to chemicals used in creating the atmosphere within the unit. Such chemicals are typically normal and healthy, but your nasal senses are likely to detect them.
Air conditioners don’t run on internal combustion engines, as they’re powered by electric motors. This means you shouldn’t be smelling anything like burned-out car exhaust.
Still, even with temperatures lower in AC units than combustion motors, there is still a lot of heat. That heat can seep throughout the air, and the smell it has is much like that of a hot exhaust pipe.
You might not remember this, but air conditioners do have filters. These have chemicals that can wind up creating smells over time. Of course, you should be replacing your filters or having a technician do that several times a year anyway.
The car exhaust smell is likely due to specific fluids that smell very much the same. Usually, these come from leaks in the refrigerant line. This doesn’t just smell bad, but it seriously degrades the performance of the unit. Also, these chemicals are released into the air you breathe and the surrounding environment. Neither are good. Crack open your windows for good ventilation until a certified aircon repair specialist can come out and help you.
Does something smell like it’s on fire? That’s likely electrical failure in the many electrical components, which include compressors, fans, power wires, and circuit boards. If this happens, turn your system off immediately and consult professional help. This is not a DIY issue. It’s just not safe.
It is true that a burning smell might be dust that settled during a long stretch of inactivity. If it’s temporary when you first start a system up after prolonged inactivity, then don’t worry about it unless the smell is particularly pungent, you see AC malfunctions, or the smell lingers.
Are you smelling something like rotten eggs? That might indicate dead animals. Birds, insects, and many critters and rodents love making their home in an AC unit or just take shelter in duct work before getting trapped. It doesn’t take long for them to stink the place up. If you’re okay finding and removing a dead animal, this one can be a DIY project.
Do you smell gas and get the vibe there’s a skunk in your home? This smell might be the one to take most seriously. Most of the time, this is gas leakage. Natural gas has no smell of its own, so distributors and utilities put some methyl mercaptan for a very distinctive odor. You won’t mistake a skunk spray smell, you have gas leaking. Cut the gas supply immediately, get out, and contact your utility for source detection and repairs.
Is the smell moldy? A stale, dingy smell is probably the foulest and most common smell you’ll ever have from your AC. That might be from water accumulation in the drip lines, ducts, or drain pan, where mildew or fungus might grow. A thorough and professional cleaning is necessary.
Never cover up a smell. Scented candles and aerosol sprays might seem like quick fixes, but you’re only putting off the problem and possibly letting it get worse. You’re risking trouble sleeping, breathing difficulties, headaches, nausea, and eye and skin irritation, much less letting your AC repair bills grow before you ever face them.
While many homes have air conditioner units, they’re almost all installed by professionals. It’s a really good idea to have these professionals or others in the HVAC profession come out and look at your system at least once a year. Annual servicing is a must if you want to do several things with your system.
First of all, you keep your system running in tip-top shape, much like you get an annual physical or you have your car get oil changes. It might be a cliche that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but in the case of air conditioning units, it’s definitely true. Spending a little every year can save you a lot later on.
Actually, it can start saving you money almost immediately. A well-functioning unit will save you on your utility bills the very next cycle, since it won’t be working nearly as hard as it used to.
For that matter, you can save money over the long haul, too, since getting annual inspections of your system will prevent a lot of needless repairs later on. Keeping your system healthy and well-running means the unit will serve you for more years, sparing you the expense of a new unit, if not by at least delaying the necessity of it.
It’s best to take things a step further and have your system looked at professionally twice a year. The first time you should do this is the spring season, whatever form that takes where you live. Have a technician get your system ready for the warm and hot months.
Then, get another visit in your fall, so a technician can look over the beating it might have taken over the summer and fix it back up to spec, getting it ready for a possibly long shutdown during the winter.
Having said that, there are always DIY maintenance things you can learn on your own. Repairs usually aren’t among them, particularly for some of the smells discussed in this content. Still, whether it’s through your technician, online videos, or home improvement workshops, there are quite a few things you can pick up on and do regularly to keep your AC running and running well.
You can’t prevent everything bad from happening, but the more care and attention you give your AC, the less you’ll ever experience any of the bad smells coming out of an air conditioner talked about here and now.