When your air conditioner starts emitting weird or unappealing odors, it is important to take notice because it could be a sign of a significant problem. Ignoring unpleasant smells coming from your cooling system could lead to serious damage to your air conditioning or even pose a risk to your health and safety.

Depending on what you're smelling, the root of the problem could be bacteria or fungus in the system. Other times, it could also sign something mechanically wrong with the air conditioning system. Some smells are even indicative of a harmful scenario, such as a natural gas leak.

At HCE Systems, we have a nose for these sorts of things. If you smell something peculiar coming from your AC, chances are our team of qualified pros has smelled it, too—and fixed it! We’ve earned the reputation as the go-to team for air conditioning repair in Norton.

What does a specific odor billowing from your cooling system mean? Here are some typical air conditioner smells and what they could mean:

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Feet

If your air conditioner smells like feet, it could be because of a buildup of bacteria or fungus inside of it. When moisture builds inside the unit, it can create an environment that is favorable to the growth of bacteria and fungus. This can produce a bad odor that is often described as smelling like stinky feet.

Another possible explanation for the stench of dirty feet could be a dirty air filter. When the air filter becomes filled with dirt, dust and other particles, it can result in low air quality and a musty smell that bears a resemblance to feet.

To correct this problem, 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 exchange the air filter regularly to ensure good air quality and prevent the growth of bacteria and fungus.

Your AC Smells Like Rotten Eggs

If your air conditioning unit reeks of rotten eggs, it could be because of 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 can be very dangerous and requires immediate attention. If you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, immediately open windows and doors to allow gas to escape the area, evacuate the building and call your gas company or emergency services right away.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Mildew

If your air conditioner is giving off an odor like mildew, it may be due to a accumulation of moisture inside the unit. When moisture forms inside an air conditioner, it can cultivate the growth of mold and mildew. This can cause a musty stench that it similar to mildew.

Another possible cause of the smell may be a soiled air filter. When the air filter becomes clogged, it can result in poor air quality and a musty smell that has a resemblance to mildew.

Routine air conditioning maintenance from HCE Systems can help protect against both of these situations, because a good cleaning, inspection and filter change is a terrific way to keep your system running at its best!

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Urine

One of the most undesirable scenarios is when an air conditioner smells like urine.

If your air conditioning stinks like urine, it could be traced back to a number of things. One likely cause is a buildup of bacteria or mold in the your HVAC. This can happen if moisture accumulates in the system and creates a wet environment that is conducive to bacterial growth. The bacteria can produce a foul odor that resembles urine.

Another feasible cause of the smell could be a blocked drain line. The condensation that forms inside the air conditioning unit needs to drain away correctly, but if the drain line becomes filled with debris, it can cause water to back up and collect inside the unit. This can create a musty smell that resembles urine.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Burning Plastic

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

Another possible cause of the smell could be a foreign object lodged in the the air conditioner. If something foreign gets caught in the air conditioning system, it can heat up and cause a smell that reminds people of burning plastic.

If you think you smell burning plastic coming from your air conditioner, it’s essential to phone a professional right away.

Your AC Smells Like Gas

If your air conditioner smells like gas, it could be due to a natural gas leak in the unit or in the surrounding area. Natural gas has a distinctive odor, often described as smelling of rotten eggs or sulfur. That’s because an odor is put into natural gas so that it is easily detectable.

As stated before, a natural gas leak can be VERY hazardous and requires immediate attention. Should you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, open windows and doors to air out the home, evacuate the building and call your gas company or emergency services straight away.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Fish

Should your air conditioner smell like fish, this could be a sign of 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 sometimes described as smelling like fish or, as mentioned earlier, it also can cause a smell like dirty feet.

Another plausible explanation for the smell could be a dead animal or other biological material stuck inside the air conditioning system. This often can happen if an animal such as a mouse or bird is trapped inside the unit and dies.

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

Why My Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

There could be numerous reasons your AC smells like vinegar. One possible cause might be a plugged air filter. A second possible cause of the smell might be a refrigerant leak. When the refrigerant leaks, it can make a chemical odor that resembles vinegar.

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

If you are planning to upgrade, HCE Systems can help select the right unit to fit your home’s needs. We offer reliable, expert air conditioner installation in Norton.

Your AC Smells Like Chemicals

If the smell of chemicals is emitting out of your air conditioner, it could be due to a refrigerant leak. If the refrigerant leaks, it can create a chemical scent that is often described as smelling like chemicals or paint thinner, vinegar or acetone.

One other possible source of the smell could be problems with the electrical wiring or parts inside the air conditioning system. This can result in a burning smell that it similar to chemicals or burning plastic.

If you believe there is a refrigerant leak or an electrical problem, it's important to shut off your air conditioning system immediately and contact a professional to inspect and repair the unit. Refrigerant leaks can be hazardous and may require immediate attention to prevent injury or damage to your house.

Strange Smell Coming from Your AC? Call the Pros at HCE Systems

If your air conditioner reeks and you aren’t able to fix it easily on your own, call the cooling specialists at HCE Systems. We have lots of experience working with a wide variety of air conditioning systems. Our crew has fixed countless air conditioning concerns through the years—including weird smells. Call us today for quality AC repair in Norton!