man cleaning an HVAC unit

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

Depending on the cause of the odor, the cause may be bacteria or fungus in the system. In other cases, it could also indicate something mechanically wrong with the AC. Some smells are a warning of a hazardous scenario, like a natural gas leak.

At Bishop’s HVAC, we are skilled at diagnosing and fixing these type of problems. If you smell something peculiar coming from your cooling system, you can bet that our team of skilled specialists has smelled it, too—and fixed it! We’ve earned the reputation as the first call for air conditioning repair in Sacramento.

What does a specific odor wafting out of your cooling system mean? Here are some typical air conditioner aromas and what they may mean:

Your AC Smells Like Feet

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

Another likely cause of the stench of dirty feet might be a dirty air filter. When your HVAC system's air filter becomes clogged with dirt, dust and other particles, it can lead to low air quality and a musty smell that it similar to the smell of feet.

To correct this issue, it's important to have an experienced specialist 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 on a regular basis to ensure good air quality and prevent the formation of bacteria and fungus.

Your AC Smells Like Rotten Eggs

If your reeks of rotten eggs, it may be due to a natural gas leak in the unit or in the surrounding area. Natural gas has a recognizable 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 extraordinarily 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, get everyone out of the building and call your gas company or emergency services at once.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Mildew

If your cooling system smells like mildew, it could be due to a collection of moisture inside the unit. When moisture collects inside an air conditioner, it can cultivate the growth of mold and mildew. This can cause a musty smell that bears a resemblance to mildew.

Another possible reason for the smell might be a dirty air filter. If the air filter becomes clogged, it can lead to poor air quality and a musty smell that is similar to mildew.

Annual air conditioning maintenance from Bishop’s HVAC can help prevent both of these situations, because a good cleaning, inspection and filter change is a terrific way to keep your system operating at its best!

Your AC Smells Like Urine

One of the most unpleasant situations is when your AC smells like urine.

If your air conditioning stinks like urine, it could be due to a variety of factors. One potential cause is a accumulation of bacteria or mold in the your HVAC. This can happen if moisture accumulates in the system and creates a wet environment that favorable for bacterial growth. The bacteria can emit a foul odor that some people describe as smelling like urine.

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

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Burning Plastic

If your air conditioning unit smells like burning plastic, this could indicate an electrical problem with the unit. After some time, 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 that somehow got in the unit. If something foreign gets trapped in the air conditioning system, it can get hot and emit a smell like burning plastic.

If you think you smell burning plastic coming from your cooling system, it’s worthwhile to contact 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 your home. Natural gas has a distinct odor, often described as smelling like rotten eggs or sulfur. That’s because this scent is added to natural gas so that it is easily detectable.

As we said before, a natural gas leak can be VERY harmful and calls for immediate attention. Should you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, open windows and doors to air out the home, leave the building and call your gas company or emergency services straight away.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Fish

If your AC smell like fish, it could be due to 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 foul odor that is sometimes described as smelling like fish or, as mentioned earlier, it also can cause a smell like dirty feet.

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

To correct the issue, it's worthwhile to have a professional examine and clean your cooling system. They should be able to find 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 numerous reasons your air conditioner smells like vinegar. One possible cause of the smell could be a dirty air filter. A second possible cause of the smell may be a refrigerant leak. Sometimes after the refrigerant leaks, it can make a chemical odor that is described as smelling of vinegar.

To fix the issue, it's essential to have a skilled mechanic look at and clean your air conditioning.  If the odor lingers after the cleaning and changing 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 mechanic can tell you if your air conditioning ought to be replaced.

If you are planning to upgrade, Bishop’s HVAC can help locate the correct unit to fit your home’s needs. We offer trustworthy, skilled air conditioner installation in Sacramento.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Chemicals

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

An additional possible reason for the smell could be something wrong with the electrical wiring or hardware inside the air conditioning system. This can cause a burning smell that it similar to chemicals or burning plastic.

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

A Nasty Odor Coming from Your Cooling? Call the Pros at Bishop’s HVAC

If your air conditioner reeks and you aren’t able to fix it smoothly on your own, call the cooling experts at Bishop’s HVAC. We have plenty of experience working with a wide variety of cooling systems. Our crew has fixed countless air conditioning troubles through the years—including funky smells. Call us today for quality AC repair in Sacramento!