What’s That Funny Smell Coming from My Air Conditioner?

Everyone “nose” a dog’s sense of smell is better than a human’s. When it comes to sniffers, human beings just aren’t up to snuff. There’s a common held belief that as homo sapiens evolved over the ages, they put more focus on their abilities to see and think and relied less and less on their sense of smell. However, science has proven the human olfactory sense has been getting a bum rap for hundreds of years. Conventional wisdom generally held that humans could discern approximately 10,000 different odors. However, Leslie Vosshall, a researcher and molecular biologist at Rockefeller University, conducted a study that proved otherwise. Her research established that the human nose can detect at least one trillion odors.

Human being’s olfactory sense is highly attuned and triggers immediate sensory and memory responses. Some fragrances trigger pleasant memories that make you smile while others make you laugh. However, there’s nothing funny about a faint, foul odor coming from your air conditioning vents. If you’ve been experiencing something less than fresh air coming from your AC vents, consider the following possible causes for malodorous scents associated with your air conditioning system.

Dirty Socks Syndrome

If you’ve had the misfortune of leaving your laundry in the washing machine for a few days, you’ll recognize this smell only too well. One whiff of the unpleasant “dirty socks” aroma and you’ll know you’ve got a problem. Mildew loves cool, dark, damp places which your air conditioner’s drainages lines and pans can provide. AC units remove heat and humidity from the air in your home. Sometimes that condensation can pool in the wrong places. Standing water is an open invitation for mildew to grow. Often in Arizona, people notice the dirty socks smell when they first turn on their air conditioners in late spring. It’s important to note, moisture can build up in your HVAC system in any season, for a variety of reasons. The best thing to do is to call in an expert to determine where the moisture is coming from and how it’s affecting your air conditioning system. Moisture can also lead to mold, which can be a serious problem and is not to be taken lightly.

Animals in Your AC System?

Sometimes, rodents and other little furry friends find their way into HVAC system ducts. The pitter patter of little feet echoing down the vents in the dead of night can be a clue. However, if you have the misfortune of one of those little fellows expiring within the ducts, you will most assuredly notice a foul odor. This problem will call for a duct system inspection and cleaning. It’s important to note, poisoning mice in your AC duct system means you may eliminate your rodent problem, but you’ll be causing an odor problem as the animal decomposes. It’s best to let the professionals handle this problem.

Electrical Burning Odor

When a motor overheats or if there’s an issue with wiring, you may notice an electrical burning smell. This smell will get your attention and requires immediate action on your part. Turn off your air conditioning unit at the circuit breaker and call for service immediately. Do not try to convince yourself that your AC unit just needs to cool down. Electrical problems are serious and can cause extensive damage if ignored.

If Your Air Conditioning System Doesn’t Pass the Smell Test

There are a wide variety of odors that may emanate from your air conditioner vents. Most of these odor indicators are best handled by the pros at Bruce’s Air Conditioning. The best way for us to determine the cause of a foul odor is by setting up a service call.