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Why Does My Air Conditioner Smell So Bad?

This summer, you may notice some odor coming from your Birmingham home’s cooling system. Air conditioner smells occur for numerous reasons, but the smell means something’s not right. 

Douglas Cooling & Heating explains the causes of air conditioner smells and what you need to do to eliminate unwanted odors. When air conditioner repair is needed, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Reasons for Air Conditioner Smells

Air conditioners can emit different smells, which shine some light on the root problem at hand. The most common air conditioner smells Birmingham area homeowners report include:

  • Mustiness
  • Dirty gym socks 
  • Burning

Mustiness and Dirty Gym Sock Smell

A musty odor can be a sign of humidity control issues in the home. When the relative humidity level of the house exceeds the balanced range of 30 to 50, this stale odor may develop. Mustiness and high humidity may be an issue for a few different reasons.

If your air conditioner is oversized for the house, the indoor air isn’t going to receive the dehumidification that an air conditioner usually produces. Oversized air conditioners run quick cooling cycles, starting up and shutting down in a matter of a minute because that’s all it takes to achieve the temperature change called for by the thermostat. While the large cooling system rapidly changes air temperature, the cooling process doesn’t occur long enough to achieve any dehumidification – so moisture remains in the air. Replacement with a correctly sized unit is needed.

Musty air conditioning smells also come from the filter. When indoor humidity is high, the filter may absorb moisture and produce a musty odor that mixes with circulating air. 

Musty air conditioning smells also arise when there is mold and mildew present within the system. Many homeowners also report a smell of dirty gym socks inside the home. This issue can be caused by several different factors working together, often pointing back to a lack of maintenance. 

Dirty air filters allow contaminants to be carried into the interior equipment chambers where dust and dirt come to rest upon the evaporator coil. Excess moisture surrounding the evaporator coil, either due to inadequate dehumidification by an oversized air conditioner or a clog in the drip pan or condensate drain that prevents condensation from exiting the system, is combined with debris and darkness to deliver ideal conditions for mold growth. Mold may be carried to areas within the ducts via regular airflow, spreading the problem deeper into the system.

Coil cleaning eliminates debris as well as mold growth on the evaporator coil. A UV air purifier may be recommended to kill mold and stop regrowth when installed inside the system. Regular air filter changes are necessary to ensure the filter is in good shape and able to trap contaminants from the air before they pass to the evaporator coil. A preventive maintenance tune up performed by your HVAC technician ensures components and cabinets are clean and that the condensate drain and drip pan are free of mold growth and clogs that prevent drainage. Make sure to schedule your air conditioning tune up each year.

Burning Odor

If you notice air conditioning smells that remind you of something burning or on fire, there may actually be electrical components within the system burning. When you notice a burning smell from your cooling system, shut it off at the home’s electrical panel immediately. 

The system’s motor could overheat and produce this odor. Problems with wiring, including damage, can cause an electrical burning smell. If the AC smells more like gunpowder, there could be a short in the system’s circuit board or motor. If the bad smell does not go away after turning off the air conditioner, everyone needs to exit the home quickly, and you need to contact your local fire department.

Eliminate AC Odors with Douglas Cooling & Heating

Whatever the cause of the air conditioner smell is, the skilled Douglas Cooling & Heating technicians have the solution. Contact us for fast air conditioner repair in and around Birmingham, AL.

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