Keeping Your AC System Cleaner

Can You Tell Your AC's Problem By Its Smell? 3 Distinct Smells And Their Causes

by Yolanda White

One of the scariest experiences you can have with an air conditioner is when it emits a chemical smell each time you turn it on. In addition, it is hard to tell whether the problem is easy to solve or if you are minutes away from gas poisoning. You should know that even a faint chemical smell means something is going on that an AC professional needs to address. In such a case, you may also want to know what is causing the smell and possible solutions. With that in mind, here are three distinct smells you might get from your AC unit and what they mean. 

When It Gives Off an Ether Smell

Ether and chloroform have a very distinctive and unmistakable smell. Hence, you will find it difficult to relax indoors when the odor is circulating from the unit. You should know that the smell results from a refrigerant leak as it passes through the evaporator coils. In such a case, you may also notice that the AC runs longer than usual, emits bubbly noises, and the house is always stuffy. It is crucial to note that the refrigerant is hazardous, and you shouldn't breathe it in. Instead, call a technician to assess the system's condition and repair the leak immediately. 

When It Emits an Acidic, Musty, or Ammonia Smell

Be wary of an acidic or ammonia smell coming from the unit. In this case, the smell can emanate from the evaporator coil, the condensate line, or ductwork. Since the AC cools the house by condensation, water is a common byproduct. However, if the water does not drain from the evaporator coil, it can mix with dirt and encourage rotting and mold growth. With time, mold and mildew will cause a musty or chemical smell. 

The smell could also emanate from a clogged condensate line because of a similar dirt and moisture collection process. More so, failure to clean your unit will allow mold to spread to your ductwork. Hence, an expert must clear dirt buildup and clogs to eliminate conditions that support mold growth. 

When It Smells Like Household Supplies

You might also notice that your AC smells like your household supplies. This is common if you place cleaning supplies or paint too close to the indoor unit. That said, you want to avoid placing chemicals close to your AC as it will pull the smell they emit and circulate it in your house. In this case, the solution is storing the supplies away from your unit and in air-tight containers. 

These are simple and effective ways to handle chemical smells coming from the AC. Remember that you should call an HVAC company if the odor is persistent and causing side effects like headaches, nausea, and other physical symptoms.