When your air conditioner starts putting out unusual or gross odors, it is a good idea to take notice because it could be a sign of a major problem. Ignoring unpleasant smells coming from your cooling system may lead to further damage to your AC or even pose a risk to your health and safety.

Depending on the cause of the odor, the root of the problem could be bacteria or fungus in the system. On the other hand, it could also indicate something mechanically wrong with the air conditioner. Some smells are a sign of an unsafe scenario, like a natural gas leak.

At Childress Heating & AC, we are experienced at getting to the root cause of stinky smells. If you smell something peculiar coming from your cooling system, chances are our team of talented specialists has smelled it, too—and fixed it! We’ve earned our reputation as the first call for air conditioning repair in Fredericksburg.

What does a particular smell billowing out of your cooling system mean? Here are several common air conditioner odors and what they may mean:

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Feet

If your air conditioner smells like feet, it might be due to a buildup of bacteria or fungus inside of it. When moisture builds inside the unit, it can produce an environment that is conducive to the spread of bacteria and fungus. This can produce a nasty odor that is often described as smelling like dirty feet.

Another potential explanation for the stench of dirty feet might be a dirty air filter. If an air filter becomes clogged with dirt, dust and other contaminants, it can lead to substandard air quality and a musty smell that it similar to the smell of feet.

To correct this dilemma, it's important to have a quality service tech inspect and clean your air conditioning system, including the evaporator coil, drain pan and condensate drain line. It's also important to change the air filter on a regular basis to ensure good air quality and restrict the growth of bacteria and fungus.

Your AC Smells Like Rotten Eggs

If your stinks like rotten eggs, it might be due to 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 is extremely dangerous and requires immediate attention. If you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, immediately open windows and doors to ventilate the area, evacuate the building and call your gas company or emergency services right away.

Your AC Smells Like Mildew

If your air conditioner is giving off an odor like mildew, it could be due to a collection of moisture inside the unit. When moisture forms inside a cooling system, it can foster the growth of mold and mildew. This can cause a musty stench that bears a resemblance to mildew.

Another possible explanation for the smell could 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.

Regular air conditioning maintenance from Childress Heating & AC can help prevent both of these issues, because a good cleaning, inspection and filter change is a great way to keep your system working at its best!

Your AC Smells Like Urine

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

If your air conditioning smells like urine, it could be traced back to a number of things. One potential 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 favorable for bacterial growth. The bacteria can create a foul odor that resembles urine.

Another potential cause of the smell could be a blocked drain line. The condensation that forms inside the air conditioning unit needs to drain away effectively, but if the drain line becomes stopped up by debris, it can cause water to back up and accumulate inside the unit. This can create a musty smell that resembles urine.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Burning Plastic

If your air conditioning unit smells like burning plastic, it might be because of an electrical issue with the unit. After a while, the electrical components in the air conditioning system can wear out or bust, which can make a burning smell that resembles plastic.

Another possible reason for the smell could be a foreign object lodged in the unit. If something foreign gets caught in the air conditioning system, it can heat up and cause a smell similar to burning plastic.

If you think you smell burning plastic coming from your AC unit, it’s important to phone a professional right away.

Your AC Smells Like Gas

If your air conditioner smells like gas, there could be a natural gas leak in the unit or in another part of your home. Natural gas has a distinct odor, often described as smelling of rotten eggs or sulfur. That’s because this scent is put into natural gas to make it easily detectable.

As we said earlier, a natural gas leak can be VERY hazardous 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, evacuate the building and contact your gas company or emergency services as soon as possible.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Fish

Should your air conditioner smell like fish, it could be due to a build-up of bacteria or mold in the unit. Moisture creates an environment that fosters the growth of bacteria and mold. This can cause a strong odor that is sometimes described as smelling like fish or, as mentioned earlier, it also can create a smell like dirty feet.

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

To solve the issue, it's worthwhile to have a professional examine and clean your air conditioning system. They can find the source of the smell and take the proper steps to remove any contaminants and prevent the problem from recurring.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

There could be numerous reasons your air conditioning system smells like vinegar. One possible cause might be a plugged air filter. One other likely cause of the smell could be a refrigerant leak. When the refrigerant leaks, it can make a chemical odor that is similar to vinegar.

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

If you are planning to upgrade, Childress Heating & AC can help find the correct unit to fit your home’s needs. We deliver reliable, professional air conditioner installation in Fredericksburg.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Chemicals

If the smell of chemicals is emitting out of your air conditioning equipment, it could be caused by a refrigerant leak. In a situation where the refrigerant leaks, it can create a chemical aroma that people sometimes describe as smelling like chemicals or paint thinner, vinegar or acetone.

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

If you suspect a refrigerant leak or an electrical problem, it's important to shut down your air conditioning system as soon as possible and contact a professional to inspect and repair the unit. Refrigerant leaks can be dangerous and may require immediate attention to avoid injury or damage to your house.

Strange Smell Coming from Your Cooling? Call the Pros at Childress Heating & AC

If your air conditioner stinks and you aren’t able to fix it simply on your own, call the cooling specialists at Childress Heating & AC. We have years of experience working with a wide variety of HVAC systems. Our crew has fixed a multitude of air conditioning troubles through the years—including weird smells. Call us today for quality AC repair in Fredericksburg!