When your air conditioner starts emitting strange or unappealing smells, it is important to take notice because it could be a sign of a big problem. Ignoring unpleasant smells coming from your air conditioning may lead to serious damage to your AC or even pose a risk to your health and safety.

Depending on the cause of the odor, the culprit might be bacteria or fungus in the system. Other times, it could also indicate something mechanically wrong with the air conditioning system. Some smells are a warning of a dangerous situation, such as a natural gas leak.

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

What does a particular smell wafting from your AC mean? Here are several typical air conditioner odors and what they could mean:

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Feet

If your air conditioner smells like feet, it may be because of a buildup of bacteria or fungus in the system. When moisture accumulates inside the unit, it can establish 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 likely explanation for the stench of dirty feet might be a dirty air filter. When the air filter becomes filled with dirt, dust and other contaminants, it can cause 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 change the air filter routinely to promote good air quality and prevent the development of bacteria and fungus.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Rotten Eggs

If your air conditioner smells like rotten eggs, it could be because of a natural gas leak in the unit or in the surrounding area. Natural gas has a distinctive odor, often described as smelling like rotten eggs or sulfur, which 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 air out the area, make everyone leave the building and call your gas company or emergency services at once.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Mildew

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

Another possible explanation for the smell might be a clogged air filter. If the air filter becomes clogged, it can lead to poor air quality and a musty smell that has a resemblance to mildew.

Regular air conditioning maintenance from Air Current AC & Heat can help avoid both of these issues, because a good cleaning, inspection and filter change is a terrific way to keep your system working at its best!

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Urine

One of the most distressing situations is when the air coming out of your HVAC system smells like urine.

If your air conditioning reeks of urine, it could could be caused by multiple factors. One possible cause is a collection of bacteria or mold in the air conditioning system. This can happen in the event that moisture accumulates in the system and creates a moist environment that favorable for bacterial growth. The bacteria can emit a foul odor that is like urine.

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

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Burning Plastic

If your AC smells like burning plastic, it might be because of an electrical concern with the unit. After some time, the electrical parts in the air conditioning system can wear out or break, which can produce a burning smell that resembles plastic.

Another possible cause of the smell could be a foreign object that somehow got in the the air conditioner. If something foreign gets caught in the air conditioning system, it can get hot and cause a smell similar to burning plastic.

If you notice something that smells like burning plastic coming from your air conditioner, it’s important to phone a professional right away.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Gas

If your AC smells like gas, it could 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 of rotten eggs or sulfur. That’s because this scent is added to natural gas to make it easily detectable.

As we said previously, a natural gas leak can be VERY harmful and calls for immediate attention. If 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.

Your AC Smells Like Fish

Should your air conditioning equipment smell like fish, this could be a sign of a build-up of bacteria or mold in the unit. Moisture produces an environment that fosters the growth of bacteria and mold. This can cause a strong odor that can be described as smelling like fish or, as mentioned earlier, it also can result in a smell like dirty feet.

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

To fix the issue, it's worthwhile to have a professional examine and clean your cooling system. They will be able to find the source of the smell and take the correct steps to remove any contaminants and stop the problem from recurring.

Why My Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

There could be multiple reasons an AC smells like vinegar. One possible cause is a dirty air filter. One other potential cause of the smell could 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 beneficial to have a skilled tech examine and clean your air conditioning.  If the odor lingers after the cleaning and replacing of the air filter, it's best to reach back out to a professional to find and repair any hidden issues with your air conditioning. Or, they can tell you if your air conditioning ought to be replaced.

If you are planning to upgrade, Air Current AC & Heat can help find the ideal unit to fit your home’s needs. We provide dependable, skilled air conditioner installation in Houston.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Chemicals

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

One other possible cause of the smell could be something wrong with the electrical wiring or hardware inside the air conditioning system. This can cause a burning smell that is like chemicals or burning plastic.

If you think your system has a refrigerant leak or an electrical issue, 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 prevent injury or damage to your house.

A Nasty Odor Coming from the Air Conditioning? Call the Pros at Air Current AC & Heat

If your air conditioner reeks and you aren’t able to fix it simply on your own, call the cooling specialists at Air Current AC & Heat. We have years of experience working with a wide variety of air conditioning systems. Our crew has fixed a multitude of air conditioning troubles throughout the years—including strange smells. Call us today for quality AC repair in Houston!