When your air conditioner starts emitting unusual or funky aromas, it is important to take notice because it could be a sign of a significant problem. Dismissing unpleasant smells coming from your cooling system could lead to further damage to your HVAC system or even pose a risk to your health and safety.

Depending on the cause of the odor, the root of the problem might be bacteria or fungus in the system. On the other hand, it could also signal something mechanically wrong with the air conditioner. Some smells are a warning of a hazardous situation, such as a natural gas leak.

At Air-Right Energy Design, we have a nose for these sorts of things. If you smell something odd coming from your air conditioner, you can bet that our team of qualified pros has smelled it, too—and fixed it! We’ve earned the reputation as the premier company for air conditioning repair in Manassas.

What does a certain smell coming out of your AC mean? Here are some common air conditioner aromas and what they could mean:

Your AC Smells Like Feet

If your air conditioner smells like feet, it can be caused by a buildup of bacteria or fungus inside of it. When moisture collects inside the unit, it can establish an environment that is beneficial to the development of bacteria and fungus. This can produce a bad odor that is often described as smelling like stinky feet.

Another likely cause of the stench of dirty feet might be a dirty air filter. If an air filter becomes clogged with dirt, dust and other debris, it can result in low air quality and a musty smell that it similar to the smell of feet.

To fix this problem, it's important to have a professional inspect and clean your air conditioning system, including the evaporator coil, drain pan and condensate drain line. It's also important to replace the air filter on a regular basis to promote good air quality and protect against the growth of bacteria and fungus.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Rotten Eggs

If your air conditioning equipment smells like rotten eggs, it might be due to a natural gas leak in the unit or in the surrounding area. Natural gas has a unique 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 a situation that is extraordinarily 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.

My Air Conditioner 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 forms inside the air conditioning system, it can cultivate the growth of mold and mildew. This can cause a musty odor 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 result in poor air quality and a musty smell that has a resemblance to mildew.

Annual air conditioning maintenance from Air-Right Energy Design can help prevent both of these situations, 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 scenarios is when the air coming out of your HVAC system smells like urine.

If your air conditioning equipment stinks like urine, it could be traced back to a number of things. One potential cause is a accumulation of bacteria or mold in the air conditioning system. This can happen when moisture accumulates in the system and creates a moist environment that is conducive to bacterial growth. The bacteria can emit a foul odor that resembles urine.

Another potential cause of the smell could be a clogged 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 is sometimes described as smelling of urine.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Burning Plastic

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

Another possible reason for the smell could be a foreign object stuck 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 smell burning plastic coming from your cooling system, it’s worthwhile to contact a professional right away.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Gas

If your air conditioner smells like gas, it could be due to a natural gas leak in the unit or in another part of your home. Natural gas has a recognizable aroma, often described as smelling similar to rotten eggs or sulfur. That’s because a smell is added to natural gas to make sure that it is easily detectable.

As we said earlier, a natural gas leak can be VERY hazardous and needs immediate attention. When you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, open windows and doors to air out the home, get everyone out of the building and contact your gas company or emergency services right away.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Fish

Should your AC smell like fish, you may have a situation where there's a build-up of bacteria or mold in the unit. Moisture produces an environment that is conducive to the growth of bacteria and mold. This can cause a foul odor that can be described as smelling like fish or, as mentioned earlier, it also can cause a smell like dirty feet.

Another possible cause of the smell could be a dead animal or other biological material trapped within 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 check out and clean your cooling system. They will be able to determine the source of the smell and take the correct steps to remove any contaminants and keep the problem from recurring.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Vinegar

There could be multiple reasons an air conditioner smells like vinegar. One possible cause is a clogged air filter. One other possible cause of the smell might be a refrigerant leak. Sometimes after the refrigerant leaks, it can make a chemical odor that resembles vinegar.

To fix the issue, it's essential to have a skilled mechanic look at and clean your air conditioning.  If the odor lingers after the cleaning and exchanging the air filter, it's best to reach back out to a professional to identify and repair any underlying issues with your air conditioning. Or, they can tell you if your air conditioning should be replaced.

If you are wanting to upgrade, Air-Right Energy Design can help find the correct unit to fit your home’s needs. We offer trustworthy, expert air conditioner installation in Manassas.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Chemicals

If the smell of chemicals is coming out of your air conditioning equipment, it could be the result of a refrigerant leak. When the refrigerant leaks, it can create a chemical aroma that some people describe as smelling like chemicals or paint thinner, vinegar or acetone.

One other possible source of the smell could be an issue with the electrical wiring or elements inside the air conditioning system. This can result in a burning smell that it similar to chemicals or burning plastic.

If you think your system has a refrigerant leak or an electrical problem, it's important to shut off your air conditioning system as soon as possible and contact a professional to inspect and repair the unit. Refrigerant leaks can be harmful and may require immediate attention to prevent injury or damage to your residence.

Strange Smell Coming from Your Cooling? Contact the Experts at Air-Right Energy Design

If your air conditioner smells nasty and you aren’t able to fix it easily on your own, call the cooling experts at Air-Right Energy Design. We have plenty of experience working with a wide variety of HVAC systems. Our crew has fixed countless air conditioning concerns through the years—including strange smells. Call us today for quality AC repair in Manassas!