Air conditioners should make the air in your house more comfortable. However, sometimes they do the exact opposite. This is especially true if your air conditioner is causing your home to become smelly. Knowing what causes odors in the air conditioner and what you can do to stop those odors can help you take care of your air conditioner. Preventing odors can also improve your quality of life at home, as foul smells can ruin your day. Below are the many causes of odors in and around your air conditioner and some suggestions for avoiding those problems.
1. Dirty Air Filter
The air filter is the part of your air conditioner that filters dirt and debris from the air as it circulates through your ducts. Air filters need to be replaced periodically, or they can become clogged. A dirty air filter can harbor everything from dust to mold spores, depending on the air circulating through the ducts.
The EPA recommends that homeowners replace their air filters at least every three months or more frequently, depending on how quickly the filter gets dirty. So if your air conditioner smells when you run it, check the air filter first.
Air filters are generally found in the space between the return air duct and the blower. To replace the filter, remove it from the slot, and replace it with an identical filter. Most filters are disposable and can be thrown away; they’re not reusable. If replacing your air filter doesn’t work, or if your air filter is clean, then you’ll need to explore other options.
2. Clogged Condensate Pan
Air conditioners collect moisture from the air. That moisture collects in a pan that drips outside the house, which is why you’ll see a puddle of water accumulate around your air conditioner. A condensate pan is a place where mold and algae grow. Condensate pans need to be cleaned periodically, as do the drain lines.
If the drain lines are not cleaned and treated, they can become clogged with algae buildup, causing a smell in your house and a backup of water on your carpet or floor. A clogged condensate pan is a relatively easy fix for your HVAC professional, but the best way to avoid this problem is to get regular tune-ups from your HVAC professional. During tune-ups, your contractor will flush the condensate pan to prevent more algae.
3. Blown Fuse
Another smell you might notice around the air conditioner is the smell of gunpowder or fireworks. This odor could result from a blown a fuse in the air conditioner’s circuit board or fan blower. If your AC has blown a fuse, you’ll be able to tell because the AC will probably not be working.
The gunpowder smell will likely dissipate quickly. However, if you continue to smell a smoky or burning smell that grows stronger, this could signify a fire. In that case, leave the house quickly and contact the fire department.
A blown fuse is a problem that points to an electrical problem, either in your home or in your air conditioner. You can catch this kind of problem by getting a regular tune-up. In addition, your air conditioner repair person can see electrical issues in their early stages and recommend repairs before they become dire.
4. Gas Leak Distributed by Duct Work
The smell of rotten eggs is a smell that many people associate with gas leaks. Natural gas is odorless, but gas companies inject natural gas with mercaptan, a harmless gas that smells like sulfur. So if the smell from your ducts smells like rotten eggs, this could result from a gas leak.
Air conditioners are not run on natural gas, so it’s unlikely that the smell comes from your air conditioner. However, your gas-powered furnace is likely to close to the return air duct and blower that distributes air throughout the house, which means that your air conditioner could efficiently distribute a gas leak throughout your home.
If you suspect your home has a gas leak, leave the house immediately. Take your pets with you. Leave your doors sitting wide open. When you’re outside the house, call for emergency help or your utility company’s emergency number.
You can avoid many problems described above by getting regular tune-ups from an HVAC professional. Have an expert tune up your HVAC system at least once annually to keep the components in your air conditioner in good condition. Contact the professionals at Derek Sawyer’s Heating & Air Conditioning to learn more about how to prevent unpleasant smells from affecting your air conditioner.