Why Does My Air Conditioner Smell BadIt’s probably no surprise that a bad smell coming from your air conditioner tells you something’s wrong. But, the reasons for different odors may surprise you. From eggs to urine to chemicals, each scent is a sign of a different problem. 

In this article, we’ll go through some of the most common problems that we run into here in York, PA, and the surrounding areas. If any of these sound — or, rather, smell — familiar, call or email us today at Air Comfort Technologies. Even if your AC is still working fine right now, the problem won’t go away on its own. 

We’ll cover: 

  • Urine Smell
  • Dirty Socks
  • Rotten Eggs
  • Sulfur or Gunpowder
  • Chemical Smells

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My Air Conditioning Smells Like Urine

Urine smell from an air conditioner is a sign of mold

No, the smell of urine coming through your vents doesn’t mean someone played a gross prank. Instead, it’s either mold or a coolant leak. To that point, we’ve also heard it described as a strong ammonia smell. But, in our experience, both point to the same problems.

In the case of mold, you’re not smelling the fungus itself. Instead, you’re noticing the mycotoxins, which are byproducts of mold. Even still, some of these mycotoxins are more harmful than some strains of mold. 

As far as a coolant leak: This is what you’ll smell coming through the vents. Outside, you’ll notice something different. We’ll go into more detail about that a little later in this article. 

But, either way: A urine smell means you need to call a professional. If it’s a coolant leak, you may not need as much of a recharge if a tech catches it early. Of course, you don’t want to spend all day and night inhaling toxic mold spores and byproducts. 
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My Air Conditioning Smells Like Dirty Socks

The stale gym bag smell you can get from your AC has a name in the trade: “Dirty Sock Syndrome.” It’s a sign of mold buildup, and while it’s more common in commercial buildings, you can get it in your home, too. We’ve seen it in central air systems, window units, and ductless mini-splits. 

This particular scent — some people also say it’s a funky cheese odor — comes from spores growing on the evaporator coil. Mold and other fungi need dark, moist places to thrive, and the inside of your AC fits the bill. 

As dust, dirt, and bacteria collect on a coil, it creates a fertile breeding ground. And, since you can’t see this part of the system, you won’t notice until the smell takes hold.

This problem requires professional cleaning. You need a tech that can take apart your system to access the problem areas. And, at that point, make sure they inspect the ductwork, too. You may need duct cleaning if the problem has been spreading. 
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American Standard AC Systems

Why Does My Air Conditioning Smell Like Rotten Eggs?

A rotten egg smell from your air conditioning tells you something died in or around the outdoor unit. As the odor from the decomposition seeps into the system and works its way through the ducts, it ends up resembling rotten eggs more than an animal. 

Depending on your stomach, you can try to take care of this yourself. If you find the remains outside the system and feel comfortable disposing of it, you can do so. If you don’t see anything, there’s a chance a critter had crawled into the outdoor condenser and nested somewhere. 

In that case, don’t start taking apart the unit. You risk damaging your AC or — worse — hurting yourself. Likewise, if the smell is especially pungent, get the entire system inspected. Again, you may need duct cleaning to clear out any contamination. 
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Air Conditioning Repair

Air Conditioning Smells Like Sulfur or Gunpowder

Sulfur or gunpowder smells indicate an electrical problem somewhere in your system. That’s anything from a short to a burned-out motor or fan, or any number of things. If the AC is still running, turn it off. 

If you leave it on, you’ll not only fill your house with that noxious smell. You also risk causing more damage to the system. Worst-case scenario? Something catches on fire.

Chemical Smells Coming From My Air Conditioner

We mentioned coolant, or refrigerant, leaks before. If you’re outside, you’ll notice a smell that’s maybe sweet, but seems like a chemical odor. That’s the scent of the coolant liquid escaping the system. You may also hear a hissing sound. 

Once you notice this, call a professional right away. You need someone to repair the break and then recharge your AC. The sooner they get there, the less expensive the job may be. Part of it depends on how much coolant you need to replace. 

If your air conditioner is ten years old or older, a fast turnaround may be the difference between repair and replacement. Earlier models use R22 Freon, which is no longer in production. If you only need to replace a small amount, it may be worth it. But, it’s usually a waste to recharge a unit that’s old and likely on its way out anyway. 
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Air Conditioning Maintenance

Air Conditioner Tune-Ups and Servicing in York, PA

We don’t want to go through a laundry list of what can go wrong with your AC without helping you avoid them. The best way to do that is with an air conditioner tune-up at the beginning of summer. 

That’s when a certified professional inspects and cleans your system. They’ll replace broken and worn-out parts and optimize it for the season ahead. If there’s anything wrong, your tech should catch it before you turn it on and start wrinkling up your nose. 

Air Conditioner Repair in York, PA

Finally, if something does go wrong with the air conditioner for your York, PA home, give us a call here at Air Comfort Technologies. We’ll get your home cool, comfortable — and smelling better — as quickly as possible.
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