When your air conditioner starts spewing strange or funky smells, it is necessary to take notice because it could be a sign of a big problem. Disregarding unpleasant smells coming from your air conditioning may lead to additional damage to your AC or even pose a risk to your health and safety.

Depending on the smell, the cause may be bacteria or fungus in the system. Other times, it could also indicate something mechanically wrong with the air conditioner. Some smells are a warning of a harmful problem, including a natural gas leak.

At Gilray Heating and Cooling, we have a nose for these sorts of things. If you smell something odd coming from your cooling system, there’s a good chance our team of skilled specialists has smelled it, too—and fixed it! We’ve earned our reputation as the go-to team for air conditioning repair in Wausau.

What does a certain smell billowing coming from your cooling system mean? Here are several typical air conditioner smells and what they may mean:

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Feet

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

Another likely explanation for the stench of dirty feet could be a dirty air filter. If an air filter becomes clogged with dirt, dust and other contaminants, it can cause poor air quality and a musty smell that bears a resemblance to feet.

To solve 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 exchange the air filter regularly to ensure good air quality and restrict the formation of bacteria and fungus.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Rotten Eggs

If your air conditioning equipment 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 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 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, make everyone leave the building and call your gas company or emergency services at once.

Your AC Smells Like Mildew

If your air conditioner smells like mildew, it may be due to a accumulation of moisture inside the unit. When moisture collects inside the air conditioning system, it can promote the growth of mold and mildew. This can cause a musty odor that it similar to mildew.

Another possible reason for the smell might be a soiled air filter. When 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 Gilray Heating and Cooling can help avoid both of these problems, because a good cleaning, inspection and filter change is a terrific way to keep your system operating at its best!

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Urine

One of the most unpleasant scenarios is when an air conditioner smells like urine.

If your air conditioner smells like urine, it could be traced back to a number of things. One possible cause is a collection of bacteria or mold in the air conditioning system. This can happen when moisture accumulates in the system and creates a moist environment that can promote bacterial growth. The bacteria can create a foul odor that it similar to urine.

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

Your AC Smells Like Burning Plastic

If your air conditioner smells like burning plastic, this could indicate an electrical concern with the unit. After a while, the electrical elements in the air conditioning system can wear out or malfunction, which can make a burning smell that resembles plastic.

Another possible root cause of the smell could be a foreign object lodged in the unit. If something foreign gets caught in the air conditioning system, it can become hot and result in a smell similar to burning plastic.

If you smell burning plastic coming from your air conditioner, it’s worthwhile to call a professional right away.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Gas

If your air conditioning smells like gas, it could be due to a natural gas leak in the unit or in your home. Natural gas has a distinctive aroma, often described as smelling like rotten eggs or sulfur. That’s because this scent is incorporated into natural gas to make it easily detectable.

As we said earlier, a natural gas leak can be VERY harmful and requires immediate attention. If 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 call your gas company or emergency services as soon as possible.

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 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 result in a smell like dirty feet.

Another plausible explanation for the smell could be a dead animal or other biological material trapped in the air conditioning system. This often can take place if an animal such as a mouse or bird becomes trapped inside the unit and dies.

To solve the issue, it’s often necessary to have a professional inspect and clean your HVAC system. They should be able to determine the source of the smell and take the correct steps to remove any contaminants and stop the problem from recurring.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

There could be numerous reasons your air conditioner smells like vinegar. One possible cause of the smell could be a plugged air filter. One other possible cause of the smell may be a refrigerant leak. If the refrigerant leaks, it can generate a chemical odor that is similar to vinegar.

To fix the issue, it’s beneficial 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 find and repair any underlying issues with your air conditioning. Or, the mechanic can tell you if your air conditioning ought to be replaced.

If you are wanting to upgrade, Gilray Heating and Cooling can help find the ideal unit to fit your home’s needs. We provide dependable, expert air conditioner installation in Wausau.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Chemicals

If the smell of chemicals is emitting out of your air conditioning unit, it could be due to a refrigerant leak. In a situation where the refrigerant leaks, it can create a chemical scent that is often described as smelling like chemicals or paint thinner, vinegar or acetone.

An additional possible reason for the smell could be an issue with the electrical wiring or components inside the air conditioning system. This can result in a burning smell that is like chemicals or burning plastic.

If you suspect a refrigerant leak or an electrical concern, it’s important to turn off your air conditioning system right away and contact a professional to inspect and repair the unit. Refrigerant leaks can be hazardous and may require immediate attention to protect against injury or damage to your home.

A Nasty Odor Coming from Your AC? Call the Pros at Gilray Heating and Cooling

If your air conditioner stinks and you aren’t able to fix it easily on your own, contact the cooling professionals at Gilray Heating and Cooling. We have plenty of experience working with a wide variety of cooling systems. Our crew has fixed many air conditioning troubles over the years—including strange smells. Call us today for quality AC repair in Wausau!