When your air conditioner starts putting out strange or funky aromas, it is important to take notice because it could be a sign of a big problem. Disregarding unpleasant smells coming from your air conditioning can lead to further damage to your AC or even pose a risk to your health and safety.

Depending on the cause of the odor, the root of the problem may be bacteria or fungus in the system. On the other hand, it could also sign something mechanically wrong with the AC. Some smells are a warning of an unsafe situation, like a natural gas leak.

At Gilray Heating and Cooling, we have a nose for these sorts of things. If you smell something peculiar coming from your cooling system, chances are our team of talented specialists has smelled it, too—and fixed it! We’ve earned the reputation as the first call for air conditioning repair in Wausau.

What does a particular smell coming from your air conditioning mean? Here are a few typical air conditioner odors and what they could mean:

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Feet

If your air conditioner smells like feet, it could be due to a buildup of bacteria or fungus in the unit. When moisture collects inside the unit, it can produce an environment that is conducive to the development of bacteria and fungus. This can result in a nasty odor that is often described as smelling like feet.

Another likely cause of the smell might be a dirty air filter. When your HVAC system's air filter becomes clogged with dirt, dust and other particles, it can result in low air quality and a musty smell that resembles feet.

To correct this dilemma, 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 replace the air filter routinely to ensure good air quality and protect against the development of bacteria and fungus.

Your AC Smells Like Rotten Eggs

If your reeks of rotten eggs, it may be the result 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 because of a substance added to it to make it easily detectable.

A natural gas leak is very dangerous and requires immediate attention. If you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, immediately open windows and doors to allow gas to escape the area, make everyone leave the building and call your gas company or emergency services immediately.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Mildew

If your cooling system is giving off an odor like mildew, it could be due to a collection of moisture inside the unit. When moisture forms inside a cooling system, it can cultivate the growth of mold and mildew. This can cause a musty smell that it similar to mildew.

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

Annual air conditioning maintenance from Gilray Heating and Cooling can help protect against both of these situations, because a good cleaning, inspection and filter change is a great way to keep your system operating at its best!

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Urine

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

If your air conditioner reeks of urine, it could be due to a variety of factors. One likely cause is a buildup of bacteria or mold in the air conditioning system. This can happen when moisture accumulates in the system and creates a wet environment that favorable for bacterial growth. The bacteria can create a foul odor that it similar to urine.

Another potential cause of the stink could be a blocked drain line. The condensation that forms inside the air conditioning unit needs to drain away properly, but if the drain line becomes choked with debris, it can cause water to back up and accumulate inside the unit. This can generate a musty smell that is sometimes described as smelling of urine.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Burning Plastic

If your AC smells like burning plastic, this could indicate an electrical concern with the unit. After some time, the electrical components in the air conditioning system can wear out or malfunction, which can create a burning smell that resembles plastic.

Another possible root cause of 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 think you smell burning plastic coming from your AC unit, it’s essential to call a professional right away.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Gas

If your AC smells like gas, there could be a natural gas leak in the unit or in the surrounding area. Natural gas has a recognizable aroma, often described as smelling similar to rotten eggs or sulfur. That’s because an odor is put into natural gas so that it is easily detectable.

As mentioned previously, a natural gas leak can be VERY dangerous and requires immediate attention. Should you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, open windows and doors to air out the home, leave the building and call your gas company or emergency services right away.

Your AC Smells Like Fish

If your air conditioning equipment smell like fish, it could be due to a build-up of bacteria or mold in the unit. Moisture causes 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 create a smell like dirty feet.

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

To fix the issue, it's important to have a professional check out and clean your HVAC system. They can determine the source of the smell and take the appropriate steps to remove any contaminants and prevent the problem from recurring.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

There could be several reasons an AC smells like vinegar. One possible cause is a plugged air filter. A second possible cause of the smell might 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 essential to have a skilled specialist examine and clean your air conditioning.  If the odor persists after the cleaning and exchanging the air filter, it's best to reach back out to a professional to identify and repair any persistent issues with your air conditioning. Or, the mechanic can tell you if your air conditioning ought to be replaced.

If you are looking to upgrade, Gilray Heating and Cooling can help locate the correct unit to fit your home’s needs. We deliver dependable, professional air conditioner installation in Wausau.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Chemicals

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

An additional possible source of the smell could be an issue with the electrical wiring or components inside the air conditioning system. This can cause a burning smell that it similar to 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 avoid injury or damage to your house.

A Nasty Odor Coming from Your AC? Contact the Experts at Gilray Heating and Cooling

If your air conditioner reeks and you aren’t able to fix it smoothly on your own, reach out to the cooling specialists at Gilray Heating and Cooling. We have plenty of experience working with a wide variety of AC systems. Our crew has fixed a multitude of air conditioning problems throughout the years—including strange smells. Call us today for quality AC repair in Wausau!