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6 Bad Air Conditioning Smells and What Causes Them

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If your air con is putting out a bad smell, it’s a sign something is not quite right. Not only are bad smells uncomfortable to have in your home, they can also be bad for your health.

Getting a professional to perform a clean and service on your reverse cycle air conditioning is the best way to make sure it is fixed properly and ready to keep you cool.

Here are the most common air con smells, what causes them and what to do about it.

1. Stale and musty

The most common smell from multi-head air conditioning is a stale and musty smell. It’s often the result of mould growing inside the system. Leaks or excess moisture in the drip tray can create an environment where mould and mildew thrive, causing the unpleasant smell.

Leaks and moisture problems should be handled by a qualified technician. A thorough clean of your filters and ducts may fix the smell, but leaks will need to be fixed at the source.

Another reason you might smell something stale and musty from your AC is a dirty air filter. The air filter is designed to remove dust and other particles from the air and over time, these can clog up your filter so that it no longer works effectively.

To solve the dirty air filter problem, you should remove your filter while the power is switched off. Wash it thoroughly with clean water if it’s a washable filter, or replace it with a new filter.

2. Burning

If you’re sensing a burning smell coming from your AC unit, it’s likely an issue with an electrical component. Water damage, overheating and excessive amounts of dirt inside your AC system can cause electrical parts to start burning.

Wear and tear overtime may cause damage to the mechanical parts inside your air con, which can result in short circuits. This can also cause a burning smell.

If the smell lingers for more than a few seconds or if you notice any smoke emitting from the unit, you should shut off the power immediately. Call an air conditioner technician before switching the unit on again.

3. Rotten eggs

Natural gas doesn’t have a strong smell so manufacturers add a chemical to make leaking natural gas easier to detect. Most people describe the smell to be like rotten eggs. So if you’re smelling a rotten egg odour coming from your AC, it could be a gas leak.

Natural gas leaks can cause carbon monoxide poisoning and are a serious health hazard. If you suspect a natural gas leak, turn your gas supply off immediately and call a technician in to inspect and repair the leak.

4. Exhaust fumes

If your air conditioner smells like your car’s exhaust fumes, it could be a result of a leak or overheating causing oils to burn.

Oils are necessary inside your air conditioner to lubricate the motor, but if they leak or overheat, they can let off a very unpleasant smell. Burning oils can also pollute the air inside your home and be unhealthy to inhale.

If you’re smelling something that resembles exhaust fumes, you should switch your air con off and get a professional to inspect the unit.

5. Sulfur or methane

A sulfuric or methane smell could indicate that a creature has died in your air conditioning unit. Rats, lizards, birds and possums may seek shelter and warmth in your air conditioner during winter and cause damage by chewing through ducts, wires and other components. If they die, they can omit a very unpleasant odour.

If the dead animal is within reach, you may remove it with gloves and a plastic bag. However, if the animal is too deep to reach, you should call a technician in to remove it and thoroughly clean out your ducts.

6. Cigarette smoke

A stale cigarette odour emitting from your air conditioner could be a sign of dust burning inside your AC unit. Dust particles build up over time and can clog your air filters. Overheating may cause excess dust to burn and emit an unpleasant smell.

If someone in your home smokes, the smell coming from your AC may also be a sign of tobacco particles lodged in your evaporator and filter. To eliminate stale cigarette smells, clean or change your filter regularly and try smoking outdoors instead of inside.

An AC service can save you money

Getting your air conditioner serviced when you first notice something wrong is the best way to make sure the problem doesn’t get bigger and cause a costly breakdown. In fact, it’s important to have your air conditioner serviced regularly, even if there are no obvious problems.

Much like you need to service your car every 6 months to ensure it keeps running effectively, a regular AC service will keep your AC in top shape. A service is especially important before heavy periods of use like summer and winter.

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