What Makes My Air Conditioner Smell Bad?

January 11, 2013

Have you ever turned on your air conditioner and noticed a bad smell coming from your vents? Sometimes this odor is normal, like when starting up the heating system or air conditioner for the first time in a while. Other reasons require attention. The foul smell could be a dead rodent in your ductwork system. No matter the case, when your air conditioner smells bad, your ductwork may need to be professionally inspected and cleaned.

However, if you smell a foul odor only when your AC kicks on, chances are that the smell is emanating from the AC unit itself. If your air conditioner smells there are a few checks you can perform before calling your professional HVAC service technician.

A/C Smells Bad? Check the Condensate Tray

In most cases, air conditioner smells are attributable to mold and debris trapped in the condensate tray. As the warm air is pulled into the AC unit, the air is passed over the evaporator coil. The evaporator coil extracts the moisture from the air. The moisture collects on the evaporator coil, and then it is disposed of into the condensate tray. The condensate tray contains a drain. When the drain is flowing properly, the moisture is moved through through the drain, into the plumbing system or out of the house. However, if the drain is clogged or failing to drain the moisture for any reason, water collects in the condensate tray.

As water stands in the tray, dust and debris fall into the standing water. Eventually, bacteria, mold and fungus form and emit a foul smell. Even if mold is not present, the standing water can make your air conditioner smell when it kicks on. The first item you should check is the condensate tray to see if water is standing in the tray.

Reasons for improper condensate drainage include:

  • Condensate Tray Not Level – Check to see if the condensate tray is level. If the tray is sloped or it has somehow been moved, improper drainage can occur.
  • Clogged Condensate Drain – You can unclog the condensate drain with a vacuum cleaner or an implement such as a straightened coat hanger. Remove the obstruction from the drain pipe, and then monitor the system to ensure that water properly drains. The smell should disappear as the water is drained.

Still Smells Bad? Call for an HVAC Inspection

If you have checked the condensate tray and drain, and you do not find any problems with the tray or drainage system, other problems that may cause your air conditioner to smell require an inspection by a professional HVAC technician.

  • Compressor Unit Contains Mold or Mildew – A professional HVAC technician can inspect your compressor unit for mold or mildew.
  • Air Handler – The AC’s air handler may also be the source of the foul smell. Your Longview TX HVAC service professional will inspect your air handler for any problems that may cause your unit to smell when it kicks on.

JD’s A/C LLC provides AC inspections, maintenance and repairs to customers in Longview TX. If you have inspected your condensate tray and drain, and you are still not able to resolve the odor, call JD’s A/C LLC.

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