When your air conditioner starts emitting weird or gross aromas, it is important to take notice because it could be a sign of a major problem. Dismissing 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. In other cases, it could also signal something mechanically wrong with the AC. Some smells are a sign of a hazardous situation, like a natural gas leak.

At Thurston Heating & Air Conditioning, we have a nose for these sorts of things. If you smell something weird coming from your air conditioner, you can bet that our team of talented pros has smelled it, too—and fixed it! We’ve earned a reputation as the go-to team for air conditioning repair in Kearney.

What does a certain smell wafting out of your AC mean? Here are several typical air conditioner odors and what they might 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 inside of it. When moisture builds inside the unit, it can establish an environment that is conducive to the development of bacteria and fungus. This can cause a nasty odor that is often described as smelling like feet.

Another likely cause of the smell might be a dirty air filter. When the air filter becomes choked with dirt, dust and other contaminants, it can lead to substandard air quality and a musty smell that bears a resemblance to feet.

To solve this unpleasant situation, 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 change the air filter on a regular basis to provide good air quality and protect against the growth of bacteria and fungus.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Rotten Eggs

If your air conditioning unit stinks like rotten eggs, it could be because 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 added to it to make it easily detectable.

A natural gas leak can be 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, get everyone out of the building and call your gas company or emergency services at once.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Mildew

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

Another possible reason for the smell may be a dirty air filter. If the air filter becomes clogged, it can result in poor air quality and a musty smell that resembles mildew.

Annual air conditioning maintenance from Thurston Heating & Air Conditioning can help avoid both of these issues, because a good cleaning, inspection and filter change is a great way to keep your system operating at its best!

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Urine

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

If your air conditioning equipment smells like urine, it could be due to a variety of factors. One likely cause is a buildup of bacteria or mold in the your HVAC. This can happen if moisture accumulates in the system and creates a wet environment that is conducive to bacterial growth. The bacteria can create a foul odor that is like urine.

Another feasible cause of the scent of urine could be a plugged 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 build up inside the unit. This can generate a musty smell that can stink like urine.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Burning Plastic

If your air conditioning system smells like burning plastic, a possible cause could be an electrical concern with the unit. After a while, the electrical elements in the air conditioning system can wear out or bust, which can create a burning smell that resembles plastic.

Another possible root cause of the smell could be a foreign object lodged in the HVAC system. If something foreign gets stuck in the air conditioning system, it can become hot and emit a smell like burning plastic.

If you smell burning plastic coming from your cooling system, it’s essential to phone a professional right away.

Your AC 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 distinctive odor, often described as smelling like rotten eggs or sulfur. That’s because a smell is incorporated into natural gas to make sure that it is easily detectable.

As we said before, a natural gas leak can be VERY harmful and needs immediate attention. If you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, open windows and doors to air out the home, leave the building and phone your gas company or emergency services as soon as possible.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Fish

Should your air conditioning equipment smell like fish, this could be a sign of a build-up of bacteria or mold in the unit. Moisture creates an environment that is conducive to 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 stuck inside the air conditioning system. This often is possible if an animal such as a mouse or bird is trapped inside the unit and dies.

To fix the issue, it's often necessary to have a professional inspect and clean your air conditioning system. They can determine the source of the smell and take the appropriate steps to remove any contaminants and stop the problem from recurring.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Vinegar

There could be multiple reasons your air conditioning system smells like vinegar. One possible cause of the smell could be a clogged 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 described as smelling of vinegar.

To fix the issue, it's essential to have a skilled specialist 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 identify and repair any hidden issues with your air conditioning. Or, they can tell you if your air conditioning should be replaced.

If you are planning to upgrade, Thurston Heating & Air Conditioning can help locate the correct unit to fit your home’s needs. We offer trustworthy, expert air conditioner installation in Kearney.

Your AC Smells Like Chemicals

If the smell of chemicals is emitting out of your air conditioner, it could be the result of a refrigerant leak. When the refrigerant leaks, it can create a chemical aroma that people sometimes describe as smelling like chemicals or paint thinner, vinegar or acetone.

One other possible reason for the smell could be an issue with the electrical wiring or parts inside the air conditioning system. This can cause a burning smell that it similar to chemicals or burning plastic.

If you believe there is a refrigerant leak or an electrical concern, it's important to shut down your air conditioning system as soon as possible 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 house.

Strange Smell Coming from the Air Conditioning? Call the Pros at Thurston Heating & Air Conditioning

If your air conditioner smells nasty and you aren’t able to fix it smoothly on your own, call the cooling professionals at Thurston Heating & Air Conditioning. We have lots of experience working with a wide variety of AC systems. Our crew has fixed many air conditioning troubles throughout the years—including funky smells. Call us today for quality AC repair in Kearney!