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What’s the Strange Smell Coming from My Air Conditioner?

Funky smells in your Oakdale, PA, home can be disturbing, especially when they come from your air conditioner. Here are some of the common odors you may experience and what causes them.

A Foul Smell

Foul smells are somewhat ambiguous and can mean different things. One of the most common smells is a dead animal, which may be what you have.

Birds and rodents can get into your ductwork and get trapped if it’s not sealed properly. Once they die, the odors they give off are quite distinct.

Car Exhaust

You wouldn’t naturally think your air conditioner would give off a smell like a car, but sometimes it might. If you live near a busy roadway, look at whether you have any leaks allowing in the actual exhaust. However, it may also indicate a refrigerant leak somewhere in your home.

If the leak occurs inside, it not only affects your AC performance but is also hazardous to your family. If you smell this, turn off your HVAC system, and open some windows if possible. Then call a professional to diagnose and provide the appropriate AC repairs.

Plastic or Gunpowder Burning

A very distinct smell is an electrical burning smell, which some describe as burning gunpowder or plastic. If you haven’t run your system in a little while, it may produce this smell when it first starts but should dissipate in a few minutes.

If it doesn’t dissipate or occurs when the system runs regularly, you may have an overheating component or wiring. Turn off your system and call a professional. Attempting to fix this kind of problem on your own could result in severe injuries or significant property damage.


One of the most common odors is a musty smell. Excess moisture trapped in the system allows biological and spore-type contaminants to grow, producing this smell. If you smell this, your system needs a cleaning, including your evaporator coil and probably your ductwork.

Prevent many of these unpleasant smells before they even begin with routine maintenance. Call to schedule your HVAC maintenance visit with one of the expert technicians from Woodruff and Smith Heating and Cooling, Inc.

Image provided by iStock

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