When your air conditioner starts emitting odd or unappealing smells, it is a good idea to take notice because it could be a sign of a significant problem. Dismissing unpleasant smells coming from your cooling system may lead to serious damage to your AC or even pose a risk to your health and safety.

Depending on what you're smelling, the root of the problem might be bacteria or fungus in the system. Other times, it could also sign something mechanically wrong with the air conditioner. Some smells are a warning of a dangerous scenario, such as a natural gas leak.

At Ilten's, we have a nose for these sorts of things. If you smell something odd 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 Cedar Rapids.

What does a certain smell billowing coming from your air conditioning mean? Here are several common air conditioner aromas and what they could mean:

Your AC Smells Like Feet

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

Another possible reason for the stench of dirty feet may be a dirty air filter. If an air filter becomes choked with dirt, dust and other particles, it can lead to low air quality and a musty smell that bears a resemblance to feet.

To correct this problem, 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 exchange the air filter regularly to ensure good air quality and prevent the formation of bacteria and fungus.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Rotten Eggs

If your air conditioning unit reeks of rotten eggs, it may be caused by a natural gas leak in the unit or in the surrounding area. Natural gas has a unique 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 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 allow gas to escape the area, evacuate the building and call your gas company or emergency services at once.

Your AC Smells Like Mildew

If your air conditioner is giving off an odor like mildew, it may be due to a collection of moisture inside the unit. When moisture accumulates inside a cooling system, it can foster the growth of mold and mildew. This can cause a musty odor that it similar to mildew.

Another possible explanation for the smell may 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.

Regular air conditioning maintenance from Ilten's can help prevent both of these problems, because a good cleaning, inspection and filter change is a very good way to keep your system running at its best!

Your AC Smells Like Urine

One of the most distressing things is when your AC smells like urine.

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

Another potential cause of the smell could be a clogged drain line. The condensation that forms inside the air conditioning unit needs to drain away effectively, 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 produce a musty smell that can stink like urine.

Your AC Smells Like Burning Plastic

If your air conditioner smells like burning plastic, this could indicate an electrical issue with the unit. Over time, the electrical components in the air conditioning system can wear out or malfunction, which can make a burning smell that resembles plastic.

Another possible reason for the smell could be a foreign object that somehow got in the the air conditioner. If something foreign gets stuck in the air conditioning system, it can get hot and emit a smell like burning plastic.

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

Your AC Smells Like Gas

If your air conditioner smells like gas, there could be a natural gas leak in the unit or in your home. Natural gas has a distinctive aroma, often described as smelling of rotten eggs or sulfur. That’s because a smell is put into natural gas to make sure that it is easily detectable.

As stated before, a natural gas leak can be VERY dangerous and calls for immediate attention. If you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, open windows and doors to air out the home, evacuate the building and phone your gas company or emergency services straight away.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Fish

If your AC smell like fish, it could be due to 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 foul odor that is often described as smelling like fish or, as mentioned earlier, it also can create a smell like dirty feet.

Another plausible explanation for 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 solve the issue, it's often necessary to have a professional examine and clean your air conditioning system. They should be able to identify the source of the smell and take the proper steps to remove any contaminants and stop the problem from recurring.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

There could be several reasons an AC smells like vinegar. One possible cause of the smell could be a dirty air filter. A second potential cause of the smell might be a refrigerant leak. When 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 mechanic inspect 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 find and repair any hidden issues with your air conditioning. Or, they can tell you if your air conditioning should be replaced.

If you are looking to upgrade, Ilten's can help locate the correct unit to fit your home’s needs. We provide reliable, skilled air conditioner installation in Cedar Rapids.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Chemicals

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

One other possible reason for the smell could be problems with the electrical wiring or components inside the air conditioning system. This can produce a burning smell that resembles chemicals or burning plastic.

If you suspect a refrigerant leak or an electrical concern, it's important to shut off your air conditioning system immediately and contact a professional to inspect and repair the unit. Refrigerant leaks can be harmful and may require immediate attention to avoid injury or damage to your residence.

A Nasty Odor Coming from Your Cooling? Call the Pros at Ilten's

If your air conditioner stinks and you aren’t able to fix it easily on your own, contact the cooling professionals at Ilten's. We have years of experience working with a wide variety of air conditioning systems. Our crew has fixed countless air conditioning problems through the years—including funky smells. Call us today for quality AC repair in Cedar Rapids!