NYC Metro Area’s HVACR Blog

Preventive Maintenance Agreements, Residential HVAC

Smelly Air Conditioner? Get Spring Cleaning for Your AC

Last Updated on 

Last Updated on April 2, 2019


smelly air conditioner

Maybe you have noticed that the air in your home no longer smells fresh as a daisy and is even verging on objectionable, but you haven’t been able to put your finger on the source of this uninvited change in your living space’s atmosphere. Could it be that your home is the victim of a smelly air conditioner system and is in dire need of some HVAC spring cleaning?

You are not alone. Tis the season for malodorous problems to crop up and a common time to eradicate those unwanted odors coming from a smelly air conditioner system by undertaking a little HVAC spring cleaning. As a luxury homeowner or one who manages luxury properties, surely you should not have to put up with subpar breathing conditions. Let’s take a look at some of the possible causes for the smelly air conditioner, which has diminished the indoor air quality in your home.

Dreaded odors develop in clogged drains

Your smelly air conditioner could be the result of a clogged condensate drain. If your air conditioner’s condensate drain is clogged, water will build up in the drain pan. This moisture can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew, which will emit a musty smell that travels through your ductwork and circulates throughout your home.

Fully functioning filters are a factor in foiling a smelly air conditioner

Your HVAC’s filtration system is designed to remove contaminants from the air. Filters ensure that dust and grime do not clog your system. If these filters are not changed according to system specifications, clogging occurs and grime ends up in your equipment, ducts and eventually in your indoor air. Similarly, if you have a UV (ultraviolet) filter that is not functioning, it may no longer be incinerating contaminants. If your filtration system is not removing these unwanted particles from the air, it could be the reason for your smelly air conditioner.

Learn more: How And Why to Change an AC Filter

Dirty ducts may be the culprit behind your smelly air conditioner

If you have smelly air conditioner concerns, your HVAC maintenance contractor will troubleshoot the reasons and determine if your HVAC system’s ducts are in need of a good cleaning. If you have a smelly air conditioner, it could be because your HVAC system’s ducts have become the haven for many undesirables including trapped moisture, which produces mold and mildew; dust mites, pet dander and even pest droppings. Your HVAC system may be circulating these foul things through vents, which could be the reason for a smelly air conditioner.

Find out more about duct cleaning from this helpful guide: FAQ: Duct Cleaning and Your Indoor Air Quality.

FAQ: Duct Cleaning and Your Indoor Air Quality. What you don't know could hurt you. Get the free guide today.

To prevent a smelly air conditioner: clean your cooling coils

The sticky outdoor air can wreak havoc on your AC coils, which can quickly accumulate dirt and grime. Your AC blows air right over its coils, so if your coils are harboring bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms, your air can pick up some funky smells from those coils. Those dirty coils may not be the only reason for your smelly air conditioner. Coils caked with dirt can also hamper your unit’s ability to release heat, which could lead to sluggish humidity removal – a whole other problem that can be associated with a smelly air conditioner.

Learn more: AC Coil Cleaning: How to Tell When You Need It

An efficiently running HVAC system, a must for removing musty odors

To avoid your air from being contaminated by a smelly air conditioner, your HVAC system must be running properly. Besides keeping your space at a comfortable temperature, another one of your HVAC unit’s primary functions is to remove humidity from the air. A malfunctioning system can leave you with musty odors, chemical odors and stuffy air. Humidity is the main cause for the development of HVAC contaminants.

An improperly operating HVAC system can cause the buildup of heat and moisture in the ducts, which is a catalyst for mold, mildew and bacteria growth and a leading cause for a smelly air conditioner.

As you can see, there are many reasons for a smelly air conditioner, but fortunately most of these malodorous problems can be headed off with an HVAC spring cleaning or tune-up and other preventative maintenance measures. Let’s take a look at what can be done to avoid unwanted smells.

Unwanted scents? Hiring a company for an HVAC spring cleaning makes sense

Despite the fact that unpleasant air in your home could be coming from a variety of sources, by taking a proactive approach, you probably can prevent a smelly air conditioner from tainting your air quality. Though some do-it-yourselfers may undertake HVAC cleaning on their own, many realize they are unqualified for the task and get an HVAC service contract with a professional. It should be noted that not all HVAC contractors perform the exact same tasks during a spring tune-up, but here is some of the work that will likely be covered:

  • Check thermostats – Incorrectly calibrated thermostats negatively impacts comfort and operational costs
  • Inspect evaporator and condenser coils. If dirty, evaporator coils can decrease efficiency and cause compressor failure and malfunctioning evaporator coils can elevate refrigerant pressure
  • Check temperatures before and after cleaning condenser coil to evaluate effectiveness
  • Check and if necessary replace filters in order to block contaminants from entering ductwork
  • Check blowers and fan blades for adequate airflow. Dirty fans are inefficient and subject to failure
  • Check condensate drain. A clogged condensate drain can cause odors and lead to water damage
  • Inspect all drain lines to ensure proper drainage and remove clogs if necessary
  • Check condensate pan for cracks and remove any standing water to avoid water damage
  • Check electrical system including fuses, contractors, wiring and tighten loose connections to prevent power loss
  • Lubricate motors and rotating parts that have been idle over the winter
  • Check belts and pulleys for condition and alignment and replace if necessary
  • Check refrigerant charge, fix any leaks and replenish is necessary
  • Test blower motor and wheel
  • Check pumps
  • Examine couplings and check for leaks
  • Check humidity levels. Look for moisture, especially rust, which could signal an operational problem
  • Check all controls and gauges
  • Check overall condition of equipment

Though duct cleaning may not be part of your spring tune-up, as discussed before clean ducts are essential to maintaining healthy indoor air quality because mold, mildew and bacteria and can spread to ducts and blow into your breathing space.

Learn more: Spring AC Maintenance Checklist & Comparing Service Contracts

As you can see, an HVAC professional undertakes a myriad of inspections during a spring cleaning, which will go a long way to ensuring the smooth and efficient operation of your system and potentially ward off any smelly air conditioner problems. It is the aim of Arista Air’s highly trained professionals, who have extensive experience in installation and maintenance, to keep your system running problem-free today, tomorrow and into the future.