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air conditioner unit

Maintaining Your Air Conditioner

After you purchase your air conditioner and have a professional HVAC company install it, you can’t just sit back and forget about it. Air conditioners require cooling maintenance especially on its coils, filters and fins. Otherwise the wear and tear on your system can cause your air conditioner to have cooling issues leading to necessary air conditioner repairs. In this article, we will discuss what you can do yourself to maintain your air conditioner unit as well as what you should leave to a professional, such as a yearly annual air conditioner service. Both are required to properly avoid cooling problems and run effectively for years to come.

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DIY Cooling Maintenance

1. Air Conditioner Filters

changing filter

As previously stated, air conditioners require cooling maintenance. The easiest dyi home air conditioning maintenance you can perform on your air conditioner unit is also the most important; this task is changing your air conditioner filter on a regular basis. Over time and use your air conditioner unit filter will get dirty. Dirt, dust and debris that accumulates in the filter will block the airflow of the system. This in turn will cause your system to function at a lower efficiency. According to Energy.gov, replacing your air conditioners filter on a regular basis can improve efficiency by 5-15%. What a simple and easy way to keep your air conditioner efficient and lower your utility bills! Plus it helps avoid cooling problems. 

Now that you know how important it is to change your air conditioner filter, do you know where it is located? Air conditioner filters locations depend on what type of air conditioner unit you have. Typical places air conditioner filters are located include ceilings, walls, inside the air conditioner or inside the furnace. If your air conditioner is a part of a central heating and cooling system going throughout your entire home via ductwork then you will most likely find the filter near the return duct. If you have a mounted AC that can only cool one room, the filter will be found in the unit itself.

There are all types of different air conditioner filters. These filters vary depending on size, efficiency and how long they last. If you are a customer of Miller’s Heating & Air, an AC company in Washington, we have your filter size on file. Feel free to give us a call if you forgot what filter size you have. At our office location we also sell filters and can special order custom sizes as well. 

2. Air Conditioner Coils

cooling issues, cooling problems, Air conditioner service, cooling maintenance

In order for your air conditioner’s condenser coil and evaporator coil to work correctly, they both need to be clean. Though changing your filters regularly will help prevent these coils from becoming dirty, they can still can collect dirty over time due to use. When a coil is dirty, it is less able to absorb heat and therefore cool your home. Dirty coils can sometimes lead to cooling problems requiring air conditioner repairs. 

It is also common for the coils on your outdoor unit to get dirty over time as well. In order to prevent this, remove any debris, leaves, etc. that is around your outdoor unit as a part of your cooling maintenance checklist. You may even want to trim trees that may be overhanging near the outdoor unit. You will thank yourself in the long run as this will lower your chances of cooling issues. 

We recommend making sure your AC coils are cleaned at least once a year. A light coil cleaning is often completed during an annual air conditioner service and cooling maintenance of your system performed by a trained professional technician. They will let you know if a deeper cleaning is necessary due to the amount of dirt buildup. Just remember that air conditioner unit is one that has less cooling problems and cooling issues. 

3. Coil Fins

Air conditioner repairs, cooling issues, cooling problems

Air conditioner unit coil fins are located on both condenser and evaporator coils. They are intended to help with the heat exchange process. However, it is common for these coils to become bent. Once bent, they can actually hinder the heat exchange process by blocking the airflow. Coil fins are checked during a professional air conditioner service. If you notice bent coils, contact an HVAC company so they can replace the coils for you and prevent cooling problems in the future.

4. Condensate Drains

Is your condensate drain plugged up?  If so, you can try to breakup the clog by using a wire through the drain to loosen the substance clogging it. Condensate drains that are clogged can cause increased humidity coming from your air conditioning unit. Increased humidity can cause cooling issues in your home. Condensate drains are checked during an annual air conditioner service with a trained professional as well.

5. Preparing for Winter

Air conditioner unit, cooling issues, cooling problems

Did you know that you need to prepare your air conditioner for winter as a part of your cooling maintenance? If it’s a window AC, you can remove it and store it in a safe location until you need it again the following summer. If you have an outdoor air conditioner as a part of a central system in your home, you can cover the air conditioner for winter. This will prevent snow, leaves, and other debris from damaging the unit during the winter. Because air conditioners require maintenance, the best time of year to scheduled your yearly air conditioner service is in the spring before the hot summer weather.

Hiring a Professional for Cooling Maintenance

AC company in Washington, AC service

It is recommended that you have a trained professional from a licensed HVAC company perform an air conditioner service on your system once a year. Not only does this keep your air conditioner running efficiently, but it also keeps whatever warranties you have on the unit active.  During your annual air conditioner service, the technician should perform the following actions as well as let you know if any air conditioner repairs are recommended:

  • Rinse or vacuum outdoor and indoor coil (when accessible)
  • Check disconnect
  • Check fuses
  • Check refrigerant lines
  • Check caps and valve cores
  • Check refrigerant pressures
  • Check contactor
  • Age of contactor
  • Check condensate drain
  • Check condensate pump
  • Check outdoor fan blade
  • Check outdoor fan motor
  • Motor bearing note
  • Check compressor
  • Attic installation proper emergency drain
  • Check TXV location mounting
  • Check condition of coil fins
  • Condensing unit is level

Miller’s Heating & Air is a professional expert in cooling. We specialize in air conditioner service and repairs. Air conditioners require cooling maintenance on a regular basis. Do you need an air conditioner service or air conditioner repair due to cooling issues? Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 360-524-2280 (Vancouver, WA) or 503-972-2434 (Portland, OR).

Pin for later! 

Air conditioners require maintenance especially on its coils, filters and fins. Otherwise the wear and tear on your system can cause your air conditioner to not run as effectively and/or breakdown leading to needed air conditioner repairs. In this article, we will discuss what you can do to maintain your air conditioner unit so it will run effectively for years to come. #AC #maintenance #HVAC @millersheatingair

45 thoughts on “6 Toxic Air Conditioning Smells and What They Mean

  1. We have a portable air conditioner until 12 BTU when it’s on it draws the smell of creditor in the house.. we have a wood forced air furnace.
    How ca we solve the problem

    Many thanks

    Jen

    1. Hi Jen,

      Unfortunately, we do not service portable AC units. We recommend contacting an HVAC contractor in your area who does.

    1. Hi Dee,

      We actually don’t work on window AC units. We recommend calling other HVAC companies in your area to see who does.

  2. I have an odor in my home that smells like sulfur and sometimes the odor is like a ginger with onion smell, cause at times it causes my eyes to burn, occasionally nose runs a little, it also makes me cough every now and then. The smell gets really bad when I run my hvac. It’s a central unit. Some when I run my hot water seems like it’s coming through my drains,had my water company to check things out it’s not the problem.

    1. Hi Mary,

      Your HVAC system smelling of rotten eggs or sulfur most likely indicates a natural gas leak. Although on its own, natural gas is odorless, most utility providers add the aroma to alert people of a dangerous leak. Don’t take this lightly. If you smell a rotten-egg-like odor in your home, natural gas is likely the culprit, and immediate inspection is a must. While low level exposure is not hazardous to your health, high levels reduce oxygen in the blood, and can lead to loss of consciousness and death. Gas is also highly flammable and explosive, resulting in dozens of deaths each year. If you notice this smell, open the windows to your home right away, get out of the house immediately, then call the gas company.

    1. Hi Mick,

      An air conditioner smells like mildew or mold is probably the most common symptom of central HVAC systems. When the air conditioning is running, there is a lot of condensation within the unit. When the moisture doesn’t drain properly, it can escape into the ducts and create mold. Finding where the mold buildup is and getting it cleaned up will solve the problem. An HVAC repair technician has the knowledge to handle the problem and ensure that it doesn’t occur again. Note: Mold and mildew smells are not serious problems with the unit, but the poor air quality does increase the risk of respiratory infections in both children and adults. You can still use the unit while you’re waiting for repairs, but you shouldn’t put it off for the sake of your family’s health.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      We do not work on window ACs. However, if it is smelling like gas we recommend that you turn it off to protect your healthy until you have a professional come out to inspect it.

    2. My ac smelt like a gassy smell chemical of some sort i called matenace and told them i was smelling something… He said nothing he can do tonight just shut it off, Be there by 8am. i felt kinda disoriented..my friend shared this ad to me and it helped me feel so much better you really have the answers and i thank you so much !! Marie Dillon youngstown ohio….. T Y.

      1. Hi Marie,

        We are glad you found this article helpful and hope maintenance was able to fix the situation for you. If you do smell gas again, turn off your HVAC system in order to protect your health until a professional can look at it.

  3. My home smells like a car or vehicle with a really bad exhaust leak. Its really strong like oil or fuel burning thru an exhaust leak on a vehicle. What could it be??

    1. Hi Shelly,

      Even in HVAC systems not powered by gas, exhaust fumes can still result if fluids leak from essential components. To avoid a dangerous situation, have your system professionally assessed. Burning oil and other fluids can release large amounts of toxic gases, different in chemical makeup than in natural, liquid form. These particulates can be hazardous to your health, depleting oxygen and resulting in an array of health issues.

    2. My AC unit smells like the tip of a match. The red part. Not sure why or what but is this ok to run until the smell burns off? Or will it?

      1. Hi Nickie,

        Is this the first time using your unit in a while? If so, we recommend letting it run for 20-30 minutes to see if the smell goes away. If it does go away, it probably was dust on your unit burning off. However if the smell continues please contact your local HVAC company so a professional technician can assess your system. If you are in the Vancouver, WA or North Portland, OR area we would be happy to help if the smell persists!

    1. When you say it smells moth balls do you mean that it smells moldy or musty? If so, an air conditioner smells like mildew or mold is probably the most common symptom of central HVAC systems. When the air conditioning is running, there is a lot of condensation within the unit. When the moisture doesn’t drain properly, it can escape into the ducts and create mold. Finding where the mold buildup is and getting it cleaned up will solve the problem. An HVAC repair technician has the knowledge to handle the problem and ensure that it doesn’t occur again. Note: Mold and mildew smells are not serious problems with the unit, but the poor air quality does increase the risk of respiratory infections in both children and adults. You can still use the unit while you’re waiting for repairs, but you shouldn’t put it off for the sake of your family’s health.

      1. Hi Sandy May, Sounds like you have a similar situation to Lukie. When you say it smells moth balls do you mean that it smells moldy or musty? If so, an air conditioner smells like mildew or mold is probably the most common symptom of central HVAC systems. When the air conditioning is running, there is a lot of condensation within the unit. When the moisture doesn’t drain properly, it can escape into the ducts and create mold. Finding where the mold buildup is and getting it cleaned up will solve the problem. An HVAC repair technician has the knowledge to handle the problem and ensure that it doesn’t occur again. Note: Mold and mildew smells are not serious problems with the unit, but the poor air quality does increase the risk of respiratory infections in both children and adults. You can still use the unit while you’re waiting for repairs, but you shouldn’t put it off for the sake of your family’s health.

  4. Hello,
    For well over (3) months, there has been a foul odor ( I would describe as a dead animal) coming from my bedroom AC vent. It was strongest (3) mos ago, for the first (2) days it was unbearable. The latter few mos, it would come and go. I have removed the vent and inspected for animals but found nothing? Oddly, even at its strongest, it is unnoticeable once the AC is running? Any suggestions? Thanks

    1. That is an unusual situation. Normally when our customers smell something like that there is a dead animal within the duct work. Where do you live? If you are in the Vancouver, WA and/or North Portland, OR area we can have one of our technicians come out to inspect your system.

  5. Hi
    There is a odor coming from my Air Conditioner Unit, that smells like musty or someone’s butt that hasn’t washed! I have been smelling it for at least a week or more! I am a asthmatic it causes me to cough and I feel nauseous at times. How do I solve this problem! Upon turning it off I looked inside I do see mold spots.

    1. An air conditioner smells like mildew or mold is probably the most common symptom of central HVAC systems. When the air conditioning is running, there is a lot of condensation within the unit. When the moisture doesn’t drain properly, it can escape into the ducts and create mold. Finding where the mold buildup is and getting it cleaned up will solve the problem. An HVAC repair technician has the knowledge to handle the problem and ensure that it doesn’t occur again. It’s also important to keep up on annual maintenances of your system in order to keep the indoor and outdoor units clean of mold and dirt.

  6. There is like a rubber smell or electrical coming from the vent. Was checked and nothing was found

    1. Electrical odors could indicate a mechanical problem with your AC fan or compressor, wiring issues, or electrical component failure. Made with a variety of metals and chemicals, prolonged exposure to these fumes is not healthy. The first few times the unit kicks on, it may emit a burning odor that can smell electrical and dusty, give it 20 to 30 minutes and see if the smell dissipates. If it does, it probably was just the dust burning off. If it continues, contact a professional HVAC technician to check out the problem and make repairs. An electrical odor typically is a problem within the motor or the wiring. Attempting to fix either of these items can result in severe injuries.

  7. We had a new central air unit and furnace installed today. I keep smelling something. Its aerosol type smell. Kind of like spray paint.

    1. Hi Patti,

      I would recommend calling the HVAC company that installed your new central air and furnace and explain what you are smelling. Since you just had it installed, it should be free for them to come out and make sure everything is ok with your system.

    2. That is exactly what I smell! We just had it replaced about an hour ago and the smell is making me extremely nauseous ?

  8. I have had a gas smell for several months. Called gas person in February. It ended up being my gas stove/oven per the gas company. Now that the air conditioner on, I still smell a gas smell or paint thinner and I hear an airy sound as well. Have not located the source of the airy sound. Gas people said that I am hearing the gas travel up the wall. Tested; no gas indicated. Called heating/air to do maintenance and to check as well. New roofing in the community. Could this be it. Can smell back draft from neighbor’s vehicle. Which is the problem or all?

    1. Hi JJ,

      When the HVAC company came out to do the maintenance, what did they have to say about the gas smell and airy sound that you have been hearing?

      1. They said it was the upstairs neighbor’s air conditioner. As of this week, the gas people found out that the gas smell was the gas meter and fumes from a stove that I had not cooked on in a month. I still have the air sound. Do you think it is air from a pipe that needs fixing or insulation or something stuck in the vent?

        1. It’s difficult to determine the exact cause of the air sound without investigating it in person, but I did speak to a technician and they think insulation would help.

  9. my new 4 ton heat pump began emitting a strong metallic like odor, like aluminum in ac mode. it doesn’t smell at all in heat mode. my evap coil is aluminum. is that what i’m smelling? my old unit had copper coil and i smelled nothing.

    1. Hi James,

      I checked with one of our service technicians. He said that normally that type of smell is emitted during heating mode. Your unit’s indoor coil may be leaking refrigerant, which can give off a metallic smell. We recommend having the company who installed your heat pump come out to take a look. If you are in the Vancouver, WA and/or North Portland, OR area we would be happy to help!

  10. Hi, my air conditioner had recently started to leak water, at first it was small leaks, but then in day 2 the leaks got more severe, to the point where at certain points it was dripping water, i woke up today to a small puddle on the floor under the ac unit (split). There werent any odors inside the room, but i noticed when i smelled the area of the floor where the puddle had been that it smelled like chemicals, and the puddle had a bit of a pinkish hue to it, although otherwise i have not seen the pink hue. The AC still cools as normal, but i have refrained from using it after that. What could that smell be? and is it leaking water or something else.

    1. Hi Maiz,

      I spoke with one of our service technicians. He said that it sounds like water is leaking from your system either because a condensate line is clogged or the copper line isn’t insulated and it’s dripping from there. You would need to get a service technician out to look at your equipment in order to determine the cause of the smell and to stop the water from continuing to leak. If you are in the Vancouver, WA or North Portland area we would be happy to help by sending a technician out to take a look.

  11. james cox on july 10 wrote that his 4 ton aluminum coil ac gave off an aluminum smell. my new aluminum coil 4 ton carrier heat pump does the exact same thing. metallic smell in ac, no smell in heat. my house cools really fast and i’ve had this unit for a year with no recharges. what’s going on here? just hypersensitive to aluminum sell?

    1. Hi Adriaan,

      It sounds like your system is running well and most likely doesn’t have a leak. I spoke with our Service Manager and he thought it might not even be the coil causing the smell. Often times IAQ products emit ozone which can smell metallic. Do you have any IAQ products as a part of your HVAC system? In order to further diagnose the issue, we would recommend having an HVAC company come out to take a look at it. It’s difficult to fully determine the cause of the smell without being onsite.

  12. We have 1-yr old central AC unit. It emits smell when the fan is constantly on and AC is off. When the AC turns on the smell gradually disappears. When the temperature drops to the needed one, the AC turns off and the smell reappears again. The smell is quite strong. Not the mold or musty for sure. And not the rotten eggs either. Some sort of “technical” smell. There is no smell when the fan is constantly on and the unit in the heating mode. The reason of keeping the fan constantly on during the air-conditioning hours is to prevent building mold inside the system.

    1. Hi Vlad,

      Could you explain the “technical” smell in a little more detail? Is it an electrical smell? If it is an electrical smell, it could mean you have a mechanical problem with your AC fan or compressor, wiring issues or electrical component failure. Exposure to this smell/fumes can be very unhealthy. We recommend having a local trained HVAC technician come out to your home and inspect your unit. If you are located in Vancouver, WA or Portland, OR (our service area) we would be happy to send someone out.

      1. Thanks for reply. The smell is vaguely comparable with the smell of burning transformer coils, but not exactly. I know the smell of burning transformer very well. It’s different. The same smell appeared in my previous house from AC unit after living there for 10 years. A year later I moved. And now the same smell at the new place from a brand new AC unit. Amazing. I’m going to ask the guy who installed it to drop by and chek the unit when the pandemic is over.

  13. There is a paint thinner smell coming from my AC vents in my apartment. I called the manager, but her response was not promising. Is it safe to stay in my apartment?

    1. Hi Meghan,

      We would recommend getting a professional HVAC technician out to asses your system right away. Your AC does use an assortment of chemicals in order to run; it sounds like your AC could be malfunctioning (hence the smell) and needing repair. If you are in the Vancouver, WA and/or North Portland, OR area we would be happy to help! Our phone number is 360-695-6500.

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