When your air conditioner starts emitting strange or unappealing odors, it is important to take notice because it could be a sign of a big problem. Disregarding unpleasant smells coming from your air conditioning can lead to additional damage to your air conditioning or even pose a risk to your health and safety.

Depending on the smell, the root of the problem may be bacteria or fungus in the system. Other times, it could also indicate something mechanically wrong with the AC. Some smells are a sign of an unsafe scenario, like a natural gas leak.

At Tokay, we are skilled at diagnosing and fixing these type of problems. If you smell something weird coming from your AC, you can bet that our team of skilled pros has smelled it, too—and fixed it! We’ve earned a reputation as the premier company for air conditioning repair in Lodi.

What does a certain smell billowing out of your cooling system mean? Here are several common air conditioner odors and what they could mean:

Your AC Smells Like Feet

If your air conditioner smells like feet, it can be because of a buildup of bacteria or fungus in the system. When moisture collects inside the unit, it can establish an environment that is beneficial to the growth of bacteria and fungus. This can cause a bad odor that is often described as smelling like dirty feet.

Another likely reason for the stench of dirty feet could be a dirty air filter. When your HVAC system's air filter becomes clogged with dirt, dust and other debris, it can lead to substandard air quality and a musty smell that bears a resemblance to feet.

To correct this issue, it's important to have an experienced specialist 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 routinely to promote good air quality and protect against the development of bacteria and fungus.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Rotten Eggs

If your air conditioning unit smells like rotten eggs, it may be due to a natural gas leak in the unit or in the surrounding area. Natural gas has a distinct 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 is a situation that is very dangerous and requires immediate attention. If you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, immediately open windows and doors to air out the area, evacuate the building and call your gas company or emergency services immediately.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Mildew

If your AC smells like mildew, it could be due to a collection of moisture inside the unit. When moisture collects inside the air conditioning system, it can cultivate the growth of mold and mildew. This can cause a musty stench that bears a resemblance to mildew.

Another possible reason for the smell may be a soiled air filter. When the air filter becomes clogged, it can lead to poor air quality and a musty smell that is similar to mildew.

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

Your AC Smells Like Urine

One of the most undesirable situations is when an air conditioner smells like urine.

If your air conditioner stinks like urine, it could be due to a variety of factors. One potential cause is a collection of bacteria or mold in the air conditioning system. This can happen if moisture accumulates in the system and creates a damp environment that is conducive to bacterial growth. The bacteria can emit a foul odor that resembles 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 properly, but if the drain line becomes stopped up by debris, it can cause water to back up and accumulate inside the unit. This can produce a musty smell that resembles urine.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Burning Plastic

If your air conditioning unit smells like burning plastic, it might be because of an electrical concern with the unit. After a while, the electrical parts in the air conditioning system can wear out or bust, which can make a burning smell that resembles plastic.

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

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

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Gas

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

As stated earlier, a natural gas leak can be VERY hazardous and requires immediate attention. When you suspect a gas leak, turn off your air conditioning system, open windows and doors to air out the home, get everyone out of the building and phone your gas company or emergency services straight away.

Why My Air Conditioner Smells Like Fish

Should your air conditioning equipment smell like fish, it could be due to a build-up of bacteria or mold in the unit. Moisture produces an environment that is conducive to the growth of bacteria and mold. This can cause a disgusting odor that can be described as smelling like fish or, as mentioned earlier, it also can cause a smell like dirty feet.

Another possible cause of the smell could be a dead animal or other biological material caught in the air conditioning system. This often can take place if an animal such as a mouse or bird gets trapped inside the unit and dies.

To fix the issue, it's often necessary to have a professional examine and clean your cooling system. They will be able to determine the source of the smell and take the appropriate steps to remove any contaminants and keep the problem from recurring.

My Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

There could be numerous reasons an AC smells like vinegar. One possible cause might be a plugged air filter. A second likely cause of the smell could be a refrigerant leak. When the refrigerant leaks, it can make a chemical odor that resembles vinegar.

To fix the issue, it's beneficial to have a skilled mechanic look at and clean your air conditioning.  If the odor persists after the cleaning and exchanging the air filter, it's best to reach back out to a professional to diagnose and repair any persistent issues with your air conditioning. Or, the tech can tell you if your air conditioning should be replaced.

If you are planning to upgrade, Tokay can help select the correct unit to fit your home’s needs. We offer trustworthy, expert air conditioner installation in Lodi.

The Air Conditioning Smells Like Chemicals

If the smell of chemicals is emitting out of your air conditioning equipment, it could be caused by a refrigerant leak. If the refrigerant leaks, it can create a chemical aroma that is often described as smelling like chemicals or paint thinner, vinegar or acetone.

An additional possible source of the smell could be problems with the electrical wiring or hardware inside the air conditioning system. This can cause a burning smell that resembles chemicals or burning plastic.

If you suspect a refrigerant leak or an electrical concern, it's important to shut down your air conditioning system right away 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 house.

Weird Smells Coming from Your Cooling? Call the Pros at Tokay

If your air conditioner stinks and you aren’t able to fix it easily on your own, contact the cooling professionals at Tokay. We have plenty of experience working with a wide variety of AC systems. Our crew has fixed a multitude of air conditioning concerns over the years—including strange smells. Call us today for quality AC repair in Lodi!