What’s Behind that Foul Smell from the AC?

air conditionerWhen you turn on the air conditioner, all you probably want is to enjoy a refreshing, cool breeze. There are times, however, when the air coming out of the machine is not that pleasant. At times, the breeze can be musty, heavy, and even downright foul.

In Australia where about three in every four households have a refrigerated AC or an evaporative cooler, the problem with smell is quite common. Any unpleasant odour coming from the AC ruins the refreshing coolness. Needless to say, you want to get rid of the foul smell as soon as possible. But first, you might want to know what’s behind the odour to better equip yourself for proper handling.

Too Big for Too Little

Let’s say you live in WA. Apart from cooling the interiors, a good-quality air conditioner for your Perth home has a second function: dehumidification. By removing the heat from the air, the AC also removes moisture. If you’re using a unit too big for your home, air goes through the cooling cycle quickly, not running long enough to adequately dehumidify your space.

When humidity builds up, mould and mildew may grow and emit a smell reminiscent to that of a dirty, wet sock.

Dirty Twists and Spins

Certain air conditioners blow air directly through cooling coils. If these coils are dirty or are host to bacteria and other microbes, the passing air can pick up strange odours and distribute it around your home.

Water Everywhere

Stagnant water can be a breeding ground for different bacteria, and if this is the situation with your AC’s condensate drain, then a foul smell may be inevitable. Mould, mildew, and certain insects can thrive in the drain pan, giving off a musty smell that goes up the ductwork and into different areas of the household.

Too Much Filter

The AC’s filter system removes contaminants in the air. If the filters are dirty or not working properly, the contaminants may not be properly removed and the air can begin to smell.

Fire and Fumes

A shorted circuit board or damaged electrical piece can give off a burnt- or fume-like smell when you turn the AC on. If this is the case, it would be best to call in the professionals and have them check your AC system for repairs and replacements.

Of course, there’s the smell of various small animals that may have gotten stuck somewhere in the ducts, but this can be dealt with easily. For the more technical and complicated issues (or more accurately, smells), best to have professional technicians handle it.

About the Author

As a New York-based psychologist. Thelma Scott has conducted several seminars tackling adult autism.