HVAC SystemsMaintenanceWhat Is That Awful Smell? Tracking Down HVAC Odors

Find out what’s making your HVAC system smell so bad!

Most of us forget all about our HVAC systems until they fail to work properly. One of the most frustrating problems is the mysterious, pungent odor filling your home when you turn the AC on. But the air from your HVAC system should be odorless. It’s important to investigate the source of odors right away before a small inconvenience becomes a real danger.

A Moldy or Musty Smell

Air conditioning units create a breeding ground for mold and mildew when not maintained properly. The combination of condensation, dust, darkness and regulated temperature allows mold to run rampant. The blower spreads mold spores throughout the ventilation system and into your home. To stop mold from growing in your HVAC system, do the following:

– Replace your filter every three to six months. This cuts down on the amount of dust entering the system and blowing around your home.

– Using a vacuum cleaner, you can gently clean the front grill and coils of the unit as well. If exceptionally dirty, you may need to scrub them.

– You should also check the drip tray regularly. When water collects in the pan, it invites mold growth.

If these steps don’t fix the problem, call a trained technician. You may have clogged drain lines, ductwork leaks or debris in the air ducts. The technician will have the knowhow and the tools to safely and effectively address the problem.

A Foul, Rotten Smell

While mold is a musty and unpleasant odor, foul and rotten smells that remind you of spoiled food are downright nauseating. Sadly, vermin can crawl into the air ducts of your system, becoming trapped. The smell of the rotting carcass soon permeates the air of your home. Regularly check your vents for rodents, and keep vent covers over all openings. If you cannot reach the deceased animal, you may need the help of a technician.

The Danger of Gas Leaks

If the smell reminds you of rotten eggs, you could have a gas leak. Open all the windows and call the fire department right away. Of course, it could just be a problem with a ruptured or clogged sewage line near the air intake, spreading unpleasant odors through your home. If the fire department finds no gas leak, you’ll need a plumber to come and fix the problem.

An Electrical or Burning Smell

A burning smell is a very serious concern. Such smells warn of electrical problems, and in most cases come from overheated motor parts such as the heating elements or fan. If you smell something burning, assume there is a fire and call the fire department right away. Once the source of the smoldering parts is identified, you’ll need your HVAC technician to come repair the unit.

Call MM Comfort Systems for HVAC service and repair to diagnose the problem plaguing your system.

MM Comfort Systems has more than 30 years’ experience in Seattle HVAC service and repair. Call us at 425.533.9058 or use our service request form to schedule a visit.


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