What Does a Freon Leak Smell Like? How to Deal with It

Have you ever wondered what does a freon leak smell like? A lot of people know that freon is odorless, but there is actually a certain significant smell that you should be aware of if you are suspicious about the leak.

Besides the smell, there are actually some obvious signs that your AC unit is having a problem. If you trust your eyes and nose, you should be able to spot the issue and find the solution right away.

Can You Smell Freon if It’s Leaking?

The answer to this question is basically a yes. So, what does a freon leak smell like? Most people who have experienced leak freon said that the smell is similar to the chloroform. If you smell this sweet coolant smell, be aware. It’s advisable that you contact a professional AC specialist so you can be prepared.

Read also: Does Freon Leak When AC is Off?

However, in some level, the odor can be foul-smelling. Some people say that it smells like exhaust. Whether you smell something sweetish or foul, be sure to contact a professional specialist so they can check your AC unit.

what does a freon leak smell like

The Symptoms

What are the common freon leak symptoms?

  • Frozen evaporator coils. If you see any water pooling close to the AC unit or you see frozen evaporator coils, you need to contact a professional service right away.
  • Gurgling or hissing sound (from the AC). A gurgling sound typically shows that the leak is quite big, while a hissing sound tends to show small leaks.
  • The AC doesn’t generate cool air anymore. If the AC still runs and operates, but it doesn’t feel cool, then you should contact a professional. They can check whether there is a leak or not.
  • Electricity bills spike – and it happens suddenly. This usually happens because the leak causes too much stress on the AC.
  • Elongated cooling cycles. You should be suspicious if the AC runs, but it takes forever to make your house cooler. A normal AC only takes a short time to cool a room off.
  • Increased humidity. Not only it take forever to cool a room off, but humidity also increases. In fact, you should realize that the humidity level increases.
  • You have an exhaust-like smell in the air. It can be somewhat chemical-ish. If you notice this, get assistance as soon as possible.

Read also: Window Air Conditioner Smells Like Chemicals

Refrigerant Leak Smell Dangerous

You should know that freon is dangerous and pretty toxic. It is known as freon or refrigerant poisoning. When you inhale it deeply, it is able to cut the oxygen off to your lungs and cells. If the leak happens for quite a while, it can cause brain damage. In some severe exposure cases, the result can be death.

Limited exposure (like breathing close to an open container or a spill on the skin) is considered mildly dangerous. If you inhale a high ‘dosage’ of freon (and you do it repeatedly), you can suffer from the following:

  • Organ damage
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Fluid buildup within the lungs

No matter what, it’s imperative that it’s best to avoid any contact with the chemicals, regardless of the quantity. Small amounts may cause symptoms, especially for those who are sensitive.

Poisoning symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Irritation (to the throat, ears, and eyes)
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Dizziness
  • Chemical burn (to the skin)
  • Frostbite

If you experience those symptoms and you are aware of the leaky freon issue at home (or around the area where you are usually present), you should get medical care right away. You can go to the doctor or even the ER, especially if the symptoms are heavy.


Don’t underestimate the case of leaky freon. Not only it will affect your bills, but it can also affect your health. Now that you know the answer to what a freon leak smell like, you can be more aware of your surroundings.

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AirconMag is an experienced author and Air Conditioner expert. With years of practical experience in the field authored several informative articles on various aspects of AC unit, including installation, maintenance, and repair