What to Do When Your Air Conditioner Smells Bad When Turned On?

Air conditioners are a blessing, especially during hot summer days. However, they can sometimes emit unpleasant odors when turned on, which can be pretty off-putting.

Let’s explore the reasons behind these odors and know practical solutions to eliminate them. By understanding the causes and remedies, you can ensure a fresh and pleasant environment in your home or office.

Why My Air Conditioner Smells Bad When Turned On?

Air conditioners can emit unpleasant odors for various reasons, often linked to poor maintenance and cleanliness. Below are some causes why air conditioner smells bad:

air conditioner smells bad when turned on

● Dirty Air Filters

Dirty air filters are a primary culprit in such cases, as they are designed to trap dust and other particles suspended in the air.

However, they can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew if not regularly replaced. Then, it spreads a foul smell throughout your home.

● Dirty Evaporator Coil

The evaporator coil is responsible for converting liquid refrigerant into gas, a process that can produce excess moisture.

If dust and dirt accumulate on the coil, this moisture can help mold growth, leading to a musty odor. You must do regular cleaning of these coils to prevent the foul smell.

● Problems in Your Ductwork

Damaged or leaky air ducts can allow outside pathogens to enter. Then, it leads to mold and mildew growth, producing bad smells throughout your space.

● Clogged Drain Lines

Clogged drain lines can be a source of unpleasant odors. Your air conditioner’s condensate drain line is designed to remove excess moisture from the unit.

However, if this line becomes clogged, it can create a perfect environment for algae, mold, mildew, and bacteria growth.

Why Air Conditioner Smells Musty When First Turned On?

A musty odor is often noticed when an air conditioner is turned on for the first time after prolonged inactivity. This odor is usually due to mold growth on the evaporator coil and fins. The evaporator coil is where the cooling process occurs, naturally producing condensation.

Dust and dirt can collect on the coil when an air conditioner remains unused. It provides a favorable setting for mold growth along with the moisture from condensation.

How to Remove Bad Smell from Split AC Units?

There are effective methods to address unpleasant odors in split AC units. Below is the explanation of each method:

● Clean the Evaporator Fins

The evaporator fins play a crucial role in the heat exchange process of your air conditioner. They can gather moisture, dust, and dirt as time passes, resulting in mold growth.

To clean the fins, find them inside or near the air handler in an access panel. Mix warm water and mild detergent, then use a soft brush for gentle cleaning.

● Replace the Filter

Neglecting to replace the air filter in your AC unit regularly can lead to the growth of mold and mildew, as it becomes a breeding ground for these contaminants by capturing dust and other airborne particles.

Regularly inspect your air filter; if you notice it’s dirty or has mold on its surface, replace it immediately. Regular replacement can significantly improve air quality and prevent foul odors.

Read also: Mold in Air Conditioner – Symptoms and How to Prevent

● Clean the Drain Pan

The drain pan collects condensate produced during the cooling process. Water can accumulate in the drain pan if the drain lines are clogged, creating a perfect mold and mildew growth environment.

You can use a towel or a wet or dry vacuum to remove the water. Afterward, clean the pan with a mild detergent or a diluted bleach solution.

● Professional Maintenance

If you’ve tried the above steps and still notice a persistent odor, it might be time to call in a professional.

An HVAC technician can thoroughly inspect and clean your AC unit, identify potential issues, and provide the necessary repairs or maintenance.

Read also: Car AC Smells Like Vinegar

When your air conditioner smells bad when turned on, it often signals mold or mildew presence. Regular maintenance can mitigate these odors. However, if the smell persists, professional help is recommended to ensure your air conditioner’s optimal operation.

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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