If you detect an odor in your home and have narrowed it down to your air conditioner, you’re likely smelling mold that’s accumulating inside the unit and/or the ductwork. The source could also be due to mildew growing within the system and/or the air ducts. In addition to these, animals can also be a source of foul odors emanating from a residential air conditioning system. Sometimes, animals take refuge inside the ductwork and die, leaving their decaying carcass as an odor causing agent. Regardless if it’s mold, mildew, or a deceased animal, this not only causes a very unpleasant odor, but also, presents a health hazard. Therefore, it’s imperative to remove the cause of any odor from an air conditioner.
How to Remove Odor from an Air Conditioner
Though daytime temperatures in the Valley of the Sun are reaching into the mid to high seventies, making it less necessary to turn on the air conditioning, overnight temperatures are still falling into the thirties and forties. If you’re running the heat or air in your home, the unit might experience problems. This means you could detect a musty or foul odor, even if you’re not using your residential HVAC system as much as you do in the summer.
Air conditioning, particularly central air, is a luxury for some and a necessity to others. Either way, it’s supposed to make you comfortable, and that’s not possible if there’s an unpleasant, musty smell coming out of your vents. That smell is mildew, and it indicates that there has been moisture in the duct system and that the unit may require maintenance. Once repairs are complete, you will still need to get rid of all lingering odors and eliminate any possible health hazards associated with inhalation. —San Francisco Chronicle
If you know the smell is coming from your air conditioner, the first thing you’ll have to do is to identify the source. To accomplish this, you’ll need a rubber gloves, fin comb, bucket, bleach and water, foaming coil cleaner, and, new filters. Combine one part bleach with three parts water in the bucket to deal with any mold or mildew.
- Turn the power to the unit off. Any type of maintenance starts with safety and when working with a residential air conditioning system, it’s best to turn it off at the source. There will be a dedicated power shut off point and this is necessary to avoid serious bodily injury.
- Change the air filter(s). Air filters should be changed every 60 days, and in some homes with pets and persons with allergies, every 30 days. Contrary to the advertising so commonly seen, air filters primary function are to keep dust and debris out of the system. The ancillary effect of filters is helping keep the air cleaner.
- Clean the evaporator coils. After replacing the filters, you can then clean the evaporator coils with a foaming coil cleaner agent. These can easily become dirty over normal operation and can be the source of odors and negatively impact the efficiency of the system.
- Clean the condensate line. Near the outside unit, you’ll find a drain line, typically dripping water while the system is running. You might see sludge or colored water draining from the condensate line and need to flush it with the bleach and water solution.
If you still have an odor problem emanating from your air conditioner, you might need to have the ductwork cleaned or even replaced in-part or whole. To know for sure, contact an experienced and licensed residential HVAC technician to examine your system.