The familiar and hard-to-describe smell that often accompanies the first use of an air conditioner after a long period of disuse is a common problem.
Once experienced, the smell is hard to forget and can negatively impact your indoor air quality.
The issue is so common that there are various specific online forums available for addressing and eliminating the odour.
So what is the root cause of a smelly air conditioner and how can it be fixed? Read on to find out.
Understanding how your aircon works
To understand how to maintain and properly operate your air conditioning system, it is important to have a basic understanding of how it works.
A typical air conditioning system has two main components: the condenser and the evaporator.
The evaporator, located inside the building, absorbs heat from the air inside your home by passing it over a set of coils filled with refrigerant which absorbs the heat and turns it into gas.
The gas then travels to the condenser, located outside the building, passing the gas over a set of coils filled with coolant which absorbs the heat from the gas turning it back into a liquid.
The system also has a network of ducts that distribute cool air throughout your home, and an air filter which removes impurities from the air.
Reasons why your air conditioner smells
Mould and Mildew
Mould and mildew can grow in air conditioning systems due to the warm, damp environment within the unit. When the system is not in use, the excess moisture can create ideal conditions for mould and mildew growth.
Mould spores are present everywhere and small amounts of mould growth can occur in any damp or humid environment.
The mould spores can grow and multiply on the evaporator coils, in the ducts, and other areas of the air conditioning system. This can cause a musty smell and cause allergies or respiratory issues in some people.
To prevent mould and mildew growth in air conditioners, it is important to keep the system clean and dry. This includes regular cleaning or replacement of air filters, regular cleaning of the coils and ducts, and making sure that the system is not leaking water.
If mould growth is found within the air conditioning unit, it should be removed by a professional to ensure that the problem is properly and thoroughly addressed. Cleaning with a mould-killing solution, such as bleach, is not always effective and may not reach every affected area.
Dust and Dirt
Dust and dirt can accumulate in an air conditioning system over time, which can affect its performance and efficiency and can cause a foul smell once it starts to break down.
When the dust and dirt build up on the evaporator coils or in the ducts, it can restrict the airflow through the system and make it harder for the unit to cool the air effectively.
This can also cause the system to work harder than it needs to, leading to increased energy consumption and higher utility bills.
Air filters are the first line of defence against dust and dirt in an air conditioning unit. They help to remove impurities from the air before it circulates through the unit.
However, filters need to be regularly checked and replaced, or cleaned depending on the type of filter. If the filter is dirty or clogged, it should be replaced with a new one.
Additionally, regular cleaning of the coils and ducts can help to prevent the buildup of dust and dirt. Ducts should be inspected for any visible buildup of dirt, dust, or debris. If your air conditioner smells terrible, you should check the coils for dirt buildup, and if necessary, remove and clean them with a coil cleaner.
A chemical odour from an air conditioner can have several possible causes. One common cause is the use of refrigerants that contain chemicals like chlorine or fluorine, which can emit an odour when they are released into the air. This can happen if there is a leak in the system, or if the system is not properly maintained and the refrigerant is allowed to escape.
It’s important to identify the specific source of the odour, in order to address it effectively. A professional technician should inspect the system and perform any necessary repairs or maintenance to prevent and remove the chemical smell.
One simple measure to prevent chemical odours is to make sure that your air conditioning unit is serviced regularly, and that the system is kept clean, and also change the filters at regular intervals.
If your air conditioner smells like it’s burning, there could be a serious problem and it should be addressed immediately.
If your air conditioner smells bad and is producing a burning smell, it could be due to exhaust fumes, overheating of electrical components within the unit, such as wires or capacitors. This could be caused by a malfunctioning thermostat, a clogged air filter, or a problem with the motor or compressor.
The air conditioning compressor is lubricated with oil, if this oil becomes too hot it can start to emit a burning smell.
If you notice a burning smell coming from your air conditioner, it is important to turn off the unit immediately and to call a professional technician to inspect the system and diagnose the problem. Continuing to use the system could cause further damage and pose a fire hazard.
Leave it to the professionals
If you notice an unusual or bad smell coming from your air conditioner, it is best to leave the problem to the professionals.
Our trained technicians at Busselton Refrigeration & Air Conditioning have the knowledge, tools, and experience to accurately diagnose the problem and make any necessary repairs or maintenance.
We can help to identify the source of the smell and take appropriate steps to remove it and prevent it from recurring.
Contact us today to book your next air conditioner service.