Potential Reasons for Bad HVAC Smells

Woman Smells Something Bad hvac gainesville

It’s a hot day in North Georgia and you can’t wait to get home to feel the relief of your air-conditioned home. However, as soon as you switch on the HVAC system, a bad smell starts circulating. This isn’t what you expected, and you can’t be comfortable in such an environment. HVAC systems emit odors that may indicate problems that need to be dealt with immediately. Such smells include:

  • Melting plastic, metal, or rubber
  • Mustiness
  • Rotten eggs
  • Smokiness
  • Sewage
  • Gun powder
  • Mildew
  • Stinky feet
  • Skunk
  • Dirty socks

If you smell any of the above, here are the potential causes that you should watch out for.

Moisture in the AC

A moldy or musty smell is most often an indication of retained moisture in the HVAC as a result of stagnant water in the drain pans, leaks in the ducts, and clogged drainage lines. It may be difficult to find the source and eliminate it yourself; it is best to call an HVAC company to help you eliminate the problem.

Refrigerant Leak

Every AC system needs refrigerant to provide cooling power. However, if it starts leaking, it produces an odor that smells like acetone. Acetone smells like fingernail polish remover. A refrigerant leak does not only lower the efficiency of your HVAC, but it can also cause a fire when exposed to an open flame. Thus, it should be dealt with immediately to prevent further risks.

Electrical Problems

If you turn on your HVAC and smell something overheating, the most probable cause would be electrical problems. A dirty or clogged filter can cause overheating, as it restricts airflow. However, if the filter is clear, then you are in for more complex electrical issues that you should not try fixing by yourself.

Gas Leak

If your HVAC in Gainesville uses natural gas for heating, leaks may be inevitable, even with proper maintenance. If you detect a strong rotten egg smell, the obvious cause is a gas leak. Immediately turn off the gas and call for professional HVAC service.

Fried Circuit Board or Fan Motor

If you smell something burning smell or a gun powder aroma, the probable cause is a fried fan motor or a fried circuit. Your HVAC needs a professional inspection to remedy the situation.

Mouse hvac gainesville


A strong urine smell in your HVAC system is an indication of mice and rats living somewhere in the system. When the mice urinate and defecate, the smell will come out through the vents immediately when you turn on the air conditioner.

Dust on the Heat Exchanger

When you turn on your HVAC after a long time, you may smell something like burning gas. This doesn’t have to be alarming, as it could just be the dust that has settled on the heat exchanger. However, it should last only a short time. If the smell persists, then you may have a problem.

Often, bad HVAC smells aren’t dangerous, but are just an indicator that your HVAC system is in need of service. However, some odors like gas and rotten egg smells are more serious. When this happens, you should call an HVAC technician immediately. Gainesville Mechanical offers the best HVAC services in Northern Georgia. Contact us (770) 532-9130 today for all your plumbing and HVAC needs!

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