3 Things That Can Make Your AC Smell Funky

Have you noticed that your air conditioning system smells peculiar? If so, there are a number of things that may be causing this problem. Continuing to operate your AC despite the smell can make you feel embarrassed to have guests, make you sick, or  damage your AC system. The following are a few things that could be causing the pungent odor.


One of the best things to do when you smell a peculiar odor from your cooling system is to change the air filter. Filters are designed to trap a variety of things such as bacteria and dust. These dirty things that become trapped in filters may eventually clog them to the point that they cannot filter through clean and refreshing air. The air that does pass through may smell awkward due to the contaminants mixing in with it.

Dirty Ducts

Duct cleaning is a service that an HVAC contractor can perform. This is normally done during routine maintenance. If it has been awhile since you had your system serviced, there is a chance that you may have leaky or contaminated ducts that need to be cleaned or replaced. If you have a duct issue, you may notice moisture and mildew around vents and on air ducts. Depending on the design of your air conditioning system, you may not be able to inspect your ducts for contamination or damage, but mildew has an odor that some people describe as a musty odor.

Dirty Sock Syndrome

This is a term that is sometimes used to describe peculiar, offensive odors that emit from cooling systems. It is referred to as "dirty sock syndrome" because the smell that circulates in the air smells like dirty socks or shoes. It occurs when there are contaminants such as mold, bacteria, excess moisture, or mildew on the evaporator coils in cooling systems. If you ignore the issue, chances are you may get used to the smell, but when you have visitors, they likely will pick up on the scent as soon as they enter your home. The odor can make some people sick because of the stench and possibility of the microorganisms in the system becoming airborne.

You can try to clean your evaporator coil with bleach that is diluted with water; however, if the smell continues to linger, an air conditioning repair contractor is a good resource to use to determine the exact nature of it. They can also perform repairs such as system cleanings that will get rid of microorganisms and offensive odors.