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Cleveland HVAC Blog

What Can You Do About Strange Air Conditioner/Furnace Smells

Posted by P.K. Wadsworth Heating & Cooling on Thu, May 11, 2017 @ 09:05 AM


At least once a week or so we get a call from a customer asking, "What can I do about the strange smell coming from my air conditioner?"

In most cases, we recommend a visit so one of our licensed HVAC techs can take a look. Often, the smell is indicative of an ongoing repair issue that needs to be addressed so it doesn't lead to more expensive repairs or a more serious household issue.

What's That Smell Coming Out of My Cleveland Air Conditioning Unit?

The following are some of the most common smells that travel through your home's forced air system, and what you can do about them.

Sulfur or rotten eggs. This smell is almost always a sign that you have a gas leak or an unlit pilot light that is allowing gas to seep continually into your home. This is not worth investigating on your own because gas is highly combustible. Instead, call the gas company ASAP to report the smell. Visit a neighbor or friend until the issue has been resolved.

An electrical or burnt smell. Similarly, that unmistakable electrical smell - or the scent of something burning - is a warning sign. It usually indicates that your motor is overheating, electrical wiring is damaged, or that oil could be burning. Turn your system off and contact a HVAC company. They should prioritize your home visit.

One issue that you can encounter annually occurs at the beginning of the heating season.  The first time the heating plant is activated, there can be a distinctive "burning smell".  Most often this occurs when the dust that accumulated on the heating surfaces over the summer cooling season actually burns off.  Generally, after a few cycles this odor disappears when the dust is consumed.  If the odor continues, it is likely a good idea to get it checked out.  

A musty or damp smell. In almost all cases, a damp or musty smell indicates mold or mildew has taken up residence somewhere in your air ducts and/or ventilation system. Not only does this lead to an unpleasant odor, it also means indoor air quality is compromised since mold can both cause and exacerbate respiratory issues. Schedule an HVAC appointment to have air ducts inspected and cleaned if necessary. Filters should be replaced. Musty smells are also a sign that interior humidity levels are too high, in which case you should consider the benefits of a whole-house humidifier.


Worried about a smell coming from your forced-air system? Contact PK Wadsworth Heating & Cooling, we have 75+ years of Cleveland air conditioning expertise.


Topics: air conditioner

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