Why Does My Air Conditioner Smell Like Chemicals? A Florida Tech Explains.

June 26, 2017

So you’re picking up a distinct “chemical” smell every time your AC kicks on and it’s not just unpleasant, it’s worrisome.

So what’s causing it? Well, if your AC smells like chemicals, you most likely have one of the following problems:

  • A refrigerant leak

  • Mold on your evaporator coils

  • Open containers of chemicals near the indoor air handler

Want to pinpoint your particular problem? Just take a whiff and find the section below that best describes what you’re smelling.

Not interested in learning more and want an ac repair professional to get rid of the smell, ASAP? Just contact us.

The smell: A sweet, chloroform or ether-like scent

The problem: A refrigerant leak

Refrigerant is a special chemical used by your AC to absorb heat and warmth from the air inside your home. And if everything goes according to plan, that refrigerant travels through closed copper coils. But sometimes, due to wear and tear, those copper coils can crack and let out some of the refrigerant.

And if the leak is large enough, you can smell the refrigerant (or the oil that’s mixed with refrigerant as a lubricant).

You’ll know you have a refrigerant leak if:

Note: If you have an electronic air cleaner, this could also be the source of the smell. Electronic air cleaners can produce ozone which has a slightly sweet scent.

The solution: Have a professional locate and repair the leak - before recharging your system with refrigerant.

The smell: A musty, acidic or an ammonia scent

The problem: Mold in your evaporator coil

Your evaporator coil is the indoor AC unit that actually cools your air. It’s basically a structured web of refrigerant-filled coils that absorb heat and moisture from your air. But over time, that moisture (when mixed with any dirt on the coils) can lead to mold or mildew growth.

And that musty or ammonia scent? Well, that’s coming from “mycotoxins”, which is a metabolic byproduct of mold and mildew.

Related: Why Going on Vacation Can Lead to Mold Growth in Your Central Air Conditioner

The solution: Have a professional inspect your evaporator coil for mold and mildew. They can clean the coils but they’ll also be able to see if the mold has spread into your ductwork.

The smell: Cleaning supplies, paint or other household chemicals

The problem: Open containers of chemicals near the indoor air handler

In most Florida homes, the indoor air handler (the part of the AC that blows air through your home) is located either in an interior closet, attic, or basement. And many homeowners also use that space to store other supplies, such as paint or household cleaners. But if those containers are open, your indoor air handler is likely pulling those wafting chemicals into the unit and blowing them straight into your home.

The solution: Locate your indoor air handler and check for open containers sitting near the unit. Close any containers tightly or move them to another area of the house.

Can’t find the source of the chemical smell? Ask a Florida tech

If you’re not sure what’s producing that chemical smell from your air conditioner, just contact us. We’ll send over an ac tech who can locate the source of the smell and remove it.

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