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Picture Rocks Cooling Heating & Plumbing Blog

What’s That Smell? Your Air Conditioner Needs Repair


Sometimes, an indication that your air conditioner needs repair will be obvious. For example, if it’s simply not turning on, or if it turns on but shuts off almost immediately, you’ll be overheated and desperate for a qualified technician to figure out what’s wrong. And if you hear a terrible grinding or clattering sound, you’ll be certain that something needs repair, even if you don’t know what.

One odd indicator of AC problems that’s often overlooked is odor. Your air conditioner should never make a noticeable smell. If you do smell something, it’s a sign of a problem. What’s wrong? Here are some clues.


This is a distinct and noticeable odor, and if you smell it, you can be sure there’s mold growing somewhere! But since mold loves to grow in dark and out-of-the-way places, you might not know exactly where. When it comes to your air conditioner, there are two likely candidates for mold habitats: in the condensate pan, or in the ductwork.

Mold in the ductwork will make a more noticeable smell at the vents, and you might even be able to see mold if you peer in. This means you need your ducts professionally cleaned. Mold in the condensate pan will cause a stronger odor near the indoor AC unit. This means you need AC repair in Tucson, AZ.


A sour smell is odd enough that you might not know what you’re smelling or exactly where it’s coming from. But it could be coming from that same condensate pan. It catches all the moisture that drips from your evaporator coils, which create a lot of condensation. If the drain gets blocked, it’s a great place for bacteria to grow.

This could lead to overflowing, or to the system shutting down to prevent that overflowing. Avoid water damage or a failing AC by dealing with that smell right away. First, schedule AC repairs. Next, make a note to schedule routine annual maintenance every year. This can help prevent the problem from recurring.


Not all fire smells the same. And ideally, you’ll catch a problem like overheating before it turns into an actual fire. What are the smells to keep an eye—sorry, a nose—out for? An aroma of hot dust, like when you first turn the heat on in the winter, an odor of melting plastic, or the smell of fish. Yes, fish! Electrical fires produce ammonia, which can make a fishy scent.

These smells are signs of not just AC trouble, but actual danger. Turn off your air conditioner. You’re going to need repairs soon. It’s not worth the risk of a house fire! Keep yourself, your family, and your home safe and rely on a qualified professional to get to the bottom of the issue.

Whether you’re noticing one of these smells or some other indicator that things aren’t quite right with your air conditioner, trust your gut and have it checked out by an HVAC technician.

Contact Picture Rocks Cooling, Heating & Plumbing today to schedule an appointment with our professionals.

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