Odors that emanate from your heating and cooling system can range from being a mild annoyance to a reason to evacuate your home until it’s fixed. Local heating and cooling systems expert J&M Air Conditioning & Heating lists common HVAC odors and how you can get rid of them.
Mold and Mildew — This is perhaps the most common HVAC odor, and is often caused by condensation within the HVAC unit itself. If you smell mold, call an HVAC technician as soon as possible, because mold and mildew spores in your ventilation system can quickly spread throughout the rest of the house. It would also help to install a dehumidifier if you notice mold growth occurring in other areas of your home.
Electrical Odors — Electrical odors smell something like a mix of burning plastic and ozone. This is indicative of an electrical overload, which happens when the HVAC system is being pushed to its limit. Check the filters, ductwork and other parts that may be blocking airflow or causing your HVAC unit to leak. In addition to performing regular HVAC maintenance, make it a point to follow proper furnace shutdown procedures when you switch from heating to cooling. Furnaces that have been improperly shut down tend to emit the same odor when they’re started back up again.
Rotten Egg Odor — A rotten egg smell is commonly associated with sulfur, which also happens to be present in natural gas like methane. The gas used in fuel lines is actually odorless, but the odor is added to alert people in case of leaks. If you notice this smell, you most likely have a gas leak, and thus should immediately shut down the gas main, open the windows and call on your utility provider to perform an inspection and repairs.
Oil Smell — If you’ve ever refilled your oil-fired furnace, you should be familiar with the smell of an oil leak. Oil is less of a danger than gas, but you should nevertheless have it addressed by an HVAC technician as soon as possible. An oil smell is typically caused by a damaged fuel pump or a clogged burner. Note that newly-installed furnaces emit the same smell, but it should go away after 24 hours. Capable HVAC technicians will include a follow-up on their HVAC installation checklist, but you should nevertheless let your HVAC technician know if the smell persists.
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