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Why Does My AC Smell Like Vinegar?


Many things in your home emit odors, from the hot-dust smell of turning your heat on for the first time in the winter to the unpleasant aroma of the shoes of your teenagers. Generally, your air conditioner will not be the cause of any smells in your home. But what if it is?

If you notice a sour smell coming from your AC unit or the vents that distribute your conditioned air, it’s time to take action. What could cause an air conditioner to smell like vinegar? We’ll get to the bottom of it. Here are the things you need to check.

The Age of Your Air Conditioner

AC units manufactured before 2010 are on their way out, anyway. At this age, they’re simply not going to be maintaining the efficiency they once had, and they’ll cause your electric bill to rise. They’re also much more prone to suddenly needing repairs. This means the motor is more likely to be damaged, which can release excess ozone and cause an odor.

The other reason an AC unit this age might smell like vinegar is that the refrigerant used back then was different from the formulation used in today’s air conditioners. It produces chlorine as a byproduct, which might be what your nose is detecting. Neither chlorine nor ozone is ideal to be breathing, so have your air conditioner checked out promptly if it’s old.

The Condition of Your Air Filter

When was the last time you changed your AC air filter? It’s important to do for many reasons, but you may not have thought of this one. Air conditioners produce condensation from warm air passing over the super-chilled evaporator coils. A clogged air filter can interfere with airflow so much that moisture gets trapped. Mold and bacteria can even grow on the air filter itself!

If you’re particularly concerned about mold, you can wear a mask while you remove and inspect the air filter and either clean it or replace it with a new one. If your air filter has been changed regularly, or you’ve checked and it’s not the cause of the smell, there’s mold or bacteria growing somewhere else.

Moisture in Other Areas

The two other places where moisture can accumulate and lead to bacterial or mold growth are the drainage system and the ductwork. A smell primarily at the AC unit itself is likely coming from the drainage system, where condensation collects in the condensate pan and is siphoned away from the house via the drainage line. A blockage can cause stagnant water and bad smells.

An odor emanating only from the vents would suggest that the problem is in the ductwork where it’s possible for moisture to pool. Your ducts might need some work to ensure that condensation doesn’t have places to accumulate. Problems with the drainage or the ducts require the help of a professional AC technician.

The Importance of Maintenance

During air conditioning maintenance in Navarre, FL, all these areas are thoroughly inspected. Filters are changed, and the dust within the system that might cause them to clog quickly is removed. The condensate pan and drainage line are cleaned. 

In addition to improving efficiency and effectiveness, reducing the risk of repair needs and breakdowns, and extending the life of the system, maintenance prevents mold and bacteria from growing. Once your odor issue is addressed, making sure to get annual AC maintenance will prevent the problem from occurring again.

For professional AC maintenance and other services, look no further than Kool Breeze of Northwest Florida, Inc.  Contact us today!

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