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What's That Smell From My AC?

When you walk into your home on a hot summer day and turn on the air conditioner, what do you smell? If your HVAC system is working properly, the answer should be nothing! If you notice an odd or abnormal AC odor, stop suffering through it!

Barker’s Heating & Cooling offers premier College Station IAQ solutions for your convenience. Whether your air conditioner smells musty, sour or just plain gross, we have a solution for you. Keep reading to find out the most common air conditioning smells and what they mean!

Normal AC Odors

When your AC functions on a daily basis, there is likely a familiar smell associated with the system turning on. The odor may smell like dust or the attic when the air first begins to blow, but it should dissipate quickly. Also, if you haven’t used your AC or heater for a few months, you’ll smell dust or a slightly burnt smell from your heater. As long as these smells fade within a few minutes, your air quality is probably not affected.

Abnormal AC Smells


There are a number of electrical components in your AC system that operate circuits, motors and fans. If you smell something burning from your vents or AC unit, something is probably burning! A hazardous wire or malfunction could be causing the smell of fire, and you don’t want further damage to occur to the unit. You also don’t want to keep running the unit and release dangerous amounts of smoke or byproduct of whatever’s burning into your air. The best option is to shut down the system and call for professional AC repair.

Mildew or Mold

We’re all familiar with at sour smell of damp material, but if your air starts to smell this way then you have a problem. Not only could mold be growing somewhere in your home, but it could be growing inside your AC unit or air ducts. Long-term exposure to mold can cause serious health effects and lower your indoor air quality significantly. Even if you believe you’ve found the source of the mold, it’s best to have an expert check out the entire system to make sure no mold spores are left behind.

Rotten Eggs

The smell of something foul or rotten can be particularly difficult to live with, so you’ll need a quick fix to protect your indoor air quality. Unfortunately, many critters and pests find your home to be as comfortable as you do. This means that rodents and insects find their way into your air vents and die. You’ll only notice their presence when the carcass starts to smell. The odor alone may not affect your air quality, but an animal carcass can release particles of fur, skin and feces into your air. These things can affect your lung health and cause reactions.


That distinctive skunk odor is alarming to all homeowners. Unless a skunk has passed by recently, the smell indicates a gas leak. While many dangerous gases are odorless, manufacturers insert an artificial odor for easier detection. If you smell a gas or skunk smell, leave the area immediately and call for help. An overload of gases like carbon monoxide can be extremely dangerous for you to breathe in. It’s a great idea to invest in carbon monoxide monitors that will alert you if the levels of CO in your air ever become dangerous.


Your AC does not burn fuel, so there is no normal reason for your to smell exhaust from your AC. However, the refrigerant your system uses to cool air can release a smell very similar to exhaust fumes when heated. If you smell exhaust fumes, you might have a refrigerant leak. Warning: Refrigerant is very dangerous to those who aren’t trained to handle it safely. It’s best to call a professional to determine what AC repair you need and if it has affected your indoor air quality.

Do Smells Affect Indoor Air Quality?

Odors themselves aren’t usually a threat to the quality of the air, but their sources certainly are. Plus, the fresheners and cleaners you spray into the air to get rid of unpleasant odors do release harmful particles into your air. Strange smells are best dealt with by professionals so that all aspects of your air and AC health are covered.

Ready For Expert IAQ and AC Repair Services?

Barker’s Heating & Cooling is standing by with our years of industry experience. We care about your home’s health, and that’s why we’re the best team for you. Contact our customer service representatives today to schedule an appointment!

Why Choose Barker's?

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You will save a minimum of 30% on your heating and cooling costs or we will refund double-the-difference of your savings not realized during the first year.
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If we do not have your new system operating by the date promised, we will pay you $500 for your inconvenience.
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We guarantee that the equipment we have installed will perform as we have stated, or we will remove it and return 100% of your investment.

What Our Customers Are Saying

Very Professional

Chandler did an excellent job checking out our heat pump. He was very professional, communicated well, was responsive to our questions and I was very happy with everything he did.

Steve M.

Honest and Trustworthy

Our AC went out during a late summer heatwave. Called Barkers and Victor worked very hard to get the outside unit up and running. Two hours later we conceded to the death of a 29 yo unit. Victor notified the office the next morning, and within 24 hours we had a complete new system installed, and the house cooled by the time I got home from work. Highly recommend. Honest and trustworthy.

Susan H.

Very Impressed

We were impressed by this company from the first phone call. Reed was an exceptional young man; very personable and professional. The installation team of Mike, John and Cody did an excellent job. Barker’s is a business with high standards and we are very satisfied with everything about them. So glad we found this company!

Donna D.