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What causes the Smell in Your HVAC System?

Odors can arise in your HVAC system at any time, sending strange aromas into your house along with your warm or cool air. And while typically aromas are short-lived and won’t cause you any problems, there are circumstances in which a strange smell can be a symptom of a much worse problem with your HVAC system. While that may lead to an alarming situation – and a call to your HVAC experts – with just a little bit of research you can find out if there is a problem with your system that needs expert attention.

Common Odors Requiring Expert Attention

One of the most common aromas that might arise through an HVAC system is a slight burning smell. This is especially common when the heat is turned on for the first time, especially after a long and warm summer. A slight aroma typically isn’t a problem, though you will want to check your filters to ensure that they are not in need of replacement. However, if the smell lingers over a longer period than a few hours or a couple of days – and even after a filter change – you want to call your HVAC expert to ensure that there are no greater problems at work in your system. Often, a cleaning of the system may be required to remove excessive dust and lint.

Another common odor is a slight “mildew” scent. More common when the air conditioner is turned on, the scent of mildew typically indicates that water or condensation has caused mildew or mold to grow in the HVAC system. This commonly occurs when there is some issue preventing the proper draining of water from the system. In addition to replacing the filter in case mildew has grown in it, cleaning is typically required by an HVAC expert to remove the aroma.

Any foul odor is cause for concern. A “rotten egg” type smell is often the result of decomposition, such as might occur if a small animal were to make its way into the HVAC system. Those who have experienced rodent problems in their homes should be especially wary of this type of odor arising from their HVAC system. Another cause for concern is any smell resembling sewage, as this could indicate a leak somewhere in your plumbing that has led to the distribution of methane gas into your HVAC system.

Seeking HVAC Cleaning

Regardless of what the aroma is, you should seek the attention of an HVAC expert – whether for repairs or simply to have a cleaning done – for any aroma that persists over a long period. Electrical smells can indicate a shorted out part in the system while smells of stagnation may indicate standing water or condensation somewhere in the system.
Giving attention to these issues right away can prevent a minor problem from becoming a major disaster. Be alert as you turn on your heat or your air and resolve any problems before they become serious.

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One thought on “What causes the Smell in Your HVAC System?”

  1. Hi,
    I stay in a condo townhouse, and recently, cigarette smoke and sweet smell are coming in through by air vents. Able to help investigate and solve this?

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