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A female homeowner in Metro East Illinois, blowing her nose in front of her AC mini-split system.

Why Does My AC Unit Smell Musty?

If you notice a musty smell coming from your air conditioner when it’s running, you could have what we call dirty sock syndrome—aptly named because the odor is similar to the smell of stinky feet and socks. So, when your home suddenly smells like a locker room, you need to determine what is causing the issue and consult with professionals when necessary. Of course, our experts at C&K Heating & Cooling, Inc. want to provide you with causes to look for when diagnosing your unit, but if you would like our professional help, please get in touch with our team today! In addition, we’d be happy to provide you with our superior AC repair services.

Dirty Evaporator Coil

A musty smell indicates the growth and buildup of mold, mildew, or bacteria, which can form in the evaporator coil or the drain pan of your AC. The location of the evaporator coil is humid and dark, providing the perfect environment for bacteria growth. This issue is likely what is causing the musty smell you are experiencing. Dirty sock syndrome occurs most commonly in climates where heating is used during the night or early morning, and the home is switched to cooling in the afternoon.

Excess Water or Moisture

Standing water or excess moisture can also cause a foul, musty smell. For example, high humidity levels or a drainage leak could lead to extra moisture accumulating inside your vents and air ducts. If you experience a musty smell when you activate your air conditioner, the mold and mildew likely have formed and spread within the ductwork. Our experts advise calling a professional HVAC technician right away because mold exposure can cause serious health issues, especially in the upper respiratory area. In addition, your vents and ducts will need to be cleaned or repaired to remove that unwanted musty smell entirely.

Drain Pan is Full

The drain pan is a part of your HVAC system that collects water droplets that form when your air conditioner removes humid air from inside your house. This pan is located directly underneath your AC’s evaporator coil and handles daily wear and tear, which means its functionality will eventually deteriorate as time passes. When a drain pan becomes ineffective, it will accumulate mold and other undesirable bacterial growth that causes an unpleasant musty smell when your AC unit is running. Contact our professionals at C&K Heating & Cooling, Inc., and we can replace your old drain pan with a new one and eradicate the odor.

The Solution to Getting Rid of Musty Smell

The best way to treat and prevent dirty sock syndrome from happening is to schedule routine air conditioning maintenance services and regularly replace your air filters. When you notice the musty smell, go through the checklist to find the source:

  • Frozen evaporator coils
  • Full AC drain pan
  • Excess moisture in the ductwork
  • Blockage in the condensate line
  • Wrong size AC unit for home

That unpleasant musty smell is not supposed to be there. Instead, it indicates a problem with your AC unit, so you’ll need to contact an HVAC expert to provide professional services to rectify and restore your system. At C&K Heating & Cooling, Inc., we will keep the evaporator coil clean, the drain pain functioning, and the drainage system flowing. So call us today at 618.537.8888 to schedule an appointment with our expert technicians!

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