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Why Does My Air Conditioner Smell When I Turn It On?

Posted On: June 13, 2016
Bad Smell

“Dirty sock syndrome” as some like to call it, is the term used when an air conditioner gives off a dirty sock smell when it is turned on.  Dirty sock syndrome usually isn’t dangerous but that doesn’t mean it’s an issue that should be ignored.

The dirty sock smell that you are catching a whiff of usually comes from the sitting dust and dirt in your air conditioner’s evaporator coil. This sitting dust and dirt may have turned into mold and mildew.

The evaporator coil is prone to mold and mildew because it is constantly becoming cool and damp; this moisture mixed with dust and dirt creates ideal conditions for bacteria to grow.

The evaporator coil isn’t the only part of your air conditioning system that can create the dirty sock smell. This smell can also be caused by mold and mildew in your home’s ductwork and or air conditioner filter.

If you’re wondering how mold and mildew can even get into your ductwork the answer is fairly simple. Poorly sealed ductwork. Poorly sealed ductwork can lead to mold and mildew growth.

The simplest thing to blame in your home for the dirty sock smell coming from your air conditioner is the air filter. If you can’t remember the last timed you changed your air filter this may easily be the source of your problem. Neglecting to change your air filter causes dust and dirt to gather.

Remedies for Dirty Sock Syndrome

  • Have evaporator coils cleaned.
  • Have drainage lines inspected.
  • Have drain pans emptied (if needed).
  • Have ductwork checked for leaks.
  • Have ductwork checked for mold/mildew growth. A duct cleaning will remove the mold and mildew, improving the air quality in your home.
  • Change your air filter. It is recommended to change your air filter every 1-3 months depending on usage.

To help avoid dirty sock syndrome in the future, consider a comprehensive maintenance plan. Regular maintenance is the best way to ensure that your home’s systems continue to perform year after year.

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