After a long, tiring day at work, all you want to do is rest, so as soon as you get home, you adjust your HVAC system to make yourself more comfortable. However, if you start to notice strange smells coming from your vents when the system is running, you may have a problem. While these smells may just be unpleasant and irritating, some could be bad enough to give you a nasty headache.
In this article, Acker Heating & Cooling, a professional HVAC company, explains what might be wrong with your vents and provides tips on how to get rid of bad smells.
What Are Those Odors Coming From Your Air Vents?
To get rid of the strange odors, the first thing you need to do is identify their origin. The cause of the odors will determine what they actually smell like and how to get rid of them. Here are some of the different smells that can come from your air vents:
Mold or mildew. Moisture issues could cause mold and mildew to grow inside your heater and ductwork. They can also form in areas where your ducts can distribute the resulting smells all through your house. Thus, you should check any ductwork in crawl spaces or your attic for evidence of mold growth. Mold and mildew may not be a serious problem for your equipment, but they can be particularly harmful to those with respiratory health issues.
There may be a few reasons why you’re smelling this. If you’re running your air conditioning system a lot, this can cause condensation within the unit. Moisture that doesn’t drain properly can get into your ductwork, and eventually mold will grow. In this situation, it’s best to have an HVAC technician check where the mold buildup is and have it cleaned up.
Another possible reason why mold is thriving in your vents is that your air conditioner is too large for your home. Keep in mind that bigger is not always bigger. Your air conditioner not only cools the air, but also dehumidifies it. If your air conditioner is too big, it will cycle too quickly. Thus, it won’t operate long enough to dehumidify the air.
Burning smell. If you smell something burning, first make sure nothing is on fire. After checking your appliances and electricity, check your heating system. You might notice this burning smell when you turn on your furnace for the first time after temperatures drop. When your furnace isn’t being used, dust usually gathers on the heat exchanger, then burns off once you turn on the unit. As long as the smell doesn’t linger, this probably isn’t an emergency.
However, if it smells like something might be overheating, there may be a bigger issue. To find out if there is, first turn off your furnace and check your air filters. Dirty and clogged air filters can restrict airflow and cause electric resistance heaters to overheat. If they’re fine, the problem may be with the wiring within the motor. Repairing an electrical issue may be dangerous, so be sure to call an HVAC technician as soon as possible so they can take care of it.
Rotten eggs. If you’re using natural gas, it’s important to take heed if you smell rotten eggs. Since natural gas is odorless, manufacturers add a harmless chemical called mercaptan to the gas to prevent any explosive issues. Mercaptan smells a lot like rotten eggs, so if you notice this smell, you may have a gas leak.
Remember that gas leaks are extremely dangerous. Thus, turn off your heating system immediately, leave the premises and contact an HVAC professional to inspect your equipment if you notice this smell. Don’t use any electronics or light any candles in the area because sparks and open flames may cause an explosion.
Sulfur. There are two possible reasons why you may smell sulfur, or the odor of a freshly-struck match, in your home. First, there may be a problem with the mechanics or electronics of your heater. For instance, the circuit board within the heater may be faulty. One way to get rid of this smell is to have your heater repaired as soon as possible.
The other reason may be because of Chinese Drywall. Chinese Drywall refers to defective drywall originating in China, which was used in the construction of about 100,000 American homes across 20 states from 2001 to 2009. Not only does this produce a bad smell, but Chinese Drywall can be harmful to your health as well. Thus, if you think your home is affected, replace the drywall as soon as possible.
Acetone. An acetone smell, or a smell like nail polish remover, may signal a refrigerant leak. If your residential or commercial HVAC system is relatively old or not regularly maintained, you might experience this problem. Not only will this affect your system’s efficiency, it may also pose a fire hazard in your home. To prevent this issue from getting worse, get in touch with your HVAC technician so they can inspect your system, find the leak and make the necessary repairs.
Urine. The smell of urine likely means that small critters are living in your vents. For instance, mice may nest in and around the equipment and ductwork. They may urinate and defecate in your vent, and the smell may affect your indoor air quality. If you think this is the case, you need to find out where the mice are living. Once you get rid of them, don’t forget to clean your ducts and install an air filtration system.
Sewage. If you notice the smell of sewage circulating your home, the cause may be just what it smells like — sewage itself. If the issue is close to an air vent, the smell of sewage could get into your heating or air conditioning system and spread throughout your house. For this reason, make sure to check if there are cracks in your pipes or if the sewer line is backed up. To get rid of the smell, you’ll need to call a professional to repair the plumbing issue.
Stale smell. A stale smell usually indicates a problem with your ventilation system. If your windows are energy efficient and your doors are properly installed, there will be little to no air circulation in your home. The best way to combat this issue and get rid of stale odors is to open your windows every now and then to let the fresh outside air circulate through your home.
If you’re looking for a professional residential or commercial HVAC company, talk to our team at Acker Heating & Cooling. Our expert technicians are determined to provide the assistance you need. Call us today at (706) 715-2607 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.