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What’s That Smell Coming from My HVAC Vents?

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Heating and air conditioning systems provide comfort to any space. That space can become uncomfortable when strange smells begin coming through the vents. Keep reading to learn some of the common culprits that can cause an HVAC unit to turn stinky.

Is My Heating and Air Conditioning System Just Dirty?

If there is a musty smell coming from your HVAC vents, then chances are they just need a good cleaning. Mildew is the most common cause of odor from air vents. Water that doesn’t completely drain away or evaporate can be a perfect breeding ground for mildew and mold. The good thing is that a thorough cleaning should solve the problem. Once the mildew is gone, your air should smell fresh again.

A smell of garbage or rotting may be coming from your vents if there is something stuck in the ductwork. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for small critters to find their way into the vents. If the odor you are encountering is rather rancid, then these creatures are more than likely the problem. This will not cause trouble for your HVAC system, but you will want to get rid of the source of the smell as soon as possible.

Smells That Spell Trouble for My Heating and Air Conditioning System

If the smells coming from your vents do not fall into the categories above, the stench may indicate a bigger issue. Here are some of the most common odors and what might be causing them:

  • A burning smell could mean your air filter needs replacement. Or it could indicate that your unit is overheating.
  • The smell of raw sewage indicates a problem with the sewer lines and not your HVAC unit. Address the issue quickly, regardless; but your HVAC unit may not be the problem.
  • A rotten egg smell usually means there is a natural gas leak. As in the above situation, the issue may not be with your HVAC unit, but with your gas lines instead. Seek professional advice immediately; gas leaks are very dangerous!  
  • A smell of oil or exhaust could mean there is a leak or a loose component. These are easy fixes, but be sure to call your HVAC service provider to handle them.

How to Get Rid of Pesky Odors from My Heating and Air Conditioning Vents

Often a burning or gas smell may come through the vents when your heater first kicks on for the season. When the unit turns on after sitting unused for months, the dust that has collected on the coils will begin to burn off. This smell should go away after 20 to 30 minutes. If it doesn’t, then it may be time to call in the professionals. An HVAC service provider will be able to help you get to the source of the problem.

Is your heating and air conditioning system giving off unusual odors? Contact Jerry’s Air Conditioning and Heating today, and we can help get your home smelling fresh and clean again.

Jerry's Air Conditioning & Heating



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