What's That Smell?

November 08, 2016

An HVAC system is designed to control your home’s air flow and temperature. You may notice, however, that the air flowing out of your vents smells a bit strange. Most odors are harmless and often temporary, but some can be persistently grating or may even indicate a serious issue with your unit. Pay close attention to these odors when you do smell them, and be sure to take action if you’re in doubt of the severity.

Do You Smell Smoke?

A sudden and inexplicable smell of smoke coming from your vents is typically a sign of some mechanical or electrical problem in the A/C unit. Quickly moving parts like the motor or fan have the potential to overheat or even catch fire if the unit hasn’t been properly maintained.

If you smell something burning and you’re concerned that the odor is flowing from your vents, shut off your HVAC system at the thermostat and check the unit outside. If you can physically see smoke, just keep the system turned off and give us a call immediately.

Residual Tobacco Smell

Similar to the smell of burning smoke, tobacco smoke can also get stuck in the HVAC system and get circulated throughout the system itself, not to mention your home. This smoke odor can become attached to the condenser coils and leave an odorous film inside ventilation ducts. This is most often an issue when a home is purchased from a previous smoker, as it can be quite difficult to notice when you’re living with a smoker and are used to the smell.

HVAC technicians have specific cleaning methods they use to clean ductwork, which should help reduce the odor. Deodorizing the coils themselves can be more difficult, but thorough maintenance and deep cleaning can make all the difference.

Damp and Musty

If you start to notice what smells like mold or mildew coming from your vents, unfortunately, that’s often exactly what it is. Mold and mildew can also form on coils and in ductwork, and if left untreated, these issues can spread to other parts of your home. There are a number of potential causes of this problem, including leaky ductwork, blocked drainage tubes, or insufficient insulation. These issues don’t just create an unpleasant musty smell, having mold and mildew spores circulated throughout your home is a health hazard. It’s crucial to correct the underlying problem before moving on to cleanup.

First Heat of the Season

It’s common for an unpleasant smell to fill the home the first time you turn on your heat in the fall or winter. This smell is harmless; it is most likely just the dust from summer that has settled on your furnace’s heating elements. When you turn the system back on, that settled dust burns off. The smell should clear quickly but it is not a bad idea to open a couple windows to help expedite the process.

If you do smell these or other odors coming from your vents, don’t worry! Our skilled HVAC technicians have seen it all and they can get your issues resolved quickly and efficiently. We are available 24/7, so give us a call at 206-267-4328 to help keep your home safe and healthy all winter long. 

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