Why Does My Mini Split Smell Funny? Three Common Causes in Havertown, PA
The funny smell coming from your mini split is rarely caused by what you think is causing it. Yes, you can usually pinpoint the problem based on the exact odor you notice. But, the smell you’re describing isn’t what you’ll find.
So, when we get calls about people catching whiffs of gym socks, vinegar, or fish, the problem isn’t stale laundry, cooking supplies, or sea life.
Keep reading if you notice any of these smells:
- Dirty Socks
- Vinegar or Chemical
- Fish or Seafood
If the odor is very faint, you can try doing a basic cleaning yourself. When it’s due to some sort of buildup, that may do the trick.
In most cases, however, you need a professional. Often, the problem’s gotten bad enough that you need a deep clean. Or, the scent is the result of a mechanical problem.
So, as you read up on the three most common causes, you can decide if you’d like to try cleaning it yourself, look for further clues, or call a pro right away.
Meanwhile, if you have any further questions, or are ready for an AC tune-up in or near Havertown, PA, give us a call or email here at John Cipollone.
Now, we’ll start with the most common call we get.
Mini Split Smells Like Dirty Socks
A dirty sock smell coming from your mini split is a sign of a mold issue. Spores and mold are building up inside the system, likely in the air handler.
The problem is so common, it’s widely known as “Dirty Sock Syndrome,” and people often say the scent is like socks that were in a gym bag too long. Or, they’ll describe it as a stale cheesy smell.
We’ve covered this in-depth here. Long story short: Mold spores build up in the air handler if you don’t keep it clean. You can prevent this with regular maintenance, which we’ll cover a little later here.
Mini Split Smells Like Fish
A fishy smell from your mini split’s air handler usually means something died near the system. The odor comes from the body breaking down. Bacteria and other small particles are making their way into the system.
This problem isn’t as common with these setups as it is with traditional systems. In those cases, vents and ductwork, offer places for wildlife to get trapped or lay themselves down.
By contrast, the mini split transports heat and coolant using small tubing that’s sealed tight. That leaves less opportunity for contamination.
Side note: The smell is different from traditional units. People usually report a rotten egg smell when something dies near or in a conventional condenser or ductwork.
Either way, it’s time to get a professional cleaning. After all, those contaminants take a toll on your indoor air quality.
And, if you’re running the AC, all that junk is building up inside the house. With no open windows, there’s nowhere it can go.
You can start with a visual inspection outside around the heat pump. If you see a carcass and can safely get rid of it, you’ll head off the problem.
But, you don’t know how much of the bacteria or other contaminants are already in the system. And, if you’re noticing the smell, it’s likely a substantial amount.
So, turn off the system and open your windows to air out your home. And, give us a call so we can get your cooling back up and running.
Mini Split Smells Like Vinegar
A fishy smell indicates damage to the system. There’s likely an electrical problem. Often, a component overheated, or maybe something started melting. Another common culprit is a leak.
We’ve heard people also describe it as a “chemical” smell. And, in some cases, people also report irritated eyes or their throats closing up.
Occasionally, you’ll notice brown liquid drops that resemble mouse urine. It’s usually residue from whatever burned or got damaged.
Any of these indicates a physical break somewhere in the system. So, turn off the system and call a professional.
You can air out the home if you want. You don’t run the same risk of contaminant buildup as you would with bacteria or mold. But, there’s no reason to have a bad smell in the house.
However, leave it off until a tech services the system. You don’t want to risk making a small break worse.
Preventative Maintenance and AC Tune-Ups
The bad news is, noticing these smells means the damage is already done. The good news is, you can prevent them from cropping up in the first place with preventative maintenance and AC tune-ups.
So, even if you’re dealing with them now, you can take steps to make sure you don’t have to again.
Cleaning the Air Filters
The first and easiest step is cleaning the filter each month. With a traditional HVAC system, you’d buy a new filter regularly and change it out. Ductless is a little different.
Instead of swapping out disposable filters, you clean out the one in each air handler once a month. It’s a little more work, but costs less money and is better for the environment.
If you haven’t done that in a while, get into the habit. It’ll prevent all sorts of contamination and make your system run more effectively.
Air Conditioner Tune-Ups
An annual air conditioner tune-up is a quick way to keep your system clean and working efficiently all summer. It’s when a service tech cleans out the system, replaces any worn or broken parts, and in general, makes sure everything’s in great shape.
For a mini-split, a tune-up is also essential for keeping the warranty valid. Check the fine print: You need a certified tech to maintain it regularly, or the manufacturer won’t do anything if there’s a problem with a unit.
And, in the case of funky smells, it’s an ounce of prevention versus a pound of cure.
A tech will spot just about any of these problems while inspecting the system. That includes debris, trash, or yes — even animal remains around the outdoor components.
If you’ve noticed any of these odd odors, or if you’d prefer to avoid these and other problems before the warm weather kicks in, call John Cipollone today. We’re ready to help you out with any issues you’re having or prevent them from cropping up in the first place.