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If you’ve ever been walking through your home, only to catch a bizarre, gross, or unidentifiable smell, you aren’t alone. There are numerous sources for strange odors in your home, and according to this recent WebMD study, many could be related to your Baltimore, MD HVAC system. If you’ve ever wondered where a bad HVAC smell is originating from in your home, here are a few of the most common sources.

1. Moisture in Your Air Conditioning System

If you hit a hot stretch over the summer, this could lead to moisture in your air conditioner. Standing water in drain pans, water or leaks in your ductwork, and clogged drainage lines can all lead to retained moisture in your HVAC system. When this happens, the moisture fosters the growth of bacteria or mold, which creates a musty or moldy smell. To make matters worse, when the blower for your air conditioner turns on, it moves this smell throughout the house.

If you’ve started to smell a musty odor from your air conditioner, one of the most difficult things to do is to find the source. You could try to fix it with a mold killer if you find where it’s located. Otherwise, one of the trained professionals at Griffith Energy Services is more skilled at tackling the problem.

2. Refrigerant Leak

Whether you have a traditional air conditioner, a heat pump, or a ductless mini-split, your system needs a refrigerant to provide the cooling power you want and need. However, this refrigerant can leak in older or improperly maintained systems, causing a smell that reeks of acetone. If you don’t know what acetone smells like off the top of your head, it’s sometimes used as a finger nail polish remover, and it’s found in some paints and solvents.

If you smell acetone in your home, it’s a sign that there could be a refrigerant leak. While this ruins the effectiveness and efficiency of your HVAC system, it can also pose a health hazard and even a fire hazard if it’s exposed to an open flame. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy for a professional to locate and repair and then replenish the refrigerant.

3. Poor Ventilation

One of the more common and modern sources of gnarly smells in your home is poor ventilation. The reason this has recently become a bigger problem is because energy-efficient windows, insulation, and doors don’t allow any air to escape the home. While this helps cut energy usage and monthly bills, it also prevents proper air ventilation and circulation.

While this may just lead to a stale odor, it can also become the source of unpleasant, unidentifiable odors. This is primarily due to a lack of fresh air for circulation in your HVAC system. If that’s the issue, you need to let more air into your house when possible. Whenever the weather is mild, turn off your HVAC system and let your home breathe. Make sure to do this when you get the chance, as summer and winter aren’t ideal times to air out and ventilate your home.

4. Electrical Problems

If you’ve ever turned on your HVAC system and gotten a huge whiff of something overheating, there’s a good chance that you have an electrical problem. However, it could be simpler than that. If you have a clogged or dirty air filter, it causes the unit to overheat because it restricts the air flow. If that’s not the problem, more complex electrical problems may be the culprit.

When there are electrical problems, don’t try to fix them yourself. Doing so can result in catastrophic injury or even death. Instead, call us for an ac repair or to inspect the electrical wiring of the air conditioner or furnace. You can also avoid the problem altogether by getting a routine tuneup, which often catches these types of problems before they become serious.

5. Dust Settling on the Heat Exchanger

When you first turn on your furnace after the long summer, you may start to smell something like burning gas. Though this may seem alarming, it’s nothing to worry about as long as it doesn’t persist. Dust gathered on the heat exchanger of the furnace while it was not being used; then when you turned it on, it simply burned off the dust. Typically, this burning smell should only last a short while, and after a few minutes, you won’t have to worry about it again.

6. Gas Leak

If you heat your home with natural gas, leaks are always a concern, even if you properly maintain your unit. When your unit leaks natural gas, a strong rotten egg smell is present. Although natural gas is actually odorless, gas companies add a harmless chemical called mercaptan to the gas to make it easily recognizable. If you smell rotten eggs, it’s a sign that you should turn off the gas and call us to come out and inspect your unit. Once you turn off the gas, don’t use any electronics or open flames near the area where you smelled the natural gas. Doing so could lead to an explosion or fire that could cause catastrophic damage.

7. Dead Animals

When cold weather strikes Easton, sending temperatures well below the freezing point, it’s uncomfortable for you and your family. The only way to combat these cold temperatures is by firing up the furnace. However, turning on your furnace can also attract some unwanted visitors. Rodents look for warmth wherever they can during winter, and many find your home a suitable place to settle down for the season.

Unfortunately, most of these animals try to remain undetected throughout their stay. While this is better for peace of mind, it also means they can die somewhere in the house or ventilation system. When the system kicks on, it blows the disgusting, decaying stench into the home. Another problem is caused by rodenticides. If you see a mouse and put down poison bait blocks instead of glue traps or traditional mousetraps, the rodent can eat it and die somewhere you can’t see.

The best way to find out if you have a dead animal in your house is by using your senses. Your nose doesn’t lie, and it helps you identify whether a dead animal is in your ducts, in the wall, or somewhere else. If the smell seems to blanket the home, go straight to the source. Inside your HVAC system is something called an air handler, which is right behind your air filter. Often, mice get trapped in here and die, and each time your blower turns on, it creates a nasty smell.

8. Living Rodents

A strong odor of urine coming from your HVAC system is often a red flag that some portion of it has now become a mouse house. Mice urinate and defecate frequently in their lairs, and this smell comes out of your vents when the air conditioner or furnace turns on.

To get rid of this smell, you obviously need to find where the mice are living. During winter, it’s usually in the air handler or another place where there’s warm air present. Once you find the mice, it’s best to turn to an array of traps to take care of the problem. Poisons are trickier because, as stated above, the mice can eat them and die in a place you can’t get to. Once the mice are gone, Griffith Energy Services offers several ways to improve your home’s indoor air quality.

9. Bacteria Growth

Sometimes you may smell what may be described as dirty socks. This is typically the result of bacteria growing on the coils of your air conditioner or heat pump. Most often, this problem is easily remedied by calling us for either routine maintenance or a tuneup.

We Can Help

When it comes to your home, nothing’s worse than having a disgusting or peculiar smell. It’s not only gross for your family, but it can also present a health hazard for those with respiratory sensitivity. If you have a smell and need help identifying it or rectifying the problem, call Griffith Energy Services today.

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