A musty odor from your AC unit, if you have started it after a long gap, is not uncommon. But if the smell persists, there may be a problem.
Odor from the AC is not just annoying or embarrassing when you have visitors at home but can also cause physical problems, especially for family members who suffer from respiratory disorders or allergies.
Senior citizens and children are particularly prone to ailments in such cases owing to their low immunity. It can cause headaches and nausea in anyone who is sensitive to these types of smells.
So, if your AC is giving out a bad odor in the air, there are certain things that you need to check and rectify.
1. Check the air filters
Dirt filled and clogged air filters often cause bad odors in the house. That is because the air passing through the filters is not clean any more. It can carry mold and bacteria with it and disperse it around the house as well, making the air unhealthy. Clean and replace air filters from time to time so that your AC can function smoothly.
2. Check drain pans
The condensation that collects inside air conditioners needs to be drained out. This gets collected in the drain pan. A condensate line moves from the pan to expel the water outside the system. If either of these are not functioning properly, water could accumulate and give out a foul smell.
3. Ensure that the ductwork is clean and unclogged
Ducts are places in the air conditioning system where a lot of dirt can gather. It is also a favorable place for insects, rodents and vermin who could reside there and dirty the ducts. In case rodents die inside, it will adversely affect air quality and also lead to a bad smell. You can get an HVAC technician to check for vermin infestation and to clean the ductwork.
4. Undertake regular cleaning and maintenance
Preventive cleaning and maintenance will ensure that your air HVAC system functions at optimum level. Avoiding unclean components and build-up of mold or dirt inside the system will keep foul smells at bay. You can have a maintenance contract with an HVAC company who will check your system every season. This is also helpful in detecting any minor glitches in the AC unit, which can be repaired in time, before they hamper system functioning or turn into high cost repairs and replacements.
Installing an air purifier is an additional option to prevent foul smells and have clean air.
In case the odor is an electrical burning smell and not just a musty or damp smell, you need to get your system checked urgently. Such a smell could indicate problems in the fan or compressor motor.
You could also be facing a short circuit which may have caused any wires to burn.
In these kinds of cases, the best thing to do would be to switch off your system and get an HVAC technician to check the cause of the smell and replace the damaged portion so your wonderful Bay Area life can continue.