Funny Smells Coming From Your HVAC

San Rafael

(415) 942-6565

Santa Rosa

(707) 452-3464

Have you ever flipped the switch on your home’s air conditioning, only to be met with some funny smells coming from your HVAC? A funny smell coming from your HVAC could be a sign that something is amiss with your system. Diagnosing problems with your HVAC at the first signs of trouble is the best way to protect your home from potential hazards and keep your HVAC running effectively and efficiently. Here are some common funny smells and what they mean for your HVAC.


The smell of rotten eggs or a sulfuric smell is an indicator of a gas leak. Naturally gas is odorless, so the sulfur smell is added to alert people of a gas leak. A gas leak is a very serious matter and should not be taken lightly. Prolonged exposure can make you very sick or worse. If you suspect you have a gas leak, get outdoors and call a professional right away.

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If you have an electric HVAC you might notice a burnt electrical smell. This could be a sign that your HVAC is overheating. It could be caused by restricted air flow, first, check your filter to make sure this isn’t the case. It is a good idea to contact a professional to further diagnose the problem.


Sometimes when you engage your heater after it hasn’t been used for a while, you may notice a burnt smell emitting from your vents. This is caused by dust that collects on the heat exchange over time. When the heater is not being used, dust can start to collect. The smell you are smelling is the dust burning up. This smell is usually short-lived and goes away once the dust is all burned off.


Dirty sock syndrome is a thing and often happens from bacteria that build up on the coils or heat pump. When the bacteria growth gets out of hand, you may notice the smell of dirty socks. This usually happens in the springtime, when you may be using both the heater and the air conditioning. The drastic temperature change creates an excellent breeding ground for bacteria. If you notice the smell of dirty socks, contact a professional. While it doesn’t necessarily pose a health threat, it can be a little unbearable.

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When the air conditioning is engaged your unit creates a lot of condensation. If this moisture isn’t properly drained it creates the perfect environment for mold and mildew to flourish. Mold spores can make you very sick if left unchecked, so you will want to take care of this matter right away to protect the air quality of your home.


The smell of urine coming from your vents is a sign that you have a vermin infestation. During the colder winter months, small animals seek out heat. So, they are naturally attracted to your heater. If they are successful at infiltrating your system and are living in your system, you may notice the smell of their urine. Unfortunately animal urine, like from rats, can make you very sick. In addition,  if the animal gets trapped and dies in your system, you will suffer another bad smell. Be proactive with this and call a professional right away.

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Do you have funny smells coming from your HVAC? Now is the perfect time to have your unit serviced. Regular maintenance for your HVAC can help identify potential problems and help your unit run stronger, longer, and more efficiently. Contact John Owens today to schedule your appointment.

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Serving Marin & Sonoma Counties

Good plumbing, heating, and air conditioning systems are vital in every North California home. John Owens Services, Inc. is proud to be the expert plumbing company you can count on

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Our philosophy is simple, we always want to maintain equipment to give it the longest life possible. Next, we want to focus on repairing when something goes wrong. Then only as the last choice, we replace equipment when needed. That’s the John Owens Way.

San Rafael
(415) 942-6565
Santa Rosa
(707) 452-3464



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San Rafael
(415) 942-6565
Santa Rosa
(707) 452-3464