Strange Smells

5 Sources of Strange Smells

July 28, 2019

Unusual smells in your home can be unpleasant and distracting for you, your family members, and your guests. If you detect an unpleasant smell, you should contact an expert to inspect your HVAC system and repair any problems before they become dangerous, expensive, or more uncomfortable. Common sources of strange smells can include a dirty air filter, an electrical problem, a gas leak, pests, and biological growth.

A Dirty Air Filter

If your HVAC system’s air filter is dirty, it can’t catch contaminants such as biological growth, dirt, smoke, dust, and pollen. In addition to bad smells, these pollutants can cause asthma or allergy symptoms, sore throats, headaches, fatigue, and other health problems.

If your HVAC system has a dirty air filter, you could notice a musty scent when you enter your home after being away for a while, and smells from cooking could linger in the air for longer than normal. You can prevent this issue by changing the air filter at least every few months. If the filter gets dirty more often, you could need duct cleaning. You could also have leaks in your home’s insulation or ducts that let large amounts of contaminants into your home.

An Electrical Problem

If your heater or air conditioner has a bad electrical component, you could notice a burning smell. Overheated parts and burned wires can be fire hazards, so you should have them checked by a professional as soon as possible. Fortunately, most repairs for electrical issues with your HVAC system are inexpensive.

You could detect a burning smell from excess dust when you turn on the heater for the first time in fall, but it shouldn’t last for more than a few minutes. If the smell gets worse or it doesn’t go away, you should turn it off and contact a professional. You should also have an expert check your HVAC system for electrical issues and other problems at least once per year.

A Natural Gas Leak

Natural gas doesn’t have a scent, but gas companies add mercaptan to it, a harmless compound that contains sulfur. This gives gas a smell like rotten eggs. Unless you actually have rotten eggs in your home, you could have a gas leak. You should shut off the gas and leave your home immediately if you notice this odor. Don’t turn any lights on or off, use the stove, or do anything else that could produce a spark and ignite the gas. You should also contact your local gas company immediately so that it can find and repair the leak.


If there are gaps or leaks, mice, cockroaches, and other pests can get into the ductwork. They leave droppings that produce unpleasant smells whenever you use the HVAC system. You should have the ductwork cleaned to avoid this problem, and you should use traps to catch larger pests such as mice. If you use poison or you don’t eliminate them, they could die in a place that’s hard for humans to find and access, and you might have to deal with the smell until you can locate and remove it.

Biological Growth

Biological growth can produce a musty or rotting smell. It can live in your ductwork, in carpeting, behind wallpaper, and in many other places. It can damage your home, lower the indoor air quality, and cause many of the same unpleasant, inconvenient health issues as dirty ductwork. You can prevent biological growth with a whole-home dehumidifier. You can also remove it with an air purifier or an energy recovery ventilator.

Lunsford Air Conditioning & Heating is a Carrier Factory Authorized Dealer with more than 35 years of heating, cooling, and indoor air quality experience. We’re a family business, and we’re committed to superior customer service. We can help you find and remove or repair sources of bad smells before they make you uncomfortable, cause damage, or start wasting energy. We use genuine factory authorized parts, and our technicians are certified by NATE, the North American Technician Excellence organization. For outstanding, honest service, call us anytime at 850-203-3200.

Image provided by Shutterstock

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