July 24, 2024

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Why Your Air Conditioner Smells Like Vinegar

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Last Updated on February 10, 2022 by Journal Fact

Turning on the air conditioner and you get an unpleasant smell from it is not a good sign. That probably means that the air conditioner has some kind of issue. If you notice a vinegar smell coming out of the air conditioner then that means that there is an issue with the electric motor. Maybe the electric motor is damaged or maybe there is some other issue.

This smell usually comes out of your air conditioner when you turn it on after decades or after a few months. Mostly most people turn it on when the summers fall in. You may be a nasty smell that is not bearable. An air conditioner that gives you a nasty smell may have something to do with the condensation removal problem. Condensation is the by-product of that cooling method within the air conditioner. If the air conditioner is drained improperly the bacteria can grow within the system and when you turned it on you will feel a vinegar smell coming out of the air conditioner.

Reasons why the air conditioner smell like vinegar

There are plenty of reasons that can be held responsible for air conditioners smelling like vinegar. A few of the main reasons are mentioned below.

Electric Motor:

The main purpose of the electric motor is to clean the air inside the air conditioner to reduce biological pathogens. But after the air conditioner is run for a long period, the electric motor may get damaged over time and it can emit ozone which in return cause a sour smell similar to vinegar. The moment you feel the sour smell you should immediately repair or replace your electric motor as soon as possible for the safety of the environment. Or if you feel something strange you must quickly check the wiring near the electric motor.

Extra Condensation:

Condensation is one of the most expected and normal problems that can occur with air conditioners. Condensation is the normal procedure that occurs when the air conditioner is working and maintaining the production of air. The problem occurs when too much condensation appears it can collect in different areas of the air conditioner and result produce a vinegar smell. This usually occurs because the coils get covered with extra condensation. This is a serious issue that can damage the Air conditioner and AC can lose its efficiency. To get rid of this problem you must clean the coils of the air conditioner and change the filter regularly.

Mold Build-up in Ductwork:

Mold in the Air conditioner can cause serious problems that you and your family have to face. This will not only affect the Air conditioner but go beyond the limit. If your Air conditioner smells like vinegar due to Mold build-up then you should take precautionary measures to fix this issue. Get access to the Mold in the air conditioner and remove it. This can be done by professionals to make sure that the Mold is removed permanently. Due leave the leftover Molds because they can spread again.

Clogged Condensate pan:

If your air conditioner is running for a long period without a filter or without being serviced then you have to deal with the clogged condensate pan problem. The condensate pan is located right below the water coil in an AC. The main purpose of this coil is to collect the moisture that is dripping from the fixture. To resolve this issue, you have to pour a gallon of water on the overflow plan that is located under the air handler. If the water drains in the secondary drain line then it means you have correctly applied the procedure and the smell will disappear.

Malfunctioning Filter:

If you have not changed your air conditioner filter for a long time then it can cause problems. This filter will prevent your system from providing enough air that will be cycling throughout the system. You will sour smell and it will spread in the whole room. The more the dust is captured inside the filter worse it’s going to get. To get rid of this problem the solution is quite simple and easy. Change and replace the filter inside the air conditioner. Make sure that the filter is placed at the right spot.

Types of smell

  • Mildew: This smell may occur due to a clogged air filter which means that the condensate drain line is clogged. Another reason for this smell is due to ductwork that the ductwork is not properly sealed.
  • Rotten Eggs: This smell is very unpleasant and it indicates that some animal has made its way inside the air conditioner and died. If you ever feel this kind of smell open your system and clean it before it gets worse.
  • Dirty Socks: No one wants to inhale this kind of smell. This smell is usually known as dirty socks syndrome. It usually occurs due to the presence of bacteria and Mold on the air handler.


Strange smells coming out of your system are an indication that something is not right. Many different reasons are mentioned above due to which air conditioner can smell like vinegar.

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