Why Does My AC Smell Like Vinegar?

Everyone loves the cool air from the air-conditioners during the summer. However, it can be disappointing to smell vinegar in the same air and not know the reason behind it. 

Let me tell you that your AC can smell like vinegar and many other things! Along with the causes, I will also tell you how to get rid of the smell.

AC smells like vinegar

Why Is My AC Smelling Like Vinegar?

Your AC can smell like vinegar for many reasons: a blockage in the condensation pan causing heavy condensation, a malfunction in the air filters, mold or bacteria in ductwork, ozone emission, and faulty or malfunctioning filters.

Below I will explain five of the most common reasons.

Blockage in the condensation pan 

When your AC is working properly and is emitting cold air in the room, it will have some condensation on its coils. A condensation pan is a tool underneath the coils that drains the condensation dripping down from them and ensures that water does not impact the electric circuitry of the AC.

However, if the pan is not getting drained properly due to a blockage, it may lead to the growth of bacteria, mold, and other harmful pathogens. Molds are one of the main reasons why your AC smells like vinegar. 

Molds are harmful to our health, and you must clean the condensation pan thoroughly with hot water to ensure that there is no mold growth on them. You should do this once a week.

Air filter malfunction 

If your AC filter is malfunctioning or faulty, your AC may smell like vinegar. The main job of a filter is to prevent molds, bacteria, and other toxins from entering the AC. It ensures that the air released in the rooms is free from molds and, thus, healthy for human beings.

A malfunctioned or faulty AC filter will be unable to keep out molds and other toxins. They will start to grow inside the AC, leading to a smell similar to vinegar. If this is happening, make sure to clean your air filters thoroughly and replace them regularly. 

Electric motor emitting ozone 

Ozone, when near the earth, is harmful to the environment. There is always a debate on whether it is necessary to use this pollutant. Even so, many AC units use ozone to clear the air from biological pathogens.

The electric motors in the AC emit ozone which has a burning wire-like smell. If the motor starts producing a large amount of ozone, the smell gets stronger and becomes similar to the odor of vinegar. 

Ozone is toxic to the environment. If released in high amounts, it can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular disease in humans. Hence if you suspect that the cause behind the vinegar smell is ozone, please get your unit checked by a professional immediately.

Presence of mold in ductwork 

Typically, ductwork systems in air conditioners don’t allow the growth of molds and other types of debris. However, it is still possible for these toxins to grow in them. As mentioned earlier also, mold can be extremely unhealthy for us. 

Ductwork mold can give out a smell that smells like vinegar. To avoid this smell from reaching the ductwork,  you must contact a good HVAC repair firm to fix the system. 

Rodents may have also made a home in the equipment (since there is a presence of molds and other toxins in there). Professional cleaners will use specialized tools and chemicals that can clean up these contaminants. 

Excessive condensation 

When the internal system is working correctly, a limited amount of condensation will happen.  This condensation is a necessary part of the air conditioning system, as explained earlier.

However, when the AC is not working properly, such as when the temperature is too high or there is some malfunction in the internal system, the machine can create more condensation than usual. 

In such cases, the condensation pan is unable to carry the dripping condensation which leads to leakage of water inside the AC unit. 

This moisture inside the unit creates molds, bacteria, and other toxins. The entire AC unit starts smelling like vinegar and needs to be properly taken apart and cleaned by experts.

How To Prevent The Vinegar Smell?

The smell of vinegar is undoubtedly discomfiting. But what is more disturbing is that the molds and bacteria that are creating this odor can make you sick. You need to make sure that this does not happen, and here are a few things that you can do to ensure this.

Open the windows

If you notice the vinegar odor filling the room the minute you turn on the AC, open all the doors and windows, and turn on all the fans. 

This might be happening during the summer when the outside temperature is too hot for the AC, and hence it might be creating too much condensation.

Opening your windows will help dissipate the odor. Moreover, it will also help to remove excess condensation. However, you will have to turn off the AC for some time. 

Clean your AC regularly 

Make sure to turn off your AC before opening its lid and check for blockage in the condensation pan, damaged coils, air filter, etc. If you notice a blockage, use a strong cleaning agent to thoroughly clean off these areas and eliminate molds, bacteria, and other toxins. 

Call a Professional 

The best way to get rid of the vinegar smell is to call a professional and fix the problem. 

Since they understand how AC works, they’ll do the needful to make sure that its system is as good as new. They can also inspect your AC for any other potential issues, such as the leakage of ozone. 

Tip: are you looking for the Best Ventless Portable Air Conditioner?

Frequently asked questions 

Can my car AC also smell like vinegar?

If any mold, bacteria, or similar toxin gets into the car AC, it can release an odor similar to vinegar, just like it can do in a home AC. To prevent this odor, keep your car AC clean and get it inspected regularly during your car checkups. 

How to stop my AC from smelling like vinegar?

The best way to stop your AC from smelling like vinegar is to keep its system clean and free from moisture. 

You can use a homemade cleaner (such as baking soda and water solution) or purchase one from the market to clean the filter, condensation pan, and other equipment in the AC. 

Can I use vinegar to clean my AC?

No, don’t use vinegar directly to clean your AC unit. Instead, mix it with water to clean the vents and wipe the coils. Pour the solution into a bottle, and spray it over the AC and its components. 

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Wrap Up 

From condensation to ozone emissions, the reasons responsible for your AC smelling like vinegar are many. Take professional help to fix your AC if it happens because the continuous release of a vinegar-like smell can lead to sickness. 

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