Air conditioners can occasionally produce strange odors, especially when they are first turned on for the season. Usually they are harmless, and just the result of dust and other debris in the ductwork. If you notice a sulfur, rotten egg, or skunk-like odor, however, that could be an indication that you have a natural gas leak.
What to Do When You Smell Gas
A natural gas leak can cause a fire or even an explosion if it is serious enough. It is important to leave the house immediately. If you can, open a window on the way out so that the gas does not accumulate, then call your utility company or emergency services from outside the home or from a neighbor’s house. A utility company representative will be able to shut off the gas supply safely, and once the gas dissipates, you can have a plumber repair the natural gas leak.
Why is the Smell Coming from the AC Unit?
In many homes, the air conditioner shares the blower motor, fan, and ductwork with the furnace. If the natural gas supply to the furnace is leaking, the air conditioner can draw in the gas though the return ducts and spread it throughout the home. Likewise, air conditioners are often located in basements, attics, or utility rooms, near appliances like water heaters and their natural gas piping. Leaks in those systems can also cause the air conditioner to draw in natural gas.
Ideally, the return ducts should be drawing air from the living space, and not the basement, attic, or utility room. This could be a sign that your air ducts are leaking, and once the gas leak is repaired, it is a good idea to have the air ducts sealed and insulated properly. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, up to 30% of the conditioned air in an HVAC system is lost due to duct leaks, and sealing and insulating your air ducts can improve heating and cooling efficiency by up to 20%, or more.
Other Possible Causes of a Gas Smell
In its original state, natural gas is odorless. Suppliers add a chemical called methyl mercaptan that produces the signature sulfur or rotten egg-like odor for easier detection of leaks. The smell is similar to other common odors, such as skunk spray or the late stages of decomposition. A rotten egg-like odor could also indicate that a rodent, bird, or other animal has been nesting in your air ducts and has since died. In that case, it is a good idea to have your air ducts cleaned and sanitized while repairing any damage the animal has caused.
Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing Services in Baltimore, MD
Need help with a gas smell or other unusual odors in your AC unit? Call our team at Air, Plumbing & Heating Solutions. We can repair natural gas leaks, clean and seal your air ducts, repair your air conditioner, and more. We serve customers throughout the Baltimore area, providing quality heating, air conditioning, and plumbing services. With more than 33 years of experience, you can count on us for superior service and professional results.
Call us today at 410-356-4016 or contact us online to schedule service in Baltimore, Owings Mills, Ellicott City, or the surrounding areas!