why does my home's air conditioner smell like vinegar?Having a properly working air conditioner in your home or business can help keep the climate comfortable for everyone involved. But over time, you may start to notice unpleasant odors coming from your air conditioning vents.

There are a couple main reasons you may be noticing this unpleasant odor which can smell like vinegar, and pinpointing the cause can help you determine the best plan of action in eliminating the smell.

Bacteria and Mold

One of the most common odor causing issues may be due to bacteria build up or mold spores. As your air conditioner puts out cooler air, it may start to also collect moisture. If this excess moisture isn’t being expelled or evaporated properly, it can lead to mold and bacteria issues.

Breathing both mold spores and bacterial blooms can cause health issues in you and others. If you start to notice any odor coming from your air conditioner, it’s important that you inspect the filters and condensation pans for excess moisture and black fuzz growing on any surfaces.

Excess Condensation

Having excess moisture is normally due to condensation building up in the air conditioner and not evaporating quick enough. Condensation is a normal part of a properly working air conditioner, but it usually evaporates faster than it builds up.

In heavily humid climates, your air conditioner may be overrun by the excess condensation and moisture. This standing water in the condensation pan can start to take on a pungent smell that has been likened to vinegar or a musty sour smell.

If you notice any standing water in your air conditioner’s condensation pan, or notice it is not dripping normally from an outside corner, you may want to check the condensation pan to see if it has become clogged. The small drain holes can be clogged by a buildup of dust, grime, or small leaves that make it into the air conditioner.

Quick Solutions to Eliminate the Odor

Remove Excess Moisture

Many air conditioners, especially window units and some larger residential HVAC units, have areas where you can access the condensation pan. If you notice dampness coming from your air conditioner while it is running, access the condensation pan and drain excess liquid from it. You can do this by ensuring the drain holes are not clogged, or by using an absorbent cloth to soak up the moisture.

Clean the Air Filter

The air filter requires regular cleaning to keep your air conditioner running at its best. Depending on your air conditioning brand, you may be able to wash the filter and replace it, or could need to replace it entirely with a new filter. Air filter replacement is a quick and simple process.

Clean the Vents

Ensuring the intake vents are clean is a great way to eliminate any mold spores that could be growing in them. Use a small brush to get into every little nook and cranny to remove even the smallest mold buildup.