Got Odors coming from your AC? Dirty Sock Syndrome & Burning Smells?

Does your Air Conditioner ever give off a dirty sock odor in air ducts or you notice a faint burning smell coming from your AC unit?



We are not trying to gross you out or scare you! However, we do want to inform you on why you might experience any unwanted odors coming from your air conditioner.



Let’s start with the dirty socks smell. Most likely, the odor is coming from your air conditioners condensation drain pan. A condensation drain pan is where the condensate made on the evaporator coil drains before is travels out the condensation line. Simply put, when your air conditioner is on, the air goes through a coil, thin slices of aluminum, that are made colder by the freon. As the air travels through the coils, it gets colder, plus it loses moisture because of dew point. The moisture it loses is collected on the evaporator coil and runs down to the condensation drain pan and then out the condensation line. However, if the water becomes trapped in the condensation drain pan, it will start to sour and smell like dirty socks. Oh, and for good measure, buildup of moisture and bacteria gets trapped in between the aluminum fins, adding to the stench.



The smell has a name, Dirty Sock Syndrome, and it’s caused by mold and bacteria in your HVAC system, and can be removed and prevented with the right steps.



So is this smell harmful?

While the effects generally aren’t life-threatening, they can certainly be debilitating. Effects of air pollutants can include the following:


  • Eye irritation

  • Nose and throat irritation

  • Headache

  • General fatigue

  • Respiratory illnesses


Mold and bacteria won’t cause each of these for everyone, but the smell is undeniably annoying and noticeable, and the worst cases of it can indeed become health irritants.

According to the EPA, the average American spends 90% of their life indoors. So, make sure your indoor living is comfortable and odor free.

How Does a Condensation Drain Pan get clogged?

  • Poor Installation

  • Insects

  • Mud

  • Slime

  • Dirty Coil

If the air conditioner unit is not installed properly, the drain could be at the high side of the pan, so the water would always be in the pan. Making adjustments to the installation should allow the pan to drain into the condensation line that leads to the outdoors.

If the condensation line gets clogged due to insects, mud, slime build up, etc, water cannot drain out of the pan. Flushing your condensation line and cleaning out your condensation drain pan might solve the problem. However, if the pan is dirty, the probability of your coils being dirty is greater and could lead to a bigger problem. It is always a good idea to have your coils cleaned out by a professional at least once a year.

A Burning Smell Coming from My Air Conditioner

A burning smell coming from your AC needs to be taken a little bit more seriously than the dirty sock odor. If you notice a faint burning smell coming from your air conditioning units, you should immediately turn off your AC system and call the professionals at Top Quality Heating & Cooling.


What causes a burning smell to come from my AC unit?

  • Electrical Fires

  • Air Filter

  • Blower Motor

Every air conditioning unit uses an electric ignition to function, so it’s important to be wary of electrical fires if you ever notice a burning smell coming from the AC system. Stay on the side of caution and shut down your AC.

Could it be a non-electrical issues?

If you’re absolutely certain the burning smell isn’t stemming from an electrical issue, there are a couple of places to start so you can find the source of the problem.

Air Filter. First, take a look at the air filter. A clogged filter can create a buildup of dust, debris, and other particles, which in turn can lead to a burning smell from the AC unit. Air conditioner filters should be changed every three months, on average, or every month during seasons of heavy use. If changing the air filter of the unit doesn’t eliminate the burning smell, the problem might be the blower motor.

Blower Motor. A faulty motor can lead to a buildup of dust, or a lack of lubrication – both of which can lead to overheating and, as a result, a burning smell. If the issue is stemming from the air conditioner motor, you will likely need to contact a professional to repair or replace the mechanism.

And all this bring us to the real reason you are having unwelcome smells in your home from your air conditioner.

Consistent Air Conditioning Maintenance and Service



Whatever the issue might be – keeping a consistent maintenance schedule and fixing problems as soon as they arise can help prolong the life of your air conditioner unit, so you can stay comfortable in your home no matter the weather outdoors.

Top Quality Heating & Cooling offers the best maintenance programs in Alpharetta, Ballground, Canton, Jasper, Johns Creek, Marietta, Roswell, Blairsville, Blue Ridge, Acworth, Woodstock, and all of North Georgia. We dare you to compare the quality and price with any other HVAC provider. www.topqualityhc.com/maintenance.

If dirty socks and a burning smell is coming from your air conditioning, don’t ignore this very clear sign that something is wrong. Turn off the unit and contact the HVAC experts at Top Quality Heating & Cooling today! 678-928-1728.

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