If you are experiencing foul odors when you turn on your central air conditioner, then your system may be affected by what is sometimes called dirty-sock syndrome. This problem, despite its comical name, is very real and can drive a home's occupants crazy. Below is more information on dirty-sock syndrome and what you can do to eliminate the problem:
What is dirty-sock syndrome?
Due to the prevalence of moisture and small particles of debris, air conditioning units can become ripe growth areas for mold. This mold can flourish inside your system's filter, ducts, and even coils, and you will need to address the problem to eliminate the source of the smell.
Despite the scare language often heard about "black" mold and how it can grow without being seen, mold is usually is not a significant health threat to ordinarily well individuals. While mold can cause sneezing, coughing, or other mild respiratory systems, it will not harm an average adult or child. However, individuals with asthma or sensitivity to allergens may be negatively affected. That means it should be promptly addressed if anyone inside your home suffers from these or similar issues.
Ways you can eliminate dirty-sock syndrome
Fortunately, routine maintenance of your air conditioner will often eliminate current problems and prevent future outbreaks of mold-related irritation. That means you should incorporate the following into your routine
Promptly remove wet filters - A wet air filter inside the central air conditioner adds an extra source of moisture in the unit, thus contributing to mold growth and discomfort inside the home. That is why you should change filters at least once per month, perhaps more often if you live in a home with pets.
Clean evaporator coil annually - The evaporator coil is located inside your air conditioning system's indoor unit, and it is where the air is cooled and moisture is removed. A dirty coil can trap moisture, which in turn allows mold and mildew to grow. Cleaning the coil is fairly easy; just remove the sheet metal cover protecting it and spray it off with commercially available coil cleaner.
Be sure the drain is functioning - Condensation drains from evaporator coils via a primary and secondary drain system. These drain lines lead to the outside of the home or are connected to an interior sewer line. However, due to the relatively narrow size of the drain lines and the constant presence of lukewarm water inside the lines, mold and bacterial growth can occur. A properly functioning drain system will produce a steady drip from the primary drain; if you don't see any water coming from either the primary or secondary, then you will need to clean the line. To clean the drain lines, carefully pour about one cup of laundry bleach into the open end of the drain lines where it leaves the indoor unit. This will kill mold and bacteria, and flush out the offensive matter.