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Question DetailsAsked on 8/30/2015

my hvac smells sour/garbage like but is not continuously present

I live in a "luxury' apartment. The smell comes and go and is the strongest around the hVAC and water heater closet... its a subtle smell that i eventually start to smell all through out my 938 sq ft apartment. It smells stinky like garbage or sewage.. It seems to be worse at night or when the temperature outside drops. My apartment complex is not helping (so I feel), I don't feel the maintenance is well rehearsed in Hvac issues... please help

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1 Answer

Voted Best Answer

Search "dirty socks syndrone" ,if that is what you have it is the most common odor issue with HVAC.

Other then that, have the system cleaned, be sure they clean the indoor unit and coil.


Answered 4 years ago by BayAreaAC


BayAreaAC addressed smelly sock or stinky sock syndrome. This is most often smelled at forced air HVAC outlets, almost always only in air conditioning use.

You said strongest around HVAC and water heater - try to (with them shut off) sniff around and figure out which area they smell strongest at. If this smell is in the general room, not at the HVAC unit itself (especially if maintains smell when it is running so pulling fresh air out of the room past the evaporator, which can smell like that), I would be looking for a fungal growth in wood due to a leaking pipe (maybe in wall, maybe wetting foot or wall or overhead joists), or an open sewer pipe connection or floor drain that has gone dry. Or possible a small leak, maybe from overpressure/overtemp valve on water heater or boiler, which is leaving stagnant liquid in a catch pan under the unit.

Smell also at the access panel to the A/C evaporator - that is the common source of stinky sock smell. Try airing the apartment out WELL with open windows with A/C off, then close windows and run the A/C and see if smell comes out of the vents stronger than it smells in the utility room. If stronger from vents, probably a fungal or bacterial growth on the A/C evaporator or nearby in the vents. If stronger in the utility room and dimishes when aired out but returns strongly when A/C is running I would not be looking at the A/C as the most likely culprit.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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