Your HVAC Vents Smell Like Skunk, but is it Something Else?
What the! Is that a skunk outside? In the garage? Maybe in the crawlspace? In the house?
It’s coming out of the air vent. It reeks like skunk. What are you supposed to do when your AC is making your whole house smell like skunk spray? What does the odor really mean about your HVAC? Your HVAC vents smell like skunk, but it’s probably something else.
Your AC is Making the Whole House Smell Like Skunk
Imagine having guests over on a hot Carolina summer day. Then a foul odor floods everywhere in the house all at once. Is it rotten eggs? Sulfur? The dog? Skunk?
Maybe you can’t rule out a skunk completely. It’s possible a skunk let loose right next to the house.
What a Skunk Smell Probably Means
More likely, a skunk-like odor coming through your vents means you have a gas leak in your HVAC system. Specifically, methyl mercaptan, a gas that smells a whole lot like a skunk’s spray, could be entering your ductwork and the house. This is a hazardous gas that can place you and your family in danger. You should evacuate your residence. Then you should contact an HVAC company as soon as possible.
It can be easy to get a bad smell from your HVAC unit, stinky sewer gas and the smell of natural gas confused. In the case of natural gas, it is naturally odorless. Therefore, mercaptan is added to natural gas so the smell alerts people to a gas leak. It is supposed to signal danger.
If you are unable to tell the difference between skunk from an air vent or natural gas smell, contact an HVAC company and your gas or utility company to make sure it is addressed safely. If you get the terrible skunk odor when you turn your air conditioning on, that will make it fairly obvious. Either way, take the problem seriously.
What’s Sewer Gas?
Gas and terrible odors can come from your home’s septic or sanitary sewer system. It is mostly methane, which is odor-free by itself. The odor comes from methane combine with other gasses such as hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide originates and builds down in the sewer or septic system as it’s from the degrading and decomposing of raw material (plants and animal).
You’re most likely to get odors and the worst of the odors with what’s called “dry tap.” This is when you have a sink, toilet or drain which hasn’t been used in a long time. It is dry. When water runs through the line for the first time in a long time, it moves the gas which has built up in the open dry space.
Other explanations can be a broken drain line sending sewer gas somewhere, often into a crawl space. A clogged pipe can send gas and the smell into the house.
What Can You Do About Skunk Smell?
If you smell anything terrible, like skunk, sulfur or rotten eggs, first and most important, make sure your family is away from the smell and safe.
Then, you can check your AC system, and turn it off if you’re fairly sure that’s where the gas is coming from. You can also look for any dry taps and run water through them. It could be a damaged drain line. It could be a plugged vent from up the attic or from out
side. It is possible, although a pretty rare thing, for a dead animal to be near a vent, in a crawl space or in part of a septic or sewer system. It’s usually smart to call a professional expert.
While gas from an air vent, the sewer or natural gas stinks, there’s more to worry about. It can also be unsafe to your health and safety if it lasts very long. In a restricted space, methane gas can displace oxygen and be very dangerous. The hydrogen sulfide is additionally harmful.
More Horrible Odors and What They Probably Mean
You or a technician needs to reach the source of the problem. Besides skunk, other frequent bad odors may tell you there’s a larger problem.
If your air smells like feet, as in nasty feet, you might have sitting water somewhere in your system.
The smell of exhaust fumes coming from your AC probably is from fluids or chemicals leaking from a part in the system.
If you AC smells like gunpowder, it likely is because a mechanical part, like a fan motor or circuit board has just blown or burnt out.
A mildew or moldy smell is common in the humid Carolinas. Mold or fungus can grow in your HVAC system. If your system has excess moisture in it, or isn’t condensing well enough, or draining right, this problem can literally grow. Dirty filters can smell like mold or mildew.
Dead animals are possible and will smell really bad, like a dead animal. Birds, mice and small animals can go inside an air duct, or even live there. If you find this, you’ll want to contact a professional to handle this job.
At South End Heating and Air we specialize in HVAC and furnace repair, call us for a free consult. We’ll evaluate your system and help make recommendations for optimum value. After all, we want to keep you cool all summer long and warm in the winter. Just schedule a visit with one of our technicians to talk about how we can help with your heating needs. Would you like to learn more options our techs can help you with? give us a call 704-684-5339