There’s actually a name for when an HVAC system smells like dirty socks: Dirty Sock Syndrome. It’s a funny name for a serious problem that needs immediate attention.
While Dirty Sock Syndrome is more commonly found with heat pumps than with furnace and air conditioner combos, any kind of HVAC system can generate this smell. It’s the result of mildew, mold and other microbes collecting in your cooling system, and these things can be harmful to your health.
The problem is usually worst in the spring and fall seasons. In the case of a heat pump and sometimes other types of HVAC systems, it may be necessary for the system to generate heat in the mornings and cool air later in the same say. This causes moisture in the system to create the exact conditions conducive for the growth of organisms. If you have a traditional furnace, it usually gets much hotter in this kind of situation – hot enough to kill of those smell-causing and air-polluting organisms.
Solving Dirty Sock Syndrome
The mold, mildew and other organisms that cause your HVAC system’s Dirty Sock Syndrome are usually located in one or more of these three locations:
- Condensate lines and drain pans
- Evaporator coils
If the problem is with the drain pan, you must remove standing water, clean drains and try to find the reason for the system having so much condensation. An HVAC tech can help with this. Newer systems may have a sensor to notify you when the drain pan is filling up with water.
If the problem is related to your HVAC system’s evaporator coils, dust and debris could be creating a place for organisms to grow. You may be able to find adequate instructions online for cleaning your coils, but it’s a job best left to professionals. If the cleaning isn’t done right, dirt can become trapped and make things worse. The addition of UV purification may be necessary to keep the problem from returning.
Professional duct cleaning can solve the problem if the Dirty Sock Syndrome in your home is related to your ductwork.
If you experience this type of smell, the smell of sulfur or anything else unusual, don’t hesitate to contact us. An annoying smell could be harmful to you and your family and needs quick attention before it gets worse.
There’s a reason for every smell, and it needs to be corrected if you want to live comfortably in your home.