Troubleshoot: Why Does My Ductless Mini Split Smell Funny?

Troubleshoot: Why Does My Ductless Mini Split Smell Funny?

A ductless mini split system in your home can give you just about the best year-round comfort imaginable.

When everything’s working the way it should, of course.

As with any piece of machinery, things can go wrong with a mini split or heat pump system. And, in some cases, your nose may alert you to a problem.

That’s our topic for this article: Why your mini split is suddenly giving off a really bad odor. And, what those different funny smells could mean.

The bad news is that there are usually no quick, do-it-yourself fixes. On the other hand, however, most of these problems are straightforward for a professional to handle.

In other words, you don’t need to worry too much about that weird smell. But get it checked out right away to avoid a small problem getting worse.

Here in South Jersey, Broadley’s is the place to call. We’ve served homes and businesses from Ventnor and Avalon down through Cape May for more than 100 years. And today, we’re experts when it comes to high-end systems such as mini splits and heat-pump setups.

Click below to contact us. Or, call (609) 390-3907.

Contact Broadley’s About Your Mini Split

Three Bad Smells Coming From My Mini Split (And What They Mean)

Here are the three most common “bad smell” calls we get for ductless heating and cooling systems:

  1. My Mini Split Smells Like Dirty Socks
  2. My Mini Split Smells Like Fish
  3. My Mini Split Smells Like Vinegar

Let’s look at what each of them could mean.

My Mini Split Smells Like Dirty Socks

Your Ductless System May Smell Like Dirty Socks…Gross

That stale, cheesy odor has a specific name in the HVAC industry: “Dirty Sock Syndrome.” It’s not exclusive to mini splits. Nor does it mean someone left their gym bag out.

Instead, it’s an indicator of a mold infestation. And, in the case of a ductless system, it’s probably in your air handler.

Mold requires three factors to thrive: warmth, darkness, and moisture. You’ll find all three of those in your ductless system.

Even if you clean out the filter or get a regular tune-up, you’re not addressing any mold spores taking root under the barrel fans or behind the coils on your air handler.

Fortunately, there’s an easy fix to this problem. We’ll get to it a little later.

My Mini Split Smells Like Fish

If your mini split gives off a smell that’s similar to fish, it’s likely that a small animal died near your indoor units. It could be something in the walls or nearby.

That scent you’re picking up is caused by bacteria and other small particles from the body decomposing.

We’ll note that this is different from conventional systems. With a furnace, ductwork, and vents, people often report a rotten egg smell when animal remains are nearby.

If you do pick up this odor, do a visual inspection around the heat pump outside and your air handler inside. Also, check to see if you pick up a rotting smell anywhere else in your home. There may be a dead mouse or rodent behind a wall somewhere.

My Mini Split Smells Like Vinegar

A vinegar-like smell from your mini split indicates an electrical problem somewhere in the system. You probably have a leak, or there’s a component overheating. It’s also possible that a wire or other part is melting.

Take a look at the bottom of your air handler. And take off the cover and filter. Do you also notice tiny brown droplets that almost look like mouse urine?

If so, that’s not a sign of infestation. More likely, it’s the residue from a part that’s burnt or melting.

Once again, this is a different odor for conventional systems. Usually, an electrical problem with a gas furnace and ductwork gives off a fishy smell.

And, as we’ve discussed here, a fishy smell in a ductless system often means animal remains.

Back to mini splits: Instead of vinegar, some homeowners have described a “chemical” smell. IN extreme cases, people also experienced eye irritation and scratchy throats.

Either way, it’s time to turn off your system (if it’s not extremely hot or cold out) and call a professional. The last thing you’ll want is for that electrical problem to get worse and affect more parts of your system.

Mini Split Tune-Ups And Cleanings

Your Ductless System May Smell Like Dirty Socks…Gross

So what’s the solution when you have a mold infestation or animal remains producing a foul odor? You’ll need a mini split cleaning, where a professional partially takes each unit apart and uses a cleaning solution to flush out all sorts of contaminants.

It’s a fast and straightforward process and can take an hour or less. And, you’d be surprised at how much junk can build up inside your system — even if you clean out the filter regularly.

You can also stay ahead of most problems with mini split tune-ups. That’s when a tech comes out and services the unit at the beginning of the heating and cooling seasons.

Read More: Service Contract FAQs For South Jersey Homes

You’ll get a basic cleaning at that point, which will help prevent debris from building up. Plus, you’ll keep your warranty valid when your hVAC company logs regular maintenance visits.

And, you’ll get better heating and cooling.

Read More: What’s The Difference Between A Tune-Up And A Safety Check?

Ductless Heating And Cooling In South Jersey

Broadley’s is the local expert when it comes to mini splits, heat pumps, and ductless heating and cooling here in South Jersey. We’ve served Cape May and Atlantic counties for more than a century, and we’re ready to help you, too! Click below or call us at (609) 390-3907.

Schedule A Mini Split Cleaning