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Dirty Sock Syndrome: The Smelly AC Problem

girl-pinches-noseOf all the troubles you might encounter with your air conditioning system, dirty sock syndrome is the one that triggers the most immediate reaction. It’s right there in the name—it sounds like something you absolutely don’t want in your house!

But what is dirty sock syndrome, and is it actually a significant air conditioning repair problem?

Dirty sock syndrome is almost exactly what it sounds like

If you notice an unpleasant odor drifting from the room vents that reminds you of a laundry basket full of sweaty gym socks … you’ve got dirty sock syndrome. This musty and moldy smell is pungent and hard to miss.

Where is it coming from? Mold and bacteria developing along the evaporator coils of your air conditioning system. Similar to the way damp, uncleaned socks can start picking up mold and bacteria, so can damp evaporator coils.

The evaporator coils are supposed to collect moisture along their surface when the air conditioning system is running. This is part of the heat absorption along the coils. As the refrigerant in the coils evaporates, moisture in the air condenses along the coils’ surface. This condensate then drips down into a pan, where it is pumped out of the AC and the house.

If an air conditioning system isn’t properly draining the condensate, the inside of the AC will become increasingly damp—the perfect environment for mold and bacteria to develop. Because all the air the AC system cools must pass over the evaporator coil, the odor from this mold and bacteria will spread everywhere. Presto—dirty sock syndrome.

Dirty sock syndrome is a serious problem

Of course, you won’t want the smell of dirty socks all over your house. But dirty sock syndrome creates other problems as well. A layer of mold across the evaporator coils will cause the air conditioning system to lose efficiency and cut into its cooling power. The mold can eventually cause permanent damage to the coil. Even worse is the possibility of black mold growing on the coils, which will send toxic mold spores into the house. Thankfully, this is rare—but don’t take the risk of leaving the problem.

Fixing dirty sock syndrome

Now that you know why the AC smells moldy, what can you do about it? The evaporator coils need to be cleaned. No, put away the spray bottle and the rags: you only want HVAC professionals to handle the job, which requires special tools and chemicals to completely eliminate the mold and bacteria. They can also fix whatever is wrong with the condensate system that caused the high humidity in the first place.

A tip to help prevent this problem in the future: use a good quality filter for the HVAC cabinet and change it regularly. This prevents dust from getting into the air conditioning system and giving mold and bacteria the ability to thrive.

We’re the HVAC contractor in Fresno, CA and the Central Valley who can help return your air conditioning system to peak condition. From smelly sock syndrome to anything else, you can rely on our team for repairs.

Purl’s Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning: Quality Is the Cornerstone of Our Success. Schedule service today!

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