heat pump odor aka dirty sock syndrome

Does your home have a musty smell that reminds you of dirty socks? That’s certainly not a smell you want to live with everyday. Air conditioning or heat pump odors are sometimes referred to as “dirty sock syndrome.” The smell is not only obnoxious, but it can be unhealthy to breathe, especially for those who suffer from allergies or asthma.

Dirty sock syndrome is usually caused by mold or mildew growing inside your cooling system’s evaporator coils – which are housed in the indoor AC unit – and sometimes in the ductwork. The longer the problem goes unchecked, the worse the smell becomes and the more damage it can cause to your air conditioning or heat pump equipment.

This musty odor can be eliminated by cleaning the inside of your heat pump or air conditioning system wherever moisture builds up. Mold requires moisture to grow. Cleaning ductwork, evaporator coils and condensate drain pans is best done using an approved fungicide or mold-cleaning solution.

In most cases, we recommend leaving HVAC cleaning to the professionals. Contact Bigham’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning for HVAC cleaning and tune up services today.

How Does Dirty Sock Syndrome Start?

For mildew, mold and bacteria to grow in your indoor AC unit, it needs two ingredients: dust (and other particles) that collects on the evaporator coil over time – and moisture. Since most air conditioning units are located in the basement where it’s dark and cooler, they are ideal places for moisture. Systems that have a condensate drain line leak or blockage can create even more moisture.

How to Prevent and Eliminate Dirty Sock Syndrome

Dirty sock syndrome is not only a major inconvenience, but it worsens indoor air quality, which can be unhealthy for everyone, especially those who live with respiratory problems such as asthma or allergies.

Preventing Mold and Mildew Buildup

The best way for homeowners to prevent dirty sock syndrome is by having an HVAC contractor perform regular maintenance on the system. For air conditioning systems, maintenance should be performed once a year – in the spring before you turn the system on for the first time.

You should also replace HVAC filters regularly, typically every two to three months depending on the type and its MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating. Replacing clogged and dirty air filters ensures proper airflow through the system.

Eliminating Dirty Sock Syndrome

If there’s a musty smell coming from your indoor AC system, contact an HVAC technician. A technician will:

  • Inspect for moist areas and also look for standing water. They will use a cleaning solution designed to kill mold that is approved for use in HVAC systems.
  • Replace anything porous that has become moist or wet such as filters or insulation.
  • Clean the coils of your system with the cleaning solution.
  • Clean condensate pans and pumps with the cleaning solution. Stagnant water is a major source of odor.

Because mildew, mold and bacteria can grow in your home’s ductwork and registers, it’s important to have a technician inspect them. If there is mold growth, we recommend duct cleaning.

If you attempt DIY HVAC cleaning, remember to only use cleaners approved for use in HVAC systems that are made to control mold and mildew. You can also use a product such as Air Scrubber Plus that works with your HVAC system to continually kill surface mold and prevent musty heat pump odor.

Contact Bigham’s for HVAC Cleaning and Maintenance

When you contact Bigham’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, you can rest assured that we will provide exceptional service with a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee. Don’t live with a musty smell in your home for one day longer! Contact Bigham’s today.