bad smell in HVAC window unit
September 16, 2023 7:32 AM   Subscribe

I'm in a rented apartment with an HVAC unit (cooling, drying, fan, and heating) that has gotten to smelling awful. It's like vinegar, sweat, or socks. The smell is not always present, especially if I wipe down the filters with spray cleaner and put them back, but it's persistent. The maintenance guy doesn't have an answer, probably because it didn't stink when he got here and I couldn't demonstrate. Can I fix this myself as a non-handy person? And if I can't, is it liable to give me Legionella or something dangerous?

To be clear, this isn't central HVAC, just one unit mounted into the wall beneath a window. I did find what appears to be the proper manual online (it's a Trane ProSpace), showing the exploded diagram, although not much more useful info. There are tips online for cleaning a bad-smelling AC unit, but they don't seem to resemble this one. Other than the removable, reusable filters, it's not user-serviceable, at least for my level of use.

I am concerned about health, but I am at least sure there's no black mold in there, because I have an allergy and I haven't been suffering --
posted by Countess Elena to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have a ductless mini-split system that developed "dirty socks syndrome" in both of the wall-mounted heads a few months after being installed in the middle of a cold, wet winter. After much searching, I found this video, and by reading through the comments found a coil cleaner and pan treatment that have been miraculous for being easy to apply and effective at eliminating that funky smell. Good luck!
posted by Lady Sugar Maple at 8:29 AM on September 16 [6 favorites]

If wiping down the filters helps temporarily, could you ask the maintenance team for a filter replacement? Maybe there's something in them that the cleaner can't fully eliminate.
posted by space snail at 8:34 AM on September 16

Seconding Lady Sugar Maple-- You've got to clean the coils, here's a good example of deep cleaning a system similar to yours if it's too scary for you-- any professional AC company can do this with their eyes closed. The non-rinse coil cleaners are great, but you might need a deep clean to get back to factory fresh.
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:37 AM on September 16 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, y'all! I'll report back when it's finished!
posted by Countess Elena at 7:28 AM on September 17

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