Why Does My AC Smell Like Fish? (6 Issues Solved!) (2023)

An AC can produce different stenches, but the most abhorring of them all is the fish smell. So, I wondered, why does my ac smell like fish, yet I don’t even eat fish at home?

To my realization, my AC smells like fish because of burning electrical components, circuit overload, loose electrical wiring, filthy inner components, nearby garbage, or cigarette smoke.

So, the issue has nothing to do with having fish around, which is surprising. And when it comes to preventing the fish smell, proper maintenance of the AC and your home and regular inspection of your household electrical components are critical.

I’ll walk you through the six issues and their effective fixes. Moreover, we’ll look at a quick guide on eradicating the fish smell from your AC and what to check when a car, window, or portable Ac starts smelling like fish.

Here we go!

Why Does My AC Smell Like Fish? (6 Issues Solved!) (1)

In a hurry? Here’s a quick guide to getting the fish smell out of your air conditioner.

Quick Troubleshooting Guide for Fish-Smelling Air Conditioners

Likely CauseRecommended Fix
1.Burning Electrical ComponentsCall a pro electrician/technician
2.Circuit OverloadReduce the circuit overload, and if that doesn’t work, call an electrician
3.Loose Electrical WiringCall a pro electrician/technician
4.Filthy Inner ComponentsProperly clean the AC’s internal components, especially the evaporators coils, and filter
5.Nearby GarbageGet rid of nearby garbage bags and tins
6.Cigarette SmokeDiscourage indoor smoking and if the smell persists, change /clean the air filter

Why Does My AC Smell Like Fish?

Generally, your air conditioner smells like fish due to one of the six reasons below:

1.Burning Electrical Components

Suppose an electrical wire in a switch light fixture, power outlet, ceiling fan, appliance, or any other electrical component is overheating. The AC will pick up the odor and smell like fish in that case, and that often happens due to a power surge.


Try inspecting the electrical components in the house to see if any are overheating, and then call an electrician.

(Video) How to Fix Smelly AC in Your Car Like the Pro in 3 Minutes

2. Circuit Overload

Overheating the circuits is not advisable as it could trigger a fire. Once that’s the case, the circuit burns and produces a fish-like smell that the air conditioner picks up.


Reduce the number of appliances on a given circuit but if you suspect a fire outbreak, call a pro electrician.

3. Loose Electrical Wiring

Due to incorrect installation, the electrical wires in your home could become loose. That includes switches, light sockets, power outlets, junction boxes, and appliances.

Unfortunately, these loose wires may spark a fire and burn, and the AC will pick a fish odor.


Call a professional electrician to check the wiring.

4.Filthy Inner Components

Over time, the air conditioner accumulates dust which cakes up following contact with water to create a damper condition. That’s likely to happen on the evaporator coils and air filter.

But the damp conditions may still attract fungi (mold) and bacteria, and such microbes usually have a musty or fish-like smell. So, the air conditioner picks up the smell when running, which is likely to happen when you fail to clean it for so long.


Inspect the AC’s internal components, especially the coils, and filter and clean them. Also, check the heat pump and surrounding parts and clean them too. Learn to do this regularly.

(Video) How to Get Rid of the Musty Smell From Your Car’s Air Conditioner | Consumer Reports

Why Does My AC Smell Like Fish? (6 Issues Solved!) (2)

5. Nearby Garbage

Sometimes the air conditioner picks up the bad fish smell from the nearby garbage. Once it does, it circulates the smell inside the room, and the whole indoor space turns uncomfortable.


Check to see if there are any unemptied garbage bags and garbage cans.

6. Cigarette Smoke

Sometimes nicotine smells like fish when picked up by the air conditioner. So, if someone is smoking in the room, the AC will pick up the smoke odor and make it smell like fish once the air reaches the filter.


Change the air filter coils. But first, discourage everyone from smoking within.

How Do I Get the Fish Smell Out of My Air Conditioner?

Now that you know why your air conditioner smells like fish, it’s easy to eliminate the smell. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1 – Take Out the Rubbish

Look around to see if there’s any rubbish and clear it. Remove any emptied trash bags and cans.

Step 2 – Don’t Smoke Indoors or Near The AC

(Video) Smelly Ductless

Promote a ‘no-smoking indoors’ policy to stop anyone from smoking cigarettes if there are any. And if the smell doesn’t go after that, consider changing the air filter.

Step 3 – Clean The Air Conditioner

It’s essential to clean the entire air conditioner and not just the air filter. You also have to clean the coils and their internal and external components. Remember, you can clean the filter with a brush and running water.

Step 4 – Call A Pro Electrician/AC Technician

If you still can’t eliminate the fish smell or suspect an electrical issue, consider calling a certified technician or electrician. Such an expert will help you identify any electrical problems and fix them.

Window Air Conditioner Smells Like Fish

Your window air conditioner may smell like fish due to one of these three issues:

  • Electrical issue – Issues like loose or damaged wiring and circuit overload may lead to burning, and the window AC may pick up the burning odor and present a fish smell.
  • Adjacent garbage – Sometimes, the AC picks up a fish-like smell from the unemptied waste within the compound. So, it’s important not to leave the trash lying around for too long.
  • Dirty unit – If the air conditioner is too dirty, it may also harbor mold and bacteria, which it may pick up as fish odor.

Portable Air Conditioner Smells Like Fish

Your portable air conditioner is likely to pick up the fish smell under these circumstances:

  • If there is garbage around
  • If there’s an electrical fault
  • When the AC is too filthy or moldy

Clear any nearby garbage and adequately clean the portable air conditioner to eliminate filthiness. Specifically, clean the air filter (or change it) and the evaporator coils.

And if you suspect an electrical problem such as a circuit overload or loose or broken wire, call an expert electrician.

Car AC Smell Like Rotten Fish

Your car AC is most likely smelling like rotten fish because of gas leakage. So, check that; if the gas is not leaking, the issue could be microbial growth within the AC. In that case, look for mold or bacteria growth and clean the unit to eliminate the odor-producing microbes.

Why Does My AC Smell Like Fish? (6 Issues Solved!) (3)
(Video) Smelly Aircon? Here's a 5 minute fix to remove that mouldy AC smell from your car air conditioning!

People Also Ask

1.Why Does My New AC Smell Like Fish?

Your new AC smells like fish because there’s garbage nearby, the unit is mold-contaminated, or someone is smoking in the room. The air conditioner is picking up a fish-like odor in all three cases. But still, the reason could be a burning electrical component or circuit overload.

2. Why Does My AC Smell Like a Fish Tank?

A fish tank-like smell mainly relates to burning plastic parts. So, you have to check the AC to see if some of the plastic parts are overheating, and if they are, call a pro. Don’t forget to check for possible mold contamination, as the AC could be picking the foul odor from the mold.

3.Why Does My Split System Air Con Smell Like Fish?

Your split system air con might smell like fish because it’s picking up cigarette smoke, foul odor from nearby garbage, or stench from mold growth within the unit. So, check for all these three issues but don’t forget to check the electrical components for possible burning.

4.Why Does Foul Smell Come from AC?

A foul smell comes from the AC because the AC is filthy. The reason could be mold contamination or nearby garbage. But still, the Ac could be picking up cigarette smoke, or an electrical component is overheating and producing the smell.

5.Why Does My Car AC Smell Like Rotten Fish?

Your car AC most likely smells like rotten fish because the gas leaks. It will probably be odor-producing microbes such as fungi or bacteria if it’s not a gas leakage. The latter case mainly relates to poor car AC maintenance. Thus, clean it properly.

6.When I Turn On My Car AC, It Smells Like Rotten Eggs. Why?

When you turn it on, your car AC smells like rotten eggs because the gas is leaking. If the issue has nothing to do with gas leakage, it’s highly likely due to bacteria or mold growth within the unit. So, check these issues and address them accordingly.

7.How Do I Stop My Air Conditioner from Smelling Musty?

You can stop your air conditioner from smelling musty by cleaning it properly, ensuring you get rid of dust and microbes, especially mold, which are likely to contribute to the musty smell. But again, the mustiness is preventable by properly and regularly cleaning the air filter.

8. Is It Normal for Your AC to Smell Weird?

It’s normal for the AC to smell like dust once you fail to clean it properly. However, it’s normal to smell weird, like fish or rotten eggs. A weird smell usually indicates a problem, such as a filthy unit, burning electrical components, or circuit overload.

9.Why Does My Car Smell Weird When I Turn On The AC?

Your car smells because the gas could be leaking when you turn on the AC. So, check if there is any gas leakage and call a mechanic. If there is none, check for possible mold contamination, as the AC could pick up the mold stench that smells weird.

10.Why Does My House Randomly Smell Like Fish?

Your house randomly smells like fish because your air conditioner picks the fish smell from around. There could be garbage nearby, someone smoking in the house, or a burning electrical component. In addition, the unit could be mold-contaminated, thus fish-smelly.

In conclusion, why does my ac smell like fish?

As shared, your AC smells like fish due to an electrical issue such as burning electrical components, circuit overload, or loose wiring. If that’s not it, it could be that the AC is picking up the odor from nearby garbage, cigarette smoke, or mold contaminants.

(Video) How to FIX Smelly AC in 3 min.

Also Read:

  • Why Your Top Loader Smells Like Mildew
  • Do All Front Loaders Have Mold Issues?


How do I get my AC to stop smelling? ›

Clean the vent and the duct carefully with some cleaning solution and then clear out the cleaning solution with water. Flush the drip tray to clear off all dust and debris, however, do not apply excess pressure. Allow the air conditioning unit to dry for a couple of hours and wipe it with a clean cloth.

How do you get rid of fishy smell in the air? ›

Seafood is by far the worst offender. This one-two punch is best: After cooking, leave a bowl of white vinegar on your countertop overnight (to absorb stubborn odors). In the a.m., simmer cinnamon sticks, lemon peels and ground ginger in water on the stove (at least 15 minutes) to take care of any lingering stench.

Why does my house smell like fish not electrical? ›

Some fish smells in the house might smell stronger coming from air vents than near outlets or light fixtures. In this case, the problem may be that an AC unit has grown a layer of mold inside the warm, dark, moist vent system. To identify where exactly the mold is growing, have an HVAC specialist inspect your ductwork.

Why does my house have a fishy smell that comes and goes? ›

What a “fishy” smell in your home really means. Nine times out of 10, a fishy smell throughout the home means you have overheating electrical components (circuit breakers, outlets, wiring, etc.). You see, most wires, circuit breakers, etc. are made with heat resistant chemicals.

Should I turn my AC off if it smells? ›

Burning Smell

If you notice a burning odor, turn off the air conditioner. Check around the house to see if there is another source responsible for the odor such as cigarette smoke. If not, keep the system off and call for AC repairs.

Why does my AC smell like fish? ›

An Electrical Component May Be Overheating

Damaged wires or surges from a faulty breaker can cause the plastic coatings on your electrical components' wires to overheat, melt, and emit fishy odors. A smell that comes and goes usually indicates an issue with a component, fixture, or appliance that turns on and off.

Does fish smell ever go away? ›

At the longest, lingering fish smells will diminish within 12 hours as long as the source of the smell has been removed from the house.

Does fish smell mean electrical issue? ›

Usually, the fish smell is an early indicator of a serious electrical problem that could lead to a fire. That is why it is important to have your electrical system professionally inspected when you notice a fishy, urine-like, or burnt plastic smell near any outlets or electrical devices.

Does fish smell mean electrical fire? ›

Usually the fishy smell means overheating electrical components and melting of plastic wiring insulation. Go to the consumer unit (fuse box) and turn off the main switch. This turns off the electricity supply to your home. The effect is the same as unplugging all devices.

Why am I randomly smelling fish in my house? ›

The electrical components and wires in your walls and outlets are coated with heat resistant chemicals and plastic coating for insulation. When these chemicals and plastic heat up significantly, they give off a burning odor that can smell like fish.

How do I get rid of the smell in my AC vents? ›

Use Baking Soda in Your Ductwork

Baking soda is an ideal fix for odor coming from air conditioning vents, as it naturally absorbs all sorts of smells. If the AC smells bad and the odors are coming from inside the ducts, you may have to put the baking soda inside the ductwork for maximum effectiveness.

Why does it smell bad when AC is on? ›

Mildew is the most common culprit when an AC smells bad. If you smell moldy air coming from your AC vents, mold or fungus are growing in or around your AC unit and can sometimes make their way into the ductwork itself.

Why does my house smell when the AC is on? ›

Musty Mold or Mildew Smell

An excess of moisture or humidity in your HVAC system can create mold and mildew, that flows through your duct work when the AC is turned on. To prevent this kind of problem, fix all leaks, frequently replace HVAC filters and schedule bi-annual HVAC tune-ups.

What is the reason for bad smell from AC? ›

The water droplets that can collect inside air conditioners normally gets disposed of through the AC's drain pipe. If an expect of the drainage system becomes clogged or not working properly, condensation can build up and cause a stagnant water smell, as well as leading to the aforementioned issues.


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