Air Conditioner Troubleshooting: Smoke Coming From Vents When AC Is On

air conditioning vent with ac unit that is blowing smoke

Much of your family’s comfort relies on your home’s cooling system during the summer. However, what should you do if you encounter an air conditioner blowing smoke? Take a moment to determine if there is a smell when you see smoke coming out of the vents. This article will help you identify potential causes, but it is best to consult with your local, trusted air conditioning technician to rule out any severe or potentially harmful problems. They have the trained eye to find the reason behind the AC problem.

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Air Conditioner Blowing Smoke: Causes & Solutions

Read on to learn about the common causes of smoke coming out of the vents when the air conditioning system is on.

Air Conditioner Condensation Accumulating In The Heater Box

condensation from air conditioner

If white smoke comes out of your air conditioner’s vents, it is likely not actual smoke. There’s a good chance that it is simply condensation, especially if the white fog doesn’t have a smell.
Your air conditioner sucks warm air that is cooled in the unit, naturally resulting in condensation. This condensation builds up in the heater box. It’s not unusual that the condensation turns into vapor and gets released with the cooled air. Hence, you will see white smoke or fog coming out of the vents. The excess water in the heater box could be because the drain line is blocked.

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Cold Dry Air From The AC Comes In Contact With Warm Air

It is common for white fog to form when cold air hits warm air, especially if the warm air is highly humid. This situation is similar to when you go outside on a cold day, and you can see your breath. Warm, moist air colliding with cool, dry air results in condensation or the formation of water droplets that will be seen as white smoke.

A common culprit behind this issue is that your air conditioner doesn’t have proper airflow. You can help minimize the problem by turning the air conditioner on high to cool your home faster. Ensure that the air filters are cleaned or replaced regularly as well. Get your cooling system inspected by a licensed HVAC contractor once a year to make sure it works properly.

Clogged Air Conditioner Drain Hole

image of an air conditioner condenser

Many newer models of air conditioners aren’t equipped with a drain hole, but older models usually are. The evaporator coil of your air conditioner generates condensation as it cools the warm air. This moisture needs to be drained. The condensate drain line drains the water outside, away from your air conditioner. However, the drain line can get clogged over time. This can cause the condensation to back up into your air conditioner. White vapor will often be released on your air conditioner vents when this happens. Regular air conditioner tune-ups can help prevent drain line problems.

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Failure Of An A/C Component

Air conditioners have become a standard feature in most homes. However, this modern convenience is frequently put under a heavy burden. Your cooling demands during the hot summer season can put a toll on your air conditioning system.

It is only natural that the parts of the air conditioner will eventually fail as time passes. If your air conditioning system uses a belt-driven fan, a failing fan belt can cause smoke. It could also be because the fan’s motor is burning out. Turn off the air conditioner immediately when you notice smoke and a foul odor coming from the vents. This smoke can be toxic. Call a trained HVAC technician to diagnose and repair the problem. At times, the best solution is to get a replacement for your aging air conditioner.

Overheating Air Conditioning Unit

woman plugging nose due to smelly air conditioner

If the white smoke has a strange odor, there is a high chance that the problem is more severe than condensation. An air conditioning system consists of many electrical parts. These components can overheat, especially if air doesn’t flow properly to the air conditioner.

Blocked vents or a clogged air filter could be the issue. Turn off your air conditioner right away and call a reputable HVAC technician to avoid more severe issues. The HVAC professional will determine which component(s) are overheating. These parts likely need a replacement before the cooling system can be used safely again.

Air Conditioner Electrical Problems

A wiring problem is another reason for the smoke coming out of your air conditioner. A cooling unit has many wires and electrical connections. However, smoke and foul odor can happen even if only one of these wires is faulty.

Again, when you notice a strange smell coming from your air conditioner, turn it off immediately. An electrical problem is extremely dangerous, and it can result in a fire if left unattended. Contact a trained HVAC professional to handle this problem.

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Is Your Air Conditioner Setting Off The Smoke Alarm?

It might be a little unsettling when your smoke alarm goes off. However, it’s likely not a smoke issue that’s causing this. In general, an air conditioner that’s setting off the smoke alarm is likely because of a power surge.

If it happens, pull the circuit for the air conditioner or unplug the air conditioning system and call an HVAC professional. The problem likely lies with how the air conditioner was installed or the electrical system of your home.

Is The White Smoke Coming From Your Air Conditioner Odorless?

Take action when you notice smoke coming out of your air conditioner vents. First, determine if the smoke is odorless or has a bad odor. An odorless smoke is likely because of a condensation problem. This doesn’t mean that you should ignore the issue, as an air conditioner that’s not draining properly can lead to other issues.

On the other hand, a bad smell associated with the white smoke is likely due to an electrical issue or a failing component. Make sure to turn off the air conditioner in both scenarios and call a trained HVAC professional to help you.


How To Avoid Smoke Issues With Your Air Conditioner

There are several steps homeowners can take to ensure the air conditioner functions properly. Start with annual air conditioner maintenance. An HVAC professional will inspect the air conditioner for any signs of trouble and repair them before the problem gets bigger. Simple tasks, like regular air filter replacement, can go a long way in preventing problems.

One issue many homeowners overlook is the air conditioner size. An air conditioning unit that is too small or too large for your home can eventually cause problems. Discuss this with your HVAC technician if this is a concern.

It is essential that you ensure that you are aware of any cooling system problems. Contact a professional HVAC contractor at the first sign of trouble, like the air conditioner vents emitting white smoke or fog. Some problems might not be harmful, but they could lead to higher air conditioner repair costs. Other air conditioner problems could be risky and should be handled as soon as possible. Only a qualified HVAC professional can guide you in this area.

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Lawes Company provides outstanding heating and cooling services in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, New Jersey. We hire highly skilled and professionally certified technicians for all of your HVAC service needs, including air conditioner tune-ups, furnace installations, boiler repairs, and more. Each of our friendly techs has the experience and knowledge to conduct quick and accurate services on any HVAC system.

Rest assured, our company offers one of the most affordable HVAC service rates in the area. Our maintenance services can help enhance your comfort, energy efficiency, and indoor air quality while lowering your energy bills. If you need to repair or replace your HVAC system, we can recommend the most suitable solutions that fit within your budget. All our work is guaranteed to ensure your satisfaction. To schedule a service appointment, call Lawes Company today. We offer free, in-home estimates.

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