Smoke Coming From Vents When AC Is On

air conditioning vent with ac unit that is blowing smoke

Your home’s cooling system is an important part of your family’s comfort. However, what should you do if you have a problem? If you see your air conditioner blowing smoke, take a moment to determine if you also notice a smell. The following will help you identify potential problems, but it’s a good idea to consult with your air conditioning technician to rule out any serious or potentially dangerous problems. They can use their trained eye to determine the cause for any smoke coming from vents when the air conditioning is on.

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Air Conditioner Blowing Smoke: Causes & Solutions

In this article, we discuss some of the common causes when homeowners see smoke coming out of their vents when the air conditioner is on.

AC Condensation Accumulating In The Heater Box

condensation from air conditioner

If you see what looks like white smoke coming out of your home’s air conditioning vents, there’s a very good chance that it’s not actually smoke. More than likely, it’s simply condensation, especially if you notice the white fog, but it doesn’t have a smell.

As your air conditioner pulls in warm air, the air is cooled which naturally results in condensation. If this condensation builds up in the heater box, it’s not unusual for the condensation to turn into a vapor and escape with the cooled air, giving you that white smoke or fog coming from the AC vents. This excess water in the heater box could be the result of a drain line that is blocked.

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Air Conditioner Cold Dry Air Comes In Contact With Warm Air

When cold air hits warm air, especially if the warm air is high in humidity, it’s common to see a white fog form. This is much like when you go outside on a cold day and can see your breath. The warm, moist air coming in contact with the cool, dry air causes condensation or water droplets that will be seen as white smoke or fog.

A common reason for this problem is if your air conditioner isn’t getting proper airflow. To help minimize the problem, try turning your AC on high in order to cool your home faster; also, make sure that the air filters are cleaned or replaced regularly. An annual AC inspection from a licensed HVAC contractor can help ensure your AC system is functioning properly.

Air Conditioner Drain Hole is Clogged

image of an air conditioner condenser

Many of the newer air conditioners don’t have a drain hole, but older models typically do. The air conditioner’s evaporator coil produces condensation as it cools the warm air. This condensation needs to be able to drain. The condensate drain line allows the water to drain outside, away from your air conditioner. However, over time, it’s possible for this drain line to become clogged, which can result in condensation backing up into your air conditioner. If this happens, a white vapor is often emitted from your air conditioning vents. Regular air conditioner maintenance can help prevent problems with the drain line.

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Failure Of An A/C Component

An air conditioner has become a standard feature in most homes, but this modern convenience is often put under a very heavy burden. Keeping up with the cooling demands during hot summer days can put a toll on an air conditioning system.

As the cooling system ages, it’s only natural that components will eventually fail. If you have an air conditioner that uses a belt-driven fan, signs of smoke could be the result of a failing fan belt.

It might also be caused by the fan’s motor burning out. If you notice a foul smell and smoke coming from the vents, it’s important to turn the AC off immediately. This type of smoke can be toxic. A trained HVAC technician should be called to diagnose and fix the problem. Sometimes, your best option might be to simply replace your aging air conditioner.

Overheating Air Conditioning Unit

woman plugging nose from smelly air conditioner

If you notice a white smoke that is accompanied by a strange odor, the problem is most likely more serious than just condensation. An air conditioner has numerous electrical components, and these components can become overheated, especially if there isn’t proper airflow to the air conditioning unit.

A clogged HVAC air filter or blocked vents could be the problem. It’s important to immediately turn off the air conditioner and contact a reputable HVAC technician in order to avoid more serious problems. Your HVAC professional will be able to determine which component(s) are overheating and will likely need to replace the part before your cooling system can be used safely again.

Air Conditioner Electrical Problems

Another reason your air conditioner might have smoke coming from the vents is if there is a problem with the wiring. Your cooling system has numerous wires and electrical connections, but if one of these is faulty, it could lead to smoke and a bad odor.

Once again, when you notice a strange smell, it’s time to turn off the air conditioner immediately. An electrical issue could be extremely dangerous and might lead to a fire if left unattended. This is a problem that will require a trained HVAC professional.

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Is Your Air Conditioner Setting Off The Smoke Alarm?

While it might be a little disconcerting to have the smoke alarm go off, it’s probably not an issue with smoke that is causing this. Generally, if your air conditioner is setting off the smoke alarm, it’s because of a power surge.

If this is happening, unplug the air conditioner or pull the circuit for the air conditioning system and call in a professional. There is likely a problem with the way the air conditioner was installed or with your home’s electrical system.

Is The White Smoke Coming From Your Air Conditioner Odorless?

Any time you notice smoke coming from your air conditioner vents, it’s time to take action. The first thing you should determine is if the smoke is odorless or if it has a bad smell. If it’s odorless, it’s more than likely due to a condensation problem. This doesn’t mean that you should ignore the problem, because an air conditioner that is not draining properly could lead to other issues.
On the other hand, if you notice a bad smell along with the white smoke, chances are you’re dealing with an electrical issue or a component that is failing. In either case, it’s important to turn the air conditioner off and contact a trained HVAC professional.


How To Avoid Smoke Issues With Your Air Conditioner

There are a number of things homeowners can do to help ensure their air conditioner is functioning properly. This often starts with annual AC maintenance. Your HVAC professional will be able to inspect the cooling system for signs of trouble and get them repaired before bigger problems arise. Of course, simple tasks, such as replacing the air filter on a regular basis can also go a long way in preventing problems.

One problem that many people overlook is the size of the air conditioner. An air conditioner that is too large or too small for your home can eventually lead to problems. Talk to your HVAC technician if this is a concern.

It’s important to make sure that you are aware of any problems with your cooling system. The first sign of trouble, such as white smoke or fog coming from the AC vents, means it’s time to contact a professional HVAC contractor. Some problems might not be dangerous but could lead to bigger air conditioner repair bills down the road. Other AC problems could be risky and should be dealt with immediately. Only a trained HVAC professional will be able to guide you in this area.

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McAllister EnergyMcAllister Energy offers superior heating and cooling services in Camden County, New Jersey. We hire the best-certified technicians who can provide you with excellent HVAC tune-ups, repairs, installations, and replacements. Each of our techs has the knowledge and experience to service your HVAC system correctly.

McAllister Energy guarantees the most competitive heating and cooling service costs in the area. Our maintenance services can improve your comfort, increase your energy efficiency while reducing your home heating and cooling costs. If you happen to need an HVAC repair or replacement system, we can recommend the best one for your home while staying within your budget. We back all of our work with a guarantee to ensure your satisfaction. To schedule a service appointment, give McAllister Energy a call today. We offer free, in-home estimates.

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