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Heavy exhaust smell from A/C Solve For the past week and a half I have had a very heavy exhaust smell in my apartment, which seems to... (More) For the past week and a half I have had a very heavy exhaust smell in my apartment, which seems to be coming from the A/C vents. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and burns my eyes. This smell also gives me awful headaches. It is stronger right after the A/C kicks on, and right before it switches off. I have a combo Lennox A/C and furnace. I had a maintenance man come and he changed the filter, which was filthy (apartments responsibility, and I've been here two years and it has never been done, and I never thought to do it before). He looked and could not find a problem in the A/C, vents, no bird's nests, etc. The smell got worse. I called the gas company (no CO leaks supposedly) and they found what they called a 'small' gas leak, which was supposedly fixed by maintenance. The smell went away for almost a day after the repair took place. Now it comes and goes again with the cycling of the A/C. It does not smell like natural gas. It smells like auto exhaust. There was no idling auto outside anywhere when the smell started, and has been none since. We have no attached garage. Today I got so frustrated with the smell, I opened the furnace/A/C and hot water heater closet to vacuum out the lint and dust which was abundant. At that time, I noticed that there are three copper looking lines coming or going, from or to the A/C unit itself. All are leaking a clear oily substance. One has water condensation, yet all three are oozing oil at the connections. Is this normal? Because the maintenance man told me he checked EVERYTHING, yet as soon as I opened the closet door the leaking lines were right in front of my face. The maintenance man and the two gas company techs told me that a gas leak would not give me a headache, nor would it cause burning eyes and throat. Nobody would admit smelling any exhaust type smell. They have basically told me that I need to go see my doctor and find out why I am having 'phantom' smells. Today I went and got my neighbor to come smell my apartment. He said it smells like spent diesel fuel to him. So, while I have a witness to the smell, I can't convince maintenance that there is a problem. He is supposed to be certified in HVAC, but I am having doubts. How can I convince someone that there is a smell when they can't smell it themselves? Have you ever heard of such a thing from an A/C unit? Any advice will be so greatly appreciated! That you so much for your time. PS: I have an incredibly good sense of smell...always have.

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  • emichelle111 Jul 27, 2009

    OK, all I can say is that you just received a HUGE thumbs up from me! I did exactly as you have suggested with the dish soap and water. It amazed me that there were all kinds of tiny white bubbles all around where the copper tubing connects within mere seconds. Personally, I think I have a constant headache due to the fact that three different people told me that the exhaust smell is all in my head...literally. Since the sense of smell and taste are directly related, that may explain the bitter taste in my mouth when I smell this odor. I'm certainly glad to know that this is a non toxic agent. It's still quite annoying though, and I have been at wits end over this situation since a week ago Friday. I will be demanding that this leak be fixed tommorrow morning. Ten days of this aggravation is quite enough.

    You rock.

  • Mary furgerson
    Mary furgerson Dec 28, 2013

    I'm experiencing the same situation. how did this work out for you?


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If you see oil "oozing from the copper lines (fittings) you can verify if refrigerant is leaking out of the lines using a solution of dish soap and water, spray or wipe the solution on the suspected leak, and if it is leaking it will bubble. if it is indeed leaking the smell of refrigerant could be described as "exhaust" usually the smell is described as "chemical" by clients that I have served in the past. I have never heard of refrigerant causing headaches, as refrigerant is considered as non-toxic. It will dispalce oxygen in large enough concentrations, but it would take considerably more than a standard system holds to displace enough oxygen to cause issues, unless it was all released at the same time. hope this helps

Posted on Jul 27, 2009

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