What to Do When an Animal Dies in Your Air Ducts

Air conditioners are the kind of home feature that is often taken for granted — until something seems off. And when it does, it’s usually an unusual sound, leaking water, or an AC that’s not cooling. While none of those scenarios are ideal, they can often be resolved with a simple solution — such as changing the air filters or getting lubrication for the motor. But what if it’s something gruesome? What if what’s wrong with your AC system is that there’s a decomposing rodent in the air ducts? And, how do you even know that’s the issue?

How do animals get into the AC ducts?

The possibilities of how animals warm their way into your AC ducts are many — through dryer vents, the air conditioner’s condenser unit, the sewer system, or small holes on your home’s exterior. If the critters are rats, they can also chew through components of your AC system — including through refrigerant lines, which can be poisonous for you and your family. In addition to rats, animals such as mice, snakes, and cockroaches can set up camp inside AC vents.

Signs There’s an Animal in Your Ductwork

Signs of a rodent in your AC ductwork are hard to ignore. Pay attention to any of the following:

  • Scurrying sounds behind the walls in the vents
  • Pest droppings around the vents
  • Nests made out of insulation in the crawl space
  • Regular air leaks in your ducts — and increased energy bills
  • There’s a foul smell coming from the AC vents — when the animal is dead

If the animal in your AC ducts has died, the unpleasant smell becomes even worse if you turn on the heater. The decomposing smell will circulate throughout your entire home as long as the system is running. If the dead animal is a rat, you’ll also likely notice yellow stains seeping through the ceilings or around the vent — the trail left behind when they urinated. To add insult to injury, the longer the rotting animal stays in the ducts, the higher the likelihood of maggots and mold also infesting the air ducts.

How do you remove a dead animal from a vent?

Removing a dead animal from your vent requires several easy steps. Keep in mind that this is a DIY project only if the animal is within reach from the air ducts — or if it at least can be reached with a hanger or broomstick.

1. Locate the carcass. Shut off your AC and open all the windows to allow air to circulate in your home. Once the air conditioner has been off for a while, walk around your home and follow the stink. The dead animal is in the vent of the room where it smells the worst.

2. Assemble tools and materials. You’ll need a step ladder, screwdriver, flashlight, rubber gloves, and a garbage bag. Unscrew the vent cover and use the flashlight to locate the animal. Only pick it up with rubber gloves and dispose of it in the trash bag. If the animal is out of reach, call an HVAC technician.

3. Clean up the area. Clean up the mess left behind with a disinfectant spray and paper towels. When you’re done, inspect the condenser unit and the home’s exterior to locate any areas where the animal may have entered. This is best done by an HVAC technician since they’ll also be able to inspect the crawl space and air ducts.

If You Need to Repair or Replace Your AC, We Can Help

At Complete Air Mechanical, we have experienced HVAC professionals who can inspect your AC and let you know whether your home or business needs a bigger air conditioner or new ductwork. We provide services in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia counties, and we offer financing options.

Call us today at (407) 915-0144 or schedule an appointment online.