What to Do If You Smell a Dead Animal in Your HVAC Vent

image of a rat in hvac ductwork

You might think that dirt and dust are the only things that could stink up your HVAC ductwork. However, there could be another cause. Small animals like rodents sometimes make their way through your heating and cooling ducts and cause a multitude of problems. The worst of which is when you have a dead animal in the air duct.

The dead animal will soon decompose, and its stench will end up circulating in your house. They might also be carriers of bacteria and viruses that could mix with the conditioned air being distributed throughout your home. Therefore, the situation needs to be dealt with accordingly as it poses a threat to you and your family’s health and well-being.

What To Do About a Dead Animal in Your HVAC Air Duct

Read on to find what you need to do if a small animal dies in your duct.

Is the Smell Because of a Dead Animal?

image of a homeowner plugging nose due to dead animal in ductwork

Determine the cause of the foul smell around your home. The reason behind it can be a dead rodent, or it could be something else entirely. The decomposition of a body produces gases like sulfur dioxide and methane. Our noses are sensitive to the smell of these gases, so even a small amount is easily noticeable. You would smell something pungent and rotten, with a few people even vomiting due to the foul odor. The size of the animal determines how many gases are produced by the rotting body. Therefore, the bigger it is, the more pungent the smell would be. The stench is likely to last for a few weeks as well.

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Follow Your Nose

When you are sure that a dead animal is in your HVAC ductwork, look for it so you can conduct an immediate extraction. You can buy devices that can detect the gases emitted by the dead animal. However, these can be impractical to get and utilize. Fortunately, you can use your nose to do the job. Find where the smell is the strongest. It is an unpleasant but necessary task to resolve the issue right away. However, if you can’t bear the stench, you can just hire a reliable HVAC technician to look for the rodent carcass in your heating and cooling ductwork.

Gather Supplies

image of latex gloves used to remove dead animal from hvac system

Never touch the dead animal with your bare hands. It might have some disease and is carrying viruses and bacteria in its rotting body. Wear gloves when removing the carcass from the HVAC ductwork. Prepare a thick plastic bag beforehand as well. Place the dead animal inside this bag and seal it properly before disposing. Ensure that there are no holes so that there won’t be any leaks. If the carcass is in a hard-to-reach section of your HVAC air ducts, you can use a wire hanger or any tool with a hook. You can also opt to hire an HVAC technician to help you.

Remove the Carcass

Removing the animal should be straightforward if it is close to the vents. All you need to do is open the barrier, reach in with your gloved hand, and put the dead body inside a plastic bag. Use disposable gloves that you can put inside the plastic bag to dispose of as well. Seal the bag and throw it right away. Unfortunately, you could have a hard time with the extraction if the carcass is not easily reachable or visible from access points. You can use a wire hanger to reach deeper into your ductwork. If the decomposition has advanced, you might have to recover multiple small pieces of its body. It is recommended that you let an HVAC professional handle this situation instead.

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Disinfect the Area

image of homeowner using disinfectant to clean hvac ductwork

Extraction is only the starting point. There is likely dried blood, and other fluids in the area the animal died in. Fleas, hair, and ticks might have been left there as well. Therefore, you need to sanitize the ducts to ensure their cleanliness. A disinfectant must be sprayed throughout your HVAC ducts as we do not know where the animal has been. This way, the indoor air quality level is protected. You also prevent the spread of any virus and bacteria. Make sure not to skip this vital step.

Find Out How the Animal Got Into Your HVAC Ductwork

hvac air vent

When you are done cleaning the HVAC duct, the next step is to prevent this situation from occurring again. Small animals are not supposed to be able to wander inside your ductwork. The barriers are there to prevent this from happening. Therefore, you need to determine how the rodent got inside. There might be holes, or the vent might be broken. The rodent might have wandered far inside before dying as well.

Conduct a thorough inspection of your HVAC network to find all the possible entry points. Seal all of them properly to ensure that an animal getting inside the ducts does not happen again. Keep in mind that an HVAC technician is the best person to do the job. They are equipped with the training and experience to handle and resolve the problem. Hence, it is recommended that you contact a reputable company to deal with any HVAC ductwork damage you might have.

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Plug the Holes

Holes are not only an entryway to your HVAC ducts where pests can get into but are also an exit for air to leak through. Therefore, call an HVAC professional to take care of these holes to keep air from leaking any further. Leakage can significantly reduce your HVAC’s efficiency. This means that your heating and cooling system consumes more energy to reach the set temperature. It can also result in problems such as uneven heating or cooling. If your HVAC system requires maintenance, now is an excellent time to have an HVAC technician do it.


When a rodent has infested your heating and cooling ductwork, do not fret. This occurrence is more common than you think. HVAC technicians can help remove these dead animals from the ductwork quickly. They can also disinfect the area and plug the holes to ensure that it does not happen again.

Call Hart Home Comfort for All of Your HVAC Requirements


Make Hart Home Comfort your go-to HVAC company when you need excellent heating and cooling services in Nassau County, Suffolk County, and Queens, New York. We have professionally certified and trained technicians who conduct high-quality maintenance, repairs, replacements, and installations. All our techs are friendly, skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced in handling any HVAC system correctly.

Rest assured that Hart Home Comfort offers affordable and highly competitive HVAC service rates. We provide maintenance services that will improve your overall comfort, energy efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. We can also find the best replacement system for your home that does not sacrifice your budget. All of our work comes with a guarantee. Schedule a service appointment with Hart Home Comfort today and receive a free, in-home estimate.

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For any questions about what Hart Home Comfort can do for you, give us a call today. Click here to contact us now or call us at (631) 667-3200 to find out more!

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