Quick Fixes for A/C Systems that Leak Water
Nearly 90 percent of all central-air service calls are related to leaks. Although these leaks tend to be relatively small, if left unchecked they can cause a tremendous amount of damage, especially if the air handler is installed above a ceiling and can drip downward. But most homeowners don’t realize that a vast majority of leaks can be easily repaired without calling a service technician.
There are main reasons a central A/C system leaks. First, there’s a crack or hole in overflow drain pan. Second, the air filter is clogged with dirt. Third, the condensate line is plugged up.
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The first cause the overflow pan is easily detectable by simply using a flashlight. The pan is a piece of equipment that catches any condensation from the A/C unit; if you’re noticing a leak, carefully inspect the overflow pan for damage. Check each corner, along the outside edges, and, of course, directly above the wettest spot. Small holes and cracks can be patched with epoxy glue, but it’s usually best to replace a damaged overflow pan.
The second culprit a clogged filter can be avoided by changing the A/C unit’s air filter on a regular basis. Most filters are designed to be used for one or two months, but you should inspect the filter every month during the cooling season. If the filter appears dirty, replace it immediately. A dirty filter will cause ice to form on the unit’s evaporator coils, and when that ice melts, it drips water.
The third reason a stopped-up condensate line is the most common cause of A/C leaks. The condensate line drains condensation from the overflow pan to the outside or directly into a drainpipe. When the line is clogged, water backs up and floods the overflow pan. Another reason to keep the condensate line clear is that most modern A/C units are equipped with a water-overflow cutoff switch, which automatically shuts down the A/C system if it detects a clogged condensate line. The switch helps prevent water damage, which is good, but most homeowners don’t know why their air-conditioning system suddenly shuts down and they call a service technician.
There are a couple different ways to clear a clogged condensate line, including using a wet/dry vacuum to suck out the clog. But my favorite method is to use a product called Mighty Pump. It’s a powerful hand pump that can be used to suck or blow lines clear. Invented by Stuart Oakner, a licensed air-conditioning contractor with more than 30 years experience, the Mighty Pump is available online for about $60.
Still, don’t wait for the condensate line to become clogged. You can avoid costly damage and expensive service calls by regularly clearing it out. And once the line is clear, you can help prevent the accumulation of slime, algae, mildew, and bacteria by pouring a little chlorine bleach down the line once every four to six months.