Your plumbing can spring a leak, but did you know that your air conditioning system can do the same? Your air conditioner produces condensate as a byproduct of the air conditioning process. This condensate is normally drained out of the air conditioner, but drainage issues can cause it to back up and overflow onto the floor. If left unchecked, this can cause severe water damage and put your air conditioner and other appliances at risk.
Keep Your Drains Clear
Over time, the condensate drain line tasked with carrying water away from your air conditioner can get clogged up with dirt, mold, algae, and other types of organic and non-organic debris. Once your drain line is completely clogged, there's nowhere else for the water to go except over the sides of the condensate drip tray. When this happens, you can easily see the end result pooling around the base of your air conditioning unit.
When it comes to breaking up clogs, there are two relatively safe and quick approaches you can try out:
- You can use the suction of your wet/dry shop vacuum to pull the clog out of the drain line. Simply place the nozzle firmly over the drain inlet and let the suction of the vacuum do its thing.
- For more stubborn clogs, you can use a thin yet sturdy length of wire or a small plumbing snake to break through and break up the clog.
If your air conditioner uses a secondary drain line, you'll also want to check it for clogs.
Check the Condensate Drip Tray for Damage
It's not unusual for a damaged condensate drip tray to cause a subsequent water leak. If your tray is made out of plastic, carefully check it for chips, large cracks and holes, and less-obvious hairline cracks that could let water through. If the tray is made from steel or aluminum, check for signs of rust or corrosion. A damaged condensate drip tray should be replaced rather than repaired, as this will give you greater peace of mind about your air conditioner's overall health.
Check the Drain Lines for Damage and Proper Pitch
Gravity plays a major role in draining condensate out of your air conditioner. However, an improperly installed drain line can prevent gravity from doing its job. The drain line needs a 1/8-inch drop for every 12 inches of length as its minimum pitch. Use your measuring tape to verify the line pitch and, if necessary, have a professional increase the pitch to ensure proper drainage.
The drain line should also be routed as straight as possible to facilitate proper drainage. For this reason, any elbow connectors with a 90-degree angle should be replaced with connectors featuring a 45-degree angle, whenever possible.
Keep Your Evaporator Coil Clean
Mold and algae easily flourish within the dark and damp confines of your air conditioner, especially near the evaporator coil. The resulting slime can easily form directly on the coil and fall into the drip tray, resulting in blockages as it passes through the drain.
Having your evaporator coil thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis can keep this particular problem from happening. As a preventive measure, ultraviolet (UV) germicidal lights can also be installed near the evaporator coil to discourage biological growth and keep the coil clean.
Use Tablets or Strips to Keep Algae at Bay
To curb algae growth within the condensate drip tray, it's a good idea to add antimicrobial condensate tablets or strips to the drip tray. These treatments are designed to release their active ingredients slowly over time. Condensate drip tray tablets usually last for several weeks, while the antimicrobial strips are capable of lasting for several months before losing their effectiveness against algae and other unwanted biological growth.
Contact a heating and air conditioning contractor for more information.