Here’s the Number One question I get from my customers in the summer: “Why the hell is my air conditioning leaking water all over the place?”
It’s not always in those exact words, but you get the idea. Now, I could be very blunt and tell them, “It’s your fault, because you didn’t take care of your system,” but usually I just say, “Let me fix the problem and teach you how to prevent it from happening again.”
If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you’re already dealing with the same problem. Let’s talk about how to avoid it.
The first thing you should do is call a good HVAC service company and tell them your ac is leaking. Call us if we’re in your area, but in any case, call someone right away to come out.
A good service company will first tell you to shut the system off.
They will ask if you see any ice anywhere on the unit. Answer their questions as best you can, and schedule an appointment for them to come out. I recommend checking online reviews on any company you use, because although there are a lot of technicians in our industry, there are not enough good ones to go around. You have to pay them well and take good care of them, and there is a lot of turnover in the industry. That’s why it pays to do your research.
As for your leak, there are several possibilities.
One is that you simply have a clogged condensation drain line. When you cool your air, or I should say, remove heat from the air, you're also creating condensation. That condensation is taken out of the home in a 3/4-inch white PVC drain line. There's typically what we call a P-trap on that drain line. The P-trap's purpose is to prevent cold air from blowing down the drain.
We definitely don't want to blow cold air down the drain -- we want to keep it in the house. However that P-trap holds water, and what happens to standing water, folks? That's right. You get biological growth, as we call it. This biological growth is going to catch dirt and other contaminants that are in the drain, which feeds more biological growth, and then you get to a point where the pipe is so clogged that the water can’t flow. Water has to go somewhere, so it fills up in the pan around your coil, then overflows down into your furnace, and then out the bottom onto your carpet, or hardwood floor, or into a ceiling, which is usually how you first notice it.
Here’s a fun fact, folks.
If you have a system in the attic of your home, typically there's a drain pan located underneath it, which also has a pipe, and this pipe usually is drained outside a master bedroom window. If you ever see water trickling around a window in the summer, it probably means you have a clogged main condensation drain line, and you need a service call.
for this problem is to cut that P-trap out, flush it or replace it, and glue your pipe back together. Then we test the operation of the air conditioning system to make sure there are no other problems, and we’re done. We usually recommend that you purchase an upgraded P-trap (we call them an EZ trap), which will allow you to easily clean out the trap, and even shut the system off in the event of a blockage.
That last feature is important, because before your drain line overflows and causes damage, the P-trap will simply shut off your system. At that point you can go down, take the cap off, and use the built-in brush to clean the pipe. A simple operation like that will help you avoid service calls. Also, when you change your filter monthly, as you should, you can simply clean out the trap, and then you’ll never have to deal with a clogged P-trap again.
Another problem is freezing of the coil.
If you have poor air flow or low refrigerant levels, it will cause your indoor coil -- which is above your furnace in a typical air conditioning setup -- to turn into a block of ice, and that ice melts down into your system. It is just like a clogged condensation drain line as far as you're concerned, because you get water on the floor, even though it’s from a different cause. It's because you're not pulling the heat from your house over the coil. The coil gets too cold, and starts to freeze. Another cause is low refrigerant -- it's not empty, but the level is low enough that the coil is turning too cold too quickly.
When this happens, it causes freezing to occur. We can sometimes fix that by simply changing the air filter or opening all the registers in the home, but it always requires a visit from a technician to check the refrigerant levels and ensure that you are running optimally. It's not unusual that you might have a frozen coil and a clogged drain line at the same time, so a technician might come out, pinpoint a frozen coil and then be back the next week because the drain line was also clogged up. Because of issues like this, if you haven't had regular maintenance done, you should definitely request a maintenance check with your service call.
Okay, I've given you enough gems for the day.
Use this information wisely, folks. You don't have to see me for a clogged drain line, you can take care of that issue on your own. Get the EZ trap. Get the water systems. Take care of your stuff. That's what it really comes down to, taking care of issues before they turn into problems. Now that you’ve read this, you can't say you don't know, OK? Technicians won’t like this article, because, like I said, fixing water leaks is a good source of income for our families. It also keeps the carpet and drywall people busy.
It’s better for you, though, if you don’t have to pay all those extra bills!