Air Conditioner Drain Leaks
Air conditioner drain leaks are a fairly common service call we get at Magic Touch Mechanical. These calls always ramp up during monsoon when the humidity in our homes is higher than normal. Unfortunately, most people discover their air conditioner drain leaks when water is already coming through their ceiling! The worse news comes when they find out it’s been happening for days or weeks and the damage is extensive.
However, this doesn’t have to happen to you! There are steps you can take to almost guarantee you will never have to know the pain of an air conditioner drain leak!
Why Is My Air Conditioner Leaking Water?
A lot of people start by calling a roofer when they see water dripping from their celling. Other times it’s more than just “dripping” – an entire section of ceiling has collapsed from the weight of the water. Unless you’re in the air HVAC business, you probably don’t equate your air conditioner with water leaks. Therefore, most assume water dripping from their attic must be a roof leak.
About 50% of the calls we get about an AC leaking water were already inspected by a roofer. Only to be told they need to contact an air conditioning company – after paying the roofer. It’s logical to think the roof is leaking, as typically these leaks happen during or after heavy monsoon rainstorms. However, monsoon rains result in high humidity, which is when air conditioner drain leaks are most common.
PRO TIP: Pay attention to where the leak is coming from. If water is leaking very close to the air conditioner, the AC drain line should be your top suspect. If it hasn’t rained recently, chances are very high the problem is an air conditioner drain leak. NOTE: Neither of these conditions guarantee it’s the AC & not the roof, but it’s more likely.
Where Does Water Come from In My A/C?
By design, an air conditioner component called the evaporative coil will create condensation. The coil is designed to collect this condensation in a drain pan underneath it. This pan, called the “primary pan,” is connected to a PVC drain line by the HVAC contractor. The drain line is then plumbed outdoors and typically terminates in the rear or side yard close to the ground.
PRO TIP: When you see this pipe dripping outside, it is not an air conditioner drain leak. The higher the humidity in your home, the more condensation you will typically see dripping from this pipe.
Clogged Primary Drain Lines Require Immediate HVAC Service
All air conditioners installed in an attic should have a secondary or emergency drain pan underneath them. I say “should” because we do see cases where due to poor installation they’re either not there, or installed incorrectly.
The emergency drain pan is intended to provide temporary protection to your home if the primary drain becomes clogged. The secondary pan is connected to a 2nd drain line which is plumbed outside high in the air. Reason being, us HVAC technician’s want you to see water dripping from this pipe. You should never see this air conditioner drain leaking! If you do, it means your main drain line is clogged and you should call for immediate air conditioning service.
PRO TIP: Vertical AC air handlers, typically installed in closets, garages & outdoor mechanical closets do not have a secondary drain pan. Water underneath these units, or on the ground near the air handler indicate an air conditioner drain leak. If left unattended too long, serious water damage and mold can spread quickly.
READ MORE: Know what the different water pipes & drain lines around your home are and how to identify them. Explained in detail in this article.
Preventing Air Conditioner Drain Leaks
Since condensate drain lines drip slowly, there is no water pressure to “move things along.” Often this results in an icky buildup known as “white slime.” White slime is actually live microbial bacteria. These bacteria multiply in the right environment (moist drain pans), and a steady diet of food they thrive on – dust. Here in Arizona, we all know there’s plenty of dust in the air. Plenty of that gets past the air conditioner filter and stuck to our indoor coil, which feeds the slime!
Your number one defense in preventing air conditioner drain leaks is regular AC maintenance service. The A/C Service Technician will inspect for slime build up, coil cleanliness, proper drainage, & change your AC filter as needed.
Emergency AC Shut-Off Drain Switch Protection
We highly recommend protecting your home by installing both primary & secondary emergency drain switches. When a clog is detected, the drain switch shuts down your air conditioner. It’s designed to shut off your unit the moment an air conditioner drain leak is detected.
While this may sound inconvenient (your AC shutting off when it’s needed most) it certainly beats damage to your home! When you contact your local AC company, they will be able to unclog the line and reset the drain switches.
Emergency air conditioner drain switches are likely less expensive than your insurance deductible and provide peace of mind. Now that you know what causes air conditioner drain leaks and how to prevent them… act! Contact Magic Touch Mechanical to schedule AC drain line cleaning and ask us to install emergency drain switch protection today!