As anyone who has survived a summer without A/C can attest, your air conditioner is one of the best units in your home. Unfortunately, it can also cause some real damage if you don’t know how to spot any issues. A busted air conditioning system can mean expensive repairs and worse: a home unprotected from the overbearing summer heat. To help you with any potential problems with your unit, we’ve put together all you need to know to prevent and fix any issues before you ever have to call in a professional.

The Condensate Line

First and foremost, the most important part of your air conditioner is the condensate line, an exit route for moisture that collects from the evaporator coil as air passes over it. The evaporator coil removes humidity from the air and then converts it into water. This water then drips into the condensate drain pan of your AC unit, it then enters the drain line, travels down the drain pipe and then deposits outside near your outdoor unit. 

That is, unless something goes wrong.

What Happens When Your Condensate Line Clogs?

One of the biggest issues seen with condensate lines is when they get clogged with dirt, rust, microbes, algae or other sticky substances. When this happens, the clog blocks the flow of water from the evaporator coil to the exit pipe. As you might suspect, things do not go well from here. A few possible outcomes from a clogged condensate drain line include:

  • Water in the condensate drain pan can overflow and spill inside your air conditioner
  • Ice may form on the coils and within the drain line, severely damaging your air conditioning system.
  • If any of the drain pipe fittings become loose, they can cause leaks and damage your drywall or even cause water to drip from your ceiling.
  • Water can pool and collect on the floor near your air conditioner. If your unit is inside, it can damage your floors, carpeting, ceiling, and furnishings.
  • Your AC unit may shut off completely and stop working in order to prevent flooding.

There should be a small amount of condensation that you can expect to see from your air conditioner, but large puddles and continual dripping are usually a sign of a clog or a loose part. You can check with your local AC/HVAC shop to find out what a normal amount of condensation is in your area, but generally, your unit should only leak while it’s operating. If a leak persists for a day or more, you may have a clog and need to do a little maintenance.

How to Avoid Condensate Drain Clogs

The best way defense is a good offense. The best way to avoid clogs is to keep up with seasonal maintenance. To do so, every spring pour a cup of bleach down your condensate drain from the inside. This will help prevent mold, mildew, or algae from being able to grow.

How to Clean your Condensate Drain

If you suspect you have a clog or are needing to do a little seasonal maintenance, follow these steps to clean out your condensate drain.

  1. Find your condensate drain line exit. If you have a central air conditioner, you will find your air conditioner drain line outside house. It is usually a white PVC pipe located near your outdoor unit.
  2. Connect a wet/dry vac to the end of your condensate drain line, make sure it’s airtight by using duct tape or a washcloth.
  3. Run the wet/dry vac for about 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat this step until the clog is removed.

If you don’t have a wet/dry vac:

  1. Locate your condensate drain.
  2. Connect a garden hose to the drain.
  3. Turn the hose on for about 5 seconds. This will allow water to push upwards into the drain and break up any clogs.
  4. Repeat until the water runs clear.

How to unclog AC drain line in attic:

If your AC unit is in the attic, there’s a slightly different process you will need to follow:

  1. Turn off the power to your HVAC system at the breaker and thermostat.
  2. Locate the condensate pan (it’s usually directly under your unit). It may be covered with a removable access panel.
  3. Use a handheld or shop vac to remove any moisture in the drain pan. You can now use the shop vac to suction the clog out through the drain opening that is located outside of your house.
  4. Next, locate the drain line back on the unit in the attic (generally a T-shaped vent with a PVC cover). Remove the cover and use distilled vinegar to flush the drain. Allow it to sit for about 30 minutes.
  5. Complete your cleaning by flushing the drain pipe with water. You can have someone wait outside near the pipe to let you know
  6. if the water is running freely. If it is, you’ve gotten rid of the clog.

If neither of these processes works, you may need to contact a professional to help clear your condensate drain. They will be able to clear the line and can even install an access vent if necessary. 

To ensure your air conditioning system, as well as other household appliances, get the protection they deserve, consider investing in a home warranty, which takes care of household troubles your insurance won’t. Protect your home and your wallet: visit HSC Warranty to learn more.

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