When most homeowners think of water leaks, they usually think in terms of their home's plumbing. However, water leaks can also come from an unexpected source -- your air conditioner. It can be surprising to find puddles of water surrounding your indoor A/C cabinet, so here are a few tips you can use to get to the bottom of the problem.
Common Causes for A/C Water Leaks
There are plenty of reasons why your A/C system could suddenly spring what seems to be a water leak, and they're all related to how your A/C operates. As your A/C system pulls latent heat out of the surrounding air, the resultant loss of heat also causes water vapor in the air to condense into heavier droplets. These droplets eventually end up in the condensate drip pan. The water within the pan is slowly funneled through a drain line and eventually dumped outside or into a nearby floor drain.
However, there are many points along this journey where leaks could suddenly spring up:
- Stress cracks, poorly sealed fittings and unintentional damage could cause the drain pipe to leak.
- The drain line could get blocked with debris, allowing the water in the condensate drip pan to accumulate until it finally cascades over the sides and onto the floor.
- The installer forgot to add a P-trap to the drain line, allowing incoming air to block the water from exiting the drain line. As with a debris clog, this also causes the water to back up into the pan.
- The drip pan itself could be damaged, either through a crack or gouge in the surface or, in the case of metal pans, rust and corrosion.
Busting Up Drain Blockages
With any water leak, your first priority involves stopping the leak and cleaning up the resulting mess. Use a wet/dry shop vacuum to remove all of the standing water from around the base of the indoor A/C cabinet. You should also use your mop or an absorbent cloth to clean up any remaining water, especially in crevices and other hard-to-reach areas.
Next, open up the plenum cover to reveal the evaporator coil and condensate drip pan. If you see standing water within the pan, vacuum it out and then use a small plumber's snake to break apart any clumped debris that's inside the pipe. Afterwards, place the vacuum nozzle over the drain hole and vacuum the remains of the clog.
If you see mold or algae in the pan or on the condenser coil, you'll want to clean and disinfect both components before moving on.
Checking for Cracks and Rust
After emptying and cleaning the condensate drip pan, carefully inspect the bottom of the pan for any cracks, fractures or other damage. If the pan is made out of metal, look carefully for rust spots and areas where corrosion is present.
It's usually a good idea to replace the entire pan if you see any damage, but in some cases you may not be able to keep your A/C system out of service while waiting on a potentially hard-to-get part. In desperate times like these, you may be able to use a water sealant or a two-part epoxy to temporarily seal those leaks. Allow the repaired area to dry for a couple of hours and sand down the excess material until the surface becomes uniform in appearance.
Repairing and Replacing Drain Pipes
Locate the drain pipe along the side of the indoor A/C cabinet and carefully inspect it for cracks and loose fittings. Depending on the severity of the crack, you can use PVC glue to repair the crack. Loose PVC joints and fittings can also be repaired the same way. If the crack runs the entire length of the pipe or is otherwise too large to repair, it should be replaced with a new section of PVC pipe.
Also make sure the P-trap is present on the A/C drain line. It's not uncommon for installers to either accidentally or intentionally forget to install one due to time constraints. If the P-trap is missing, you should have your HVAC contractor install one as soon as possible to prevent future drainage problems.
For more information and assistance with repairs, contact professional HVAC services or visit websites like http://www.cblucashvac.com.