Why Is My Air Conditioner Leaking?
Leaks are generally never a good thing, whether you’re talking about a car tire, a hot air balloon, or important government documents. An area of the house that experiences leaks frequently is the air conditioner and, although it’s not quite as an imminent threat as a hot air balloon spiraling into a lake, the pooling of water near the A/C is something that should be tended to sooner rather than later as it can indicate a bigger problem.
Air Conditioning 101: Why a Leak is Bad
We all know that an air-conditioner’s main job is to cool the air so the home or apartment can be tolerable on a scorching summer day. What some people might not be aware of is that the a/c has a second – arguably even more important function – of dehumidifying the air. When an annoying radio DJ sitting in a 59° chilled studio constantly barks, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” he somewhat has a point. Moisture causes air to become so waterlogged that it can’t absorb our sweat, which, in turn, provides us with that not-so-fresh, sticky, and muggy feeling.
What an air conditioner does is use a blower to suck the warm out of the room and over an evaporator coil to cool it down. When the air cools down, the evaporator coil also wrings the moisture out of it and sends that condensation down a drain pipe before delivering the cool, conditioned, breathable air back to the room. However, when that condensation has nowhere to go, that’s when it starts pooling up outside of the unit giving the ‘allure’ that the air conditioner is leaking.
Enough of the crash course! Let’s move on to why your A/C is leaking.
Clogged Condensation Drain Line
The condensation line is a simple PVC pipe that takes the water removed from the air and pumps it outside the home or down a nearby drain pipe. Just like a bathroom sink clogged with hair, bones, and bacon grease, if the water has nowhere to go it starts backing up. While you’d have some explaining to do if there was bacon grease in an A/C condensation pipe, dirt and debris from the evaporator coil eventually does plug the line.
The fix is to use a wet/dry vac, or a hand pump, to suck out the clog and dump some bleach in to kill of any algae and mold. This fix is also a part of your regular air conditioner maintenance, so if you’ve had maintenance on your unit recently, it’s likely not a clog…at least not in the condensation drain line.
Dirty/Clogged Air Filter
There are a number of reasons to change your filter frequently, from delivering cleaner air, to lessening the wear and tear on any HVAC system. But the main point of a clean filter is to allow unimpeded air flow. You can tell if a filter needs changing just by seeing its beautiful brown color, but a frozen evaporator coil is another indication. When the air flow is restricted, the evaporator coil starts to ice up, and when that ice melts, it looks like an air conditioner leak. The good news is it’s not really a “leak.” However, if the problem persists even after changing the filter, the cause could be more serious. It would likely be low refrigerant which needs to be serviced by a technician. Refrigerant should never be low. If it is, that means the unit will not cool your home properly because of a leak not caused by a clogged air filter.
Malfunctioning Condensation Line Pump
If the condensation lines are free of any blockage, it could be the pump itself that’s not pushing water away from the unit, and thus pooling up nearby. The way to check the pump is to dump some water in the condensation overflow pan – if the water stays there, the likely cause of leaking is pump issues. Contact a service technician ASAP to diagnose and fix the pump.
Generally an air-conditioner leak will develop over time, but if it does it from the get-go the likely cause is improper installation. The pressure may be off, the unit could be out of level, or the condensation trap may be poorly designed. There are a vast number of ways to cause a leak when installing a new unit. It’s important to inspect the unit frequently in the first month of installation (while under labor warranty) and not just enjoy the cool air. If you notice any leakage, be sure to contact the manufacturer or the installer to have it repaired/replaced under warranty.
An air conditioner leak doesn’t need to burst your bubble, but it is something that should be repaired. Usually an inspection of where the water is coming from will give you an idea of the fix that’s needed, whether the issue is a cracked drain pan, a clogged drain pipe, a rotted or punctured tube, etc. Still, the best bet is to call a professional for a guaranteed fix.
If you live in the Reading, PA area and are experiencing A/C leaks, contact Comfort Pro today to get your unit up and running in no time!