One of the many important components of your HVAC system is the condensate line. Moisture is released when you heat your home. The moisture is removed via a condensate line, which empties outside of your home.
But if you live in a cold climate (or just have a cold spell), the water can freeze, leading to a frozen condensate line. There are several methods you can use to fix a frozen condensate line. The best solution for you will depend on the layout of your home, your DIY skills, and the typical weather patterns in your area. Here are some of the long-term options our HVAC professionals suggest.
Shorten the Pipe
The longer your pipe extends outdoors, the more time the water has to freeze. If you already have a frozen condensate line, this is an easy fix. Just saw off the portion of the line that is frozen. The vast majority of your condensate line should be inside your home, where it’s warm. Cut your condensate line close to your house, so the water drains before freezing.
One note: don’t let your condensate line drain against the side of your home. A constant flow of dripping water on your siding could cause mold and algae growth. It needs to extend at least a little ways past your house.
Widen the End
If your frozen condensate line is getting backed up at the end, widen the mouth so that there’s more space for the water to flow. It will take longer for any water dripping from your pipe to freeze. This is a good solution if you’re in an area with a relatively mild winter. If the temperatures tend to dip a lot, though, you’ll still end up with a frozen condensate line.
Slow-moving water is, of course, more likely to freeze. Wherever possible, angle your condensate drain line downwards to increase the momentum of the water. This goes for inside your home, as well. The draining water will gain speed as it descends, giving it less time to freeze inside your drain line.
Insulate the Pipe
If you can’t change the length or width of your condensate line, try insulating it. You can purchase heating cables or heat strips that come with a thermostat, so you aren’t wasting electricity by heating your condensate drain line unnecessarily. Use caution when insulating a frozen condensate line! Talk to an expert before you wrap your line. Some types of tape are not meant to be used outdoors, and others cannot be used with vinyl or plastic. You don’t want to do more damage than good.
You can also consider running your frozen condensate line through a length of PVC pipe. Wrap the PVC pipe with foam insulation for additional protection from the elements.
But what if you have a frozen condensate line right now? How can you thaw it out? You have a few options here, as well. The most painless route would be to cut off the frozen end of the tubing. Then you can implement one of the long-term solutions. If that’s not feasible, the only way to get rid of the ice is to melt it.
You’ve always got the option to run outside with a hair dryer and wait as the ice slowly melts. Alternatively, you can set up a heat lamp or space heater a few feet away from the pipe to warm it up. You can also head to your drugstore and buy a heating pad or hand warmers. Wrap it around the frozen area and let the heat work its magic. The most low-maintenance option is to fill up a water bottle with very warm (not boiling) water, and place that next to the frozen condensate line. It’s easy and free!
If you have a frozen condensate line, your furnace will eventually be unable to function – and your house will be freezing. Condensate lines are subject to complex municipal codes, so don’t hesitate to call in the experts at Newcomb and Company! We’re here to handle all of your HVAC issues, so you can snuggle up through the cold weather.