As you begin to kick your air conditioning system back on, you will need to make sure that it is ready to go. One crucial step in preparing your AC to function properly is to prevent any leaking. Potential leaks can cause costly water damage in your home, and they indicate an issue with your HVAC unit. Here is everything that you need to know about air conditioner leaks and repairs.
Why Do AC Systems Produce Water?
Your air conditioning system is responsible for taking the warm outdoor air and cooling as it passes into your home. Warm air can hold more water molecules than cool air (especially in humid climates). As the warm air passes over the evaporator coil and transitions to a cooler temperature, the air molecules begin to shed this excess water.
While it might not seem like the air can hold too much water, your system can produce as many as 20 gallons of water a day. This number depends on the volume of air your system is producing, the humidity outdoors, and the temperature you have your thermostat set to. Thankfully, your system is designed to effectively drain this water and release it back outdoors. However, when it is not properly functioning, this can cause leaks in your system and in your home.
Problem 1: Clogged or Damaged Drain Line
Your condensate line (or drain line) is the piece of your air conditioner that carries your excess water outside. When the line becomes clogged or damaged, the water will overflow back into your home instead of being deposited outdoors.
Because your drain line connects your indoor unit to the outdoors, the line is relatively small to keep any unwanted critters from entering your home. This makes the drain line easy to clog with sediment, debris, algae, and mold buildup. Without proper maintenance and care, your drain line may become clogged regularly.
Signs of a Clogged Drain Line
If you notice a full drain pan, a water leak, or excess water surrounding your AC unit, it is a sign of a potential drain line issue. When your drain line is clogged, your unit may also stop functioning or begin producing warm and humid air. You may also notice a moldy smell as the water begins to seep into your walls or flooring.
Solution: Clearing Clogged Drain Line
When this type of leak occurs, you must first shut if your system if it did not automatically turn off. Clean up any excess water in your home, and call a plumber if you suspect any water damage has occurred. To get your unit functioning properly, you need to remove the blockage in your drain line and clean the system of any mold. For help safely and effectively clearing the clogged drain line, call a local air conditioning technician.
Problem 2: Damaged Drain Pan
Before being carried outdoors through your drain line, condensation gathers in your drain pan. If there is a leak, hole, rust, bend, or damage in your drain pan, it may not effectively catch the excess water and guide it to your drain line. Instead, the water will drain and leak indoors.
Signs of a Damaged Drain Pan
Your drain pan should be visible for you to see at the base of your unit. If you notice any visual abnormalities, it is likely damaged. Your drain pan will likely appear overflowing; however, in cases of severe damage and wide gaps, you will notice that your drain pan is completely empty despite the excess water your system is producing.
Solution: Drain Pan Replacement or Repair
If the drain pan is only moderately damaged, an expert may be able to repair it. However, this issue often requires—at the very least—a drain pan replacement. Rust and old age are common sources of drain pan problems. If your unit is old, rusted, and experiencing multiple issues, you may opt to replace your AC system entirely. An expert can walk you through your options and help you arrive at the best solution for you.
Problem 3: Frozen Evaporator Coil or Equipment
Have you ever noticed ice forming on your air conditioning unit? When your AC system cannot effectively release the cooling properties it is producing, your evaporator coils or other components of your unit begin to build up ice. Eventually, your unit will turn off, catch a break, or start to shut down—this ice will melt and release water into your home.
There are three primary causes of frozen evaporator coils:
- Dirty Air Filter: When the air cannot pass through a dirty air filter, your unit will start working harder to produce cool air. As this cold air lingers around your system, it will begin to freeze the condensation around the evaporator coils.
- Dirty Evaporator Coils: Dirt on evaporator coils serves as a type of insulation. Rather than cooling your air, the refrigeration will become trapped and begin cooling your system internally. This will cause freezing and ice buildup.
- Refrigerant Levels: The refrigerant in your unit creates the pressure your system needs to stay moving and functioning. When this pressure drops because of low refrigerant levels, your internal unit temperature drops accordingly. This will cause your unit to freeze.
Signs of an Evaporator Coil, Air Filter, or Refrigerant Issue
Frozen AC equipment is the number one sign of an evaporator coil, air filter, or refrigerant issue. Much like any other AC issue, your unit will become ineffective or may shut off. You will also notice high electric bills when you have low refrigerant. For air filter or coil issues, you might notice visible signs of dirt and blockage.
Solution: Air Filter Replacement, Refrigerant Care, and Coil Cleaning
The solution here depends on the source of your issue and any further damage that it may have caused. At best, you may simply need an air filter replacement. If the issue is with your evaporator coil, it may need to be professionally cleaned to restore the unit’s function while avoiding damage. You may also need replenished refrigerant levels or repair for any refrigerant leaks. If these problems caused deeper issues with your AC system, an expert will need to inspect and repair any resulting problems. To minimize the damage these issues can cause your system, it is best to prevent these problems or catch them early with professional HVAC maintenance.
Newcomb and Company AC Service
If you notice a leak in your AC system, the experts at Newcomb and Company are here for you! Our professionals are available 24/7 to serve homes and businesses in Raleigh, Wilmington, and surrounding areas. For our Raleigh residents, Newcomb and Company also has the expert plumbers you may need to help with any water damage caused by AC leaks. Contact the specialists at Newcomb and Company to get started today!