With summer temperatures in the Denver area regularly getting well into the 90s or even 100s, it is vital that you know you can rely on your home’s air conditioning system to keep you cool. Unfortunately, there are many different issues that can impact how well your AC works or whether it runs at all. One of the most common issues we hear from our customers is that they’ve noticed water leaking from their AC or pooling up on the ground near the air handler.
If you notice this issue, there is usually no reason to panic as most problems that can cause an AC to leak are fairly simple to solve. That being said, you definitely shouldn’t ignore the problem as it could also be a sign of a more serious problem that could ruin your AC unit. For this reason, it is important that you check to see whether any of the following issues are causing the leak so that you can get the problem taken care of quickly.
Clogged Condensate Line or Floor Drain
The most common reason that an air conditioner will leak is because of a clog in either the condensate drain line or drain pan. When your AC runs, condensation constantly forms on the evaporator coil due to the temperature difference between the cold refrigerant inside the coil and the hot air passing over it. This is why all air conditioners have a condensate drain line that channels this water away from the unit and outside the building.
The evaporator coil is located within the air handler unit inside the home. Typically, the air handler is located next to your furnace. Underneath the evaporator coil is a drain pan that catches any water dripping off the coil. The pan is then connected to a PVC drain line that directs the water either outside the house or into a nearby floor drain. Over time, it is common for the drain line to become clogged due to algae, mold, and slime buildup inside the pipes. If the drain line is clogged, the water obviously won’t have anywhere to go and will eventually start to overflow out of the drain pan and onto the floor. Similarly, if the floor drain is clogged, then the water will begin to pool up around the drain.
The good news is that you can usually unclog the drain line by running a plumber’s snake up through the pipe at the access point near the end of the line. If you don’t have a snake, you can also try to use a wet/dry vacuum to suction out the clog. In this case, you will need to stick the vacuum nozzle inside the pipe and then use duct tape to create an airtight seal around it. If these methods don’t work, you may need to contact an AC technician to unclog the pipe for you.
Damaged or Leaking Drain Pan
Leaks can also occur if the drain pan becomes damaged or develops cracks or holes. Metal drain pans often rust after so many years, while plastic and rubber drain pans can experience cracking due to the high heat inside the air handler. Depending on what type of air handler your system has, it may be possible to simply replace the drain pan. You can also try to use silicone sealant to seal around any cracks or holes. There are also situations where a leaking drain pan can’t be fixed and will require a new air handler to be installed. This primarily occurs with metal drain pans that are welded onto the bottom of the air handler and cannot be removed.
Leak in the Refrigerant Lines
Another possible reason for AC leaks is that the evaporator coil is frozen. When the coil starts to thaw, it can produce more water than the condensate drain line can handle at one time and cause the drain pan to overflow. The most common reason that the evaporator coil freezes up is due to a leak somewhere in the refrigerant lines.
An air conditioner requires a specific amount of refrigerant to maintain the proper pressure inside the system. When the pressure increases, it causes the refrigerant to heat up and turn from a liquid to a gas. This naturally occurs inside the evaporator coil as the cold refrigerant absorbs heat from the air. This heated refrigerant is then transferred outside to the condenser unit where the heat is released into the air outside the building. As a result, the refrigerant drops in temperature and turns back into a liquid.
If there isn’t enough refrigerant in the system due to a leak, it will lower the pressure and drastically reduce the temperature of the refrigerant. When this happens, the evaporator coil becomes too cold and any condensation on it can quickly start to freeze. It is usually fairly easy to tell when the coil has frozen as the AC will start pumping out hot air even though the compressor unit is running. You can also check by simply opening up the access door on the air handler and looking to see if the evaporator coil has ice on it.
If the coil is frozen, it is imperative that you turn off the AC and leave it off until the coil has fully thawed. If the system freezes up again, it could indicate that there is a leak in the refrigerant lines. Alternatively, it could be a sign of either of the following issues that can also cause the coil to freeze. Either way, you should never run your AC while it is frozen, or you risk burning out the motor on the condenser unit. If this happens, the only solution is to buy and install a whole new condenser.
Clogged Air Filter
A clogged air filter can also cause the evaporator coil to freeze. In this case, the issue is that the air filter is too dirty and restricts the airflow coming into the system. Without enough hot air flowing over it, the refrigerant in the coil can get too cold and cause the condensation to start freezing. Resolving this issue is as simple as replacing your air filter. You can also prevent this problem by making sure to inspect your air filter regularly and replace it at least once every one to three months.
Dirty Evaporator Coil
The evaporator coil can also freeze if it becomes too dirty. In this case, all of that dirt and dust sitting on the coils basically acts as insulation. This is why it is important to make sure that the entire system is professionally maintained and cleaned at least once every year.
Expert Cooling and Heating Services
If you’re dealing with issues like a frozen evaporator coil or any other AC problems, the cooling experts at Summit Heating & A/C can quickly diagnose and repair the cause of the problem. Our certified HVAC technicians service and repair all makes and models of cooling equipment, and we can also troubleshoot any issues you have with your home’s heating system or plumbing. We have been proudly serving customers in the Denver metro area for nearly 25 years, and we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all our services. To learn more or to schedule a service appointment, give the team at Summit Heating & A/C a call today.