Dealing with Commercial A/C Condensate Drain Issues
During the Delaware and New Jersey area’s humid summers, your building’s air conditioner spends much of its energy removing excess moisture from the air. While the system’s condensate drain can usually handle this moisture, problems do sometimes occur.
The Cause of Condensate Drain Problems
As it cools your air, your air conditioner also removes excess humidity by condensing moisture in the air into water. That water drips off the evaporator coil into the drain pan, and the condensate drain carries the water away.
With correct, routine maintenance the pan and drain stay clean so the water can flow unobstructed. Sometimes, however, mold and algae develop inside the drain. This is common when weather is particularly humid or you neglect annual maintenance for too long.
Eventually the algae or mold grows thick enough to clog the drain, preventing the condensate water from flowing through. The water then backs up and overflows from the drain pan. Keep in mind that mold in your A/C raises the risk of mold spreading to the rest of your commercial building.
A disconnected drain line is another possible cause of leaking water. Over time, flowing water and vibrations in the building can cause the drain line to work loose. Water then drains out onto whatever is under the drain pan. A cracked drain pan can also allow leakage.
A drain line with a missing, incorrectly installed or blocked P-trap is also at risk for leaks. A P-trap is a U-shaped pipe in the drain line that prevents water from backing up.
In addition, your A/C has a pump that helps move drainage water along. If this pump stops working correctly, water can back up in the drain line.
Spotting the Signs of Blocked Drainage
One of the clearest signs you have a condensate line problem is water leaking from the A/C’s indoor unit. Even if you don’t see any dripping water, you might notice water stains around the cabinet or near the fan. In systems where the evaporator coil is mounted above the furnace, rust on the furnace is another tell-tale sign.
A blocked condensate drain can eventually shut off your whole A/C system. Most air conditioners contain an emergency shutoff system that senses when water in the drain pan is at risk for overflowing, and immediately shuts off the system to prevent damage.
Getting Your Condensate Line Working Again
You may be able to clear a minor blockage using a wet-dry vacuum. Locate the exterior end of your condensate line, which is usually a PVC pipe near your outdoor condenser unit. You’ll need an additional attachment to secure the vacuum and create a tight seal with the drain line. You can buy these at home improvement stores. Attach the wet-vac to the drain and run it for three minutes to pull out the clog.
If the problem is a disconnected condensate line, cracked drain pan or worn out pump, and you’re familiar with the basics of air conditioner maintenance, you may be able to reconnect the line or replace the pan or pump yourself. If you’re unsure, contact a repair technician. For other issues, such as severe clogging or lack of a P-trap, call a technician.
You could end up damaging your A/C system by attempting to repair it yourself.
To keep your drain clear, pour a cup of white vinegar into the line once a month to discourage algae and mold growth. In addition, schedule professional maintenance once every year.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection, and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial, and Residential settings. For more information about maintaining your A/C’s condensate drain and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!