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Problems With an Air Conditioner’s Condensate Pan and Drain

ac-unit-insidesAn air conditioning system doesn’t use water to cool off the inside of a house—but water condensation is a part of the AC’s heat exchange process. If you listen to the air conditioner’s indoor cabinet when the system is running, you’ll occasionally hear the drip of water. This is the vapor from the air that gathers along the evaporator coil. As the coil evaporates the cold refrigerant moving through it to draw heat out of the air, it also draws out moisture in the air, where it condenses on the coil.

What happens to this water? It drips off the coil and falls down into a shallow condensate pan. A pump then removes the water through a drain and removes it from the house. For the most part, you won’t have to think about it. Unless…

Condensate Pan and Drain Troubles

Any part of the AC can malfunction or break, and the condensate drainage system is no exception. There are a number of troubles that can crop up with the condensate pan, drain, and pump.

  • Drain clog: Water can cause the growth of algae, and algae inside the condensate drain will clog it up. This will quickly cause the pan to overflow, since it’s only a few inches deep. Water will escape from the unit, and a float in the pan will trigger the AC’s limit switch and shut off the system. If you see a blank thermostat screen, an overflowing pan is one of the possible reasons. AC technicians must detach the pan from the drain, clean the drain, and reassemble the drainage system.
  • Leaks from corrosion: Any place water is in contact with metal, corrosion can start. The pan itself is unlikely to corrode, but the drain connection might, causing water to leak around the sides of the drain. The AC will start to leak, and the increased moisture may lead to mold and mildew growth. If the pan itself corrodes, it will soon crack and create a large amount of water leakage.
  • Burnt out pump motor: The motor that powers the condensate pump can burn out just like any motor. If this happens, no water will drain from the pan and you’ll be stuck with the overflow problem soon. In most cases, it’s best to have professionals replace the entire pump.
  • Mold in general: When the condensate system isn’t draining the way it should, the moisture levels inside the AC will rise, and this can cause mold to develop on other parts of the unit. The most harmful is mold starting along the evaporator coil—this not only makes the coil less effective at cooling the home, it will place an unpleasant odor like dirty socks into the air.

When you suspect you need repairs for your air conditioning in Van Nuys, CA, don’t hesitate to call on our team, any time of the day or night. Please don’t attempt to fix the condensate pan on your own, as this may lead to worse leaking. We can have whatever is wrong fixed fast so your AC gets back to doing the job it’s supposed to.

Keep your home cool all summer: call on Kilowatt Heating, Air Conditioning and Electrical in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.

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