Air conditioning doesn't just cool the air, but it also dehumidifies it. This process results in condensation forming and can sometimes lead to water leaking out of the system. Leaks most commonly occur in the part of the system inside your home, but the outdoor AC condenser may also leak at times. If your AC does ever leak inside or outside, here are the possible reasons why it's happening and what you can do to fix them.
Water Leaking From AC Condenser Unit Outside Your Home
You may sometimes see water dripping out from underneath the AC condenser outside your home or pooling up around the unit, especially if your AC is running when the outdoor temperature is 60 degrees or less. This is usually something you don't need to worry about as condensation can sometimes form on the condenser coil or the refrigerant lines and lead to water leaking out of the unit.
Condensation can also easily form on the copper supply line that carries cold refrigerant into the home if the line isn't properly insulated, and this most commonly happens in hotter or more humid weather. In this case, you should have a technician reinsulate the refrigerant lines or else your AC won't cool nearly as effectively.
If the water doesn't evaporate quickly or there is a large puddle, you'll probably want to have the unit inspected as this can indicate that it has a refrigerant leak. In this case, a technician will first need to repair the leak and then recharge the system with additional refrigerant. If either the evaporator coil or condenser coil is leaking, it will usually be necessary to replace the damaged coil.
AC Leaking Water Inside Your Home
Having your AC leak water inside your home is a much more common problem that can occur for a variety of different reasons. In most cases, you'll see water dripping out of the air handler compartment where the evaporator coil is located or pooling on the floor around it. If you do ever notice water leaking from your AC inside your house, it's a good idea to shut the system off and call for an inspection. Otherwise, you run the risk of water damage and mold growth. Some of the issues that can cause an AC to leak water can also result in major damage or even ruin your AC condenser entirely should you leave the system running. With that in mind, here are the different issues that can cause your AC to leak water inside and what can be done about them.
Frozen Evaporator Coil
Your AC evaporator coil can be prone to freezing under certain conditions. When this happens, the system will no longer be able to cool and warm air will start coming out of the vents. Once you shut your AC off and the coil begins to thaw, so much water can drip off that the drain pan starts to overflow and water leaks out of the air handler.
A dirty air filter is one of the most common issues that can lead to the evaporator coil freezing. Very little air can flow through the filter when it gets too dirty. If there isn't much warm air coming into the system, the refrigerant won't absorb much heat and can remain cold enough to where condensation freezes on the evaporator coil. This same problem can occur if the AC blower starts to wear out or malfunctions and can no longer draw enough warm air in, in which case you'll need to have the blower repaired or replaced.
A dirty evaporator coil is also much more prone to freezing, which is why you should always have the coil professionally cleaned as part of your yearly AC maintenance. Any dirt and dust on the coil will act like a blanket of insulation that prevents warm air from reaching the coil. If warm air isn't directly blowing onto the coil, the refrigerant won't be able to capture much heat. This can again lead to the coil becoming cold enough for the condensation to begin freezing.
A refrigerant leak can also cause the evaporator coil to freeze. A leak causes the refrigerant pressure in the system to decrease, which in turn leads to the refrigerant temperature becoming much colder and potentially causing the evaporator coil to freeze.
If you ever suspect that your AC is frozen, you should turn it off and then call for an inspection. If not, you run the risk of the compressor motor in the AC condenser burning out. The compressor motor cannot be repaired, which means you will usually need to replace your AC unit if the motor burns out. It is possible to replace the motor, but the high cost of doing so means it is seldom worth it except in cases where the unit is still under the manufacturer's warranty.
Damaged Drain Pan
The condensate drain pan is located directly underneath the evaporator coil and catches all of the water that drips off it. Rubber or plastic drain pans can sometimes crack and start leaking. If the pan is made of metal, it may eventually rust through and develop a leak. Depending on the condition of the pan and the extent of the damage, it may be possible to repair it so that it no longer leaks. If the damage is too severe, you may need to have the drain pan replaced. Unfortunately, replacement isn't always possible with metal drain pans as they are sometimes welded directly onto the evaporator coil. In this case, the only option is to replace the entire evaporator coil assembly.
Clogged Condensate Drain System
The condensate drain system consists of the drain pan and a series of PVC pipes that transport water away from the air handler and either outside the home or into the sewer system. Mold, algae and mildew will often form in the system and can create a thick sludge that can clog the drain pipes or even the drain pan itself. Debris can also sometimes get into the system and lead to it clogging up. If the drain system is clogged, the drain pan will eventually start overflowing. A clog can also lead to your AC no longer turning on since some systems have a safety switch in the drain pan that will shut the system off if there is too much water in the drain pan so that it can't overflow. Clearing a clog in the condensate drain system is something that will usually need to be done by an AC technician as it often requires specialized equipment.
Broken Drain Line
The PVC drain pipes can also crack or break and lead to water leaking out. A leak can also occur if the one of joints that connect the pipes is loose or no longer properly sealed. In either case, you'll need to have a technician repair or replace the affected part of the system to ensure it can no longer leak.
If you're experiencing any problems with your air conditioning system, you can trust Apex Plumbing, Heating and Air Pros for help. We offer professional AC repair and maintenance services, and our technicians service all brands and models of central ACs, heat pumps and mini-split ACs. If you need any air conditioning, heating or plumbing service in the Columbus area, contact us today to get the professional service and support your home deserves.