Why is My Air Conditioner Leaking Water Outside?

air conditioner leakingIt’s a hot Summer day, and you’re walking around the perimeter of your house. Maybe you’re mowing the lawn or trimming the shrubs. The air conditioner is humming faithfully, and you’re looking forward to stepping back into the cool environment of the house.

But what’s this?

You notice a large, expanding pool of fluid at the base of the air conditioning unit. It looks later water. Should you make an emergency call to an HVAC specialist? Ignore the problem? Get out your tools and start loosening screws?

First off, it’s important to understand that air conditioners naturally produce condensation and moisture. As humid, warmer air is pulled into the unit and cooled, the meeting of hot and cold naturally produces drops of water. This is normal. What isn’t normal are any of the following scenarios:

1. Your A/C is faulty or was not installed properly

Modern air conditioners are designed with drainage systems to make sure the condensation has a clear exit and does not build up. If the drainage system is badly built or poorly installed, it will fail to serve this purpose. The result is built-up condensation, pools of water, and more serious problems down the road! If you have a service plan or installation guarantee with the company who installed the unit, you shouldn’t hesitate to call it in. If you’re not covered, you may wish to further inspect the unit or find an qualified, affordable HVAC specialist to assess the problem.

2. The evaporator coil is defective

Your A/C unit has an evaporator coil, which essentially is where warm air is cooled for distribution into your house. If this component becomes dirty or clogged, it can prevent condensation from being channeled away from the unit. The build up will eventually be visible around the base of the unit.

A leaky coil is another possibility, especially in humid climates where the unit is running constantly. Depending on the coil used by your particular air conditioner, the fix or replacement could get expensive. If the problem lies with the evaporator coil, hopefully it’s simply a build-up of dirt or grime that is clogging the drainage system and can be solved by cleaning the coil.

While the unit is running, you should see water draining through this hole. It should not be so much water, however, that the entire base of the unit is soaked. If there is little or no water coming through the hole, you may be able to gently dislodge the blockage using a small, narrow tool.

3. Your drain line is clogged

The condensation produced by your unit is normally channeled into the evaporator coil drain pan. From there it enters a drain line and finds its way outside the unit. It’s possible that water is building up because it simply has no clear exit, due to a clogged drain line. In this case, the blockage must be found and cleared. It’s sometimes possible to clear obstructions with a vacuum (wet-dry), or if the drain hole itself is blocked, with a small tool such as a screwdriver.

Unless the blockage is visibly obvious, it’s usually better to call a technician or knowledgeable friend before tinkering too much with your air conditioner. One thing you should never do is attempt to drill or cut holes in the unit to try and give water an exit. This may cause severe damage to the unit and will not solve the real problem.

The possibilities are many!

Air conditioners produce condensation, so an abundance of it can mean a number of things, from a faulty evaporator coil to a clogged drain system. What most people don’t realize is that 99% of these problems can be totally avoided with preventative maintenance! A qualified HVAC specialist will be able to provide routine (annual or bi-annual) maintenance on your system, addressing problems in their infancy so that your air conditioner can handle the condensation without issues.

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