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Is Your AC Drain Line Clogged? What You Need To Do

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  • April 18, 2019

Your air conditioner removes both heat and humidity from your house. When you are dealing with those sticky days during the summer, your air conditioner can remove a significant amount of moisture from the air, but where does that water go? Ideally, the water will collect in the condensate drip pan of the air handler, where it will then flow into a drain hose that leads to the exterior of the home. Over time, however, this drain hose can become clogged, which can eventually result in water damage.

What Causes the Clogs to Form?

The water that accumulates in the condensate pan can contain tiny bacteria and other microscopic particles that are in the air. As the water trickles through the drain line, it will leave a residue behind that has the potential to build up and form mold, algae, and wet clusters of dirt and dust.

Because the drain line goes outside, there is the potential that the clogs can form at that end, too. If the line exits in a dusty area, it may become clogged with a clump of dirt. In the event that the AC has not been used in a little while, then insects may have constructed a home in the line opening.

How Do You Know If You Have a Clog?

When the drain line suffers a clog, the next steps will depend on the features of the air handler. Most modern air handlers have the ability to detect when the drip pan has become over-filled and can automatically shut down. Extremely sophisticated models are designed to send an e-mail or text message when it gets to this point. While it is inconvenient for the air handler to shut down, it is far better for this to occur than to have an overflowing drip pan.

If the air handler did not come equipped with this feature, you may never notice a problem—until you notice that there is water dripping out of the vents or through the ceiling, which means that the drip pain is overflowing and you need to shut down the AC immediately.

How Can a Drain Line Clog Be Cleared?

It takes specific equipment to clear a drain line, such as a wet/dry shop vac and maybe even an air compressor. If the air handler is in your home’s attic, then you will be required to work in the attic, potentially in a tight space. If this is something you are unable to do or you do not have the proper equipment, then you should contact an HVAC technician to handle the repair.

If you can handle the repair on your own, then you should locate the condensate drip pan first, which is typically located at the very bottom of the air conditioning unit. Once located, slide the pan out carefully because it will likely be full of water all the way to the top. Remove the water using a wet/dry shop vac, and then completely remove the drip pan so you can clean it in hot, soapy water to eradicate any bacteria and buildup.

Next, you will want to attempt to clear the drain line by using positive air pressure or suction. You can begin by vacuuming the drain line from the opposite end, though you will need to create a very tight seal around the hose. Ideally, this process works best if you have someone helping you at the other end of the drain line who can plug it. An alternative option is to use an air compressor, which will allow you to send air into the drain tube, with the hopes of blowing out the clog.

As soon as you are able to clear the drain line, empty one gallon of vinegar into the line using a funnel. This will aid in killing any remaining algae and mold that is in the line, and hopefully, help to reduce the risk of any future clogs.

Clearing an air conditioning drain line is not a job that every homeowner can do on their own, but when the line is clogged, it needs to be unclogged immediately. If you are unable to do it, call a professional as soon as possible. If you need professional assistance, give Air Degree a call.

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