Water, Water Everywhere: What To Do If Water Leaks From Your A/C System

Water leaks are something you usually associate with your home's plumbing. However, water can also leak from your air conditioning system under the right circumstances. If you're tired of seeing large puddles of water around your air conditioner, then you'll definitely want to read on.

Possible Water Leak Sources

Unless you're somehow running an industrial HVAC system that relies on chilled water, chances are your A/C system doesn't rely on water in the cooling process. It can, however, generate water by condensing water vapor from the air through the refrigeration cycle. This condensed water usually ends up in a condensate tray located below the A/C evaporator coil, where it later empties out through a drain in the tray.

Three things can happen to cause your A/C to leak water:

  • The A/C evaporator coil can freeze over and the resulting ice buildup can melt all over the A/C unit. It's easy for the ice to melt faster than the condensate tray can drain it, resulting in an overflow that lets water leak out of the A/C unit.
  • The condensate drain can get clogged with debris or mold and algae growth, preventing condensate inside the tray from draining properly. With nowhere left to go, the tray overflows and water cascades out of the A/C unit.
  • Damaged or broken drain pipes may allow some of the condensate to leak as it drains out of the tray.

Water Leak Remedies

Fortunately, a water leak won't spell the end of your air conditioner. On the contrary, A/C water leaks can be relatively easy to tackle if you have the right tools. Start by making sure your air conditioner is turned off. If the evaporator coil has frozen over, give it an opportunity to thaw out before doing anything else. You can help the process along by using a hair dryer on its highest heat setting.

Once your evaporator coil escapes its icy binds, have an HVAC professional come in to check the unit's refrigerant levels. Most cases of ice buildup are caused by not having enough refrigerant in the A/C system. Also make sure the evaporator coil is clean and free of any dirt, mildew or mold buildup.

If you're dealing with a clogged drain, use a miniature plumbing snake or a pipe cleaner to bust up any clogs spotted. You can also place a shop vacuum hose over the drain inlet to draw debris out of the pipe and into the vacuum. Afterwards, pour a cup of undiluted white vinegar to disinfect the drain and prevent clogs from occurring later on.

Don't forget to check the condition of the PVC drain pipe. Small leaks can be patched up with PVC adhesive or epoxy, while larger leaks or complete breaks require a total replacement of the affected pipe section.

Talk with your local HVAC repair technician if you have concerns about the condition of your air conditioning system.