HVAC & PLUMBING BLOG

close up of clogged condensate line

Drain Lines Awareness – A Crucial Part of Your A/C

Last time on the blog we talked a lot about indoor air quality, the common contaminants, and ways you can keep your air quality up. One of those ways was by making sure you have an efficient, functioning air conditioning system. This time on the ACE Home Services blog we are diving deep on a very specific part of the air conditioning unit that many folks don’t know about: drain lines.

What is the Drain Line in an AC Unit?

To understand how the drain line in the AC works, first you need to know the basics of how the A/C works. Air conditioners work by circulating warm air out of the home, into the unit itself where the air is cooled across the evaporator fins, where the heat in the air is exchanged with the cold fins and the now cold air is blown back into the home. The evaporator fins are cooled using a refrigerant. 

Look at your unit and you’ll see a small pipe running down from it along the side of your home. This is the drain line. One of the most critical components of an A/C unit, drain lines remove the water that is released when the refrigerant used to cool the air is converted from its liquid form to gas. If everything is working smoothly, that water is drained through the line and the A/C keeps chugging along, keeping your home the comfortable temperature you like. Unfortunately, it won’t always be working as it should – sometimes it can clog.

How Does the Drain Line Clog?

While here in Arizona we use our A/C units longer and more regularly than most – there are still times, often months, where it may go without being turned on. The condensation that gathers in the pipe makes for perfect conditions for the build-up of a clog. When the drain goes a long time without having water flushing through it moisture, dirt, and grime all combine to make a gooey sludge coating the inside of the pipe, reducing the side of the opening. Several years of this and your pipe will be fully clogged.

It’s not only the sitting that can cause a clog, but insects may also find the pipe a nice place to make a nest or the drain line may have been installed incorrectly, making it easier for dust and debris to gather in the line.

There’s another piece in the A/C system that can lead to a clog. Drain lines have a trap built into them, just like your sink. This trap can be a perfect breeding ground for algae to develop in the moist, hot air. This algae can build up and in combination with the other conditions we discussed are a fast track to a clogged drain line.

Why This Is a Problem

A clogged drain line is a quick way to have a cascading series of problems throughout the A/C unit. Without proper drainage, the drain line and coils can be covered in ice, or the water can back up, collecting into drain pan and spilling into your A/C. If the drain lines aren’t installed correctly that accumulating water could spill over and puddle onto your home, leading to major water damage.

Keeping your drain line clean and healthy is an absolutely critical piece of keeping your A/C system operating at peak efficiency and avoiding any sort of water damage to your home.

Here are some of the things you can do, right now, at home to take care of your drain.

  • Start with a thorough visual inspection.
  • Remove any visible debris from the condensate drain.
  • You may see a plug of dried sludge blocking a condensate overflow pan right at the drain.
  • Manually remove this obstruction and wipe the area clean.
  • Working carefully to avoid breaking or loosening any pipe connections.
  • The condensation drain pan should have its own independent drain line
    • Also, you can install an automatic shutoff switch that turns off your system if it detects spillage in the overflow pan. 

If any of this seems a bit beyond your capabilities don’t sweat it! Call your local experts at ACE Home services today! Our guys are ready and waiting to service your A/C unit and get your home comfortable again!

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