Why Is My Air Conditioner Leaking?
At some point, most homeowners will notice water pooling around the air conditioner. The cause of such a puddle is often benign. But occasionally a leak is something that requires professional attention. This article explores the reasons behind your AC leak so you can take necessary steps to address the issue and prevent further damage.
Is Water Pooling Under Your AC a Problem?
The simple answer? It depends!
- Is it a hot summer day? A leaky or “sweaty” AC can be normal in very warm weather when your unit has to work overtime to keep your building cool.
- Pay attention to how the puddle is forming. Is the puddle present when your unit is off? That's not a good sign.
- Does the pool evaporate after a day? A "sweating" AC puddle should evaporate once the weather cools. But if the water hasn’t evaporated after a day and continues to grow, you may want to take action.
What Does Normal Condensation Look Like?
As stated above, it is typical on a hot or humid day for a small puddle of water to collect under your AC. This puddle is made up of collected condensation that has run off the side of the unit.
Once the weather has cooled off, the leaking and condensation build-up should stop. If not, and the dripping and pooling grow over time, you likely have an issue.
Possible Reasons Why Your AC is Leaking Water
After determining the puddling is not a result of the weather, you need to look for the cause of the problem — and several could be to blame.
From most common to least common, here are a few possible causes of a leaking AC:
- Clogged Condensate Line
- Frozen Evaporator Coils
- Low Refrigerant Charge
- Broken Drain Pan
- Missing Insulation on Suction Line
- Broken Condensate Pump
- Poor Installation
Let’s take a closer look at each of these issues.
Clogged or Disconnected Drain (Condensate) Line
One of the most common causes of these leaks is a clog or disconnection within the drain line. This drain (condensate) line runs from your AC unit to a drainage area outside the home, providing an escape for the humidity and condensation your AC creates.
How Can I Fix It?
To fix a clog, you’ll need to clear the line. Locate the drip pan underneath your unit and drain any standing water before cleaning it with warm water and soap. Then, find the exit point of your drain line, typically located near your outdoor AC unit. Remove the cap and drain the water, clearing out any visible debris or build-ups. Finally, head back inside and locate your drain line access point near your unit. Open this cap and pour white vinegar down the line to clear it.
If this does not solve your leaking issue, contact a professional HVAC team to come and take a closer look!
Maintenance Tip: Keep your condensate lines clear by regularly replacing AC filters and flushing the lines with warm water. (You can mix in some bleach or vinegar to kill off mold growth.) If you don't have a condensate trap, add one!
Frozen Evaporator Coils
The evaporator coil is responsible for removing heat and humidity from the air. It is located inside the indoor unit and works by circulating refrigerant to absorb heat from the surrounding air, which is then released outside through the condenser coil.
Reason #1 for Frozen Coils: The first problem that could be causing your leak is simply that the coils are dirty. Accumulated dirt and dust directly on the coils makes it difficult for them to absorb heat. Give them a good clean, and continue to do so occasionally.
Reason #2 for Frozen Coils: Another problem could be a dirty air filter. These filters remove pollutants from our air, but when they become too full, they can cause airflow issues. Avoid this by replacing your air filter regularly — about once every three months.
More Reasons for Frozen Coils: You could also be dealing with another airflow problem caused by a broken fan, ductwork damage, low refrigerant levels, or a clogged drain.
Maintenance Tip: Replace your AC filter every 30-90 days.
Low Refrigerant Charge
Air conditioner refrigerant is a chemical compound that plays a vital role in the cooling process. It absorbs heat from the air inside the house and carries it outside, where it is released into the atmosphere through the condenser coil.
A lack of refrigerant can cause coils to freeze, leading to condensation leaks. Because it is placed in a closed loop, refrigerant does not need to be charged unless there is a leak within the system. If you believe this is the case, contact our team to inspect your HVAC system and make any necessary repairs.
Maintenance Tip: Get your unit regularly inspected and maintained by a professional. Your system shouldn't ever leak refrigerant unless damage has occurred.
Drain Pan is Cracked or Rusted
A drain pan is a container designed to collect and hold fluids that may leak or spill from your AC. It helps prevent damage to floors and surrounding areas by containing the liquid and allowing for easy disposal.
When the drain pan is cracked, rusted, or otherwise damaged, it has the potential to allow condensation to leak onto the floor. If your drain pan seems to be causing your AC issue, replace it!
Worn or Missing Insulation on Suction Line
The suction line (also called the refrigerant line) is the larger of the two copper pipes that connect the indoor and outdoor units. Its main function is to transport the low-pressure refrigerant gas from the evaporator coil to the compressor, where it is compressed and turned into high-pressure gas for the cooling process.
This line must be well-insulated to maintain efficiency, prevent strain on the AC’s compressor, and avoid heavy condensation.
If the condensation builds up and begins leaking out, taking action as soon as possible is essential. Leaving this issue without repair for an extended period could create even larger problems requiring more expensive repairs.
Maintenance Tip: Check where the insulation is missing, damaged, or worn and replace it. You can use fiberglass, rubber, polyethylene foam, or elastomeric insulation.
Broken Condensate Pump
A condensate pump is an accessory used when the AC is installed in a location where it is not possible for the water produced during the cooling process to drain by gravity. The pump collects and pumps the water to a suitable drainage point, preventing water from accumulating and causing damage to the unit or surrounding area.
Not all ACs need a condensate pump, but if your unit does and you are dealing with a leak, we recommend having a technician take a look!
Maintenance Tip: Inspect and clean your pump regularly!
Finally, another reason your AC is leaking could be due to poor installation. Often, this means your system needs to be leveled. This may not be your technician's fault, however! Concrete pads can sink and shift, causing a change in position that creates problems for your system.
You may also have a leak due to a poorly designed condensate trap. This trap prevents mold, bacteria, and odors from entering your home through the condensate line. If the trap is too big or small, it can easily cause a leak.
Common Issues That Show Up At the Same Time
Other AC-related issues tend to show up around the time a leak begins. These include:
- Less Cooling Power
- Vents Blowing Warm Air
- Hissing or Gurgling Sounds
If you’re experiencing these issues alongside your leak, contact our team today!
What Should I Do If My AC Is Leaking?
If you aren’t sure what is causing your leak, it may be best to shut off your unit until the problem is resolved. This can help the system avoid overworking itself, which can lead to a compressor failure.
Then, reach out to your HVAC technician to schedule an inspection and get your system back up and running again.
What’s the Difference Between a Refrigerant Leak and a Water Leak?
Typically, a refrigerant leak is harder to identify as it evaporates before pooling. Water, on the other hand, takes longer to evaporate, making a leak more noticeable. You will likely notice the other signs of a refrigerant leak, such as worsening AC performance, before you see any signs of leaking fluids.
Contact One Hour Heating & Air for More Info on AC Water Leaks
Whatever the cause of your AC leak may be, it is recommended that you address this issue as soon as possible. The team at One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning understands the importance of home comfort, so when you call on us, you can count on reliable, fast, and effective service!
Contact your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning today to learn more about your AC and to schedule your next maintenance appointment!