Everyone knows that an HVAC unit is responsible for keeping the home at the homeowner’s preferred temperature; it’s thought of as the system’s primary role. Equally important, however, is the dehumidification your HVAC unit provides. In older window air conditioning units, the results of this process can frequently be seen dripping from the air conditioner. That water is the moisture being pulled from the hot, humid air inside the home. In the kind of home wide HVAC system referred to as ‘central air,’ letting this condensed moisture just drip isn’t an option. Excessive condensate will not only encourage mold and bacteria growth within the unit and condensate line itself, it also has the potential to cause structural and cosmetic property damage within your home.
The solution is for a shallow catch basin, called the drain pan, to fit under the evaporator coils (the parts that do the actual work of cooling). As the air running past the coils is cooled, water builds up on them, the same way it does on the outside of a cold glass on a hot day. The drips run down into this drain pan, which funnels the runoff toward the condensate line. The condensate line then directs the flow toward a drain outside.
Condensate Lines and the drain pans that feed them are usually made out of plastic or PVC, which prevents rust from being a problem, but they are still vulnerable to blockage and wear. They do not last forever and must be thoroughly checked and (if necessary) replaced as part of a regular home maintenance schedule. Some issues that can affect your condensate lines and drain pans are;
• Buildup of algae
• Cracks in the plastic lines or drain pan
• Contamination by mold
• Debris from corroded coils
• Environmental debris
These problems are extremely serious. Water damage can cost homeowners anywhere between $1,145 – $4,425 with an average price of $2,703. (How Much Does It Cost To Repair & Cleanup Water Damage?, n.d.) Removing mold is almost as worse averaging homeowners $2,325 on a national average. (W., n.d.)
Routinely having a home watch service company check on any HVAC lines is important. That is why our home watch check includes looking at the condensate lines within reach. If an air handler is too far out of reach, we highly recommend having your technician clean out the lines as part of your service agreement.
Service agreements vary and depending on services included. With various service agreement packages the price range may vary anywhere from $150 – $500 per year.
The best way to prevent a clogged condensate line is to schedule yearly maintenance, ideally at the beginning of the cooling season. A trained HVAC technician will be able to inspect and clean your system, ensuring that you have a steady flow of cool air.
Still there are steps you as a homeowner can take to maintain a clean air conditioner drain. Using this 6-step process and ¼ cup of vinegar on a monthly basis you can kill any mold, algae, mildew, and other bacteria or fungi that may build up in your air conditioner drain line.
Cleaning Your Condensate Line
Turn your system off at both the thermostat and the breaker.
Your drain line is a PVC pipe near your outdoor unit and attached to the wall of your house.
Use a wet vac and vacuum the line outside. Hook up the hose and hold it or tape it to the line and turn on the vacuum.
Go inside to the AC unit and look for the PVC drain line that runs away from the unit and down towards the wall. Remove the cap of the drain and inspect for any blockage
*Note: this is not the emergency cut-off valve
Use ¼ cup of distilled white vinegar or peroxide
Flush the pipe with water to ensure everything is flowing freely as it should
Issues that come from condensate lines can quickly become very costly for a homeowner. Following these cleaning steps along with maintaining routine inspections and understanding your HVAC service agreement is vital to prevent problems that may occur with condensate lines. Home watch visits can help prevent issues as well with routine inspections to prevent problems or minimize damage if an issue may occur.
Denice. (n.d.). Retrieved from Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Inc.: https://aplusairconditioning.com/clean-ac-condensate-drain-line-vinegar/
How Much Does It Cost To Repair & Cleanup Water Damage? (n.d.). Retrieved from Home Advisor: https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/disaster-recovery/repair-water-damage/
HVAC Diagram. (n.d.). Retrieved from Standard Heating & Air Conditioning: https://www.standardheating.com/hvac-maintenance/hvac-diagram/
W., D. (n.d.). Mold Removal Cost. Retrieved from HomeGuide: https://homeguide.com/costs/mold-removal-cost