AC Leaks

Most air conditioners produce water or "condensate" and this water has to go somewhere.  Hopefully it is carried to the exterior of your home through a drain system that terminates at an appropirate area.  When these drains fail it can be messy and even catastophically damaging to your home.  Many builders are installing AC's in attics where any failure of the AC's drain system may result in damage to the ceiling that can range from a water stain from a slow leak to entire sections of the ceiling collapsing from the weight of insulation that is water logged. 

Most AC's are equiped with a condensate drain that is about one inch in diameter or less.  Because the condensate flow is cool and flows relatively gently it is an ideal enviroment for the build up of a variety of micro organisms that can obstruct the flow of condensate over time.  When this happens, the flow should be directed to a secondary drain where possible or to an overflow sensor that, if working, should turn off the system so that it can be serviced.  If it seems that there were a lot of "shoulds" and 'ifs" in that previous sentence, there were.  

Often there is no secondary condensate drain line installed or it is plugged.  That means when the primary condensate line is obstucted the water will back up into the equipment potentially damaging it and eventually over flow likely damaging your house.  Having a secondary condensate drain line that terminates to a visible location (usually above a window) is the ideal configuration when possible.  When that is not practical, installing a good overflow sensor is the next best choice.  These are many types of overflow sensors including but not limited to self contained units that are installed directly in the secondary drain port and other units that have a float and sit in the emergency drain pan below the AC coil unit.  There are advantages and disadvantages of each type, but float sensors obviously have the added disadvantage that they have to be installed where the float will work best and not too late to prevent damage from occuring.  All sensors have the disadvantage that like any other mechanical device, they are subject to failure themselves, sometimes right out of the box.  That is why having a secondary drain line is a better choice.  Having both a secondary drain line and a overflow sensor would not be overly cautious if possible.  No mater what configuration you have, there is no replacement for vigilance.  Have your heating and cooling system serviced seasonally and keep your eyes open.  It may be incovenient to stick your head in the utility closet or attic where your equipment is located, but not as inconvenient as flooding your house.



Emergency drain pan filled with rusty water/defective sensor

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