What You Should Know About Clogged Air Conditioner Condensation Lines

If you have ever noticed a steady dripping of water coming from your central air conditioner, then you have observed its condensation drainage system in action. This important system is essential to removing water that accumulates during the air conditioner’s operation, and clogs can have devastating consequences. Below is more information about why your air conditioner produces condensate and what you should know about clogs, including their prevention and correction.

Why Do Air Conditioners Produce Condensation?

Everyone knows air conditioners cool the air, but the exact process for how that occurs isn’t always clear. An air conditioner uses a device known as an evaporator to provide both cooling and drying of the air. Inside the evaporator lies a lengthy coil of thin tubing filled with refrigerant, such as Freon. The compressor pumps the refrigerant into the evaporator under pressure, and as warm air inside the conditioned space passes by the coils, heat is “extracted” and absorbed by the refrigerant.

As the air cools, another important function takes place: dehumidification. Air that is cooled loses its ability to hold moisture, and the evaporator-initiated cooling causes water vapor to condensate and drip into a catch pan. In humid climates, this is no small amount of water, as up to 20 gallons per day can be produced by a typical residential unit. Commercial air conditioning systems can produce considerably more condensate.

Condensation Drainage and What Can Go Wrong

Of course, all of this water has to go somewhere, and that is where a condensation drainage system comes into play. Attached to the catch basin beneath the evaporator is a drain pipe. This pipe is routed through your home or building and is either attached to a waste pipe or drains in an outdoor location. Under normal circumstances, this water freely flows and exits the system without much fanfare.

However, if the drain line becomes clogged, then a serious situation can develop, often without immediate recognition. Water will continue to drip from the evaporator into the catch basin, but since the condensate cannot drain through a clogged line, it will back up and eventually overflow the basin.

If an air conditioner’s evaporator is located in an attic, then condensate will spill out onto whatever may lie beneath, such as insulation, drywall, and joists. In a basement or crawl space, the condensate could accumulate to the point of causing a small flood or doing other harm. Regardless, the high volume of water produced by some systems can result in costly damage and destruction to property.

What Causes Condensate Drain Clogs

Since condensate drain lines are closed systems and do not carry waste products, the cause of clogs isn’t usually due to solid materials. Instead, most clogs inside condensate drainage plumbing are due to a buildup of biological debris.

For example, some bacteria find the environment inside a warm, dark condensate drain to be a great place to reproduce. These bacteria thrive in the drainage system and produce a considerable amount of slime as a consequence. The bacteria and its slimy byproducts are harmless to human health, but they form a thick, pipe-clogging plug that prevents condensate drainage.

The Solution to the Problem

The good news is that the problem can be prevented through preventative maintenance. A solution, such as bleach or special purpose chemicals, is introduced into the condensation drain plumbing near the catch basin. As the solution flows through the lines, it does double-duty by killing bacteria and dissolving the thick, gooey slime. This keeps the lines clear and clean, and condensate can freely drain without any complications.

If a drain line is already clogged, the introduction of cleaning chemicals can also help, but there may occasions when additional cleaning needs to take place. The professional that you consult, such as SOS Drain & Sewer, can provide the necessary cleaning and will restore the functioning of the drainage system.