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Water introduced into the home in ways other than through your plumbing can have serious consequences long term if not stopped.

A leak in an air conditioner could easily cause unintended moisture to collect and cause damage over time. To understand how a leak may form or how to stop one in your air conditioning system, you should first take a look at how these units work.

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The Basics of Air Conditioning

Your AC unit has three principle systems at work. These include the evaporator, compressor, and condenser. The basic explanation of what is happening within your AC unit is that liquid is converted to gas and then back. This process allows it to absorb the heat from your home and expel it by circulating refrigerants through this closed system of coils.

 

Your AC sucks air into a duct by way of a vent. The air then flows over the evaporator coils. Inside, these coils absorb heat as the refrigerant changes from liquid to gas. This gas then undergoes a pressure change by the compressor. It is put under high pressure which creates unwanted heat. This additional heat and gas moves to the condenser coils and a second fan where the gas can cool and change back into a liquid state. This part of the process in the condenser allows the heat to transfer to the outside air.

Likely Suspects

There are a few things that you can look into to diagnose a leaky air conditioning unit but is critical to note that there is also a potential for danger since these systems use refrigerants. As a result, you may want to seek out professional assistance such as a plumbing or HVAC technician depending on your situation to ensure safe and responsible repair of the system.

  • Broken pump

Depending on the type and location of the system you may have an issue such as a broken condensate pump. This pump is responsible for moving water from a collection point to a different location. Problems with a condensate pump could range from a stuck or damaged float to a bad motor. If you would like to diagnose your condensate pump, then you may want to try the most straightforward issue first. As always, exercise safety by making sure that the power is off to this pump before doing anything. You can try moving the float to see if it is stuck. If this frees the float once you restore power to the pump, it should operate correctly. However, if this is not the issue, then you may want to remove the pump and clean it or replace it altogether.

  • Clogged Drain Line

A common cause of leaks from air conditioners is clogging in the condensate drain line. The clog could be the result of sludge, dirt, mold, or dust. Once this occurs though, water which would usually be pumped out to a remote location can back up into your home. Some signs which may point to a clogged drain line could be standing water sourced by a drip from the drain line, signs of water damage/spots around the unit, a full drain pan, or even a moldy/musty smell in the home.

 

A simple fix for this would be trying to avoid it entirely. You can take preventative measures such as regularly cleaning your drain line, use of high-quality air filters, and routine maintenance. If you are unsure of whether or not you removed the clog, then it may be time to call in a pro.

  • Low Refrigerants

Low refrigerants can cause the pressure to lower inside of your AC unit allowing the evaporator coil to freeze over similar to a dirty air filter. When it melts, water then overflows into the drain pan. It is possible that this could cause overflow into your home. If you notice that the air conditioner is not cooling well this could be the cause. If you hear a bubbling or hissing noise, however, this could indicate a refrigerant leak. In the event of a  leak, your first call should be to a professional.

  • Dirty Air Filter

A dirty filter could block the flow of air to the evaporator coil and cause it to get too cold and freeze. Once this happens, excess water can overwhelm the drain pan and cause overflow. A simple fix would be periodically checking the filter and changing when necessary. You may also find that investing a little more in a better quality air filter keeps you from running into this issue more often.

 

Your best bet to avoid a leak is preventing them. Preventative measures could be as simple as regularly scheduled maintenance and checks for signs of water where it doesn’t belong. Taking appropriate steps could save you time, money and potential health risks down the line.