An air conditioning condensate drain and float switch sit atop a drain pan. If the drain pan fills with water, it means the drain is clogged.
Check the Condensate Drain Outside the Home
The first step to maintaining your condensate drain is to look for where the drain exits the home. During hot weather along the humid Gulf Coast and when your air conditioner is running, that drain should be dripping. This is evidence that it is removing humidity from the air.
When the air conditioner is not running, that drain should not drip.
If your drain is not dripping when your air conditioner is running, you might have a clogged drain.
If you can’t find a drain exiting your home, your condensate drain could be tied into your plumbing system. More on this later in the article.
How to Keep Your Condensate Drain Clear
Inspect and maintain your HVAC condensate drain next to your indoor evaporator coil by pouring a half-cup of vinegar, not bleach, in the condensate drain once each quarter.
In many homes in our area, the top of the drain is located in the attic. Sometimes it will be in a closet in a hallway.
If you can only remember to do it once or twice a year, it will be better than never doing it.
If this type of maintenance isn’t your cup of tea, ask your HVAC contractor if condensate drain maintenance is part of the regular maintenance plan they offer.
Install a Float Switch
If you don’t have a float switch or ceiling saver switch already, have one installed. These handy switches turn off your air conditioner in the event that your drain clogs and your drain pan fills up.
Your HVAC contractor will be happy to show you where the drain is located, how to maintain it, and if you might benefit from a drain pan float switch.
Depending on the municipal code in your area, newer HVAC systems require the installation of float switches, so you may already have one or two!
Check Your Air Conditioning Condensate Drain Pan
If you have water in your condensate drain pain, it usually means you have a clogged drain. You can try to fix it yourself or call a licensed HVAC technician for help.
If you look at your HVAC condensate drain pan and notice that it’s rusted through, that can make the problem worse. A float switch or ceiling saver switch won’t fix that.
Because humidity is such an issue in our area, we install rustproof drain pans in all of our new HVAC installations to avoid that issue. It makes drain pans last much longer.
How to Make a Clogged Condensate Drain Stop Leaking
If you observe water pouring from your ceiling and you suspect it is because you have a clogged condensate drain, the fastest way to make the water stop is to shut off the air conditioning system.
What If Your Condensate Drain Is Attached to Your Plumbing System?
In some homes, the HVAC condensate drain is independent and not connected to your home’s plumbing system. In other homes, the HVAC condensate drain may be plumbed into your home’s plumbing system. Typically, we see a condensate drain tied into an upstairs sink.
If this is the case you won’t be able to observe your condensate drain exiting the house and see if it is dripping or not. You will be able to observe the drain pain though.
If you have a very big clog in your condensate drain AND another clog in your plumbing system, it could cause a back-up in your plumbing system. This does not happen often, but it is possible, which is why it is so important to keep an eye on your plumbing system regularly.
Here’s a scenario we have observed on more than one occasion: A homeowner has an upstairs sink that isn’t used often and has begun to drain slowly. It’s not a priority to fix because no one uses it much. The homeowner may be unaware that their HVAC condensate drain is tied into this sink. They may have been unaware that a condensate drain needs maintenance, too.
When a sink and condensate drain both have clogs, it can create a perfect storm causing a messy situation requiring both a plumber and HVAC professional’s help. Maintenance pays.
Check Your Plumbing Regularly