How to Fix an AC Leak

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Posted June 16, 2018

As temperatures rise, AC problems become more of an issue. We find that a majority of the AC calls we receive each summer are directly related to leaks in the AC unit. Though leaks can vary in size, even the smallest ones can lead to a lot of damage if left alone. Don’t be left without air conditioning this summer! Read on for some of our helpful tips on how to fix an AC leak without having to call in the professionals.

 Air conditioning leaks happen because of three main reasons: 

1. Drain Pan Problems

Housing your evaporator coil is a drain pan. This pan collects the condensation from your indoor unit. If it’s cracked, missing, overflowing, or rusted, then you won’t be able to drain the water properly. You’ll be able to quickly tell if you’re having a problem with the drain pan. Shine a flashlight along each corner, edge, and directly above the wettest spot. If you notice any cracks or small holes, these can be patched up with a little bit of epoxy glue or water sealant, but we recommend replacing the pan rather than patching. This will best ensure that you stop leaks in their tracks.

Don’t forget, there are typically two drain pans. One under your evaporator coil (permanently fixed) and one underneath the unit (removable). If you patch the leak yourself, you will have to leave the permanent one in place while you do the repairs. If you choose to replace this pan, you’ll want to call a professional.

2. Drain Line Clogs

This is the most common reason for AC leaks. Your drain lines can become clogged with algae and fungi buildup in the AC condensation drain line. When this happens, the water can start to overflow, flooding the drain pan. Most modern units have a water-overflow cut off switch, which automatically shuts down the AC unit if it senses a clogged condensate line. While this shut-off works to your benefit to prevent water damage, it can seem alarming if your air conditioner shuts down entirely leaving you without cool air. Avoid service calls or costly repairs with line cleanings every couple of months. This can easily be done by pouring vinegar into the drain line, using a wet/dry vac, or simply contacting your HVAC professional.

Details to clear the lines:

  1. Locate the PVC pipe near your air handler’s drain pan. It will be the piece of pipe sticking out at a 90-degree angle with a cap on the top.
  2. Unscrew the cap and pour about six ounces of vinegar down the drain line. Doing this every few months will kill any algae or fungi that has developed. If your drain line is still clogged, you will have to decide whether or not you want to attempt to clear it with a wet/dry vac or call your local HVAC professionals.
  3. To use a wet/dry vac: Locate your outdoor condensate drain line near your unit. Then connect your wet-dry attachment (found at your local home improvement store) and turn the vacuum on. Run the vacuum until you have cleared the lines.

3. Air Filter Clogs

Your home’s indoor air handler needs proper airflow to function. The most straightforward solution to this problem is to change out your air filters regularly. We’re talking every 30-60 days to avoid this problem. If there’s a clog, then the air will be severely restricted, which can lead to your evaporator coils freezing. When coils freeze, they start to drip water and can no longer remove heat from your home. This will lead to warm air or potentially no air for your home. If you do notice frozen coils, turn the unit off immediately and don’t turn the unit back on until the problem is fixed. Take a look at our other blog post to read more about how to clean your condenser coils.

ProTip: If you’re changing your filters regularly, but still having problems, check your home for any closed or covered vent registers. If this doesn’t help, then you may have a low refrigerant charge, which requires a service call.

The absolute worst thing you can do is to ignore a problem. If a leak in your air conditioner continues for long enough, you may be facing significant water damage or an HVAC unit damaged beyond repair. Use these tips to discover how to fix an AC leak and prevent that from happening.

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