Very little worries a homeowner as much as seeing a water leak. If it is not dealt with, water can cause a lot of damage to walls and ceilings, carpets and furniture. Water also attracts mold which can affect someone’s health. Water leaks are bad news.
An air conditioner leak is no different. When you know why they leak you can, to some extent, prevent it from happening. Regular maintenance is the best prevention, of course, but read on to learn more about what causes an AC leak.
How ACs Work
Let’s start by covering some basics. Air conditioners pull humidity out of the air. The air passes over an evaporator coil, the moisture condenses, and cooler, drier air flows back into the rooms. The condensate, the moisture that has condensed out of the air, is channeled away. When the condensate does not get channeled to the outside or into the plumbing system, it has to go somewhere, so it follows the path of least resistance, and we call it a leak.
New HVAC System
If you live in a fairly new home, you may assume that a leak is impossible, but you would be wrong. New HVAC systems leak for several reasons. The basic design may be poor, the drain pan, which collects the condensate, may not have been connected to the drain line that takes the water away. The condensate pump may not have been connected properly, or it may just be a poor quality pump. Builder’s detritus may not have cleaned up, so it blocks the drain pan and the water backs up. The sections of ductwork, running under the home’s second story floor, may not have been sealed properly, so the bad joints allow condensate to leak onto the ceiling below.
Drains and Mold
Older properties may also experience an air conditioner leak. Drains can become blocked with dirt or dead insects. Ductwork joint seals may just get old. The drain pan may start to rust out, so condensate can leak through the hole instead of flowing down the drain pipe.
Mold build-up is a common cause of leaks. Mold can block the drain pan or the drain pipe, just like dirt can. In this instance there will be water, probably a bad smell, and occupants may begin to feel ill.
Frozen Evaporator Coils
A common cause of an AC leak in a poorly-maintained system is a frozen evaporator coil. Coils freeze because the air filter is clogged, the refrigerant is too low, or the coil is faulty in some way. A clogged air filter limits the amount of air flowing over the coil, so the coil’s temperature drops to below freezing. Low refrigerant can also cause the coil’s temperature to drop too low. The result, in both cases, is that ice builds up on the coils. The ice eventually begins to melt and the excess liquid water leaks out.
Any AC system can fail, and leaks are a sure sign. If you’re having HVAC problems, contact us to learn how we can help.