Clogged Condensate Drain: Why It Happens and How to Deal With It

Posted On: August 08, 2013

Your air conditioner works hard to keep you comfortable during the hot Metro-East summer, and breakdowns are common during the hotter months due to the constant operation of your system. One of the most common air conditioning problems is a clogged condensate drain. While preventive maintenance will go a long way toward keeping your air conditioner operating efficiently and problem-free for the duration of the cooling season, knowing how to prevent and remove clogs can save you the time and cost of a service call.

What is the condensate drain?
Beneath your evaporator coil is your condensate pan, which catches the condensation from the coil. The water drains from the pan through a PVC pipe that terminates at an indoor drain or an outdoor location. During periods of high humidity, more condensation will accumulate, and if there’s an obstruction in your PVC drain, the condensate pan will back up and shut down your air conditioner. It also may leak into your home if it backs up.

Preventing clogs
During an annual preventive tune-up, your qualified HVAC technician will flush the condensate drain to remove obstructions such as pet hair, dirt, insects and leaves. Once the drain has been flushed, you can prevent further clogs by performing these regular tasks:

  • Vacuum the area around your indoor unit to remove dirt and debris that could find its way into the drain.
  • Keep the area around the end of the drain clean and free of obstructions. If your drain terminates outside, periodically remove leaves and other yard debris from the end of the drain.

Removing clogs
If your condensate drain becomes clogged, turn off the power to your air conditioner at the main circuit breaker. Vacuum the standing water from the condensate pan with a wet/dry vacuum. Insert a plumber’s snake or plastic tubing into the PVC drain attached to the pan to remove obstructions, then do the same on the terminal end of the drain.

For more expert advice about preventing common air conditioning problems such as a clogged condensate drain, please contact us at Ernst Heating & Cooling, proudly serving the Glen Carbon, Alton and Highland areas since 1954.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Hamel, Alton, Glen Carbon, Highland, Greenville, and Troy, Illinois and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about condensate drains and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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