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How to Prevent Clogs in AC Drainage Lines

In most cases, water dripping from you house would be a cause for concern. However, there is at least one exception. There is a line that runs from your air conditioning system to the outside that performs an important function to keep your home comfortable – especially in the heat of summer.

This drainage pipe – officially known as the condensate line — drains water that condenses on the unit while it cools your home. Over time, the pipe will clog, and could cause the draining water to back up and flood your home, so if you’ve never had the line inspected and cleaned, you’re probably overdue.

Why is it important to have the condensate line inspected/cleaned?

Your home comfort system performs two important functions while cooling your home. In addition to lowering the temperature, it removes excess humidity from the air. This humidity (in the form of vapor) collects and condenses on refrigerated coils in your unit. When enough condensation has collected, it drips into a pan connected to the condensate line. Naturally, when you use your unit more, especially in the hot, humid months of summer, more moisture collects on the unit, so make sure your condensate line is clear and ready to function.

How do clogs occur?

When you see the small stream or steady drip of water from your drainage pipe, it might be hard to imagine it clogging, but it’s not just water that’s draining from your unit. Bacteria, dust and other particles can collect in the pipe, on your unit and in the air. When that is mixed with the condensate water it creates, to use a technical term, “gunk.” Because of the dark, damp conditions, algae and mold can also grow in the pipe and cause it to clog. Eventually, the pipe will clog enough to prevent your unit from draining properly, causing the water to back up into your home and cause flooding and possibly costly damage.

How do you know if your condensate line is clogged?

Most units have an overflow sensor in place to alert homeowners when their drainage pipe is clogged. This sensor is attached to the drip pan. When the condensate pipe is clogged, the drip pan doesn’t drain and fills up with water. At this point, the sensor is triggered and turns off the unit to prevent it from creating more condensation and potentially flooding. If your unit shuts off and won’t turn back on, it’s likely that the sensor has been triggered. Be sure to have the sensor tested regularly.

Is there any way to prevent the line from clogging?

The only way to make sure the line does not clog is to have it cleaned by a professional at least once a year. Having the pipe cleaned, and making sure that the overflow sensor (if you have one) is working properly, are the only ways to avoid problems associated with the line clogging and backing up.

For more information on condensate line cleaning and inspection or other aspects of routine home comfort system maintenance, call Barineau Heating & Air at (850) 580-4029.


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