Air Conditioning Drain Lines And How Make Sure AC Stays Unclogged

Dated: 07/26/2018

Views: 314

Earlier this week, one of our tenants called and one of the air conditioners stopped working.  Over the years living in Florida, Karyn and I have dealt with many issues, but the dreaded air conditioning failure in the middle of the summer is always stressful.   What we have learned is that most of the time, this happens because of a clogged drain line.  Basically, air conditioners, especially those in attics and garages, release condensation that usually drains from the A/C unit through a drain line to the outside of the house, usually via 3/4" PVC plastic pipe.  From time to time, these pipes can get clogged with algae/slime build up.  And once they are clogged, the water will start to back up.   Today's A/C units typically have a water sensor, so if the water from the drain line does not drain, the water sensor will trigger and shut down the air conditioner.   

The solution to this problem is to ensure that the drain line is clear.  This can be done pretty easily with a wet vac - just attach the hose of the wet vac to the drain line, cover up around it with a sock or towel (so the wet vac has pressure), and just vacuum the slime/gunk out!  This will usually work, but if there's a stubborn blockage, you can also use an air compressor, but make sure you use the compressed air into the drain pipe attached to the A/C unit (inside) vs the outside drain want to blow the gunk out of the drain, not into the A/C unit.

In doing some internet research, I also came across this ingenious little gadget - a foot pump made for this exact issue.

This is pretty good investment and can save you a lot of aggravation, especially in the summer months when the A/C systems will be working the hardest.

Lastly, another trick to making sure your A/C drain lines are clean is White Vinegar.  Yup, the cheap stuff in the big plastic can buy at a grocery store.   Every few months, just pour a cup of it down the drain line coming out of your A/C unit - you will see the PVC pipes going out of the unit, the drain line is pipe usually has a removable PVC top on it and is the tallest pipe).  Pour in the vinegar, followed by a cup of warm water.  The vinegar is good in keeping the water flowing.

Importantly, don't use bleach.  I've heard a lot of people say to use bleach, but bleach can damage copper wiring and vinegar is much less caustic.  Good luck!

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Rowan Samuel

Rowan Samuel has lived many lives. Originally from Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), he and his family immigrated to the U.S. in 1980 to escape the brutal Mugabe regime - they lost everything when they came to Am....

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