Water leaking from your air conditioner’s outdoor unit may seem ordinary, but that’s not always the case. But why does your air conditioner leak water, and how can you tell if it’s an issue?
Air conditioning units will naturally have some water leaking from them due to how they use condensation to cool the air circulated through your home. While small amounts of water from condensation are normal, large amounts of pooling water are signs of an issue in the system.
Air conditioners regulate indoor temperature by removing warm air from the interiors of houses and other buildings. It’s in the outdoor units of these systems that the heat exchange takes place. Since these units are kept outside the premises and are exposed to the elements all the time, they can develop certain problems, like water leaks.
If you see excess water coming from your AC unit’s drain, you may be in need of air conditioner repairs. Read on to know why your air conditioner’s outdoor unit may be experiencing these leaks and what could be done about it.
Your AC produces a lot of water from condensation, especially during the hot summer months. This is because air conditioning units contain refrigerant coils that absorb heat from the room air.
When you turn your air conditioner on, the condenser coil heats up until it reaches its boiling point. When the warm air reaches the top of the unit, moisture is formed through condensation.
The water will drip into the drain line and then be channelled into the outdoor drain. Water that drips from the air conditioner’s outdoor drain is not harmful.
A “normal” amount of water leaking from your air conditioner’s drain depends on several factors, often affected by humidity, outside temperature or the temperature selected on the thermostat.
During normal operation of your air conditioner system, some water leaking from the drain tube outside is perfectly normal, drying up rapidly after the unit switches off. You might hear a faint dripping from time to time, which is normal.
Seeing water pooling around your air conditioner’s outdoor unit might not look like a big issue, but ideally, it shouldn’t happen.
Here are the most common reasons for water leaking from an outdoor air con unit:
A very common reason for an air conditioning outdoor unit to leak is improper installation. If the connections between the outdoor and indoor units are not installed correctly, it could lead to water leaks and other problems, like hindered airflow and air recirculation. This is one reason it’s so important to choose the right air conditioning installation company.
Ideally, an air conditioner should be installed by professionals. It’s best not to try reinstalling the system yourself. Instead, call a professional air conditioner installer to look at your system to see if both the outdoor and indoor units are correctly installed.
If your air conditioner unit has been recently installed but produces more condensate than expected or cycles in and out too frequently, it may be undersized for the room being cooled. The extra load on the compressor and other components of the system may be the cause of future and costly repairs.
In Australia, cheap air conditioners are not designed to handle the region’s humidity. As a result, if you leave an air conditioner running all day long, the condensation will eventually cause the drain pipe to leak excess water.
You’ll also want to make sure you set the right temperature on your air conditioner. If your AC unit is working too hard for the climate, you’ll see more water dripping from your outdoor unit.
A dirty condenser coil can also cause your outdoor unit to leak. Over time, the condenser coil is likely to accumulate a lot of dust and grime, which can affect your air conditioner’s performance and, in turn, cause water leaks.
If more condensate than normal begins to flow after the unit is switched off, it can indicate a clogged coil and a more serious problem.
Sometimes, acid can start to form inside the air conditioner. This could happen due to several reasons, like:
Over time, this accumulation of acid can damage your unit and shorten its life. This is a fairly common problem and can be fixed if taken care of before the acid damages the compressor motor.
Drain pipes in air conditioners can become clogged after accumulating all kinds of dirt and debris over the years. So, naturally, water can start leaking from the outdoor unit when the drain pipe gets blocked.
In most cases, algae and mould are the most likely causes of what may be clogging the drain pipes.
If the drainpipe is damaged in any way, it may be a good idea to get it replaced instead of simply patching it up. This might be a bit difficult to do if you’re not very familiar with air conditioner maintenance; in that case, it’s always best to call a professional.
A clean filter is essential for an air conditioner to run properly. If your air filter is dirty and blocked, ice can form on the evaporator coils. The ice eventually melts and results in excess water, causing the drain pan to overflow. If you haven’t had your air filter changed in the last few months, this could be the problem behind the puddle.
The fix for your outdoor unit’s water leak depends on what may be causing the leak in the first place. Here are some of the causes and a few ways you can try fixing the problem.
The condenser fan motor is located at the bottom of the condenser. If you see any debris inside the condenser, you can try cleaning it out. To do this, you need to remove the condenser cover. Remove the condenser cover screws. Then, remove the condenser cover panel.
The condenser coils are relatively easy to clean:
While cleaning the condenser coils is relatively easy, do it very carefully. If you’re unsure about doing this yourself, ask a professional for help.
Here’s how you can clean out the AC drain pipe:
To prevent the drain pipe from getting clogged up again, clean it as regularly as possible.
If your air conditioner suffers from poor installation and poor airflow, consider installing an air conditioner deflector for your outdoor unit. This can’t resolve all issues caused by improper installation, so it’s a good idea to check with a professional to find out if an air deflector could help.
If your air conditioning unit is leaking excess water outside, it could mean there is a serious issue with your system. You should contact an air conditioning professional to help determine the cause of the leak and fix the problem before it worsens.
Other causes of leaky outside air conditioning units, like acid build-up and reinstallation, should be handled by an expert. An air conditioning specialist can also let you know whether you need to repair or replace your air conditioning unit. Air conditioner technicians can also resolve blocked air con drains and other concerns which may be contributing to the issue.
There are also dangers associated with repairing an air conditioner yourself. If you attempt to fix a leaky air conditioner, you will expose yourself to dangerous electrical shocks and refrigerant gas leaks. You can also damage your unit and void your warranty, even if you have some experience with air conditioner repairs. Calling a professional is always the safest solution.
An absence of condensation on the outside drain while your air conditioner system is operating may indicate another problem and merits further investigation. There will naturally be some condensation on the unit, so if there isn’t any at all, there’s likely an issue with your unit.
If refrigerant gas levels are too low, the finned and condenser coils will be unable to produce the desired cooling effect. This may also cause the compressor to operate with longer cycles causing the finned coil to eventually “ice over”. A reduced cooling effect in the room being cooled and less condensate is a tell-tale sign of a more serious problem.
Refrigerant gas levels do not naturally drop and only occur when some part of the unit is damaged, and the refrigerant gas is leaking. Apart from the lowered efficiency of your unit, refrigerant gas leaks are extremely hazardous. If you suspect your air conditioner has a refrigerant gas leak, you need to turn off the system, vacate the area and call an air conditioning specialist immediately.
Another reason to investigate a lack of condensate outside is if the drain system is not operating correctly. This can occur if the drain tray is blocked, eventually overflowing inside. The drain tray could even be cracked or leaking, in which case the damage may have already started but not yet evident.
During normal operation, the finned coil remains moist and easily collects airborne dust particles. If this dust builds up long enough, the finned coil may become clogged, stopping airflow and eventually becoming “iced over”. A lack of condensate and uneven cooling in the home is usually evidence of a clogged fin coil.
Seeing water pooling around your air conditioner’s outdoor unit might not look like a big issue, but ideally, it shouldn’t happen. With some proper air conditioner maintenance, you can ensure that your system stays in good shape.
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