The physics behind the operation of air conditioning systems is more fascinating than you might expect. Your home's air conditioner doesn't create cold air. Instead, your air conditioning system (like all refrigeration systems) is essentially an energy transport system. Your air conditioner picks up heat energy from your home's air and carries it back into the outside world.
As your system removes heat energy, water will condense on the cold surface of the evaporator coil. This effect reduces humidity in your home and creates a substantial volume of water requiring drainage. Unfortunately, the importance of this system often goes unnoticed. This guide will help you understand this critical component by debunking three common misconceptions.
1. AC Drainage Systems Don't Require Maintenance
Drainage systems for air conditioners typically come in two flavors: pumped or gravity-fed. System design can vary, but a good rule of thumb is that attic or utility closet systems typically use gravity-fed drainage, while basement systems rely on pumps. Both systems can become dirty and clogged over time, restricting condensate flow.
Although your system's filter protects the evaporator coil from most dirt and debris, no AC cabinet is entirely clean. As condensate drips from the evaporator coil, it will carry small amounts of crud that can slowly clog your condensate drainage system. Scheduling an annual air conditioner service visit is a great way to ensure this system stays well-maintained and free-flowing.
2. Drain Problems Don't Affect System Performance
If you're troubleshooting a problem with your air conditioner, you've probably already run across the most common reasons systems shut down unexpectedly. These include problems such as clogged air filters, refrigerant leaks, and refrigerant restrictions. However, your condensate drainage system can also cause short-cycling behavior or even stop your system from working at all.
An overflowing condensate drain can cause serious damage to your HVAC equipment or even substantial water damage to your home. To prevent this situation, manufacturers use float sensors to detect overflowing drains and shut the system down. If your air conditioner frequently shuts off on humid days, it may be due to a problem with your condensate drainage system.
3. AC Drainage Problems Are Easy to Solve
Drainage problems may initially look simpler than many air conditioning issues, but they're generally not more do-it-yourself friendly than other AC failures. Condensate drains require proper sloping and design to minimize clogs, and pumped systems often have more complex electronics and sensors that may require testing or replacement.
If you think your air conditioner might be suffering from a drainage issue, you can try a DIY cleaning approach first. However, don't use the system if a quick cleaning doesn't resolve the issue. Instead, contact an HVAC company such as Merrimack Valley Plumbing LLC for a service visit to investigate and diagnose the problem before an overflow causes serious damage to your air conditioner or home.