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Common A/C Condensate Drain Problems

Common A/C Condensate Drain ProblemsDuring the normal cooling process, your A/C extracts water from the air and sends it outdoors through the built-in drainage system. Problems with the drain system can result in unpleasant odors, mold growth that degrades your indoor air quality, or even HVAC equipment and property damage. Here’s how to deal with three of the most common drainage system issues that develop, so you can avoid messy cleanups, prevent costly repairs, and maintain a healthier air supply.

Dry Drain Trap

Your condensate drain system most likely includes a trap that’s similar to the one on the kitchen sink. When the air conditioner is used regularly, water that’s retained in the trap forms a seal that keeps noxious sewer gas odors from entering your home. If you notice a foul smell whenever the A/C is running, the drain line may not be installed properly, so have it checked by your HVAC pro.

Dirty Evaporator Coil

When dust and dirt particles get inside the air handler and build up on the evaporator coil, they’ll get carried into the drainage system along with the condensate that drips off the coil. Eventually, all that debris can clog up the drain line. Changing your A/C air filter regularly can help prevent this, but it’s also vital to have the evaporator professionally cleaned during a yearly maintenance visit.

Mold or Algae Growth

Warmth, moisture and supply of organic particles make your condensate drain system an ideal environment where mold and algae can thrive. If either gain a foothold and start to flourish, an overgrowth can clog up the drain line and cause a condensate backup that leads to water damage in your home. If it’s not kept in check, mold can also circulate throughout your air supply via the ductwork, or even clog up the evaporator coil, restrict essential system airflow and cause equipment damage. To avert these problems, you or your HVAC technician should flush out the drain lines and clean the pan periodically.

For expert help solving A/C condensate drain problems in your San Diego-area home, contact the HVAC pros at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Advice for a Leaking Air Conditioner

Advice for a Leaking Air Conditioner | SherlockOne of the more common problems experienced with home cooling is a leaking air conditioner. This not only can damage the A/C; it also can damage floors, walls and other nearby fixtures and items. If you discover a pool of water near the inside unit of your air conditioning system, turn off the A/C. The water could damage electronic components of the system, plus pose a safety risk. At this point, your best bet is to call a trusted HVAC technician to diagnose and fix the problem.

It does help to understand why you have a leaking air conditioner so you can take steps to prevent this problem in the future.

In a typical A/C, a blower fan draws warm, humid air into the inside unit, where it passes over the evaporator coil. As refrigerant inside the coil absorbs heat energy from the air, small droplets of water pulled from the air remain on the coil briefly before draining into a condensate pan underneath the A/C. A drain line removes the moisture from the home.

If any step in this process goes wrong, it can result in a leaking air conditioner. Following are some typical problems:

  • The drain line, if it gets blocked by dirt, mold, algae or other materials, will cause the water to back up into the home. Your A/C technician should check the condensate drain as part of routine seasonal maintenance.
  • A dirty evaporator coil also may be the culprit. When the droplets of water fall from the coil, they take dirt with them, clogging the condensate drain. Keeping the evaporator coil clean, as part of A/C maintenance, will prevent this from happening.
  • A rusted-out condensate drain pan is another potential source of your leaky A/C. It should be replaced.
  • The problem also may have happened during installation.

While your home’s air conditioner may be leaking for other reasons, such as a frozen evaporator coil, these are some of the most common. For help with any A/C malfunctions in your San Diego-area home, please contact us at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). 

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Troubleshooting Tips for a Malfunctioning Air Conditioner

Troubleshooting Tips for a Malfunctioning Air ConditionerWith the summer heat around San Diego and San Marcos, a problem with your air conditioner can quickly leave you very uncomfortable. Knowing how to troubleshoot your A/C will help you get it running again or let you provide your technician with useful information about what might be wrong.

Free Up the Airflow

Poor airflow is a common cause of heating and cooling system malfunctions. It can impair the system’s performance and even shut down the system entirely. First, check your air filter and, if it’s covered in dust, put in a clean one. Next, clear out your air registers and vents. Remove the covers and vacuum out the insides of the ducts as far as you can reach. Wash the covers with mild detergent, then dry and replace them.

Finally, take a look at your outdoor condenser unit. If it’s plastered in grass clippings and leaves, shut down your system and use a stiff brush to clean the unit’s fins. Then remove the top and wash down the fins by directing a stream of water from a hose from the inside of the unit outward.

Inspect Your Components

If your condensate drain pump isn’t working, your air conditioner might shut itself off for safety reasons. Test your drain by pouring in a cup of water. If the pump doesn’t start up, either the float switch is stuck or the pump has failed. If you’re comfortable working with mechanical equipment, you might be able to open the pump and free the stuck float switch. Otherwise, contact an HVAC technician.

If your system runs, but can’t maintain an even, comfortable temperature, your thermostat could be the one to blame. Inside your thermostat is a small dial called the heat anticipator. If your A/C is cycling on and off too frequently, move the small arm on the dial one calibration mark toward the “longer” mark. If your system never produces the right temperature, move the arm away from the “longer” mark.

For more information on maintaining your air conditioner, check out Sherlock Heating and Air.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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HVAC Maintenance Now Means Less Trouble Later

HVAC Maintenance Now Means Less Trouble LaterYour HVAC system is just like any other complicated system of machinery, as it requires ongoing maintenance if you want to to function smoothly. The most convenient way for most homeowners to maintain their system is by using a yearly maintenance service that local HVAC professionals offer.

The Benefits of Regular Maintenance

Whether you have the experience to do it yourself or you hire a professional, there are many benefits of yearly HVAC maintenance:

  • Reduced utility bills. Most pieces of equipment run less efficiently as they get older. Maintenance will reduce or eliminate performance reduction and keep utility bills low.
  • Better air. Having clean filters and a proper functioning blower motor is imperative to circulating air and cleaning out harmful particles.
  • Longer lifespan. While it may seem like maintenance is costing you money, it will save you money in the long run. A well maintained HVAC system will last much longer than if you run it into the ground.
  • Fewer emergencies. When you rely on an HVAC system for comfort, a big malfunction is not only costly but inconvenient as well. With professional maintenance you will spot potential issues and fix them before an emergency arises.

What to Expect During a Maintenance Visit

Depending on the service you get, your technician will do slightly different things, but a standard visit usually includes:

  • Lubricating moving parts (mostly in motors)

  • Checking condensate drains to see if it’s plugged

  • Tighten electrical connections for safety and performance

  • Make sure all HVAC controls function correctly

  • Check thermostat settings and function

  • Inspecting your air conditioner, heat pump or furnace for any issues causing inefficiencies

Most services will also replace your disposable air filter if you use one, but you should also be doing this along with other simple maintenance tasks throughout the year.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about maintenance and other HVAC topics, visit our website.

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If you need help with yearly HVAC maintenance in your San Diego home, feel free to contact Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning.