It’s not uncommon for hard-working air conditioners in Cape Coral, FL to leak. Minute amounts of moisture around an air conditioner’s condensate drain are normal, especially during times of high humidity and peak summertime temperatures.
However, seeing water anywhere else or finding pooling water near the drain pipe is cause for concern. Continuing to run your cooling system until you’ve identified the underlying problem could result in equipment failure. The following is everything you should do if you AC starts leaking.
Check and Replace Your HVAC Air Filter
If you find pooling water around your indoor or outdoor cooling equipment, the very first thing to check is your HVAC air filter. When an air conditioner’s filter is thick with built-up debris, airflow slows or outright stops. The extra effort of drawing air in often causes ACs to short cycle, overheat, or shut down. Your problem is likely a dirty AC filter if you notice:
- A sudden and steep rise in your cooling costs
- Marked increases in indoor humidity
- Declining indoor air quality (IAQ)
- Increased AC noise
While replacing your air filter might solve the problem, it’s still important to have your air conditioner inspected and maintained. When HVAC air filters reach and exceed their capacity, collected debris is often blown off. This matter could be obstructing airflow in your HVAC air vents or ducting, or it might have settled on your air conditioner’s evaporator coil.
Clean Your HVAC Air Registers and Vents
You can always check for debris at your air registers, vents, and grilles. Wipe these features down with a warm, damp cloth. If necessary, remove your HVAC air vent covers and gently vacuum just behind them.
Check for Vent Closures
Like dirty air filters, closed vents can also obstruct the movement of air. In professionally zoned HVAC systems, unwanted air is redirected into bypass ducts. In standard, central HVAC systems, closing an air vent gives unwanted air nowhere to go. This causes a dramatic rise in static pressure, and it may cause ACs to freeze, overheat, or leak.
If you have one or more air vents throughout your home that are completely closed, open them. During your next HVAC maintenance or repair appointment, have our technicians provide air balancing services. This will ensure even air distribution, limit your heating and cooling costs, and reduce HVAC system stress.
Verify That You Have the Right AC Filter Type
Even clean HVAC air filters can cause airflow problems and AC leaks if they aren’t right for the job. In addition to making sure that your AC filter is the right size and properly oriented, you should also verify that its maximum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating isn’t too high.
MERV ratings run from one to 20, with 20 being the highest. Standard AC air filters usually have MERV ratings between six and eight. These collect many of the most common, large-sized allergens and contaminants in homes, such as hair, carpet fibers, fur, dirt, and dander.
If you recently upgraded to a filter with a much higher MERV rating, the resulting IAQ benefits could be compromised by decreased AC performance. With their larger surface areas and much tighter mesh, some high-rated filters can negatively impact airflow. If this is the case in your home, try reverting back to a standard filter to see if this solves the problem. You can work with our technicians to find the perfect filter upgrade for optimizing your IAQ without hindering your AC.
Schedule Routine Maintenance
The best way to address a leaky AC is often scheduling routine maintenance. HVAC equipment manufacturers recommend annual AC maintenance for a variety of reasons. These services prime air conditioners for the demands of the cooling season, improve their efficiency and eliminate trapped build-ups of dirt and debris. During these appointments, we also replace any missing, aged, and damaged parts.
Among the greatest benefits of these services is being able to catch and correct problems early on. With a thorough assessment and tune-up, we can clean your air conditioner inside and out, check for faulty connections and hoses, and take other steps to both mitigate and prevent leaks.
Dirty Condensate Drains and Their Impact on AC Performance
Another standard part of annual AC maintenance is cleaning condensate drains. During normal operation, your air conditioner both cools your indoor air and extracts excess moisture. This moisture is routed through a condensate line, into a shallow pan, and down the condensate drain and out of your home.
During the months of fall, winter, and early spring, your AC could spend weeks or even months sitting dormant. When air conditioners aren’t moving, high-moisture areas like condensate drains may be overwhelmed by fast-growing algae and bacteria. If your AC isn’t serviced before you start it up and start using it daily, these growths could block the exit of water and lead to an overflow.
Have Your HVAC Air Ducts Inspected
When scheduling an AC tune-up service, have your HVAC air ducts inspected as well. Problems like unchecked pest infestations, built-up debris, and crushed or collapsed ducting can result in airflow problems and moisture leaks. You should have your HVAC ductwork inspected annually and professionally cleaned at least once every three years.
Check the Evaporator Coil
While coil cleaning is a standard part of routine AC maintenance, a quick coil inspection could tell you whether or not you’re dealing with a moisture leak or a refrigerant leak. While most moisture leaks are related to delayed or insufficient maintenance, refrigerant leaks are major repair issues. Moreover, the refrigerant that seeps out of air conditioners is hardly harmless.
If you see tiny, golden bubbles on your air conditioner’s evaporator coil, there’s a refrigerant leak somewhere in your cooling system. These bubbles are often referred to as “champagne bubbles” due to their sparkly, glistening appearance. Turn your air conditioner off and schedule repairs right away.
What to Know About Refrigerant Loss and Your AC Compressor
Running an air conditioner with a refrigerant leak will result in insufficient cooling, longer cooling cycles, and noticeably higher cooling costs. However, it can also permanently damage your equipment. The AC compressors that pump refrigerant throughout cooling systems are highly pressurized. As refrigerant levels decline and pressure increases or remains the same, AC compressors could collapse or fail.
Clear the Perimeter of Your AC Condenser
Another place to check for airflow obstructions is around the perimeter of your outdoor condenser unit. All AC condensers should have at least 24 inches of clearance on all sides. You should never cover your AC condenser and keep it covered for an extended period of time, or run your air conditioner while a condenser cover is on.
During the cooler months, your AC could spend weeks or even months sitting dormant. When air conditioners aren’t moving, high-moisture areas like condensate drains may be overwhelmed by fast-growing algae and bacteria. If your AC is not serviced before you start it up and start using it daily, these growths could block the exit of water and lead to an overflow.
Estimate Your Air Conditioner’s Remaining Lifespan
The average lifespan of an air conditioner is about 8-10 years. As HVAC equipment nears the end of its lifespan, most models develop repair issues with increasing frequency. While you might have a minor refrigerant leak or a fixable airflow obstruction now, replacing a unit that has already offered two decades of service could be the best choice.
We offer outstanding heating, cooling, and plumbing services. We also provide sewer and drain repairs, home energy audits, and indoor air quality improvements. To find out about our preventative maintenance plan or schedule AC service in Cape Coral, FL, contact Plumbing & Cooling Nerds now.