Ask The Expert

Hello Robert,

This is the second time I’ve written in with a question, if that’s okay.

This is more of an emergency than last time and has already been going on for a couple of weeks. My ceiling was dripping so I cut open the wet area and saw that water was coming from some PVC pipe. I thought it was a water line but it only dripped when the air conditioning was running, so it must be the condensation line, right? If so, where do I go from here? Thank you again,

Lee H.

Hi Lee,

From what you are telling me, it sounds like the condensation line. There are different reasons that these lines leak, but generally it is due to lint on the A coil. Some families tend to leave their doors and windows open and don’t change their filters often enough. The lint then builds up, bypasses the filter and lands on the A coil, on top of the air handler.

When the dirty coil then condensates, the lint and dust drops into the pan, which goes into the line and causes obstructions. This lint gets wet then dries, builds up some more, gets wet, dries, etc. This process eventually creates a blockage. Once this happens, you come in with an air hose and blow out the lines. Sometimes, an electrician’s fish tape will work. If solidified hard enough, you have to chase the line, open drywall, cut it out and replace.

It could also be the pan that shifted under the air handler.

Or it could be the PVC couplings were not glued. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen PVC just pushed together.

The key to it all is to make sure you keep the air filters clean. Change it out every three months. You’re looking at $3.00, which is money well spent. This is nothing compared to what it’s going to cost you to make the repairs or the possible damage to the unit. Also, once the A coil gets dirty, it’s no longer running efficiently. It’s not cooling the way it is designed, using excess electricity and is working twice as hard to keep your home cool.

Besides changing the filters regularly, have your AC guy come out and check the furnace every year. Make sure the flames are burning blue and not orange which is indicative of a sufficient amount of air to the furnace. Have him check to see if there is water sitting in the pan. If so, this is a tell-tale sign there is a problem. The pan should be tilted to the outlet of the primary line and with the exception of a little bit of water on the bottom, there should never be any standing water.

The primary line is tied into the closest lav, sink, to the air handler. Any condensation discharges out to the drain line. There is also a secondary line which is usually on the outside of the house. If ever you see the water coming out of the secondary line, you know that the primary is plugged and needs to be addressed immediately.

Submit your questions to: robert@imsconstruction.com

Robert Lamoureux of IMS Construction, Valencia, CA, has 25 years experience as a commercial General, Electrical and Plumbing contractor. The opinions expressed in “Your Home Improvements” are not to replace the recommendations made by a qualified contractor after a thorough visual inspection has been conducted.

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