AC Repair | 10 Easy Steps to Keep Your Air-Conditioning Unit Running Pt. 2
AC Repair | Clean a Plugged Evaporator Drain
On the interior, warm, humid air from your home’s interior is blown through the evaporator coil. The cold coil absorbs heat from the air, cooling it, before the air is circulated back into your home. The humidity in the air condenses on the cool surface of the evaporator coil as liquid water, dripping into a pan below. From the pan, the water flows into a drain tube which is typically routed into a basement floor drain, utility sink, or outdoors.
Over time, algae and mold can build up and potentially plug the drain, so if the drain is either not flowing or flowing very slowly, it will need to be unplugged. A plugged drain can either cause damage by flooding onto the floor or, if the system is equipped with a drain float, cause the system to stop cooling in order to avoid flooding.
First, find the drain line where it leaves the evaporator coil enclosure. The drain is usually a one-inch PVC pipe (white, grey, or black). Follow it to the end where it drains. Often the line drains outside near the condenser unit, but it can also drain into a utility sink or basement floor drain or, in the case of attic units, down an outside wall.
Once located, use a wet/dry vacuum to clear the drain. It’s best to remove the paper filter from the wet/dry vacuum so as not to ruin the filter. Hold the hose of the wet/dry vacuum to the end of the drain line. You can use duct tape or simply hold a rag around the gap. Turn on the vacuum for 2-3 minutes then turn off. This will clear the drain of any growing biological matter.
Change The Blower Filter
The filter in your HVAC system should be changed at least twice a year – once just before the heating season begins and once before the cooling season begins. If you live in a particularly dusty area, you may want to change it more often. Always replace the filter with a new filter that has the same airflow rating. Again, Moody cautions, “Be careful with ‘air purifying’ or HEPA filters,” he says, “because they can dramatically reduce airflow in your system. That can cause the indoor coil to freeze because of the reduced airflow.”
Locate the filter enclosure on the indoor furnace/AC where the large fresh air return duct enters the unit. You may need a screwdriver to turn the latch to open the door to the filter enclosure. Remove the old filter and install the new filter, matching the air-flow direction arrows on the filter to the arrows on the unit. Close and latch the door.
Turn The Power Back On
While these steps will help to keep your AC system in top shape, be aware that there are maintenance items that only a trained HVAC technician will be able to do. For example, a slow refrigerant leak in your AC system can lead to expensive compressor failure, but a homeowner doesn’t have the tools or skills necessary to check refrigerant levels. Also, clean ducts and proper airflow are essential to a well-functioning system, but homeowners lack the necessary equipment for the job. The bottom line? While some AC maintenance can be done by a savvy homeowner, it’s still necessary to have an expert technician check the system periodically. –DIY
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