A leaky air conditioner isn’t like a leaky boat or bucket. It’s not as easy to see it filling up with water or dripping fluid, and it’s not as easy to ‘plug up’ the leak. If your AC is leaking water, there are some DIY solutions.
On the other hand, refrigerant leaks are more of a problem. They can be hard to detect and can be harmful to the environment. So, we’ve got some tips on what you should do if you suspect your air conditioner is leaking water or refrigerant.
Signs Of A Water Leak
Your AC works by removing moisture from the air—and lots of it, especially when it’s working at capacity. Water forms on the indoor coil finned surfaces, runs down into the built-in drain pan and is conducted to the drain by way of some type of drainage piping.
There are three common reasons something can go amiss in that process.
- The drainage tubing or the outlet of the coil can get plugged with dirt or other contaminants that accumulate over time. If some part of the drain system is stopped up, the water will overflow.
- Another similar cause of leaking is a dirty or clogged filter. This can result in ice forming on the evaporator coils, which will drip as it melts. In addition to the leaking water, a filter that's been clogged for a long time can put an extra strain on your system and decrease its life expectancy.
- You could have a crack or hole in the overflow pan, which catches condensation from the unit.
Start by checking your filter and replacing it if necessary. During the cooling season, it’s recommended that you check the filter monthly or more often. In general, you should replace your filters every two or three months, but definitely any time you see them getting dirty.
Next, use a flashlight to inspect the overflow pan. Check along the edges, each corner, and at the area nearest the pooling water. Small holes or cracks can usually be mended using epoxy glue, although a more reliable solution is to replace the pan.
If you’re still seeing a leak, it’s time to inspect and clear the drainage line. If it’s a small clog, you may be able to remove it using a wet-dry vac. If that doesn’t solve the issue, it may be time to call your HVAC pro. Cleaning the drain system should be part of regular maintenance and now would be a good time to have that taken care of. It could save you a lot of headache and cash down the line.
A Dehumidifier May Help
Your AC unit does a lot of work removing moisture from the air. That process can be helped by installing a dehumidifier. There are portable models that can help with problem areas in your home. However, you may want to consider a duct mounted model that integrates with your HVAC system. At Stay Comfy, we recommend the Carrier line of reliable, efficient dehumidifiers.
Signs Of A Refrigerant Leak
If you notice that your AC is freezing up, that’s a good indication that you’ve sprung a refrigerant leak. According to our resident expert Keith Hill, manager of technical support at Minnesota Air, if enough refrigerant leaks out, the evaporator – or A-coil – can operate at very low temperatures and freeze up.
“It’s actually the water vapor in the air accumulating as frost on the coil and restricting air flow which only accelerates the freezing process,” says Keith. “The same symptoms can be caused by low airflow – dirty coil, dirty filter, so don’t automatically assume its low on charge.”
Keith says that you may also be able to spot a refrigerant leak if you notice a wet, oily stain. Refrigerant circulates with a lubricating oil, so if you see an oily puddle, that’s probably the point of the leak. If you don’t see a leak but suspect one because you see a frozen coil AND your air filters are clean – then now is the time to call a technician and find the solution.
Fixing A Leak—It Takes a Pro
According to the Department of Energy, “if your air conditioner is low on refrigerant, either it was undercharged at installation or it leaks.” And if you find that a leaky AC is the culprit, adding more refrigerant won’t fix the problem. You need a pro for that. The Department of Energy says that a “trained technician should fix any leak, test the repair, and then charge the system with the correct amount of refrigerant.”
The efficiency and performance of your air conditioner are best when the refrigerant charge matches what your manufacturer specifies – not under or over. Most importantly, just remember that when it comes to fixing the leak, you really do need to call a professional to help.
“Only a pro with EPA Certification can handle refrigerant and make repairs on AC systems. It is a violation of federal law to work on an AC unit without an EPA Type II Refrigerant Certification,” says Keith. “The pro will verify the leak and using specialized equipment, locate the leak, and make the required repairs. This is not something a DIYer can do. This is very specialized work.”
Need to contact an HVAC pro in your area? We can help with that, too. Check out our convenient dealer locator.