Air conditioner leaking water? You're not alone -- the rest of Missouri is experiencing the same, seeing as the state has indeed become hotter. MO's climate has, after all, warmed up by 0.6 °F since 1985. Read on to learn why your air conditioner leaks.
Moreover, the state's winters have shortened, giving rise to longer, warmer spring seasons. Worse, summers in the Show-Me State have become muggier. As a result, there aren't only more days of rain, but heavier downpours too. All these can contribute to your air conditioner leaking water inside the home.
The big question now is, how exactly does the water end up in your AC anyway? What's the link between an AC leaking water and Missouri's climate? Most importantly, what should you do if your AC does leak and how can you prevent it from happening again?
We'll answer all these questions below, so be sure to stick around until the end!
Where the Water in Your AC Comes From
To help you determine why your air conditioner leaks water, we need to first cover condensation.
What is Condensation?
Condensation is the process wherein gases, such as water vapor, turn into liquid. When this happens, water vapor transforms into actual water droplets. This is most noticeable on cold surfaces that get exposed to humid air.
An example is a bottle of cold drink taken out of the fridge and exposed to a higher temperature. Within mere seconds, you'll see those water droplets forming outside of the bottle. That's condensation at work -- warm air touches the cold bottle, so it turns into water droplets.
How Does Condensation Occur in ACs?
Air conditioners turn water vapor into actual water droplets as they wring the heat out of the air. This "wringing" happens whenever warm air passes over the equipment's evaporator coil.
The evaporator coil is the part of your AC that absorbs heat, as this is where the refrigerant circulates. The refrigerant itself is the chemical that triggers the change in the warm air to cold air. Since the evaporator is there for heat absorption, you can expect this coil to be cold -- about 40 °F.
That said, whenever warm air touches the cold coil, it undergoes condensation. In addition, the more humid the air, the more water droplets will form on the AC evaporator coil.
Now, keep in mind that in Crystal City, MO, the muggy period lasts for about 4.1 months. During this period, the unpleasantly warm and humid conditions can occur up to 73 percent of the time.
That said, it’s during these muggy or humid days that your AC can “create” a lot of water.
Condensation: Usually Not a Problem In Properly-Maintained ACs
So long as there's moisture in the air, all ACs in use will always produce water droplets. It's because of this that they come with a water collection and drainage system.
This is in the form of a drain pan or tray, which is right below the evaporator coil. It sits in a sloped position, the lower section of which has a hole where the water can flow out of. This hole has a drainpipe connected to it, which in turn, moves the water out and away from your home.
In a properly-maintained air conditioning system, this drainage is always clear of clogs. Since there's no blockage in the exit, then the collected water is free to leave your home.
Top Reasons Your Air Conditioner Leaks
Any problem that affects the drainage system will lead to an AC dripping or leaking water. On that note, here are some of the most common problems that can wreak havoc to your AC's drainage system.
Over time, the hole at the bottom of the drain pan can accumulate dirt, debris, and dust. Mix these with the water that your AC generates, and they'll up as a congealed mess of mud. If this blocks the hole, the newly-formed and -collected water droplets won't have a way out of your home.
This then causes the drain pan to keep collecting water. With no way out, the water will then overflow out of the pan. If this happens to your AC, you’ll notice pooling water immediately under the system’s indoor unit.
Blockages in the Drain Line
In many other cases, clogs can form within the drain line itself. As with a blocked drain hole, a clogged drain line also prevents water from exiting your home.
In addition to mud, your AC drain system may also get clogged with microbiological growth. Molds need very little to thrive -- moisture, relative humidity of 70 percent, and organic matter are all they need. All these can be present in the room where your AC's drain pan is.
During the muggier days, molds can grow and multiply within 24 to 48 hours. Within a few days, they can cover a huge portion of your AC's drain pan. The more water they get exposed to, the thicker and bigger they'll become.
In this case, they may cause enough blockage in the drain hole or line to prevent the water from exiting your home.
Cracks on the Air Drain Pan
Some drain pans are plastic, others are metal. Either way, these will degrade over time, resulting in cracks at the bottom of the pan. Once these damages develop, water can leak through the pan and end up in your home.
Other Causes of Leaking ACs: Problems With the Evaporator Coil
As condensation occurs on the evaporator coil, problems with this part can also cause your AC to leak. Here are a few coil-related situations that can give rise to your air conditioner leaking water inside your home.
A Frozen Evaporator Coil
Refrigerant leaks are some of the most common root causes of AC malfunctions. The refrigerant, after all, is the chemical that keeps the evaporator coil cold. Its main function is to facilitate heat conversion so that you can enjoy cold air.
When your AC develops a refrigerant leak, the evaporator coil can end up all frozen. That's because low levels of refrigerant can turn the evaporator coil too cold. This can then lead to the water droplets freezing up and collecting on the coil.
Thawing ice equates to dripping water, which in turn, may fall outside of the scope of the drain pan. In the case of a clogged drain pan, the increased water drop rate can make it overflow.
Either way, you'll end up with an air conditioner leaking water inside your home.
If you see ice on your AC, it’s best to schedule an emergency AC repair service. For one, because most iced-up evaporator coils often result in an AC not being able to cool the air. It's frozen, yes, but since ice covers the coil, it can no longer absorb heat from incoming air.
The main reason to get a frozen AC fixed ASAP, however, is the potential for refrigerant poisoning. This chemical is an asphyxiant, meaning exposure to it can cause suffocation. On top of that is its high flammability rate.
So, if your AC not only leaks but also makes a loud humming or buzzing noises, it's time to call in the pros. This isn't a repair that you'd want to DIY.
Too Much Filth All Over
The slightest film of residue on AC components can interfere with their functioning. If you don't change a dirty HVAC filter, it won't be able to protect your AC's parts from pollutants. The longer this goes on, the thicker the layer of residue that may form on your AC's drain pan.
In addition, more dust and debris can settle on the evaporator coil. The residue can render it less effective in absorbing heat. This can also cause it to freeze, as it can stay too cold due to its reduced efficiency.
All in all, the coil will keep working harder to compensate, which can then cause it to wear early. This premature wearing makes it more susceptible to severe damage.
Aside from pricier repairs, you're also looking at higher AC energy consumption.
Keep in mind that your AC use can already account for 12 to 27 percent of your electricity bills. As if that's not bad enough, Missouri has had the highest electricity bills in the West North Central. In 2018, the average residential bill amounted to $126.79 a month, or a whopping $1,521.48 a year!
If you let your AC go into disrepair, you can expect your electricity bills to skyrocket even more.
The Lesson: Keep Your AC Well-Maintained
Condensation is normal in all home cooling equipment that operates under muggy conditions. However, an air conditioner leaking water inside your home isn't. That only means that the AC lacks maintenance, or that it's already in disrepair.
That's why it's always best to get your AC tuned-up and serviced prior to the summer season. This helps ensure that your entire air conditioner is clean and ready for the humid days to come.
If you notice that the area surrounding your AC's indoor unit is always damp, please don't hesitate to contact us. We here at Crystal Heating and Cooling will come to your aid ASAP!
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