Where Does My AC Drain?

We’re now in what will likely be the peak of the hot and humid summer weather. Although given how unpredictable the weather has been the past few years, there’s really no guarantee on that. It may just get even hotter and more humid than everyone expects. Speaking of humidity, that’s what puts the biggest load on your central air conditioning system. Have you ever wondered where your AC system is draining all that humidity? Have you cleaned that drain? Let GAMA Air take a few minutes of your valuable time to make sure that a simple thing is not neglected and turn into a big deal.

A central cooling system is designed to remove heat from your home. To do that it chills a coil (not unlike the radiator in your car) and air is blown through that coil. Now think for a moment what happens when you get a cold bottle or can of your favorite drink out of the fridge and set it on the counter or table. Moisture condenses on the outside of the bottle and starts dripping down, right? And the more humid the day, the more water. If you are outside with that ice cold can, you can have a miniature waterfall of moisture constantly dribbling down the side.

Ok, now with that image freshly in mind, think again about that coil in the air handler unit of your home’s central AC system. Warm moist air is being blown across a chilled metal coil. Just like the bottle or can in our example, moisture will be condensing on that coil and dribbling down. And that coil is much, much bigger than even the biggest of beer or pop cans. So, where is all that moisture going? In the case of your drink bottle, you might put a coaster under it to protect your table or counter. But what protection is in place for all that moisture inside the air conditioning system inside your house?

At this point you may be panicking, thinking that you have never ever even seen a drain, much less checked to make sure if it is okay. Well, if you are in the habit of having an annual air conditioning system safety inspection and tune-up, then you’re okay. The condensate drain is such a critical part of an AC system that it is always something that a professional HVAC service technician will check.

Inside the Fan Coil, or Air Handler, there is a drain pan under the coil to catch the water dripping off of the coil. That drain pan has a specially designed drain pipe which allows the condensation to drain out of the unit, out of your house, and outside. Due to modern building codes there is likely a back up pan or back up drain also. Where do they go?

The primary drain is usually routed to the easiest point outside your house. However, in older homes it is possible it is connected to the house plumbing drain system, or if the unit is in a crawl space then it may be simply draining under the house. If the Fan Coil is in a basement, then there will also be a unit about the size of a large loaf of bread with a small reservoir and a pump to get the water up and out of the house.

If there is a back up drain, then ideally it will be routed to direct the water out of your house in an obvious location. The idea behind that is so if you see water pouring out of a small drain pipe that you usually didn’t notice before, it is an alert that the primary drain has a problem and now the back-up drain is doing its job. However, that also means there’s a problem which should be addressed to avoid potential costly water damage to your home.

What should you do? If you are concerned and need immediate help, give us a call at (310) 651-6936 or fill out our online form to schedule a visit, if it isn’t urgent.

Is there a way you can fix that yourself? Or in the case that you don’t think there is a problem, can you clean and maintain the condensate drain yourself? We’ll help our friends and neighbors in the Beverly Hills, Culver City, Mar Vista, Miracle Mile, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Bel Air, Westwood, Downtown Los Angeles, Vernon, Huntington Park, Sherman Oaks, Encino area with those questions in our upcoming blog post, so come back to this site for more information.

Do you have a question about the condensate drain of your central cooling system, and need a quick answer? Visit our Ask an Expert page, fill out the form, and the resident expert here at GAMA Air will respond quickly with the answer.

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