DIY Tips for Cleaning Your AC Drain

Some people just seem to have a knack for fixing things. And others, sadly, have the ‘other knack’ for breaking things. Whichever of those two categories you personally fall into, did you know there is a ‘third’ knack? The knack to keep things going. We’ve been talking about how to clean the condensate drain of your home’s central air conditioning system. This isn’t about fixing a problem; it’s about keeping your AC operating well all summer long. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, then maybe you can develop the knack to keep it going.

You’ll recall from an earlier post in our “AC 101” series that air conditioners pull moisture out of humid air and that this moisture condenses into water that needs to drain outside the house. Then in the most recent post we started talking about how to clean that drain line. You’ve got your wet/dry vacuum, you’ve got your rags. Now let’s pick up where we left off.

3.        Now let’s get back to the drain line. You’ve already used the shop vacuum to remove whatever was plugging it. But that doesn’t mean it is clean. Whatever caused the clog will come back faster if you don’t do anything else. To clean that drain line try one of the following, depending on your tastes: Distilled vinegar (apple cider vinegar won’t work as well white vinegar since it has sediment in it), Hydrogen peroxide, or warm water mixed with a drop or two of dish soap. Use the vertical vent tube that is likely near the fan coil unit to pour the solution you choose into the drain line. After letting it stand for about half an hour then wash it out with water. Ask someone to help you by watching the water come out the other end of the drain pipe. When it starts to come out clear, you’re all done.

4.        What if you don’t have a shop-vac? Well you could try to use a wire clothes hanger to push into the drain line and see if that frees up the blockage. But that will really only work if the blockage is at the first bend of the PVC drain line. If you can get your hands on an air compressor, then you could also try blowing out the line to clear the clog. If you can’t get past the clog, then you will want to call your favorite trusted heating and cooling service company. If you are not already one of the satisfied customers of GAMA Air 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, then we urge you to give us a call. We guarantee your satisfaction 100%. You can call us at (310) 651-6936 or use our online form to schedule a visit.

But if you persist, you can do this part yourself. So now with a clean drain line and clean drain pan, it is time to take a look at a few details of your drain line to make sure everything is in order.

First, is the drain pan in (or under) the indoor unit (also referred to as an air handler or a fan coil) at a slight angle sloping down towards the drain line? If not, there will always be a slight buildup of water in the pan and that could speed up the return of the algae blockage.

Second, is there a drain trap (also called a P-trap, S-trap, or U-trap) just as the drain pipe comes out of the indoor unit? If not, and if the drain line does not have air blowing out of it, then you’ve got a problem. A drain trap is needed to overcome the suction of the air being pulled in through the pipe. It allows the water to drain out even though there is a slight suction pressure from the blower fan in the air handler unit.

Third, is the drain pan safety switch working? This might be mounted on the pan, or in some newer systems it might be a device attached to the drain line. The idea is that if the drain gets clogged, then this switch will shut down your central cooling system to prevent potential disaster which could result from condensation water that builds up and starts pouring into your house from the Fan Coil.

Need help with a question you have? Visit our Ask an Expert page and get a quick answer from the resident expert here at GAMA Air.

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