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I recently received a call from a client who upon returning to his home from an out of town visit, found water where no one expects to find it. Water was dripping from his ceiling fan in his bedroom and had soaked his bed and the carpet underneath. To make matters worse there were hard wood floors underneath the carpet. The source? Central air conditioner condensation leak.

While not every occurrence of water leak in your home is avoidable allow me to encourage you to take on an annual (if not more often) program on checking your A/C drain pan and line.

If you have an A/C technician check your A/C out on an annual basis he should at a minimum clear the drain path for the condensation that occurs as a normal part of the process from the unit. It wouldn't hurt to ask if this part of the service was performed, to make sure it was not overlooked. If you are like most in this economy you are looking for ways to cut living expenses. If you skip the annual check up don't forget to clear the drain every time you change your air filter. My newer model A/C unit has a huge expensive filter that only needs to be change every 6 months, but it wouldn't hurt to clear the drain more often than that.

As they say an ounce of prevention.. (well you heard the saying). with newer homes the primary drain for the A/C unit installed in the attic runs under a sink within the home. The secondary drain drains to an eve outside the home. Once you see water draining outside of your home you should take action immediately because this most likely means your primary drain is clogged and the timer is ticking on your next crisis!

I was not able to find a very good source to use on the internet for this simple process so here is how I go about it. Remember I am not a plumber or A/C technician but a good one gave me this advice which I am passing on. Disclaimer: proceed with caution and at your own risk! Stale water from A/C units in hotels and commercial structure have been known to harbor bacteria so wear latex gloves and goggles to protect from contact with any standing water.

Clogged Line:
1. If your A/C unit is in your attic you should be able to see the drain pan and the drain line that runs from the pan. My PVC drain line has an opening that allows me to inspect the line. Even in the summer  I usually don't see standing water in the pan. Using a flashlight I look down the line. If there is water standing in the line it means there is probably a clog. If you have access to compressed air or even an air mattress inflator you may be able to unclog the line with it or even a garden hose over the line. Unfortunately the water hose method will cause some mess. you will need help to turn the water on and off as needed to flush out the line. If it does not un-clog after doing the aforementioned then call your A/C technician.

2. Try this only if you are a real "do-it-yourselfer". The drain under the sink where the drain line exits sometimes gets clogged with soap scum and hair so you may have to take the drain line apart underneath that sink in order to unclog the exit way for the drain line. Don't try this unless you are positive you can reassemble your drain. Again take precautions to avoid coming in contact with the stale water which may harbor bacteria.  

Ongoing Crisis Prevention:
1. Check for and remove any debris in the drain pan which may run down the drain line. Dust balls, rodent droppings even construction materials end up in there.

2. Pour a cup of household bleach down the line and follow up with a gallon of hot water. The bleach will help unclog the line and also kill bacteria which may be living in the stale drain water. Make sure that water drains freely from the sink where your A/C condensation line drains too. If that drain clogs your A/C drain will most likely clog.

Practicing some good maintenance where your A/C is concerned can save you a major headache and avoid a costly insurance claim. If you would like some more suggestions send me an email. I will post more on my blog in the future...

Damon Castillo
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