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Atlantic Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, Inc. Blog

Answering Your Questions About an AC Leaking Water


If you listen to the sounds your air conditioning system makes when it’s running, you will hear the occasional drip and splash of water. This isn’t a malfunction but a normal sound you can expect from an AC working the way it should. The sound will also help explain why at some point you may notice water leaking out of your air conditioner. 

Is this leaking normal?

No. Although you can hear water inside the AC, that water is not supposed to escape from a central air conditioning unit. You’ve probably seen window ACs dripping water from the outside, but that’s normal for them—that water is ending outside, not inside. When a central air conditioner starts to leak water, it happens inside the house. It also indicates something is probably wrong with the condensate drainage system.

What’s the condensate drainage system?

It’s the set of components in an air conditioner designed to remove the condensate moisture the AC creates during its cooling cycle. An AC doesn’t use water to cool the air, but rather creates water moisture as a byproduct of how it lowers the air’s temperature.

It works like this: cold refrigerant (around 40°F) moves through the evaporator coil, where warm air from the blower causes it to evaporate. The evaporation absorbs the heat from air and cools it down for the rest of the house. Evaporation also causes water vapor in the air to condense along the coil’s surface—the same effect you see along the outside of a glass of cold liquid. This water vapor drips off the coil and into a shallow condensate pan located below the coil assembly. From there, a pump pulls the water down a drain and through a line to the outside.

What drainage problems can lead to leaking?

Several issues can cause this water to start escaping and leaking from the AC.

  • The condensate pan has become brittle with age and cracked.
  • Corrosion on the condensate drain has caused it to become partially or fully detached from the pan, leaving a gap for water to fall through.
  • Algal growths inside the drain have made it slow or clogged, and this will soon lead to water overflowing from the pan.
  • The condensate pump can fail, soon causing water to back up in the line, the drain, and then overflow.
  • In some cases, extreme humidity in the air can lead to enough condensate moisture to overwhelm the drainage system. This is rare where we live.

Does this need repairs?

Yes, and not only to stop water damage in your house—although that’s a good enough reason as far as we’re concerned. Condensate problems can lead to the limit switch shutting down the AC. The excess humidity it creates will encourage the growth of mold and mildew inside the air conditioning system, which will damage components, lower energy efficiency, and send foul odors through the house. 

When you’ve got a leaking AC, you can trust us for solutions. We offer air conditioning repair in Smyrna, DE and throughout Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

At Atlantic Refrigeration & Air Conditioning, Inc., we take pride in your comfort. Schedule AC repairs today—we offer 24/7 emergency service.

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