AC water leak repairs cost between $75 and $250. That’s high! When you wake up to an air conditioner leaking water, you might not have the budget for the required repairs. So should you switch it off immediately while waiting for an HVAC technician or continue using it?
You can continue to use a leaking AC if the leak is caused by blockage or dirt buildup. However, if frozen evaporator coils cause the leak, you shouldn’t turn on the air conditioner until the problem is fixed. Using the air conditioner while the coil is frozen can badly damage the unit.
Dripping water is one of the most common issues with air conditioners, and it is not dangerous. Place a bucket for the leaking water and use the unit for a few days if the leak is minimal. When the AC leaks water too much, switch it off. Call a technician immediately to diagnose the causes of the leak.
How and Why Water Forms in Air Conditioners
Water forms in the AC through evaporation and condensation. Warm air holds more moisture. So when the indoor temperature is high, and you run the AC, it’ll also draw the moisture from the indoor air.
Warm air passes over the evaporator coil inside the unit. The work of the coil is to cool the air. When water vapor comes into contact with a cold surface, it condenses. This is what happens inside the AC.
The condensation drips into the drain pan that’s under the evaporator coils. This pan connects to a drain line, which takes out the water to dispose of it outside your home.
Is My Air Conditioner Supposed to Leak Water?
When an AC unit is new, it appears 100 percent leak-free. With time though, it’s common to see small leaks developing from the AC.
This unit is only supposed to leak water when it’s running. This should be a small drip. Standing water under the unit or continuous leaking when it is not running indicates a bigger problem.
Is Water Leaking from Air Conditioner Dangerous?
There is no immediate danger from an air conditioner leaking water. However, if you leave it unchecked for long, the leak stains will start to show on the walls, ceiling, and floor.
Sustained leakage can lead to a mold infestation in your house. Call an air conditioning system technician for repair soon before the problem escalates.
Dangers of a Leaking Air Conditioner
If the AC has minimal leakage when running, it poses no instant danger. Most units leak a small amount of water. Dripping water causing a small, medium, or large puddle under the unit indicates a bigger problem.
Some of the dangers of an air conditioner leaking water are as follows:
The air conditioner runs on electricity. So when it’s leaking water, you can’t tell whether the water is getting to its electrical parts. If it does, it can cause short-circuiting, blown fuses, and other types of damage. Switch the unit off if you think the water is getting to the electrical parts.
A drywall isn’t going to sustain damage from a short-time leakage. AC leaking water for days can cause serious damage. This leads to two repairs – the AC system itself and the drywall.
When the drywall absorbs the leaking water for a long time, it creates a good environment for mold growth. If unchecked, mold spores float in the air and land in other rooms. They can start mold colonies in different spaces at home.
Increases Indoor Humidity
Leaking water can raise the humidity level of your indoor air. This can increase the cost because you’ve to run a dehumidifier to remove the extra moisture from the warm air. High humidity can cause mildew, mold, paint, and furniture damage.
When Can You Use a Leaking Air Conditioner?
An indoor AC unit can leak one of two things – water or Freon. Only run a leaking air conditioner when you find out it’s leaking water and not Freon. Manufacturers use this refrigerant in AC and other systems requiring inactive gas or liquids.
AC leaking a minimal amount of water is common when the unit runs. But, even when it’s dripping water, ensure the conditioner’s evaporator coil is not frozen.
If it has dirty air filters, you can run the air conditioner as you wait for a technician to repair it.
When Not to Use a Leaking Air Conditioner
If you’ve no idea whether the AC is leaking water or coolant, it is best not to use it. Switch off the entire unit and call an HVAC professional.
Don’t run an AC that leaks water if the leakage is too much. Don’t run if you find water puddles under the unit even when it is not running. It is a sign of extensive water leak.
If you notice the drywall is wet from continuous water leaking, stop using the AC unit until repair it. Extensive drywall damage will cost more money to fix.
Do not run a faulty unit if you notice it is blowing minimal air back into the room. Take this as a sign of coolant leakage. If it is not producing enough cool air, it’s consuming your electricity for nothing.
How Do I Know If My Air Conditioner Is Leaking Water?
When you notice a leak from your indoor AC, you need to determine whether it’s coolant or water. Each fluid leak displays different symptoms.
Here are signs of an AC water leakage:
1. Musty Smell in the Room – Mold!
If you notice a musty smell in the room, which was not there in the past, it could signify a serious mold problem. It develops when there are organic nutrients and dampness for its growth.
Sustained leaks on the drywall will cause mold. Check it out as soon as you can.
2. Check the Ceiling for Stains
This is important for people who’ve attic AC units. If they leak water, it will eventually show on the ceiling.
There is a small problem, though. When the stains show on the ceiling, the leakage is already too extensive.
3. Puddle of Water Under the Unit
This is the clearest sign of water leaks from your AC system. By the time a puddle forms on the floor, it means the leakage happens all the time, even when the system is not running.
Cause of Water Leaking from Air Conditioner
Lack of regular care and maintenance is the blanket culprit of leaks in your air conditioner. A regular maintenance schedule will uncover most of the problems before escalating.
Here are the main causes of your unit leaks:
1. Low Than Recommended Refrigerant
Is your unit making bubbling or hissing noises in the background? It could be a sign of leaking refrigerant.
If the air conditioning runs low on the refrigerant level, there is less pressure inside the unit. The result is a frozen evaporator coil.
One of the indications of low coolant levels is a lack of enough cooled air. When you run the system, you should get cool air soon after.
2. Damaged Drain Pan
Water drips onto the drain pan when the vapor condenses on the evaporator coil, leading to the drain line.
If the drain pan gets rusty, it can leak and cause water damage. Even drain pans made with stainless steel and polymer can sustain damage after many years of use.
If your air conditioning unit is older than 10 years, check the drain pan first when you notice leakages. Luckily, the pan is replaceable, so you can order a new one and change it to prevent water damage in your home.
3. Clogged Drain Line
The clogged drain line is always wet. Dirt, mold, and dust accumulate in the drain line after some time. They form a semi-solid clog.
When the drain pan collects the water dripping from the evaporator coil, it goes to the drain line. The condensate drain line drains the water outside.
This is not going to happen when clogging occurs. The water accumulates, and eventually, it starts to leak inside the room.
4. Dirty Air Filters
Indoor air conditioners come with air filters that remove pollutants from the air before blowing them back into the room. With time, they can accumulate too much dirt, which affects the way they work.
Air conditioner manufacturers recommend changing the air filters at least once a month. If you skip a change, the filters will clog, preventing the proper flow of air. This means the evaporator coil does not get enough air, so it starts to freeze.
The frozen coil will eventually start to melt, and you notice water leaking inside your house. If the AC coils leak, check the filters. They are the most likely culprits.
Some filters are reusable. You’ve to clean them in white vinegar or water and mild soap. If the manufacturer says to replace them once a month, act quickly and replace them.
How to Fix Air Conditioner Leaking Water
When you notice that your AC is leaking water, don’t panic. Determine the extent of the damage. You can apply the following measures to stop the leakage:
1. Replace the Clogged Air Filter on Time
HVAC problems occur because people ignore to give care and maintenance. One of them is replacing the clogged air filter on time.
Timely maintenance ensures the evaporator coil gets enough air all the time. It will not freeze, so there will be no ice to melt and cause leaks.
2. Ensure the Drip Pan Is in Excellent Condition
The drip pan should take the water to the condensate drain line for drainage outside. If the pan is not in good condition, you’ll experience air conditioner leaking water.
The pan rusts with time, and this causes the water to leak inside the home. If the leaking AC unit’s older than 15 years, check it carefully for signs of wear. You’ll have to fix it sooner than later.
3. Keep the Condensate Drain Line Clean
The indoor air contains moisture. Is the AC unit is running, and there’s no water pouring out of the drain pipe?
It is a blockage somewhere, and you have to fix it. Switch off the indoor unit, open the plastic cap on the drain line and look inside. You can see the clog if it isn’t too far down the line.
To clean the clog out, use a wire brush. This will reach all corners of the clogged drain line for water to flow out.
Check whether the drain line is disconnected or not. If yes, the water stays on the condensate drain pan and starts leaking inside your home.
4. Don’t Run Your Air Conditioner Too Long in Hot Weather
One reason for a leaking air conditioner is running it for long hours when the temperatures are high.
To enhance the lifespan of its parts, shut it down after it lowers the temperature to the right level. Then, open the windows and doors for more airflow.
When the temperature is high, there is more moisture in the air. It’s why the humidity is so high in summer. When the HVAC systems overwork to draw the dampness out of the air, the AC can sustain water leakage.
5. Replace Broken Condensate Pump
Your air conditioner has a condensate pump. Its work is to pull water into the drain pipe. It has a small motor, which can burn out due to misuse.
When this happens, the water does not get into the drain line. It stays in the condensate pan. This develops an air conditioner leak. You need to replace the broken condensate pump.
Can We Use AC When Water Is Leaking?
Yes, you can use AC when water is leaking only if it’s a blockage or dirty air filters causing the leak. Don’t turn on the air conditioner if the leak is caused by frozen evaporator coil. Continuing to use a leaking air conditioner while the coil is frozen can escalate the problem and badly damge the unit.
If you see signs of water leak inside your home, don’t freak out. Instead, arrange for HVAC system repairs as soon as possible.
If you’re good at do-it-yourself projects, you can troubleshoot it yourself. If the refrigerant leaks, call an HVAC professional. They’ll check the entire system for you.