Posted: Aug 02, 2012
Why Is Water Leaking from My Ceiling?
Once the temperatures rise in Arizona and the air conditioners turn on, the phone calls start rolling in. One of the most frequent calls is about water leaking from ceilings, in basements or from furnaces.
Most of the time (assuming the leak is coming from inside the home), the problem is a clogged condensate drain line.
What is a condensate drain line?
When your air conditioner removes heat from your home, it also removes humidity. As air passes over the coils in your air conditioner or heat pump, the humidity is turned into water, which is collected in a pan known as the condensate drain pan.
From the drain pan, the water exits your home through the condensate drain line. But the line can become clogged with dirt, debris or a buildup of rust or algae.
In most homes, there are two condensate drain lines: one lower on an exterior wall with another drain line higher up, towards the roof. It is normal with higher humidity levels to see water draining from the lower drain line closest to the ground.
However, if you see water draining from the drain line which is higher and closest to the roof line or attic, a serious problem exists. This moisture is coming from the secondary drain pan (sometimes rust colored) because an obstruction exists!
A clogged condensate drain line can lead to bigger problems, such as:
- Hundreds to thousands of dollars in water damage
- A breeding ground for harmful contaminants like mold, mildew, virus and bacteria
- House fires. In some situations, as reported in Florida, the leaking water can drip onto electrical components and cause house fires.
Air conditioning systems are made up of two separate components – the condenser (or outdoor unit) and the air handler (or indoor unit). The indoor unit in many Phoenix area homes is attached to your furnace and located in the attic.
Therefore, your ceiling leak may appear to be originating from your furnace when it is actually coming from the air handler (or indoor air conditioning unit).
So what is causing the leak?
If water is dripping from your ceiling and your furnace and/or air handler is located in the attic, the most likely cause is a clogged condensate drain line. Over time, algae can grow inside of this drain line, causing backups or clogs. Also, it is possible for dirt or debris to become lodged inside.
What should I do?
If you already have water leaking from your ceiling, call a professional air conditioning technician immediately to flush out your condensate drain line or replace the drain pan.
Then, make sure it does not happen again. You should:
- Get an annual air conditioning tune-up – This annual service should be performed by a professional that can check for problems such as clogs in your condensate drain line.
- Learn about your system – Ask your air conditioning professional if your system has a backup condensate drain line and where it is located. If this secondary line has water draining from it, you will know your primary line has a clog and can get it repaired before damage occurs.
- Install a float-switch device – A float-switch device installed in your drain pan will automatically shut off your air conditioner if the water level reaches a certain level, protecting your home and your cooling system.