What is a Condensate Line?

When an air conditioner is on and operating properly, it actually controls humidity in your home. When warm air passes over the cold indoor coil it creates condensation which then drips down to the primary pan. The pan will usually have two outlets – one is the primary drain, the other is a secondary drain. The primary drain is where the condensation from the indoor coil is directed to an approved draining area. This is usually outside of your home or above a p trap in a bathroom.

The Primary Drain

The primary drain, as we mention above, is the main line that allows condensation to be directed away from your homes air conditioner and terminates at an approved location. Most residential condensate lines are constructed with approved 3/4 PVC pipe. Condensate lines are sloped so that gravity allows the condensation to move to the designated draining area.

The Secondary Drain

Most primary pans have a secondary outlet that allows overflow protection should the primary line back up. This secondary line would then divert condensation to another approved area. Most secondary lines terminate at an area that might catch a homeowners attention like in front of a window. This is to alert the homeowner that there may be a problem with the air conditioner and it is time to evaluate it, kind of like a Check Engine light in a car. The secondary outlet is also a great place to install a condensate safety switch. The safety switch, if wired correctly, will turn the air conditioning system off if the primary line backs up.

What Can Go Wrong?

The main issues that we see are build up in the condensate lines. Rust, dirt, muck, gunk, and other gross things collect in the condensate line causing a restriction. A restriction will not allow the condensation to flow freely thus causing a backup which can actually cause a lot of water damage inside your home and ac system.

What Can You Do?

Keep those condensate lines clean. Don’t allow them to get that dirty. Add safety switches to prevent water overflow damage. If you’re a do it yourselfer you can add a small amount of bleach or vinegar (not both) mixed with water and pour it down your condensate line.

There are a number of products available to HVAC contractors like pan tablets that allow a slow releasing cleaning agent down the condensate line to keep it clean, and a great foam cleaner that expands inside the condensate pipe. I would not recommend do it yourselfers use any cleaning agents to clean condensate lines, I would leave that to the professionals. If you were to use the wrong cleaning agent you could damage the condensate line and cause severe water damage to the property.

Best of luck to everyone and I hope you enjoyed reading about the air conditioners condensate lines.

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