Air Conditioning 101: How Does an AC Drain Pan Work?

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Air conditioners are cold - coils that handle refrigerant can drop its temperature below freezing, which also causes condensate to form around the unit as water vapor in the air cools to its liquid state.

The reason your air conditioning unit does not leak water indoors as it causes condensation is thanks to the drain pipe, and the drain pan which collects the dripping water from your unit. In this article, we'll see why drain pans are essential parts of air conditioners.

What is an AC Drain Pan?

An air conditioner drain pan, also called a condensate pan, is the part of the air conditioner that collects water that drips out of the unit. You can find the condensate drain pan located just below the evaporator coil, where it collects condensate that drips down from the coils.

How does a condensate drain pan work? Air conditioners collect condensate as it cools the air in the room, especially in humid climates where the concentration of water vapor in the air is higher than dry climates. As the condensate drips down the sides of the coils, the drain line is responsible for expelling the condensate in the HVAC system. The drain pan collects the water.

The drain pan functions together with the evaporator coil, and the way it works depends on the installation of your unit. Whether you have a vertical furnace installation or a horizontal furnace installation, however, drain pans help keep your unit dry.

The Importance of Condensate Drain Pans

1. Prevents Water Damage

The main purpose of drain pans in HVAC systems is to prevent water from leaking everywhere. An air conditioner can get to freezing temperatures, which may cause condensate to drip or freeze up. The drain lines redirect the water drippings into a collection tray, which can be easily drained to remove excess water.

2. Keeps the Air Conditioner Dry

If you've ever noticed the humidity in the room decreasing when you power your air conditioner on, that is because the air conditioner removes excess moisture in the air. The moisture goes into the unit, and the condensate lines keep the AC unit dry by flowing the accumulated moisture into the drain pan.

Diagnosing a Faulty HVAC Drain Pan and Condensate Line

#1 Warped Drain Pan

Over time, plastic condensate drain pans may warp under the heat of the air conditioning process. While the AC drip pan will still collect water accumulated from the evaporator coil, it may start to slope, allowing the water to drip indoors. When this happens, your HVAC system may leak water, and cause water damage to your room.

A second drain pan may help collect excess water from the air conditioning system, but it may be better to replace the condensate drain pan entirely to prevent water damage due to leaks. Look for heat-proof materials like stainless steel and heat-proof plastic condensate drain pans for a more durable aircon part.

#2 Clogged Condensate Line

Dust and debris that build up in the condensate drain lines may cause clogs, which will block the condensate collected from the evaporator coil from dripping into the drain pan. Water may leak out of the unit indoors, which may cause water damages to furniture, walls, and flooring. Mold may also clog the drain line, and release spores into the air as well.

Cleaning the clogged drain line will keep the HVAC system in good condition. Our HVAC professionals at Luce Aircon will be able to clear the clog, and clean your air conditioning unit for you! From the air filter to the condensate pan, we'll be able to keep your unit clean inside and out so you can enjoy the cool air longer.

#3 Cracked Condensate Drain Pan

A cracked pan will leak water indoors. The condensate drain pan may crack due to a number of factors, including accidental falls, chips in the material, heat damage, and general wear and tear. Depending on the severity of the damage, water will leak out of the cracks and into the room, damaging floors, walls, and furniture in the process.

A cracked pan can damage your unit as water drips through the air system. A cracked pan in your central air system can leak water through the air ducts, causing water damage and mold growth. Replace the pan as soon as you notice the crack to prevent further damages to your home.

Hold the Ice!

Luce Aircon is your leading partner in air conditioner maintenance. Our licensed technicians have decades' worth of knowledge across different air conditioner parts and models, so we can fix that cracked drain pan, or leaking air conditioner in a snap!

Give us a call through our hotline, and we can fix any aircon issues that may arise with your unit! 

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