You’re trying to be a responsible HVAC owner, and that’s commendable. After all, just because you’re not a technician yourself that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a proactive approach to keeping your system healthy. Doing so can even save you money—a little DIY maintenance goes a long way, and the more you know about your system, the better you’ll be able to prevent costly problems from occurring. You’ll enjoy more predictable cooling when you use your air conditioner, and better energy efficiency (which means you’ll spend less on utilities). However, to do so, you’ll need to have a pretty comprehensive working knowledge of your air conditioner and the many components inside it. Let’s start with the AC drain pump.
What is an AC Drain Pump and What Does It Do?
The AC drain pump is more commonly known as the condensate pump, and it plays a critical role in your cooling system. The condensate pump exists to help remove water vapor that has gathered (or condensed) into liquid within the system. Usually, this liquid flows into your condensate drain pan, and the pump flushes it out, depositing it outside your home. You might not think that sounds like an essential function, and in fact, many people aren’t even sure whether their HVAC systems need drain pumps at all. However, anyone who assumes that your system would be fine without one would be wrong. Here’s why:
Water is harmless in most places—in fact, it’s usually good for you! However, it’s not as good for your air conditioner. In fact, too much water in your air conditioner can wreak havoc with many of its more sensitive parts. Here are a few of the liabilities that too much water in an air conditioner can cause:
- Slipping hazards (we’ll start with the most obvious). Too much condensation can eventually build up in your system and cause your condensate drain pan to overflow. If this occurs, water may spill down the front of your indoor unit—where the drain pan is kept—and pool on the floor. If you’re not expecting a pool of water to be sitting in the middle of your floor, you could be in for a nasty surprise next time you traipse into the room where your air conditioner is kept.
- Damage to electrical systems. HVAC systems have plenty of sensitive electronic parts, and they’re rarely the only machines kept in the rooms that house them. If water starts leaking from the condensate drain pan, it could compromise these systems and cause them to fail.
- Electric shock hazards. Remember that water conducts electricity. A pool of water that has reached an electrical system or power source can be extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all costs to ensure the safety of those in your household.
- The condensate or AC drain pump is there to ensure that liquid doesn’t build up in the system and put it (or you) at risk. However, several things can go wrong with your condensate pump and cause ineffective operation. It is therefore essential to recognize the signs of a broken condensate pump ahead of time and know what to do so that you can solve the problem before your drain pan overflows.
Common Causes of AC Drain Pump Trouble
Two main things can cause your drain pump to stop working. Make sure to familiarize yourself with these problems and keep an eye out for their signifiers:
- The pump motor breaks down. Debris is the most common cause of pump motor failure. In many cases, the debris can enter a system via the ductwork and settle within it over time. Eventually, it can make its way to the area near the pump, where the added moisture can turn it into sludge and cause it to ruin the motor entirely. Avoid this problem by arranging for regular duct cleaning (every 2-5 years should do the trick).
- The pump simply breaks down due to wear and tear. Pumps are pretty reliable, but nothing is immune to the ravages of time. If your pump is too old to work properly, you’ll have to replace it before you can keep using the system. Otherwise, you might experience an overflow. The part itself usually costs around 50 USD, but you may have to pay for labor as well if you need a service technician to install it (this is highly recommended for best results).
A Healthy AC Drain Pump Means a Healthy HVAC
Making sure your AC drain pump is working correctly can save you from a world of trouble, so it’s important to keep an eye on it and act quickly if you ever sense that a problem is on the way. Keep the above in mind, and make sure you know of professionals you can turn to if you need expert help or advice.