AC Unit or Air Handler Leaking Water Inside: Why & What to Do?

Do you remember that excitement you felt when your brand-new air conditioner was finally installed at home? That meant no more enduring hot days and getting a better sleep at night. Such bliss.

Whether you buy a Haier, Trane, or an LG air conditioner, or any other brand for the matter, you already know that these units will drip water out of a pipe outside when it is running. In fact, technicians usually recommend attaching hoses to it, so that the water from your AC unit will go straight to a nearby drain, instead of just dripping down anywhere.

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But, what should you do when the water leaks inside, instead of outside your home?

In most cases, homeowners would panic and be afraid of turning it back on. The former is counterproductive, while the latter is a good idea. There is a 50% chance of it being harmless, but there is also an equal chance of it being a worrisome issue.

But in any case, just avoid using your AC unit until a technician arrives to check things out. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

ac unit

Why is My AC Leaking Water Inside the House?

Any kind of leak in your home is always a cause of concern. Whether it’s a roof leak, a ceiling leak, or leaking pipes, you always need to get it checked out asap to prevent further damage. It’s even more alarming if the leak is in close proximity to your electrical appliances, such as your light fixtures and air conditioner.

Water travels anywhere, so where the dripping is found is not necessarily the spot where the water is originating from. That’s why in many cases, tracing the leak can be tricky. But if the water seems to be coming from the bottom of your unit or settling there, chances are it’s coming from your AC unit.

There are some instances where water coming from your AC can be considered normal, specifically when due to condensation. This is common to all AC units whenever it runs, but too much of it will become noticeable and may soon be a cause for concern. Excessive condensation on an AC unit can be attributed to these two factors:

  • The setting of the thermostat – set too low and condensation may appear
  • Temperature outside your home, particularly in the area where the unit is installed – when hot air from the outside gets inside an air-conditioned room, condensation will be produced

Fortunately, this is easy to resolve – you can just adjust your thermostat and the amount of condensation produced can decrease.

But if doesn’t solve the issue, or you noticed that the water coming from your central or window air conditioner appears even while it is turned off, the cause may be beyond condensation.

When it comes to air conditioners, there are a number of other reasons why water is leaking inside your home:

  • Clogged drain line – every air conditioner has a drain line for water to pass through until it reaches the drain. Unfortunately, this can get blocked and can result in leaks.

You might wonder what causes the blockage, since only water is supposed to pass through. Even if the drain line completely sealed, it is still possible for fungi or algae to be stuck inside. This is what primarily causes the clogging.

  • Condensate pan is brittle or missing – over time, this pan used to collect water from your unit will fail due to corrosion or because it is just too old. It may not even be installed on your unit at all. And the result? Leaks.
  • Air filter is too dirty – too much dirt on your air filter can also cause blockage to your AC, affecting the evaporator coils of your unit. They may freeze up and water is likely to runoff from the pan.
  • Disconnected drain line – your unit’s drain line can also get disconnected for various reasons, allowing water to spill through the gap created.
  • Broken float switches – some units have a condensate float switch that deals with the water inside the condensate tray. When the level of water is too much, the switch’s valve will float to trigger your unit to turn off automatically. Once this switch is broken, it can no longer stop your unit from operating even if there is too much water in the drain pan.
  • Frozen evaporator coils – it’s not only dirty air filters that can cause your unit’s evaporator coils to freeze up. If the refrigerant of your unit is leaking, this will also cause frost to form on your evaporator coils.
  • Issues with your unit’s coils – sometimes, experiencing leaks may be a symptom that there’s something wrong with a component of your AC unit. In particular, it may indicate that the coils are damaged or just too dirty. Let’s hope that it’s just the latter.
  • Your unit is inadequately sealed – gaps on the sides of your unit where it is placed should be sealed to prevent warm air from entering your AC, which will result in condensation due to the cool air produced by your unit. Leaks can happen because of it.
  • Refrigerant is low – if the refrigerant of your AC is running low, this will also cause your unit’s coils to freeze, resulting in water overflowing the pan when it melts. And if your unit has a leaking refrigerant, it may either still be fixed or you already need to get a new window or central air conditioner.
  • Wrong installation – sometimes, there’s nothing actually wrong with your unit, as the issue lies with how it was installed. A faulty installation has a high chance of resulting in a leaking unit.

It’s vital to understand what causes water to pool from the bottom of your unit or anywhere within its proximity. Condensation on an AC is normal, but too much of it and leaks aren’t.

Is a Leaking Air Conditioner Dangerous?

Air conditioning units are powered by electricity, yet water is also being produced while it operates. We all know that water and electricity can be a dangerous combination, that’s why any electrical appliance that handles or uses water must always be in perfect condition.

When you see your window air conditioner with water settling below the front panel, or one of the AC vents on your ceiling connected to your central air conditioning is leaking, it may cause you to worry – it is a potentially risky situation, after all.

But, is it always dangerous?

The good news is, a leaking air conditioning unit is not dangerous. However, the potential effects of the water leak are what you need to keep an eye out for.

But even though it’s not potentially life-threatening, it doesn’t mean you should continue using your leaking AC unit without having it checked out by a technician first. Those water leaks will eventually affect your unit, and it might even require you to get a new one soon.

Aside from damaging your unit, a leaking air conditioner may also negatively affect your home if you don’t take immediate steps to solve the issue. You’re looking at these potential headaches and hazards:

  • Ruined furniture and flooring
  • Slippery floors that may cause accidents
  • Electric shocks
  • Damaged drywall or ceilings
  • Growth of mold and mildew
  • Compromised structural integrity of your entire home
  • Water marks on various surfaces
  • Sagging drywall when it gets waterlogged
  • Paint and plaster bubbles

If getting a new air conditioning unit already wreaks havoc on your budget, what more if your home is affected by any of these issues? This is why even if a leaking AC unit is not considered perilous, you still need to get it seen to by a professional immediately.

The Reason Your AC Creates Moisture

Everyone who owns or has seen air conditioners know that water is drained out from the unit whenever it is running. But how exactly this happens is not common knowledge. We briefly talked about it earlier but we’ll go into a more in-depth explanation in this section.

One of the most vital parts of any air conditioner is its evaporator coils, which contain refrigerants. This substance is what is responsible for absorbing hot air inside your home. Hot air will pass through those coils and those coils are responsible for producing cool air from that hot air.

At the same time, condensation is produced by the interaction of the cold evaporator coils and hot air. As you use your AC, the amount of condensation present on the coils increases and all that moisture will eventually flow to the drain pan and start dripping out the drain lines.

This should be how the water produced by your unit is expelled. If it does not follow these steps and water comes out elsewhere and not via the drain lines, it means there is an underlying issue with your unit that needs to be checked out.

How Do You Fix a Leaking Air Conditioner?

Just like any other leaks, your leaking AC should also be fixed as soon as you discover it. Even if it’s not as dangerous as what most people think, it still has to be addressed asap – that is, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on repairs and even on a new unit. But if that’s fine with you, then just sit back, relax, and watch all that water continuously flow from your unit until it destroys not just your AC but also your home.

Whether the leak is due to too much condensation or is the result of an issue with your unit’s condensation lines or evaporator coils, again, it is important that you immediately stop using your unit and turn it off when you discover the water that seems to originate from your AC. You should also make sure to dry off any areas that got wet.

You can attempt some basic troubleshooting first to see if this solves the issue or you have to get in touch with a HVAC contractor soon. To give you a refresher, you can run your unit as soon as the water has been cleared up and set your thermostat to a higher setting than before. Sometimes, too much condensation is being produced because the thermostat is set too low. Observe if water no longer leaks after your AC unit operates for some time.

But if thermostat adjustments, as well as changing any other settings on your AC doesn’t work, the leaking water is a sign that there are issues that need to be fixed.

We’ll talk about the two most common causes for it, as well as how they can be fixed, in this section. Do note that resolving these two issues needs to be done by a professional, particularly because it means being at risk of being exposed to the unit’s refrigerant. If you don’t know, refrigerants are toxic chemicals requiring careful and special handling.

Evaporator Coil Leaking Water

From the previous section, you are already familiar with how evaporator coils produce moisture. And if these coils are the cause of the leak, it is due to them being frozen. This is a common occurrence and is because of either the formation of frost on the surface of the coils or when airflow is being blocked, trapping the cold air inside your unit.

To solve the issue, HVAC technicians will do the following:

  • Turn off the unit by unplugging it if possible or cutting off power at the circuit breaker, and allowing all the ice that formed to completely thaw. This would normally take at least 24 hours.

If needed, technicians will use hair dryers to speed up the process. However, care must be taken because the hot air coming from the hair dryer might cause the coils or any other parts to overheat.

But if the ice formation isn’t that bad, your technician will tell you that you can run your unit but only on ‘fan’ mode. This mode can also help the ice melt faster.

  • Your technician will then check the airflow once the ice has completely melted, especially if you’ve had your AC for a long time. Debris and dirt may have collected and settled on the air filters, preventing your unit from functioning at its optimum condition.

The air filters may need to be replaced and the nearby components will also be vacuumed to get rid of all that dust.

If the coils are also covered in dust, or mold and algae are already growing, your technician will also have to clean those out. This is a careful task that only professionals must do, because the aluminum fins surrounding the evaporator coils are fragile.

  • After cleaning, your technician will check the coils for damage, such as signs of bending, presence of fittings that are beat-up, or pipes that are bent. These issues contribute to the formation of frost on the coils and should be repaired first.
  • As mentioned, low refrigerant levels will also cause your coils to become frozen, particularly due to the low pressure present in its surrounding refrigerant lines. More often than not, this happens when the refrigerant leaks within your AC.

Because refrigerants are dangerous and should only be handled carefully, your technician will need to use specialized equipment when ‘recharging,’ or adding more refrigerant or coolant to the unit. Properly sealing the leaking part is necessary.

  • As a last resort, your technician may suggest getting a new set of evaporator coils. This may be the practical option if the coil-related issues are serious, such as severe` refrigerant leaks, and you don’t have the budget to get an entirely new AC unit.

To lessen the recurrence of frozen coils, it is ideal that the air filters of your AC should be changed every month to every three months, depending on how often it is used.

AC Condensation Line Dripping

Another common cause of your AC dripping water inside your home is due to a blockage somewhere along your condensation or drain line. Fortunately, this is a much easier problem to deal with because it will only involve unclogging and cleaning the drain line.

But since you are likely dealing with mold or algal growth as well, professionals should still handle the job. They’ll do the following to clear up the clog on your condensation line:

  1. Open up the drain line by finding the PVC pipe near your AC’s drain line. A section of this pipe has a piece that sticks out and has a cap that can be unscrewed.
  1. Once the cap is located, the technician will unscrew it to gain access to the insides of the drain line.
  1. A wire brush, piece of wire, or something similar will be used by the technician to remove the debris that causes the clogging on the drain line.
  1. Once most of the debris has been removed, vinegar or bleach will be poured into the unscrewed hole to kill off any mold or algae present. Six ounces of vinegar or bleach should do it.
  1. Your technician will then use a wet/dry vacuum to completely rid your drain line of debris. To do that, the end of the vacuum hose will be attached to the end of the drain line outside your home. He or she will then switch on the vacuum to remove all the remaining debris.

Although it is a common issue, it is also an easily preventable one. That is, if you practice the habit of having your unit undergo regular maintenance.

The Importance of HVAC Maintenance

Most homeowners invest in top-of-the line HVAC units for their home, but have zero investment when it comes to proper HVAC maintenance. That’s why in just a few years, they’re surprised to see their expensive AC units break down every now and then, if not completely malfunction with no chance of being repaired.

Is this a familiar experience to you?

If so, we can guess that you’re guilty of not getting your units checked out and maintained regularly. Correct?

Many homeowners like you skip this part, thinking that it’s an unnecessary expense. What they don’t realize is that this actually saves them a lot of money in the long run. After all, it prevents them from getting a new unit sooner than later to replace the ones that conked out prematurely.

But there’s more to maintenance than just that. Here are some other benefits that will make you think twice about not having your units undergo regular maintenance:

  • Will let you save a lot on your household bills, since it running as efficiently as possible and uses less power to do so
  • Prevents all sorts of issues on your unit
  • Keeps it covered by warranty, as some manufacturers will void warranties when they discover that the problem on the unit is due to neglect
  • Produces , which helps improve the overall comfort of everyone in the household
  • More modern units have environment-friendly features, and this is most applicable to well-maintained units. If you want to go green, regular maintenance will be a big factor
  • In case repairs are needed, you’re more than likely to spend just a small amount
  • Allows it to run more efficiently
  • Gives you peace of mind that your unit will not suddenly break down on you in the most inconvenient time possible
  • Keeps you and your home safe from various possible hazards

There are many other benefits of regularly doing HVAC maintenance, but all these we listed should already convince you to do so. It’s not really an expensive task, nor is it difficult or time-consuming, contrary to what most would assume.

HVAC Maintenance Steps

You deserve a pat on the back if you decide to become a responsible homeowner and have your HVAC units undergo periodic maintenance.

But if you’re still on the fence about it, allow us to show you how easy it is. In fact, there are some methods that you can do yourself. However, it is best to get a technician to do a more thorough check and maintenance on your unit – they’ll be able to catch any warning signs early on that typical homeowners may not notice.

Some of the usual steps to maintain a HVAC unit include:

  • Regularly pouring at least a cup of vinegar or bleach to your unit’s drain line every 6 months or so to prevent clogs
  • Allowing your unit and its components, both inside and outside your home, to be free from any obstructions and debris
  • Making sure that the air filter installed is of good quality and is regularly replaced after a few months of use
  • Thoroughly inspecting the AC unit’s refrigerant lines
  • Habitually cleaning the evaporator coils to prevent dust and debris from settling
  • Having the correct pitches and angles for the pipes and drain lines of your AC
  • Cleaning the condensation lines every few months
  • Immediately fixing any issues on your unit

For a more detailed discussion, you can also refer to our in-depth guide here.

It’s not really hard, nor expensive. It’s actually an investment that will pay off later.

Getting Quotes from Pros

technician doing maintenance

Whether you’re looking for someone to do preventive maintenance on your unit, or get it repaired, finding the right person for the task can be a daunting experience – you’ll have to rely on referrals of friends and family. But if those are not available, you need to do some research by yourself to find the most suitable candidates and narrow down your choices.

But, what if we tell you that we have a shortcut to make the hunt for the ideal contractor easier just by using your keyboard?

We’re not kidding!

All you have to do is fill out the form we have and instead of you contacting each contractor you see, they’ll be the ones to contact you about their services, including quotes for the job you need.

Want to know what’s the best thing about it?

You can actually get up to 4 quotes from competing contractors for free!

They know about their competitors, so you can be sure that what they’ll give you are their best quotes for the task.

Don’t worry – there’s always room for negotiation with them. And whatever AC brand you use, whether a Trane, Haier, or LG air conditioner, they can work with that.

But if despite their quotes to you and negotiations with them, you’re unsatisfied with any of the offers, you can always turn them down with no issue nor penalties.

Yes, it’s as simple as that!

So, go get in touch with us now to get a professional to check on your unit soon!