Why Is My Air Conditioner Leaking Water Outside?

Water leaks and surprise puddles tend to have Cedar Rapids area homeowners curious about plumbing problems, but that mystery pool may come from your cooling system! If your air conditioner is leaking water outside, this moisture usually points to a handful of system issues. In our most recent blog, Novak Heating, Air and Duct Cleaning explains the causes behind a leaking air conditioner and what to do about it.

What Is Leaking – Water or Refrigerant?

Usually when you see a puddle of liquid coming from the outdoor air conditioning unit, it’s water or condensation. However, it is possible for air conditioners to leak refrigerant, the coolant used to absorb and transfer heat in an AC unit. R-22 (Freon) and R-410A (Puron) are the most common refrigerants used in air conditioners and heat pumps today. HVAC equipment manufactured since 2010 contains R-410A while older units likely use R-22.

Refrigerants can escape an air conditioner due to leaks in the refrigerant lines or other components. A refrigerant leak typically will not produce a puddle that looks like a water spill surrounding your AC condenser unit, as refrigerant vapor escapes from the leak rather than liquid, which evaporates rather quickly. An R-410A leak may leave behind a faint, sweet odor, while an R-22 leak can leave behind a greasy, somewhat viscous liquid as well as a white residue at the location of the leak. 

Exposure to refrigerant via a leak is hazardous and potentially deadly, so leave the area right away. Call a technician for air conditioning repairs if you suspect leaking refrigerant.

An Air Conditioner Leaking Water Outside Could Mean…

First, know that a small puddle of water that evaporates quickly is likely condensation runoff from normal operation, especially during a hot or humid day. More significant pools of water that remain after the unit turns off are problematic and could be caused by:

Clogged or Damaged Condensate Drain Line

An air conditioning system generates condensation during the cooling process as water vapor condenses into liquid form when air temperatures decline. This water drips from the evaporator coils into a collection pan and out of the home through the connected condensate drain line. Obstructions can form in the drainpipe due to debris or damage to the pipe and clog up the line, leading to puddles that look like an air conditioner is leaking water outside.

  • Clear condensate drain line clogs using a wet/dry vacuum at the outdoor exit of the drain or by inserting a long wire brush down into the opening. Contact your HVAC contractor if you cannot remove clogs and restore proper drainage or if you find damage to the drain line that needs to be replaced.
  • Prevent clogs in the drain line by flushing it with a water and bleach solution each month.

Crack or Clog in the Drip Pan

The drip pan sits below the evaporator coils, collecting moisture runoff during cooling. Normally, moisture should flow down into the condensate drain line and out of the home. Cracks or clogs can stop up the drain, causing water to spill out around the indoor unit and not outside.

  • Turn off power, and access the condensate pan. Use a wet/dry vacuum to remove all standing water, and assess the part for damage or clogs. Clear debris forming a clog in the drip pan, and clean the drip pan to remove any algae growth.
  • Cracked or damaged drip pans need to be replaced to prevent water damage to your home and cooling system.

Frozen Evaporator Coils

The system’s evaporator coils can freeze over for several reasons. Poor airflow due to a dirty air filter or low refrigerant levels preventing heat absorption are common causes. When ice buildup on the coils melts, this could lead to an excess of water runoff to be flushed out through the condensate drain line, forming what appears to be an AC leak outside. 

  • If the coils freeze, shut off the cooling unit and turn on the blower fan at the thermostat to circulate warm air over the coils. Check the air filter, and replace it if needed.
  • If you could not locate the source of the frozen coils or the coils continue to freeze up again, call your HVAC company for air conditioner repair.

Cooling Repairs in Cedar Rapids

If you notice your air conditioner leaking water outside or elsewhere along the system, call Novak Heating, Air and Duct Cleaning for fast, reliable air conditioning repair services. We put an end to leaks to prevent water damage and restore energy-efficient operation. Contact us to schedule service today!

How to Know When It’s Time to Repair or Replace Your Air Conditioner

Knowing when to repair or replace air conditioning equipment is a struggle many homeowners have faced over the years. Buying an air conditioner is a big investment for your home – you want to make sure you make the most out of the one you have, while making a smart purchase decision for the next one. In many situations, there isn’t a clear answer.

In our most recent blog, Novak Heating, Air and Duct Cleaning discusses the types of questions you should ask to help you determine whether you should repair or replace your current air conditioning system.

Should I Repair or Replace My Air Conditioner?

Repairing or replacing your air conditioner can be the difference between spending thousands of dollars today for improved comfort and energy efficiency or patching up your old system for a low cost and suffering through its poor performance a while longer.

Homeowners want to avoid choosing a full replacement too soon. However, it’s important to find the sweet spot. After all, you don’t want to hang on to your old AC too long and have it break down in the middle of the summer.

When you face a situation where you must decide whether to repair or replace you air conditioner, examine the following questions from both sides of the coin before you decide:

1. What’s the Age of Your Current Air Conditioning Unit? 

While there is no exact number that can be given for the average lifespan of any HVAC equipment type, average life expectancy is a good place to start. A central air conditioning system will last about 15 to 20 years (though other factors mentioned below should be considered to increase or decrease this estimate). 

  • If your current air conditioner is 15 years or older, system replacement is inevitable – it should already be on your home improvement list in the near future. If your home needs a new unit soon, is now the right time to do it, or could it stand to wait a little longer?
  • Alternatively, if your air conditioner is still fairly young, it probably makes more sense to repair it now. Depending on its age, there may still be warranty coverage from the manufacturer that will pay for certain repairs.

2. What Repairs Are Needed, and What Do They Cost?

If the air conditioning repair is relatively minor and affordable, many choose repairs regardless of the system’s age. Even if your air conditioner is in its final cooling season, the price of an inexpensive or simple repair today could get you through the remainder of the season. This could give you more time to choose replacement options and find the best deal rather than feeling stuck paying thousands on a cooling system you haven’t looked into because it must be done now.

3. How Often Have Repairs Been Made?

Even if the system’s repair needs are minor now, don’t jump right in just yet. Take note – air conditioners and heating systems tend to have more frequent repair needs at the end of their service lives. While the cost of a single repair seems minor, the overall costs are adding up if you’ve been making frequent minor repairs over the past year or two. If this is the case, you should really evaluate whether or not it’s paying off to keep patching up your system or if your money would be better spent invested in a new AC unit.

4. Was Regular Maintenance Performed Over the Years?

Make no mistake, neglecting maintenance will cut years off your system’s service life, while thorough maintenance could potentially add years to it. If you face the decision to repair or replace your aging air conditioner and the repairs have been piling up, the years of forgetting annual tune ups mean it’s more likely the end of the road for your air conditioner. 

On the other hand, if your old air conditioning unit needs a minor repair now, hasn’t required repeated calls for service recently, and has been properly maintained over the years, you can likely feel confident that your air conditioner has more useful life left to give. 

Repairing or Replacing Air Conditioning Equipment in Cedar Rapids

No matter which way you decide, Novak Heating, Air and Duct Cleaning is here to serve you with comprehensive air conditioning services in Cedar Rapids. Our reliable HVAC system technicians perform fast repairs to restore comfort and outfit your home with new cooling equipment for efficient comfort over the years to come. Contact us today to schedule service or request an installation estimate for a new air conditioner.