close up of an industrial air conditioner

What is the Best Way to Clear Your AC Condensate Drain Line?

November 20 2020

Is your air conditioning unit cutting in and out prematurely? Do you experience abnormally high humidity or musty odors when you turn on your AC? If it’s not the thermostatic shower valve it’s something else, are we right? Responsible for keeping you and your family cool on hot summer days, your air conditioner may be one of the most important items in your home – and given that it often goes unnoticed until it breaks, it may also be the most undervalued appliance you have. Properly maintaining your air conditioning unit involves several things, one of which is ensuring that your condensate drain line is clear. 

AC fan unit

What Is a Condensate Drain Line?

As your air conditioner cools the air in your home, humidity is released. This humidity collects on the air conditioner’s coils and condenses into liquid. Once this water has accumulated, it needs someplace to go, and that’s where the condensate drain line comes into play. Attached to the air conditioner’s evaporator coils is a drain pan that attaches to the condensate drain line, and after collecting in the pan, the accumulated water is conveyed by the drain line to the outdoor unit away from the air conditioner—typically by gravity, though some AC units employ a motor.

Clearing your air conditioner’s condensate drain line can prevent problems with your unit and have a positive impact on the efficiency of the system’s operation. It can prevent the breeding of mold and bacteria, elevated humidity, and prevent waste damage and musty odors. We’ll take a more detailed look at what your condensate drain line is, what to look for if it fails, and how to fix it.

Drain Line Problems To Look Out For

Because the condensate drain line is rarely seen, there are few ways of detecting a failure. That said, there are a few things to look for:

  • Inefficient cooling – If you find your air conditioner switching off shortly after it comes on without having done much cooling, your condensate drain line may be clogged.
  • Musty odors – Stagnant water is a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. When your condensate drain line is clogged, moisture is unable to flow freely from the air conditioning unit, producing unpleasant smells when it’s in use.
  • Ice buildup – If water accumulates on the evaporator coils, ice can form and damage the entire air conditioning unit.

Use Vinegar To Clean Your Condensate Drain Line

Most complications involving a condensate drain line arise from clogs, and thankfully, cleaning them is relatively simple. All it takes is some vinegar, distilled water, a funnel, a wet–and–dry vacuum, and a bit of know–how on removing the cover. This is the best/easiest way to clear your AC condensate drain line without calling for HVAC technicians. Once the drain line is exposed, flush it out with the vinegar solution using the funnel and remove any clogs with the vacuum, and your condensate drain line should operate like new.

Requirements To Clear Your Condensate Drain Line With Vinegar

  • Rags
  • A wet and dry vacuum
  • Distilled water
  • A Funnel

Steps To Clear Your Condensate Drain Line

  1. Shut down your air conditioner. Turn off the AC unit at the thermostat and also at the breaker.
  2. Locate your condensate pan. The pan is often situated directly under AC unit.
  3. Identify the access point on the condensate drain line and flush with distilled vinegar.  A number of drains have a T-shaped vent tee with a cover. Take off the cover at the top of the drain and look for blockage.
  4. Use this port to flush the condensate drain line with a quarter cup of distilled vinegar. Use peroxide or hot water and a drop of dish liquid to delicately clean off the remaining debris in case you don’t like the odor.
  5. Allow the solution to stand for half an hour. Finish the cleaning by flushing the pipe with water. You should have someone on the other end of the pipe to watch and inform you if the water is flowing freely.

In case you’re in possession of a shop vacuum, you can make use of surgical tubing to open the blockage. This technique doesn’t function effectively in the event that your condensate drain line has sharp turns that are susceptible to clog up.

Make use of the opening on the edge of the drain pan in case your system doesn’t contain an access vent. Underlying complications with the system can also be responsible for compromised water flow. When the pan and drain are not slightly tilted, water can accumulate in behind the pan and will ultimately overspill. Several fresh systems are set with overflow detectors fitted within the pipe.

Call A Professional

While it’s possible to clean out your condensate drain line yourself, remember that regular air conditioner maintenance is an important part of keeping it running at optimum efficiency, and a certified HVAC technician may do this in the process. We recommend you call a local professional if you are not in a position to clean your AC’s condensate drain line. The clearing process should be repeated each month to destroy any harmful bacteria or buildup, ensuring peak performance operation.

Whether you choose the DIY approach or prefer the services of a technician, the important thing is to keep your drain line clear, and that you know what to look for if it’s clogged. If it is, your AC may not stand up to the summer heat. Be sure to check it before you notice a problem!