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HVAC Maintenance: How to Drain Your AC Condensate Line

With spring coming in like a lion, this is the perfect time to check your home’s AC condenser unit to ensure that it is nominal and ready to keep your home cool during the dog days of summer. The reason covering up your AC condenser unit in the fall is such a good idea is because leaves and other debris can clog the unit and filter, cutting down both your HVAC’s lifespan and efficiency.

Outside of visual confirmation of physical debris on the unit, other signs of a clogged AC condenser may include:

  • water dripping from the AC unit
  • AC not turning on/off, or otherwise not functioning properly
  • higher energy costs

The best way to keep your AC working properly at maximum efficiency is to perform regular preventative maintenance, like draining or unclogging an AC condensate line.

How to Drain an AC Condensation Line

In the event that you suspect a clog, these steps should help you dislodge it. Otherwise, following these steps annually every spring is a great way to prevent clogs from occurring.

Turn Off the Breaker Before Working on the Condenser Unit

Be sure to turn off the power at both the circuit panel and the disconnect box near the condenser unit before starting.

Find the Drain Pipe

For homes with an outdoor AC condenser unit, the drain pipe is located outside with it, while unit/apartment dwellers will find the drain pipe in the same location as the unit. In either case, the pipe is a PVC pipe with a removable cap.

Check For and Remove Any Visible Clogs

If any clogs are within reach, remove them from the unit, taking care not to push it further down the pipe.

Pour 1 Cup White Vinegar Down the Drain Pipe

Slowly pour 1 cup of white vinegar into the pipe and replace the cap. Wait 30 minutes before restarting the AC.

Remove the Drain Pipe for Tougher Clogs

In the event the above steps do not remove a clog or it has been years since the above steps have been taken, remove the drain pipe completely and use a wet/dry vacuum to remove the clog from the drain line, and any trapped water along with it.

Other Spring AC To-Do Maintenance Tasks

While the power is still off, it’s a good idea to take a look at the AC condenser unit to ensure that no excess amount of leaves and debris found their way inside the fan assembly and thus, the coils and filters. 

The best way to prevent this from occurring at all is to cover the condenser unit in the autumn before the trees begin dropping their leaves in earnest, but if not:

  • brush away all leaves, branches, and other debris from the fan assembly
  • disassemble the AC condenser unit, check the coils, and brush away any accumulated debris
  • check filters, and replace if necessary
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