Your home's air conditioning system removes heat and moisture from the air. While moisture removal is a side effect of normal operation, it's necessary for any home air conditioning system. Subjective interior temperatures tend to feel much less comfortable without removing moisture from the air, leading to lower thermostat setpoints and higher utility bills.
However, this dehumidification can produce a substantial amount of water. Most central air conditioning systems use a condensate removal system to deal with this moisture, but these systems involve several components that can fail. Keep reading to learn three ways condensate removal components can stop your AC from functioning.
1. Faulty Emergency Shut-Off Switch
Any air conditioning system with a condensate removal system will include at least one emergency shut-off switch. These switches monitor condensate levels and shut the system off if they overflow, preventing flooding that can damage your floor or leak into sensitive air conditioning components. Depending on the system's design, this switch may be in the condensate tube, drip pan, or both.
Like any other safety switch, condensate float switches or shut-offs can fail. Manufacturers typically design these switches to fail "safe," which means a faulty switch will stop your air conditioning system from functioning. Since a functional switch is important to protect your equipment, it's best to have a technician check your switch before you choose to replace it.
2. Clogged Condensate Tube or Full Drain Pan
In a typical air conditioning system, condensate drips down from the evaporator and falls into a drain pan near the bottom of your air handler unit. A condensate tube removes water from the drain pan, usually aided by a separate condensate pump. Since the drain pan is usually not sealed, dust, dirt, and debris can sometimes make their way inside.
These contaminants can eventually clog up the condensate line, preventing it from removing more water from the system. Partial clogs may also cause condensation to drain too slowly. In either case, the pan or tube can overflow, triggering the emergency shut-off switch and causing your system to stop working.
3. Faulty Condensate Pump
Not every air conditioning system will have a condensate pump, but many rely on this device to move an adequate amount of moisture away from the drip pan. Your system can function without a condensate pump, and a failed pump generally will not cause your system to stop working. Instead, everything will seem to run fine until too much water accumulates in your drip pan and triggers the shut-off switch.
Diagnosing a faulty condensate pump can be tricky since the problem can present similar symptoms to a clogged condensate tube or a faulty shut-off switch. If you don't have experience in diagnosing faulty HVAC hardware, it's best to let a professional get to the bottom of the problem so that you don't accidentally replace a part that's still functioning.
Reach out to a residential AC repair contractor to learn more.