How To Keep Your Condensate Line Flowing Freely

If you’ve got an air conditioner cooling your house, you’ve also got a condensate drain line leading out of your house somewhere (hopefully) whether you knew it or not.

The drain line requires a little maintenance about once or twice per year in order to avoid the possibility of thousands of dollars in water damage repair bills.

It can happen if you don’t stay on top of this simple annual task.

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You can easily keep your condensate drain line clear and here’s how:

You need to find out if you have a gravity flow line or a condensate pump (pictured at the top of this post).

A gravity flow line will be a simple PVC¬†pipe leading from your a/c units’ evaporator coil.

I had a gravity condensate line with my old a/c system and always had water and, consequently, algae growing across the shaded driveway. I used to save the water in a bucket and water plants with it. Don’t laugh! It would fill a 5 gallon bucket on a warm day with no problem at all. I would even have overflow on really hot days and that’s when the algae would take hold in no time flat.

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When I had my new system installed back in 2005, I had the tech install a condensate pump in order to get the water to exit my house (through clear flexible tubing) up and over the cars in the garage and connect to the gutter drain line where it exits my property through an underground drain. This way I’d never see it or worry about it again. Works like a charm and I have one less headache.

You’re not here to hear about my system, though. You simply want to unclog, clean and/or maintain your condensate drain line and/or condensate pump. There are numerous methods to use. If you have a condensate pump like I do, the service tech that installed my HVAC system told me to simply add 2-3 tablespoons of bleach to the pump reservoir about once or twice a year while it is still in operation. The bleach/water mixture will eat up the algae and keep the line clear. That’s it! Other websites may also inform you to do the same.

The Little Giant website gives the following instructions to service the condensate pump:

  1. Make certain that the unit is disconnected from the power source before attempting to service or remove any component.
  2. Be sure the floats move freely. Clean as necessary.
  3. Clean the tank with warm water and mild soap.
  4. Check the inlet and outlet piping. Clean as necessary. Be sure there are no kinks in the line that would inhibit flow.

Little_Giant_condensate_pump_model_VCMA-15.JPG If you have a gravity flow line leading from your a/c unit you can use a shop vac to suck out all of the gunk. Find the end of the drain line located somewhere outside of your home. Remove the filter from the shop vac to avoid a nasty, smelly mess. Put the hose over the drain line and turn the vacuum on and let it do it’s thing for a couple of minutes. That’s one way to do it.

If you have a clean-out (or a T) at the beginning of the drain line, you can open it up and pour a warm water and bleach mixture through the line and that should also do the trick. It will take some time to eat away the gunk, though. See the video link listed at the end of this post for DIY instructions.

 

What About Clearing A Clogged Condensate Line?

Do you have a compressor? Open the clean-out and stick the compressor air line inside and blast away for a minute or two. This will also do a fine job of cleaning the condensate line when it is especially cruddy.

A last resort to clean a clogged line is to snake the drain line. Rent one at your rent-a-tool center but be sure it will fit in your clean-out before you take it home. Most drain lines are 3/4″ PVC. Terry Love’s Plumbing and Remodel DIY forum gives some good ideas on clearing a clogged condensate line.

 

More Ways To Maintain Your A/C Condensate Line:

Watch this video from eHow for even more suggestions on how to maintain your drain line.

The Tampa Bay Handyman gives his two cents on cleaning condensate lines.

Randy Boerstler

Writing a home building blog that chronicles new homes during different phases of construction from a consumers' point-of-view is rather unique and loads of fun. Basically, my tips are a collection of checklists for what I think should (and should not) go into building a quality home. So let's have fun seeing what's new in the housing market these days!

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