Air conditioning is one luxury you can’t afford to do without. So when you see a large puddle of water forming around the base of your central A/C unit or if you notice it’s not cooling as well as it should, have an HVAC professional take a close look at your system.
Evaporator leaks don’t happen often, but when they do, it can be a headache to deal with. The following highlights the most common causes of evaporator coil leaks and what you can do to fix them for good.
Why Do the Coils Leak?
There are two types of leaks you’ll likely deal with when it comes to your A/C:
- Refrigerant leaks caused by corroded evaporator coils
- Water leaks caused by frost, blocked condensate drains or damaged condensate pans
Let’s talk about the first type of leak – the refrigerant leak. One of the most common ways for a copper evaporator coil to lose its cool is through formicary corrosion. This happens when volatile organic compounds (VOC) from ordinary household chemicals react with the copper metal, especially under the particularly humid climate conditions known throughout Mobile and the rest of the Deep South. The end result is formic acid, which promotes formicary corrosion of the copper coils. This can cause microscopic leaks that allow A/C refrigerant to slowly escape.
Tell-tale signs of a refrigerant leak often include:
- A gradual yet steady decline in cooling capability
- Frost forming on the evaporator coil
- Visible signs of corroded or damaged copper coil
- Compressor short-cycling, where the compressor constantly turns on and off during A/C operation
The other type of leak doesn’t come from inside the evaporator coil, as is the case with refrigerant. It’s leakage that results from coil operation, with the condensate that’s generated as the evaporator coil pulls moisture out of the hot, humid air from the return vent. As it condenses into liquid form, the moisture falls into a sloped condensate pan connected to a drain line that runs to the outside of your home or into an indoor drain. Mold and mildew growth as well as debris can become clogged in the drain line, causing the water in the pan to overflow. A cracked or rusted condensate pan can also allow water to escape the pan.
Frost can also play a prominent role in evaporator coil leaks. If the coil freezes over and is subsequently left to defrost, there may be enough melted ice to overwhelm the condensate pan and spill over onto the floor.
Taking Care of Business
If you’re dealing with a condensate leak around your evaporator coil, you can address it this way:
- Start off by cleaning all of the water spilled on the floor, preferably with a wet/dry shop vacuum.
- Next, take a look at the drain line and make sure it’s not clogged up with debris. If it is, use the shop vacuum to suck out all of the dirt and debris from the line.
- For more stubborn clogs, carefully use a plumber’s snake to break up large clumps of debris.
- Don’t forget to physically inspect the condensate pan for signs of cracks, rust and/or corrosion.
If you’re dealing with a refrigerant leak, the first thing you should do is take a look at the evaporator coil. Signs of corrosion on the copper lines or around joints and fittings often indicate ideal conditions for a leak. If you want to be certain, you can perform a “soap test” by applying a mix of water and mild detergent around potentially leaky areas. If there’s a leak, bubbles will form in the presence of escaping refrigerant.
At this point, you’ll want to call on your HVAC technician, who can safely remove and store your A/C system’s refrigerant while the coil undergoes replacement or repair.
Prevent Future A/C Coil Leaks
Here are a few ways you can eliminate the causes of evaporator coil leaks and prevent them from happening in the future:
- Get a technician to replace your current copper evaporator coil with an aluminum coil. Unlike copper, aluminum’s thin oxide coating makes it resistant to corrosion.
- Invest in an ultraviolet (UV) light germicidal filtration system. This will help disrupt mold and bacteria growth around the evaporator and drainage areas.
- Cut back on your use of household chemicals with VOCs. Most household cleaning products list whether VOCs are present.
- Keep the evaporator coils and condensate pan free of dust and dirt.
When it comes to tracking down the causes of evaporator coil leaks, you can always count on Air Specialty to get the job done. Contact us at Air Specialty whenever you need air conditioning service for your Mobile, Saraland, or Lucedale area home.
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