How To Clean Air Conditioner Drain Line Like A Pro

How To Clean Air Conditioner Drain Line Like A Pro

Anthony Barnes

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Air conditioners are a wonderful way of keeping you and your loved ones cool by generating cold air in a space like your home.

However, many people will often purchase these devices without thinking about the upkeep and the maintenance that comes along with the conditioners. 

How To Clean Air Conditioner Drain Line Like A Pro

Because of how important they are to keeping areas cool, they need to be regularly cleaned and kept free of elements like dust and pollen. 

There are many different features to air conditioners like fans and drains that need to be checked regularly and frequently to make sure that the cooler will work to the best of its ability, and without any stress of your air conditioner not working probably. 

Follow our guide to find out how to clean an air conditioner drain, how to tell when the drain needs cleaning, and the benefits of having a fully-working air conditioner.

What Is An Air Conditioner?

An air conditioner is a machine that can help keep you cool indoors during the day or at night by cooling a room down using refrigeration technology.

The process of cooling things down happens through a series of steps; first, water is vaporized into steam inside a compressor that runs on electricity, then this steam is cooled down to liquid water which is injected into the condenser coil.

This coil acts as the radiator for the system and cools the water back down to the point where it’s ready to enter the evaporator coil.

Here, it turns back into a gas again before being returned to the compressor again and repeating the cycle.

Air conditioners come in all shapes and sizes from small window units (see also ‘Window Unit vs Central Air Conditioner’) to large central systems that cover entire rooms at a time, which means that there are lots of different features and parts involved. 

What Is An Air Conditioner Drain?

The air conditioner drain is a part of the air conditioner that allows water that has been condensed from air conditioning to collect in one place.

This helps prevent flooding and other issues caused by the water collecting in places like basements or garages where it can cause damage to floors, walls, and even structural components of buildings. 

Air conditioners tend to have two types of drains: a dry type and a wet type.

These drains are used to remove excess moisture from the air conditioning unit so that it doesn’t become damaged due to corrosion or mold growth.

For example, if the drain isn’t functioning properly, the drain might develop leaks that could lead to water damage and would affect the functioning of the conditioner.

How To Tell When An Air Conditioner Drain Needs Cleaning

It’s possible to use several methods to check whether or not your air conditioner drain needs cleaning.

Some of these include checking the drain line to see if the drain lines look dirty or if the drain valve is leaking. 

Other ways to do this include looking for signs of rust or corrosion around the drain itself.

Sometimes you can see if there’s a blockage somewhere in the pipe which will cause a slowing down of efficiency and performance.

How To Clean An Air Conditioner Drain – A Step-By-Step Guide

Step 1 – Kill The Power

First, you need to kill the power feeding to your system to ensure your safety is the most important thing.

Find the breaker and the thermostat to do this. 

Step 2 – Find Your Indoor Air Handler

Find your indoor air handler and locate the condensate pan.

You can typically locate this underneath the unit, however, it might be behind a removable access panel.

The air handler might be found in your loft, attic, or utility room.

Step 3 – Check The Draining Pan

Step 3 - Check The Draining Pan

A telling sign that your air conditioning drain is blocked is if you can see standing water in the draining pan.

This is where you know that you need to clean your air conditioning unit’s drainage line (see also our guide on fixing a frozen AC line).

Step 4 – Get Vacuuming 

A lot of the time, clogged drains’ worst enemy is suction, which means that should you have a spare vacuum, you could use this to try and clear the debris.

However, if you try this step and it doesn’t work, then you’re better off ringing a specialist to come and solve the problem for you, otherwise, you run the risk of making the blockage worse or breaking the vacuum.

The drain opening will be outside your house near the foundation, so insert the vacuum nozzle into here and attempt to suck the blockage out through this area.

Place your hand around the pipe if you wish to improve the suction and leave the vacuum to run for a minute or so.

You can check the vacuum bag or canister to see if the blockage has been cleared. Try this a few times and see what happens.

Step 5 – Locate The Access Point 

Your next task is to find the access point on your drain line.

This is usually noticeable by a T-shaped vent accompanied by a PVC cover. Remove this cover and have a look at the drain.

Using distilled vinegar, you can attempt to flush the drain to remove any debris or dirt that will have built up.

Use a mask if needed and get some peroxide if you don’t like the smell of the vinegar. It’ll do a similar job.

You can also use hot water with some dish soap to have a similar effect because of how good it is at removing grime and limescale.

Allow the solution to sit for around half an hour and then finish the cleaning process by flushing the drainpipe with water.

We recommend having someone to help you to stay outside and check if the water is running smoothly.

Important Things To Note

This method won’t work as effectively if the drains have sharp corners because these can be prone to being harder to unclog.

If this is the case, call your plumber or specialist and get them to unclog the blockages so you don’t make it worse. 

If your drain is lacking in the access vent department, you should be able to use the opening at the edge of the drain’s pan.

This can always be removed to help make access to the drain easier. It all depends on the air conditioning unit and the way it’s designed.

Your water system should be relatively tilted to ensure that the water doesn’t build up, which should be within the design of the drains.

However, if the pipes have moved over time and are at a flatter angle, the water can get stuck and pool together.

Benefits Of Cleaning Drains Regularly

Your Air Conditioner Will Run Smoothly

This is the main thing!

Blocked air conditioners waste energy and can cause issues such as poor airflow, overheating, and even damage to your AC unit.

Don’t let this happen by cleaning your drains once or twice every few months.

You also want your air conditioning unit to run smoothly without complications, as the ultimate priority.

You Won’t Have Any Bad Odors From Dirty Water

Dirty water systems often emit foul odors, which aren’t very pleasant.

The reason why they stink is that there are bacteria living in them.

By regularly cleaning your drainage system, you keep the odor away from your home and reduce the number of bacteria and germs present in your drains. 

You Won’t Have To Pay For A New Drainage System

A clogged drain could cost you hundreds of dollars to fix when it comes to replacing your drainage system.

Not only does plumbing cost money, but you need to pay for materials and labor costs too.

Your air conditioning unit needs to function as efficiently as possible, and cleaning the drains regularly helps to achieve this goal.

How Often Should I Clean My Air Conditioning Drains?

How Often Should I Clean My Air Conditioning Drains?

It costs $1,200 – $2,000 to replace a whole new plumbing system, but you could potentially save money by cleaning your drains.

Not only does this prevent unnecessary expenses, but it also helps to keep your drainage system working well for years to come.

You should aim to clean your drainage systems every two or three months, depending on how much you use the air conditioning unit.

However, you should check the pipes more frequently and ensure that they’re ticking along smoothly. 

By making sure that there’s no rust, corrosion, or grime building up, you can put your mind at ease until the next time you check.

After all, it doesn’t take much to have a look.

As well as this, you can always check to see if the air conditioning unit itself is running smoothly.

If you can see that the quality of the performance has dropped or that the machine is struggling, then this is a clear sign that there could be a blockage in the drains.

What Happens If I Don’t Clean My Drains?

It gets to a certain point where if you don’t clean your drains then you’ll find that the build-up might be too far gone to fix, with the drains themselves having to be removed and replaced.

This will cost you a lot more money than simply cleaning the pipes, which will be worse in the long run.

On top of this, a build-up of bacteria and germs can become unsafe for people to battle without the right protective gear, making your job a lot harder.

On top of this, the air conditioning unit and your other water systems around the house will suffer greatly and won’t perform to the best of their ability.

Ultimately, there’s not much point in buying an expensive air conditioning system if it doesn’t work properly because of external factors.

Keeping your drains clean (see also ‘How To Clean The Drains In Your Home‘) and clear will make sure that these features in your home will work properly.

Final Thoughts

A clogged drainage system is not only annoying but expensive too.

When you need a new one installed, you’re going to have to pay for it yourself or hire a professional who will install it for you.

With regular maintenance though, you prevent this from happening.

It’s important to remember that when you clean your air conditioning system and its associated plumbing, you’re doing more than just keeping things tidy.

You’re making sure that everything works properly and efficiently.

You’re helping to maintain a healthy environment for everyone inside your home, and that’s something we highly appreciate.

Ultimately, you want your air conditioning unit to be working to the best of its ability and your home to be bacteria-free.

Keep checking up on your drains and you’ll be good to go.

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By Anthony Barnes

Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age