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Repairs to condensate leaks at ductless split-system air conditioners:
Diagnosis & repair of condensate leaks from a split system air conditioning system. This article explains the common causes of water found dripping from the indoor half of a split system air conditioner or heat pump unit and offers repair suggestions matched to the AC unit leak cause.
Condensate leaks from a wall mounted air conditioner can cause costly building damage including mold contamination of wall cavities or other building areas.
This article series describes split system air conditioning & heat pump systems.
Diagnose & Fix Condensate Drips from the Indoor Air Handler of a Split System Air Conditioner
A split system or "ductless" air conditioning (or A/C & heat pump) system dispenses with duct
work entirely, using a wall-mounted indoor evaporator/blower unit and a separate outside compressor/condenser (below left and right). In this
split system air conditioning design, one compressor/condenser may serve multiple wall-mount indoor units.
Each of these indoor units must have a condensate drain that directs condensate, produced by cooling humid indoor air, to the outdoors.
Before it lost so much refrigerant that the split system air conditioner simply stopped cooling it had exhibited a different failure: condensate sometimes dripped out of the bottom of the unit into the occupied space where it was installed.
The white pipe in our photo at left is the outdoor termination of a condensate drain for the indoor wall-mounted half of a split system air conditioner. We'd like all of the condensate produced by the air conditioner to empty at this point.
But sometimes instead we find condensate dripping from the indoor unit. At below left, the indoor AC unit periodically dripped water down the wall and into the room below.
At below right we show the same unit with its cover removed to permit inspection of the condensate drip tray, drain line opening, and perhaps to discover other causes of dripping water from the unit.
When a wall-mounted split system air conditioner drips water (actually air conditioner condensate) out onto the walls or floor below, there are the following most-likely causes, in order of probability:
Most likely: the condensate drain line has become clogged
Possible: the unit is not properly mounted on the wall and is tipped so that an internal condensate drip tray overflows and leaks rather than sending condensate down the drain line. This can happen if the wall-mounted unit has been moved partly off of its supporting wall-mount bracket or if the bracket itself was not well-secured to the wall.
Possible: the split system indoor air handler unit drips condensate into the room when an iced-up cooling coil melts and the melt-water overwhelms the condensate drain or drips past the condensate catch pan into the unit housing and out into the room.
Possible: the split system refrigerant piping inside the wall mounted unit or the suction line leaving the unit is not properly insulated, allowing condensate to form on refrigerant piping in locations where it drips past the condensate catch pan and into the unit housing where it then leaks out into the room or down the wall below.
See REFRIGERANT PIPING INSTALLATION FAQs
Watch out: condensate leaks that you don't see but that occur inside of a wall cavity can lead to wet insulation, costly mold damage, and over a longer time, structural rot or insect infestation damage.
While the AirServ technician worked outside to add R-22 refrigerant at the compressor/condenser unit we removed the cover of the inside unit and promptly observed that the wall mounted unit was connected to its mounting bracket only at one end.
It was in fact hanging lopsided so that condensate in the drip tray flowed away from rather than towards the condensate drain.
It was no surprise that this unit dripped onto the floors below.
It was possible that the dripping was worse previously due to an iced-over coil as this unit also had now lost its refrigerant charge.
And to be sure that we were not also leaving a clogged refrigerant line unattended, we borrowed the service tech's (kindly-loaned) CO2 gun and adapter to blast-out the condensate drain's discharge tube.
There we commented that while we have found this CO2 condensate drain blaster a very helpful tool that will sometimes send a condensate drain obstruction out through the condensate drain system, in working on split system air conditioners whose condensate drain opening is difficult to access you may find that you cannot get the rubber condensate drain line plug securely in place.
Watch out: don't go blasting condensate drain lines without warning your partner working outside lest you startle someone and cause an injury.
Questions & answers or comments about split system air conditioner operation, installation, maintenance, & repair
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Eric Galow, Galow Homes, Lagrangeville, NY. Mr. Galow can be reached by email: email@example.com or by telephone: 914-474-6613. Mr. Galow specializes in residential construction including both new homes and repairs, renovations, and additions.
HVAC brands discussed here include but are not limited to: Lennox, American Standard, Amana, Everrest, Goodman, Frigidaire, Coleman and Gibson. Brands of related air handling equipment
include Honeywell, Aprilaire, White-Rogers, Broan. Nutone, Fantech, Venmar, Arzel, Hi-Velocity, Vanguard, Wirsbo, Weil McLain, Unico, Heat Link, A.O. Smith, Water Furnace, ClimateMaster, Geo-Excel, Command Aire, Friedrich, LG, Mitsubishi, Sanyo, Hart &
Cooley, Munchkin, Superstor Ultra, Lochinvar and Knight HVAC equipment.
HVAC Employment: U.S. Department of Labor website describes HVAC jobs and the employment outlook for HVAC technicians.
HVAC Education, Training Accreditation agencies: Quoting the U.S. DOL HVAC website above:: After completing the programs below, new technicians generally need between 6 months to 2 years of field experience before they are considered proficient. Three accrediting agencies have set academic standards for HVACR programs:
HVAC Excellence. 1701 Pennsylvania Ave NW,
Washington, DC 20006 Tel: (800) 394-5268. Quoting: HVAC Excellence is a not for profit organization that has been serving the HVACR industry since 1994. It is our goal to improve competency through validation of the technical education process. By setting standards and verifying that they have been met, we inspire the industry to excel. We know that all of the challenges that face our industry are achievable by continuous improvement in the way that we prepare technicians.
National Center for Construction Education and Research, 3600 NW 43rd Street, Bldg. G, Gainesville, FL 32606, Tel: 888.622.3720, Quoting:
NCCER is a not-for-profit education foundation created to develop industry-driven standardized craft training programs with portable credentials and help address the critical workforce shortage facing the construction industry.
The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Accreditation, (PAHRA)
2111 Wilson Blvd., Suite 500
Arlington, VA 22201-3001
(703) 524-8800, Quoting: The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) is an independent, third party organization that is a partnership between heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) educators and the HVACR industry that will award accreditation to programs that have met and/or exceeded industry validated standards. This programmatic accreditation program is the only one that is supported by the major industry associations.
Licensure. Heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers are required to be licensed by some States and localities. Requirements for licensure vary greatly, but all States or localities that require a license have a test that must be passed. The contents of these tests vary by State or locality, with some requiring extensive knowledge of electrical codes and others focusing more on HVACR-specific knowledge. Completion of an apprenticeship program or 2 to 5 years of experience are also common requirements.
In addition, all technicians who purchase or work with refrigerants must be certified in their proper handling. To become certified to purchase and handle refrigerants, technicians must pass a written examination specific to the type of work in which they specialize. The three possible areas of certification are: Type I—servicing small appliances; Type II—high-pressure refrigerants; and Type III—low-pressure refrigerants. Exams are administered by organizations approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, such as trade schools, unions, contractor associations, or building groups.
HVAC Training Courses, Schools: HVAC Technician Training Schools [http://technicianschool.net/hvac-technician-training-schools/], lists the following schools offering technical courses may offer specific training programs for potential careers, including HVAC technicians. Among HVAC schools that website lists are
Everest Colleges [http://www.everest.edu],
Florida Career College
7891 Pines Blvd
Hollywood, FL 33024
2299 Vauxhall Road
Union, NJ 07083
NOTE: when considering an HVAC training course or school, check the HVAC education accrediting associations listed above.
 "Air Conditioning & Refrigeration I & II", BOCES Education, Warren Hilliard (instructor), Poughkeepsie, New York, May - July 1982, [classroom notes from air conditioning and refrigeration maintenance and repair course attended by the website author]
 "Air Conditioning & Refrigeration I & II", BOCES Education, Warren Hilliard (instructor), Poughkeepsie, New York, May - July 1982, [classroom notes from air conditioning and Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technology, 5th Ed., William C. Whitman, William M. Johnson, John Tomczyk, Cengage Learning, 2005, ISBN 1401837654, 9781401837655 1324 pages
 "Falling Air-Conditioners Rattle Tenants", Chris Palmer, The New York Times, 2 July 2012, p. A12.
 Ratib Bakera is member of Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), an International
training organization for the HVACR industry provides educational and certification programs to HVACR professionals of all experience levels. www.rses.org provides information on the organization and its training materials. Independent testing and certification of HVAC technicians is provided by North American Technician Excellence - NATE - see www.natex.org.
NATE is supported by ASHRAE, the US EPA, and a host of other trade and professional associations.
 Singer brand HVAC equipment brand history: Singer was bought by & became the climate control unit of Dallas-based Snyder General Corp. (founded by a former Singer HVAC manager) in 1982. The name Singer was dropped in 1984. In 1984 Snyder General operations included Arcoaire, Comfortmaker, and McQuay. In 1991 Snyder General sold Arcoaire & Comfortmaker to Inter-City Products. In 1994 Snyder General was acquired by Hong Leong Group Malaysia. Snyder General is at 2001 Ross Avenue Dallas, TX 75201.
 Lennox air conditioning and heat pump owners manuals for air conditioners, air handlers, furnaces, heat pumps, indoor air quality systems, packaged units, water heaters, zone controls and other controls such as thermostats, are provided by Lennox at http://www.lennox.com/support/manuals.asp
 Troubleshooting Split System A/C or Heat Pump Noises, Fujitsu General America, Inc., 353 Route 46 West, Fairfield, NJ 07004, Tel: (888) 888-3424, Tel-Service hotline: (866) 952-8324, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Email service: email@example.com , retrieved 8/30/12, original source: http://www.fujitsugeneral.com/troubleshooting.htm [copy on file as Troubleshooting Fujitsu Ductless Mini-Splits.pdf]
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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