Split system air conditioner (C) Daniel FriedmanSplit System Air Conditioner Heat Pump Condensate Leak Repairs
Find & fix the causes of condensate leaks from a split system AC/Heat Pump Wall Unit

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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.

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Diagnose & Fix Condensate Drips from the Indoor Air Handler of a Split System Air Conditioner

Split system air conditioner condensate drain outside (C) Daniel FriedmanA 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.

Split system air conditioner condensate leak repair (C) Daniel Friedman Split system air conditioner condensate leak repair (C) Daniel Friedman

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:

  1. Most likely: the condensate drain line has become clogged
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

    This problem will occur when the refrigerant charge is low or when the refrigerant metering device is not working properly.
  4. 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.

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.

CO2 air conditioner condensate drain cleanout blaster (C) Daniel FriedmanIt 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.

See CONDENSATE DRAIN CLEAN & DE-CLOG for more options for clearing a clogged HVACR condensate drain line.

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.

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