How Vital is the Condensate Drain Tube to Your HVAC System?

An HVAC condensate drain tube may be connected to more than one unit in your cooling and/or heating system. Condensate simply refers to liquid water produced by the normal process of an air conditioner or furnace.  In either case, a functional condensate drain tube is critical for proper operation and also for preventing overflow or leakage.

Here are two locations where a condensate drain tube may be utilized in your HVAC system:

Air Conditioner Condensate

A central AC extracts a surprising amount of water vapor from indoor air — more than 20 gallons per day from a large unit. Air conditioner condensation produced by the evaporator coil drips into a collection pan beneath the indoor air handler, then flows through a condensate drain tube connected to the home’s plumbing drain system.

If the AC condensate drain tube clogs — algae or mold growth in the drip pan is a common cause — overflow will occur rapidly and continue every time the unit cycles on. Because of the location of the drip pan, water damage from this overflow may go unnoticed for some time.

Annual preventative maintenance by a qualified HVAC technician includes inspecting the condensate drain system for clogs as well as cleaning the drip pan and, if necessary, adding time-release algicide tablets to prevent clogs.

High-Efficiency Heating

Unlike standard units, high-efficiency furnaces with an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating above 90 incorporate two heat exchangers. The secondary exchanger extracts additional heat from water vapor in the furnace’s exhaust flow. This slightly acidic condensation accumulates in a collector, then flows through a sloped drain pipe through an exterior wall, where it is released outdoors.

Should a condensate drain tube clog — in winter, for example, ice may obstruct the outdoor end of the tube if drainage is too slow — the furnace includes a safety sensor and cut-off switch that automatically shuts down the unit until the clog is cleared. Yearly professional furnace maintenance includes checking the condition and verifying free flow through the condensate drain tube.

For professional maintenance to ensure proper condensate drain tube function, contact Paitson Bros., the Wabash Valley’s choice for HVAC sales and service since 1922.

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