What is Causing Water to Drip From Your AC Vent?

Finding a ceiling leak can strike terror in the hearts of homeowners. While a leak can certainly indicate problems with your roof, it can also be a sign of a problem with your air conditioner. If you ever notice water dripping from your AC vent, it is crucial to call a professional right away. But how do you know for sure your AC is the issue? Here’s what to do in an ‘Oh, no, there’s water dripping from the A/C vent or ceiling vent!’ moment. 

Why Are Air Conditioning Units a Common Cause of Ceiling Leaks?

In addition to cooling your home, air conditioning units decrease humidity by pulling moisture from the air. The water vapor in the air is captured and converted back to water, or condensation. Of course, all of that moisture has to go somewhere, right? When everything in the HVAC system is functioning correctly, wastewater will drain into the ground outside your home. When it’s not, your home can spring one leak or many.

How to Identify When an Air Conditioning Unit is Causing Ceiling Leaks

Generally, if there are issues with the roof, you’ll see leaks during rainstorms. If you have an A/C unit in the attic (likely the air handler) or on the rooftop (common in Arizona), condensation dripping from a ceiling vent or multiple air vents can signal a problem. A key indicator that your A/C unit is the culprit? You notice the ceiling leaking on a sunny day.

What Should You Look For With a Suspected A/C Leak?

If you suspect your AC unit is the cause of a leak, here is a quick checklist of where you should investigate:

  • Condensate pan underneath the AC unit
  • Secondary condensate pan
  • The condensate line
  • Condensate drain trap
  • Clogged filters/dirty coils

Moisture is removed from the air in your home by being forced over air conditioner coils. Condensation develops and then drips into a condensate pan. There is a primary condensate pan inside the air conditioning unit and under the coils. There’s also a secondary condensate pan as a backup in case the primary pan fails. Take a look at the pan underneath the A/C unit to see if it is wet. If you discover the pan is damp or full of water, you most likely have a clogged condensate line.

If you’re noticing ceiling leaks and suspect there is a clog in the condensate line, call a professional right away to address the issue. A clogged condensate line near the top of the roofline can cause serious damage to your home, from water damage to harmful mold growth that will contaminate your home. Depending on how severe the clog is, special tools may be needed to alleviate it. You can also take some proactive measures to prevent clogged condensate lines in the future.

Your primary condensate drain likely has a trap. Clean this trap at least once per year (as part of your annual air conditioner tune-ups) to prevent system failure. If you’re comfortable doing so, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with this trap so you can clean it yourself. Consult your air conditioner’s owner’s manual or ask a technician at your next scheduled maintenance or repair appointment. The technician will be able to show you where the trap is and if there is a cleanout installed in the trap —  a little knowledge makes cleaning it so much easier!

Condensate Pan Issues Other than Clogs

A ceiling leak may not originate in the condensate line at all but can occur due to a hole or a crack in the primary condensate pan itself. Note: You won’t notice any signs of a hole in the second pan unless the first one is overwhelmed by water or otherwise malfunctioning. Aside from the steps you take to care for your air conditioner overall, there is not a lot that can be done to avoid this issue with the condensate pans. Over time, they tend to rust and corrode.

Clogged Filters/Dirty Evaporator Coils

Ceiling leaks caused by air conditioning units can also occur when evaporator coils have a lot of dirt buildup on them. Sometimes this is the result of restricted airflow because an air filter has not been changed frequently enough and has become clogged. The coils should be cleaned during regular air conditioner maintenance to ensure the machine continues to function correctly. Preventing ceiling leaks is just another benefit of regular service and preventative maintenance.

If you have ceiling leaks, or it’s time for your yearly check-up, give us a call today!