This Is our Village

Friday, June 10, 2011

a/c /common element drain

Has anyone else experienced this issue: once again, my a/c shut off. I had ECM out on 5/31 and the tech said the common element drain not draining - I am on ground level/corner. The a/c unit totally replace 2 yrs ago. Did not experience issues initially but much too often of late - ECM told me it was prop mgr issue since it's the common element drain ---so, two shut offs ago/ prop mgr comes out - says there was very little in the drain - all ok. And of course, it always happens on the wkend ----I am caring for my 88 yr old mother who is basically in a wheelchair and I depend on the CV busses for my transport so it's not easy around here and this constant a/c issue has now flipped me over the edge ---Has anyone else had the same prob w/common element drain or know of anyone who has? of course, the tech says these bldgs are 40 yrs old etc but none of my assn neighbors are battling this prob----any input appreciated. Thank God it's only 80 in here now and I have ceiling fans -----once again thank you anyone and everyone with input.


  1. Hi Mag,

    Here in Greenbrier (High Rise buildings), there is indeed a Common Condensation drain pipe for every four units, those units are stacked vertically; 101 - 401... thru 114 - 414.

    Due to the constant presence of water in these drain pipes and the incessant heat here in Florida; those drains will in due course, clog up with Algae and other bacterial growth, until a point that they become blocked.

    All AC units have some sort of Condensate drain, simply because the process of cooling air, squeezes (condenses) water (humidity) out of the air.

    The Association should arrange for a once yearly suctioning of the drain outfall to remove the Algae growth and thus prevent blockage.

    By the way, modern AC units may have a Float Valve at the bottom of the drain pipe which will turn off your AC if the drain pipe gets blocked, this is a good thing, as it precludes a flood in your unit from the Condensate Tray overflowing.

    Last but not least, consider putting some sort of bleach in your Condensate Tray, this will kill off any Algae growth before it can get started. A simple way to accomplish this is by using "Spa Tablets"

    Dave Israel

  2. Hi Mag, that is too many outages, and ECM sounds remarkably ineffective, do they exclude the one common thing that needs doing (clean drain lines)?
    You could go back to the a/c installing co. was there warranty or tune-up service? Tune up should have guarantee too.
    One downstairs corner owner pays $45 per year for a/c inspection and tune-up, which I suspect mostly consists of blowing out the condensate pipe. Have you looked at the exit of the pipe outside, is it dripping?
    Prestige in the yellow pages offers free 2nd opinion, free estimate, $20 tune up*, free service call*. Watch out for those * restrictions!
    DIY I hope you have tile (not carpet) and a bucket in the hall under the a/c/ pan. Jiggling the float valve is my first action. Mine is old and may stick, however, if it is actually up because the pan is full then it can get messy.
    I also use a bottle of Line Clear ($6 Home Depot) in the condensate pan twice a year to get rid of algae in the down pipe. Bleach is more corrosive to the pipes.
    The only other problem we have had is when batteries in the thermostat die.

  3. thank you one and all ---will have the tech show me where float pan etc located so I can self medicate!
    The prop mgr did suction drain about 6 wks ago -and I do have annual inspect/maintenance - not one to let things go ---but will get those tabs and educate myself --Thanks E for specifics ----yep I have tile and have not had any water drip/flood issues thankfully. Guess it's a trade off from frozen pipes and giant icicles in a Chicago winter living in an "historic" house!

  4. If I could add just a bit from my experiences....

    The condensate pan is a pan about two inches high and wide and long enough to cover the whole area under your air handler. The air handler itself is usually up high, just above ceiling level. Sometimes it is accessed in a closet.

    Normally the water that the a/c removes from the air in your apartment is discharged through a pipe to the outside, and the pan, should you inspect it, is dry inside. Your discharge pipe along with discharge pipes from other units may feed into a larger discharge pipe as in Dave's Greenbrier building.

    If there is an algae blockage in your drainpipe, the water from your air handler will leak into the pan underneath, thus saving it from leaking through ceiling tiles and onto your floor. But what if the pan then fills up?

    I have seen this handled in two ways. One is for the pan to have a separate drain pipe to the outside. In some cases this second drainpipe exits the house in a completely separate location. In other cases, certainly most likely in the case of apartments, this second drain pipe could be connected to the main drain serving several apartments. The problem with this method is you would never know when the primary drain got plugged, because the secondary drain would take over, and if IT got plugged, you'd have water leaking into your home.

    The other way, more commonly used now, I think, is for the pan to have a float shut-off device, which Elaine alludes to. When the level of water in the pan reaches a half-inch or so, the a/c is automatically shut off. Then you know something is wrong, can investigate and take remedial measures.

    Blowing out the drainpipes should be a part of normal maintenance. The techs usually do this with nitrogen gas.

  5. One more thing, the person upstairs should dump a bottle of algae remover into their condensate pan every 6 months. (actually called AC Line). If occasional clogs moved down from their section of the pipe it could affect you.

  6. thank you one and all. How amusing -I guess my a/c was magically rejuvenated via wiccan magic ---turned it back on and it's running ---but will address the medicate and educate with all immediacy lest when it's 94 on mon and 96 on tues - we roast. I really do appreciate all the DIY directives and advice. I am thinking a lizard took refuge in the drain!

  7. ECM just left-as the a/c stopped this a/m ---even tho there was drip drip from common element drain-the tech drained inside and out and the maintenance visit next week - pan will need total cleaning-removal of any algae ---I must say ECM sends someone within 4 hrs of when I call ----looks like I will have to speak to prop mgr and the drain w/need to be unclogged monthly ---guess the old unit was not as efficient ergo no clogs! and of course had to be issue on the hottest day!

  8. Of all the pans, in all the a/c units in 4,000 units of Century village, why you? In 11 years mine has not clogged, are you growing mushrooms in the pan! Keep our ultimate solution in mind. And make sure the upstairs unit is adding cleaner regularly.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.