Why You Need to Check Your AC Drip Pans Every Week (And We're Not Exaggerating)

prevent mold in AC unit

You might not realize it, but mold spores are everywhere, and when conditions are right, those mold spores multiply and cause mold growth that negatively affects health and presents serious damage to your home. Learn how you can protect your home and your health from mold this summer.

AC Unit in the Attic + Summer in Charlotte = Mold

People don’t usually realize that your AC unit drips pans and overflow lines, if not properly maintained in the summer, can create the perfect environment for mold growth. As the temperatures climb, AC units in the Charlotte area become vulnerable to problems related to condensation—especially ones in attics.

Normal AC Unit Condensation

prevent mold in AC unitAC units always create some water while operating, which is why they are equipped with a drip pan and drainage pipe that leads water out of your home in a safe manner. This pipe probably drains empties on the backside, lower level of your home or dumps into your laundry drain.

This is not a problem if the amount of condensation produced is normal and the water drips where it should—into the drip pan and out through that drain pipe. However, in the summer when the amount of condensation increases, we see problems because the drain line becomes clogged with mold, algae, dirt, rust or other debris. Sometimes the drain line becomes disconnected, causing the drip pan to overflow and cause water damage to the insulation and ceiling.

Why does mold grow here? Mold grows on your AC unit’s evaporator coil and drain pan because they both have the necessary ingredients for mold growth: moisture and food (dirt and dust). Just like water condenses on a cold glass of water outside on a hot summer day, moisture forms on the cold evaporator coil when warm air blows over it. That moisture drips into the condensate drain pan, but in the process, dirt and mold spores from the air in your home combine with the moisture. Now the mold spores have everything they need to grow: moisture, food and the right temperature.

Sometimes the problem is with the condensate pump itself. Because there is constantly water in the pump, mold or mildew can grow inside the unit, causing it to clog up and overflow.

Attic AC Unit Maintenance

We know it’s a pain to go up in the attic, but you can set yourself up for the long term and then do a quick check in once every week or two to make sure all is well. Take the following action if you have an AC unit in the attic:

  • Talk to a plumber about installing a secondary drain line.
  • Install a drain pan overflow shutoff switch that will act as an overflow prevention tool.
  • Add a safety pan under your AC unit to catch drain pan overflow.
  • Have a plumber to check to ensure each drain line contains a p-trap and air vent.
  • Flush your condensate pump with a 50-50 bleach/water solution to prevent mold from growing.
  • Place newspaper under the AC unit so you can quickly and easily see if water has been overflowing at all.

Once you’ve done this initial set up, you can just do a quick check once every week or two. Overflow pan not too full? Drain pipe clear? Newspaper under the unit dry? No water stains? All’s good! Drain pipe getting gunked up? Give it a quick cleaning with bleach and water.

Concerned You Might Have a Mold Problem?

If you’ve got an AC unit in the attic that you suspect has been leaking or producing problems with mold, give us a call. As a professional plumbing company, E.R. Services is prepared to handle all your water damage prevention and plumbing needs. We’ll make sure you understand how to properly set up and maintain that AC unit in your attic, and if you need restoration services our team can't provide we can put you in touch with another reputable company that could help you.

Article Summary

Quick question & answer: How often should I check my AC drip pans?

You should check your AC drip pans every week during summer. Since the AC unit’s evaporator coil and drip pan have moisture, dust, and dirt, they become ideal places for mold to grow. The condensate pump could cause mold to grow since water constantly stays in it.

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