Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"AC" May Not Necessarily Mean "All Clear"

Over the weekend our downstairs air conditioning unit stopped blowing cold air, so we called the AC repair guy in today to check out what we thought would be either a compressor or a Freon leak. The repair guy found that we indeed had a Freon leak in one of the coils, which would have to be replaced (parts under 5 year warranty; labor not under warranty after the first year).

However, he discovered more problems. He noticed water dripping from a secondary condensation drain pipe from the eave. At first he was concerned that it was the primary drain pipe, because it would be bad for a builder not to run the primary drain inside a wall to the ground, so that the water does not have to freefall from any height. But when he discovered it was the secondary drain, it meant that the primary drain was clogged. Unclogging it would, of course, cost us more.

He finally located the primary drain exiting the house in a place no less troubling to him and to me when he showed it to me. The currently clogged drain exited out of the foundation under our deck. This would not be a problem if the water had a place to flow once it left the drain pipe, but because the builder had graded our back yard, ironically, so that water drainage from the yard would flow away from the deck and the foundation, the condensation from the AC unit had been simply exiting the pipe (when unclogged) and had been pooling under the deck and against the foundation, forming a rut in the ground. That rut is lower than the backyard ground level. So, he recommended and I agreed that the primary drain should be shunted away from the deck and out the side of the house to meet up with the natural water runoff.

When we bought the house new in 2004, nobody caught this problem. And he explained why. The location of the drain pipe was just too small of a detail to be noticed. The builder probably trusted the AC installer to put it in the correct way, so he probably didn't check on the exit. The AC installer put it in before there was a deck and he situated the drain out on what he thought was just one of the sides of the house. The deck builder was focused on building a deck and not on what pipes lead where. Once the deck was built, the pipe was out of sight and mind and the backyard was landscaped to suit rainwater runoff. The inspector we hired to check the condition of the house would not focus on where the drain exits, but only confirm that there was a primary drain to deal with condensation. Basically, an AC guy concerned about condensation flow would have thought to locate the pipe, but how many home buyers hire an AC guy to find the condensation flow pipe?

So, now we are paying about $1,000 to fix our leaking Freon with incidentals plus to re-route our condensation drain, lest we pay more later in possible damage/erosion to our house's foundation. While the labor on replacing the coils is not under warranty, I'm kind of glad we had it happen; else we would not have discovered the pipe problem. Do you know where your AC condensation pipe exits your house? If not, you better check!


  1. I thought this post was gonna be about me. I'm so vain.

  2. Made you look. Now I know all I have to do to get your attention is put "AC" somewhere in the title.

  3. seems like the water from the drainage pipe would run away from the foundation under the deck, if the lot were graded properly (so that water flows away from the foundation). Are you sure the grading was done properly?

  4. Part of the problem with the grading is that the backyard slopes down to the house. So the yard at the house was graded to push the flow away from the foundation. The deck sits within an "L" shape at the foundation, which means that it extends to the lip of the backyard grade. As far as I can tell, there was no way to grade the ground under the deck to channel water out from under it without notching the lip of the backyard grade, and thus allowing stormwater runoff to flow under the deck.