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Does my air conditioning unit need a drip pan?

Answered by Jeffrey ~ March 6, 2012 ~ No Comments

We recently had 2 air conditioning units installed at our house. Although the unit in the attic was installed with a drip pan, there is no drip pan on the bottom AC unit. Is this normal? Did the HVAC contractor make a mistake?

Dawn ~ Huntsville, AL

Jeffrey Anderson

Hi Dawn. I don't think that your HVAC contractor made a mistake as I've seen the bottom unit installed with and without a drain pan, but it's usually a good idea if it has one unless there is a floor drain close by. Attic units are another matter because if the air conditioning unit has a condensate problem, a lot of expensive damage can be caused very quickly. Depending on the accessibility of the attic, most people aren't able to check that unit quite as often as a unit located on the first floor or in the basement.

One other feature your newly installed attic HVAC unit should have is an emergency condensate drain that alerts you if there is a problem up there. Normally a drain is run to the exterior of the home and day-lighted above one of the second floor windows. The theory is that if water begins dripping out of this drain and past the window, you should see it and realize there is a problem before any damage is done. Hopefully your HVAC contractor installed this emergency drain and showed you where it is located.

Lower level units are normally placed in an unfinished area where there is a floor drain in close proximity. A PVC condensate line should run over to the floor drain and be secured with anchors so it can't be accidentally kicked out of position. If you don't have this setup, then you should have a drain pan under the unit as the main condensate line could back up and cause a leak. If this should happen while you're out of town or on vacation, your family could return to quite a mess. Even if the unit is located in an unfinished space, the water could eventually work its way into a finished area.

I imagine you use the air conditioning a lot during the summer in Huntsville so don't hesitate to ask your HVAC contractor to stop back by and explain how they have the lower unit condensate drain arranged.

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