Auxiliary Drip Tray For Air Conditioning Systems That Is Separately Drained Outdoors

By
Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723

Oftentimes HVAC units are put in the attic and the best practice when this is the case would be to include an auxiliary drip tray for air conditioning systems that is separately drained outdoors.

An HVAC system in the basement or garage will typically have one condensate drainage system.  It can send this condensate into a floor drain or an electric pump to eliminate what it removes from the air.  On a hot and humid day a large system can remove many gallons of water from the air every day, perhaps 10 or 12.  That water has to go somewhere!  If it has no where to go, it will choose to use your ceiling!

When a system is located in the attic, in former times, there was often not even a drip pan underneath!

Now all units will have such a pan.

But the condensate drainage can happen any of many ways.

There can be a single primary discharge line.  This is not good enough should a clog occur.

If it leaks, that water will hopefully get captured by the drip pan, but that pan needs to send it somewhere.

Most HVAC contractors include one or both of two back ups.

Some put in a float device which, if the pan fills with water, theoretically will float up to a point where it turns off the AC and no more condensate is collected.

At that point an HVAC contractor needs to clean out the primary line and eliminate the water from the pan.

This is fine, but in my opinion not quite enough.  In addition to, or even instead of, the float, a second discharge line should be installed into the pan.  That way, if there is a clog and the pan fills up with water, this second tube can send it somewhere.  Ideally it is discharged outdoors.  Often the HVAC contractor will set it so it drips in front of a window or onto a deck where its discharge can be easily seen and the clogged unit will be detected and fixed.

This house has the second line installed in the pan.  I like that!  This is an older system and for them to have done this way back then made this installation way state of the art.

But there is a problem.  The opening is clogged with insulation and debris.

I SEE THIS OFTEN ON NEW CONSTRUCTION INSPECTIONS, WHICH IS A VERY, VERY GOOD REASON TO HAVE AN INSPECTION ON NEW PROPERTIES!

The insulator sometimes blows in his product and disregards the HVAC drip pan.  Such was the case with the system here.  This pan has been clogged for many years and fortunately has not needed to discharge water!

My recommendation:  check the HVAC system in the attic to make sure 1. that it has a drip pan and then 2. that the pan has a second condensate discharge line installed.  And then be sure that it can drain water!  If it has a float consider it triple protected!

 

 

Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


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  1. Chris Smith 05/02/2012 03:38 AM
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Rainmaker
1,843,015
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Perhaps the house never had a home inspection Joe, or that, you are right, it was missed!  I not only look for the pan, but inspect the discharge holes!

Apr 29, 2012 09:22 PM #4
Rainer
278,100
Kathryn Maguire
GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881 - Chesapeake, VA
Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach

I can't tell you how many clients and friends I know who have had issues with their HVAC in the attic causing leaks.  Your post is well worth taking to heart...and action!

Apr 29, 2012 10:39 PM #5
Rainmaker
1,513,377
Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County

AC systems in an attic (or above the garage in the overhead here) does give me concern. Nothing like wet ceiling and drywall from a clog.

Apr 29, 2012 10:43 PM #6
Rainmaker
1,372,797
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Jay, this is often overlooked. We have a friend who came home one evening to find their living room ceiling on the floor. That was one expensive lesson to learn.

Apr 29, 2012 10:47 PM #7
Rainer
158,244
Anthony Daniels
Coldwell Banker - San Francisco, CA
SF Bay Area REO Specialist

Always good tips and good pics.

Thanks for sharing them.

Apr 29, 2012 10:56 PM #8
Rainmaker
2,444,257
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Mine also has a sort of pump on it to facilitate the run-off...These little things can turn into big ones if allowed

Apr 29, 2012 11:34 PM #9
Rainer
57,945
Wayne Jackson
Lakeshore Realty 208-714-4109 - Hayden, ID
North Idaho Realtor, Serving Coeur dnullAlene and Hayden Lake

Jay, More good info, in my area we seldom see the HVAC unit in the attic but it's something to watch for.

Apr 29, 2012 11:56 PM #10
Rainmaker
217,052
Rob Ernst
Certified Structure Inspector - Reno, NV
Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor

I love when the pan is there but the drain line is missing.

Apr 30, 2012 01:32 AM #11
Rainmaker
490,607
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jay, It really is amazing how much moisture these bad boys can extract from the air. Even here in our arid climate.

I had a client who's condensate line clogged and destroyed the floor to the tune of 5 g's. It is really something that needs to be thoroughly evaluated yearly.

Apr 30, 2012 01:58 AM #12
Rainmaker
571,718
Bill Gillhespy
16 Sunview Blvd - Fort Myers Beach, FL
Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos

Hi Jay,  Thanks for yet another well aritten post.  I have also heard that some AC techs put one of the 3" chlorine tabs into the pan to help keep it from clogging.  Any thoughts ?

Apr 30, 2012 01:58 AM #13
Rainmaker
1,843,015
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Kathryn - the pan can be a problem any time, but especially when full of debris.

Gary - common sense says that it must be paid attention to!

Michael - many people don't even know that the pan is there much less how to keep it clean.

You're welcome Anthony.  Glad you stopped by again.

Apr 30, 2012 04:04 AM #14
Rainmaker
1,843,015
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Richie - if that is what I am thinking, those pumps are typically used on basement sytems.

Wayne - it is surely common around here.  I wonder often how qualified I would be to do inspections in other parts of the country!

Rob - ha!  How often do we see that!  Or under the water heater or washing machine - no drain line!

Don - for sure.  Here it can be many, many gallons.

Apr 30, 2012 04:06 AM #15
Rainmaker
1,843,015
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Bill - I have never heard that.  I don't know what effect those tablets would have on a bunch of insulation blown into the pan though.

Apr 30, 2012 04:07 AM #16
Ambassador
3,675,522
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Jay, I think that mine draines into the ceiling of the bathroom below my AC unit in my attic.  Oh well.  Hope you are not the home inspector when I sell my house.  Of course, I will disclose.

Apr 30, 2012 11:07 AM #17
Rainmaker
1,763,811
Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366
Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366 - Placerville, CA
General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage

Great post Jay!

Honestly I have never heard of the float in the system, I've seen the second drain line. Thanks for mentioning the second line being in front of a window and the fact that if this one is dripping, the main drain is clogged.

 

Apr 30, 2012 03:41 PM #18
Rainmaker
1,843,015
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

You need to fix that Pat!  That is probably plaster there and a huge mess if that goes!

Tom - the floats are pretty common around here and I didn't know they weren't common everywhere!  I often think I would not be able to do inspections in other areas of the country without a few classes!

Apr 30, 2012 07:58 PM #19
Rainmaker
683,909
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Around here the pan must have either a drain line or a switch. I agree with you, the drain and switch together is the best practice. 

May 01, 2012 08:54 PM #20
Rainmaker
1,843,015
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Probably true here now too Jim.  But this was an older house, making this pan, and second drain line, very state of the art.  Lately on new construction I am only seeing floats for some reason.

May 02, 2012 03:14 AM #21
Rainmaker
579,727
Chris Smith
Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage - New Tecumseth, ON
South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta

Great advice, Jay, and advice that will be heeded.  I am going to re-blog this for my audience.

May 02, 2012 03:32 AM #22
Rainmaker
1,843,015
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thank you Chris, for the comment and reblog!  I like getting my name out among them there Canadians!

May 02, 2012 03:41 AM #23
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