Updated: Mar 28
Do you know what the hottest state in the Union is? Hint: it is not Alaska. The answer is Florida! It is so hot and humid in South Florida that the A/C runs at least 10 months a year. Further, with average humidity throughout the year in Boca Raton and Parkland over 80% and mold growth able to start at 55% humidity, it makes maintaining your A/C unit and managing the humidity a must.
In fact, your A/C can remove almost 20 gallons of water a day, due to how much moisture is in the air! It removes all this moisture through your A/C’s condensate line. Sadly, of all the things that can go wrong with your A/C unit, the most frequent is the condensate line getting clogged. We perform thousands of Home Watch checks each year in South Florida and over 45% of the A/C issues we discover are clogged condensate lines.
The clogging of the condensate line is a serious issue that can shut down your A/C leaving your South Florida home vulnerable to mold and other problems! While many things can clog a condensate line, the chief culprit is algae. This issue can get compounded because many residents in South Florida are seasonal and the worst algae growth occurs during those wet, humid, and hot summer months when seasonal residents depart!
Therefore, it is smart to learn how to check the exterior condensate line for signs of algae build-up. Further, when you are gone for the season, your South Florida Home Watch Professional should be checking the outside condensate line(s) every time they go to your home in South Florida. The best way to prevent a problem is to catch it before it happens.
However, before you can start monitoring your outside condensate line for potential signs of algae build-up, you need to know how to identify where the line is located.
How to Identify your Condensate Line
The condensate line is a PVC pipe that runs all moisture accumulated by the A/C, away from the home to regulate your humidity. Each drain line runs from the air handler inside the home to the outside of the house. Every A/C unit has a drain line, the more A/C units you have the more drain lines you can have.
The exterior condensate line will be on the outside of the home, usually on the same side as the compressor unit. Often the exterior condensate line is hidden behind foliage and landscaping, as seen in the photo. Therefore, methodically walk the perimeter of the home, fastidiously observing where the exterior wall meets the landscape for the plastic PVC pipe. If you are having trouble finding it, reach out to your Home Watch Professional in South Florida. They should be able to help guide you in locating it.
Notably, living in a condo can make this more challenging as the exterior condensate line is often grouped in bunches with other units. However, there are a few easy tests you can perform to identify your line.
One of the simplest tests you can perform is to have someone within the unit run water continuously through the interior condensate line connected to the air handler. Next, have someone outside monitoring the drain lines looking for a flow of water. Note, this can take upwards of 15 minutes, it is not always instant.
A Pro Tip: Add food coloring to the water before pouring it to make identification easier.
Make sure to label your line to make maintenance and diagnostics easier going forward!
How to Maintain your Exterior Condensate Line(s)
Once you locate your exterior condensate line, a few things to note. Is the mouth of the pipe working with gravity or against it? If the mouth is working against gravity, turn it to the down position. This facilitates the exit of water so it does not sit stagnant as that can induce the growth of algae within the line.
Further, make sure there is enough separation from the mouth of the condensate line and the landscape, particularly mulching, as it creates a conduit for the algae to grow into the line. If necessary, elevate the line slightly on an angle or dig out the space where the mouth empties to give it breathing room.
Remember, always go with gravity! Last, create a slope for the water to run away from the line and the home so it does not accumulate over time.
Ensure the mouth of the condensate line is in the downward position.
Create space between the mouth of the line and the landscape.
Run the water away from the home so it does not stagnate.
Each of these steps will act as preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of algae growth in your South Florida home. But, they are not foolproof. Therefore, let’s go over how to spot signs of potential algae.
Signs of Algae in the Condensate Line
There are several visually obvious signs of algae in your line that any homeowner in South Florida can look for. The first sign is any discoloration, opacity, or milkiness in the discharge from the condensate line. Further, the milkiness will start to stain and accumulate on the mulching near the mouth of the condensate line. Below are some examples of algae in the Condensate Line.
This accumulation of white discharge in the mulch or grass is a tell-tale sign of algae growth.
Another sign is when the discharge becomes viscous and oozy, almost snot-like. It starts to exhibit an elastic quality if you will. The discharge should be free-flowing, clear, and translucent. Below is a quick summary of the three signs to look for:
Inspect the mulch, grass for milkiness or white staining.
Check for discoloration or opacity in the discharge.
Observe the state of flow of the discharge for viscosity or snot-like qualities.
On every South Florida home watch visit we make, our team checks for these signs to get in front of the problem before it worsens or shuts down our clients’ A/C unit(s) and now you can too!
Overview to Prevent Algae Build-up
It is so hot and humid in East Boca Raton, therefore, maintaining your A/C unit is a must. The most frequent A/C issue homeowners in South Florida face is the condensate line getting clogged. We perform thousands of Home Watch visits in South Florida each year and over 40% of the A/C issues we discover are clogged condensate lines.
The clogging of the condensate line is a serious issue that can shut down your A/C leaving your home vulnerable to mold and other problems!
Although the summer months present the most risk, as the home is unoccupied and average humidity levels are over 80%, it is important to monitor your HVAC unit year-round.
Therefore, you should know what the exterior condensate line looks like and where it is located on your South Florida property.
Make sure the mouth of the condensate line is in the downward position, that there is space between the mouth of the line and the landscape, and that water is running away from the house; you can prevent potential algae build-up.
However, when you are examining your exterior condensate line you notice any opacity or discoloration in the discharge, an accumulation of white discharge in the mulching, or viscosity/elasticity in the flow of water from the line, you may already have an algae problem.
If you do detect signs of algae in your condensate line, do not panic there are several steps you can take to help manage this issue.
Last, if you are unable to resolve the issue on your own, make sure to call your local HVAC company in South Florida with who you have a semi-annual service agreement and have them come out for their bi-annual maintenance.
Remember, when you are away for the season your Home Watch Company In South Florida should be checking for signs of algae every visit to give you the peace of mind you deserve. The best way to prevent a problem is to catch it before it happens!
Visit our blog page for more interesting home management tips for your South Florida home.