A leaking air conditioner is something we are all likely to encounter at least once. It’s uncomfortable, and even frightening – especially if the air conditioner unit is situated above your bed, or worse, above your appliances.
Then there’s the dilemma of whether or not you should turn off the A/C unit and bear with the heat, or keep the A/C running while you find something to collect the liquid.
Additionally, the leaking might ruin everything underneath the unit. What’s more, it’s also hazardous to your health, since the unit will blow out dirty air along with the contaminated moisture droplets.
How can we help? Well, let’s find out the answer to is a leaking air-conditioner dangerous?
- Is a Leaking Air Conditioner Dangerous?
- Causes of a Leaking Air Conditioner
- #1 Clogged drain line
- #2 Leakage in the drain pan.
- #3 Drain pump is not functioning.
- #4 Unusual corners/slope on the drain line.
- #5 Dirty filter.
- #6 Low on refrigerant.
- Final Thoughts
Is a Leaking Air Conditioner Dangerous?
Yes, a leaking air conditioner can be potentially dangerous. A lot of the time, though, you will find the cause of your leaky AC is just water.
This is completely harmless to you and is a relatively common experience because of how easily drain lines can get clogged.
However, it may also be caused by leaking refrigerant – which is where it starts getting dangerous.
This is the liquid that is used to school the air in your home, and if it leaks and becomes a gas it can be incredibly harmful to your health – even going so far as to be fatal.
Causes of a Leaking Air Conditioner
There are several things that can cause your air conditioner to leak, and each of them should be checked over by a licenced professional if you do not feel comfortable looking at it yourself.
But before you check your air conditioning unit over, make sure it is switched off and disconnected from the mains.
#1 Clogged drain line
A clogged drain line is the most common cause of a leaking air conditioner.
When your air conditioner is cooling your home, it accumulates moisture inside the unit. This moisture also brings dirt particles from the air along with the moisture droplets. Both the dirt and the droplets are supposed to be flushed away by the unit.
But if the unit hasn’t been cleaned regularly, this dirt piles up in the drain line, reducing the efficiency of the unit, and even becoming ideal for mould growth.
When this dirt emulsifies, it will clog the line, so the only way to escape is through the air outlet. When this occurs, leaking happens.
If this happens, the first thing you need to do is to clean and inspect the drain pan inside the unit. Then, clean the drain line with a vacuum or using a flexible sink cleaning brush alongside the drain cleaner of your choice..
The cleaning process does require you to take the unit apart, so hiring an AC technician might be the best bet for you here.
#2 Leakage in the drain pan.
It’s not always because of dirt. When you inspect the pan, you might notice another problem, especially if your unit is 10-15 years old.
Older units might have a rusty or cracked drain pan. If that’s the case, you’ll have no choice other than to replace the whole pan.
#4 Unusual corners/slope on the drain line.
If the drain line has been cleaned thoroughly, yet you’re still experiencing the same problem, check if the drain line (or even the unit itself) has an unusual slope that prevents the liquid from flowing normally. If this is the case, have the drain line replaced.
#5 Dirty filter.
You should also check the filter attached to the unit. A dirty filter prevents the unit from receiving adequate airflow, making the evaporator coil too cold and causing it to freeze over.
When the ice melts, the drain pan might become overwhelmed, since the liquid it has to handle will be beyond the normal state.
To clean the filter, simply remove it and soak it in warm water for 30 minutes before rinsing it.
The vacuum cleaner can also be used as an alternative, but be careful when using it as the powerful suction can be too harsh.
#6 Low on refrigerant.
This is the most uncommon problem regarding the leak, but If none of the above resolves your problem, this might be the cause.
Observe the evaporator coil when the unit is working. If any freezing spots (as in ice levels of freezing) are caught on it, accompanied with a noticeable hissing sound and weak cooling performance, this might be the sign of the unit running low on refrigerant.
The pressure inside the unit will be low due to inadequate levels of refrigerant and will freeze the evaporator.
When it melts, it will increase the liquid levels to beyond what the drain pan can handle. This is when leaking occurs.
This type of scenario requires greater attention. Low refrigerant levels might indicate that the refrigerant line has also leaked at some point.
Check the pressure to make sure, If the level is indeed low, check the entire system to identify the cause.
It could be the worn refrigerant piping that has to be changed, or simply a loose piping connection. If the leak is found on the evaporator coil, either patch the leaking point or change the coil (potentially even the entire unit).
What Makes Refrigerant Dangerous?
Refrigerant is dangerous because when it turns into a gas it becomes highly toxic, and even lethal when you breathe it in.
The leaked gas can cause skin irritation and an abnormal heart rate, with the most common symptom being nausea. In some cases, it can even cause asphyxiation which leads to death.
Why is Refrigerant Necessary?
Refrigerant is necessary because it absorbs the warm air from your surroundings and transforms it into cool air that is blown out by the AC.
This works due to a chemical reaction that takes place when the hot air hits the refrigerant during the cooling cycle. Without it, an AC unit is entirely non-functional.
Should I Turn My AC Off if it’s Leaking?
Yes, you should turn your AC off if it is leaking. Even if it is only caused by water, this still has the ability to damage your machine and any other electrical devices in the surrounding area. Switching it off protects the unit, allowing you to get it fixed.
How Much Does AC Repair Cost?
The price of AC repair does vary according to what you need fixed. It can be as low as £80 and go all the way up to the £300 mark (even beyond). It depends on the unit, the damage, and the amount of time that it takes to fix.
Can You Fix Your AC Yourself?
Yes, you can fix your AC yourself. However, it can be quite complex and involve a number of electrical components, which is why hiring a professional is often the best course of action.
It is also safer, reducing the risk of an electric shock or exposure to dangerous chemicals such as refrigerant.
Make sure you schedule your air conditioning unit to be checked regularly to keep it performing well, especially in the time when it’s needed.
While these are things that you can check over yourself, having a trained technician do the job is often a safer and more reliable option.
Considering that a leaking air conditioner can be quite dangerous to be around, exposing yourself to harmful chemicals when a prepared professional can be doing it instead doesn’t seem like a great option.
Beat the heat and avoid air conditioner fluids – get the experts in to lend a hand.
Gemma Tyler is a freelance journalist with 15 years of experience writing for consumer publications. She has tested and reviewed a wide range of household items from vacuum cleaners to washing machines and dehumidifiers to steam irons. Her attention to detail and exhaustive testing certainly makes her an expert in her field.