Tip To Prolong The Life Of Your Forced Air Furnace

Leaking Condensate Pan

By Pete Busch

When you bought your new furnace and central air conditioner or when you bought your house and had it inspected you were probably told to have it serviced by a licensed HVAC contractor on a yearly basis. The reality is that very few people have this done. A furnace or air conditioner is an appliance that people tend to forget about until it stops working.

Today I am going to focus on just one reason why you should have your system serviced, the leaking condensate pan. Below are a couple of pictures that I took while performing a home inspection in Maple Grove Minnesota.

As air is cooled its ability to hold water is reduced. When you run your AC the air is cooled and gives up some of its moisture and turns to water, or condensate. Have you ever noticed water coming out from under your car in the summer? This is the condensate water from your cars air conditioner. This works exactly the same in your homes central air conditioner except that water is captured in a pan and then routed down a pipe or tube to your floor drain.

It is very common for this pan or drain tube to get plugged up. Sometimes the connection from the drain tube to leaking condensate panthe pan leaks. When this happens the condensate water accumulates at the top of your forced air furnace and eventually runs down into the furnace. Look closely in this picture for the water. Its the clean spot just to the right of the white PVC drain pipe. The PVC pipe is the drain pipe for the air conditioners A coil/evaporator located just behind it. The water is accumulating on the furnace which is typically located just below the air conditioner.

Your furnace contains various components  that must not get wet, EVER. Replacing these rusted furnacecomponents can get very expensive. This is a picture of the inner portion of the furnace. As you can see the rust is developing quite nicely. Notice the electrical wiring. The box that is rusted is where the burner is, these parts will rust out as well eventually causing them to fail.

My tip to all home owners that have a central air conditioner is as follows.

  • Let your air conditioner run for at least one hour.
  • Go down to your furnace and locate the air conditioners drain tube. This may be a white PVC pipe, garden hose, or a white plastic tube. This should be located at the top of the furnace about three feet up from the floor.
  • Inspect for water at this location.
  • Turn off your air conditioner and remove the access panel located at the front of your furnace and inspect for water and rust inside.
  • If you see any of the above then call in for service, repairing this should be left to the professionals.
  • Even if its dry and there is no rust I still recommend having your HVAC system serviced annually.

I would estimate that about 30 to 40 percent of the homes I inspect have this problem. It is very likely you will too. This is an easy repair for a professional that if left can become very expensive. Go check yours out right now.

Pete Busch
Minnesota Home Inspector.


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