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What Causes a Clogged Drain Line & How to Fix It?

A clogged drain line

If your drain line looks like this, it needs to get cleared out by an HVAC technician.

Over time, your air conditioner’s drain line can get clogged with dust, debris, algae, and more. When this happens, it can result in mold buildup or water damage to your home.

In Arizona, clogs frequently occur during our monsoon season when intense dust and dirt get blown around. The good news is that cleaning your drain line is relatively simple and easy.

In this article, we’ll explore:

Serving the Valley for over 65 years, George Brazil is Phoenix’s most trusted HVAC company. Our customer service is unbeatable. If you need help with a clogged drain line, contact us today.

Signs you have a clogged drain line

You may have a clogged drain line if you experience any of these signs:

  • Your house feels warmer or muggier than usual. If the drain line is clogged, your AC won’t be able to cool your home effectively. Ineffective cooling increases humidity levels, and you’ll experience warmer temperatures.
  • There’s water pooling around your indoor AC unit. As warm air passes over your AC’s evaporator coils, condensation naturally occurs. Under normal conditions, this moisture should drain to the outdoors. However, if there’s a drain line clog, this excess moisture will get backed up. And if it has nowhere to go, it will start to pool indoors.
  • Your AC has turned off and stopped working. In newer AC models, a clogged drain line can trigger your AC to shut off automatically when your AC detects unsafe flooding of the drain pan.
  • You smell mold, mildew, or suspicious odors. When your AC’s drain line is clogged, backed-up water will start to pool and become a breeding ground for mold. Even if you don’t see any visible water, the smell of mold or mildew is a tell-tale sign that something is amiss, and you should check your AC’s drain line to ensure there isn’t a clog or water buildup.

If you suspect you have a clogged drain line, contact a George Brazil service technician. We’ll perform a thorough diagnostic of your AC system to ensure everything is operating as it should be.

How to clean your drain line

It’s relatively easy to clean your drain line, provided that you can access it. If you’re not sure of its location or you’re uncomfortable cleaning it yourself, give us a call, and we’ll send a professional AC technician to do it for you.

That said, if you are attempting a DIY drain cleaning, you will need the following supplies:

  • A wet/dry vacuum
  • A wire tube brush
  • Duct tape or a towel

Step 1: Turn off your AC Unit

To turn off your AC, start by turning your thermostat to OFF.

Then, head to your home’s circuit breaker panel and flip your AC’s switch to OFF to cut the entire power supply to your AC unit, ensuring complete peace of mind and safety.

Step 2: Locate your outside drain line

Your AC system’s drain line will flow to the outside of your home. The drain line is a PVC pipe located near the outdoor condenser unit.

A drain line outside of a home

A drain line

Step 3: Try to loosen the clog with a wire tube brush

If you see visible debris in the drain line, you may be able to unclog the drain line with a wire tube brush manually.

You can find wire tube brushes at your local hardware store for less than $10. Like cleaning a straw, you can clean the inside of your drain pipe to remove any buildup.

If that doesn’t work, proceed to the next step.

Step 4: Clear the clog with a wet/dry vacuum

A wet/dry vacuum is the most common DIY method of clearing a clogged drain line.

To start, attach your wet/dry vacuum to the end of your drain line. Apply duct tape or wrap a cloth towel tightly around the vacuum hose to make it airtight at the point of connection.

Then, turn your vacuum on and run it for a few minutes. You’ll know this works if you observe algae, dust, or brown debris in the vacuum. If you don’t observe any debris, the clog is probably higher up in the drain line, and you’ll need professional help.

Step 5: Turn your AC back on

To ensure that your drain line is effectively cleared, turn your AC back on.

After it’s been running for several minutes, head back outside to observe your drain line. You should notice a small amount of water beginning to drip out of your pipe.

If nothing happens, there may be a deeper clog that will require a professional inspection.

How to avoid future clogs

The best way to avoid future clogs is to schedule annual tune-ups for your AC system.

During your maintenance visit, a professional HVAC technician will thoroughly evaluate your AC system, including inspecting your condensate line to ensure that there aren’t any blockages.

Additionally, being vigilant about changing your air filters can help reduce the number of future clogs.

When to get professional help

A condensate switch

A professional AC technician can install a condensate switch for you

If your clog is high up in your drain line near your indoor unit, this will require professional expertise and equipment to resolve. If you’ve attempted to clean your line, but it still seems clogged, contact an HVAC service technician to repair your system.

You can also ask a professional to install a flow switch to detect if water is backing up in your system and indicate if you need to unclog your drain line.

A George Brazil technician holing up a best service sign

George Brazil’s friendly AC service technicians are ready to help you unclog your drain line.

Want a professional to clear your clogged drain line? Contact the best in Phoenix: George Brazil.

George Brazil provides AC repair and maintenance solutions to homeowners across the Valley. We’re committed to offering the highest quality service at the best prices, and we have decades of experience providing expert HVAC services.