Unless you spilled, a pool of water next to your heating system is usually a bad sign. It can also be rather confusing. While the extent of the problem may not be too difficult to fix, diagnosing a furnace that leaks water can be a real pain. So we thought we’d share a few things to help you understand why it might be occurring and what you can do about it.
A Quick Heating & Cooling Reminder.
Even though it can be tempting to solve and repair a leak yourself, calling a heating and cooling professional is wise. When it comes to a furnace, uncertified mistakes can be costly and even hazardous. But before fidgeting or calling around, you might want to confirm that your furnace is the source.
Is the Leak Coming From Your Furnace?
If you own a conventional furnace (standard efficiency), the metal exhaust pipe isn’t meant for condensation and water is not involved in the heating process. This should immediately tell you that accumulated water is coming from someplace else. At the same time, the wrong-sized vent pipe can trap gases and result in a liquid residue.
Only a high efficiency furnace can leak water. Also known as condensing furnaces, these are equipped with a secondary heat exchanger that results in condensation rising – instead of flue gases. You can identify this type of system by the white water lines that are made of plastic PVC pipe. They also tend to be slightly larger in size.
What Else Could Be Causing You Problems?
Just keep in mind that the source of the leak could be nearby appliances, a water heater, plumbing pipes, a failing roof, air conditioning lines or other systems (that use water). The last thing you want to do is schedule a home service that won’t do you any good. So observe the area and make sure it’s the furnace that leaks water.
How Do High Efficiency Furnaces Leak?
In order to determine how a high efficiency furnace is leaking water, you have to understand the way it functions. Condensation develops once exhaust gases are released within the system. This creates quite a bit of moisture in the PVC that needs to be drained by the condensation pump or into the floor drain. When water isn’t able to leave the system, you get a leak.
Condensation that is able to flow past this point enters the plastic flue pipe and out into the condensate drain hose before reaching the inducer assembly. If there is a loose connection or the inducer is cracked the furnace will leak water here. The same can be said about breaches or clogs in the condensate drain line or trap.
Note: Not every high efficiency furnace has a condensate trap and blockages usually occur when Phoenix homeowners avoid regular maintenance.
Is it Bad When a Furnace Leaks Water?
Like any other water leak, the consequences depend on the severity of the issue and how fast you get it taken care of. A continuous leak will not only increase repair and energy costs, but eventually cause the furnace to fail. While it may not pose any immediate threats to your safety, leaks can be fairly destructive over time.
For starters, they can result in mold growth. Not only does this impact the health of your household, but it can result in property damage as well. Excessive pooling also may lead to rusting parts that end up rotting and falling apart. If your heat exchanger becomes rusted and brittle, you risk releasing CO gas for everyone to breathe.
What to do With a Furnace that Leaks Water.
Like we mentioned before, make sure the leak is coming from the furnace before taking any action. You can call an HVAC expert for this if need be (many offer free evaluations). Once confirmed, you’ll want to immediately turn off the heating and cooling system to prevent electrical hazards and additional leakage.
You can do this at the thermostat or via the switch on the side of the furnace. We recommend doing both and even encourage you to switch off the breakers at the electrical box. If your furnace is powered by gas then you’ll also need to close the shut off valve.
Cleaning Up the Water Leak is a Good Idea.
Now that your working space is safe, use a wet vac, mop or rag to remove the excess moisture in and around your furnace. Removing the front panel will give you access to internal components. If you don’t dry everything, water can eventually damage major components like the circuit board and render your heater useless. Taking care of the condensation also keeps mold and rust at bay.
Once everything is powered down and cleaned up, you can start to figure out who you’re going to call for diagnostics and repairs. The sooner you address the problem, the better – even if you don’t plan on using your furnace for a while. It’s a lot easier to treat any rust that has formed once all faulty parts are removed.
The last thing you’ll want to check out is the air filter. If it’s wet and dirty, change it. If you don’t, it can impede the airflow that your heating and cooling system needs to function efficiently. In turn, you can run into even more problems.
What Else Causes a Furnace to Leak Water?
While the condensate line and trap can cause problems, a malfunctioning condensate pump may also result in a furnace that leaks water. One that’s clogged will most certainly leak. These typically perform well for about 5 years and need to be replaced by a professional when they fail.
Whole home humidifiers can also be the culprit of excess moisture. Even though they’re not as common in Arizona, some residents value an indoor climate with balanced humidity. This is especially true in Sun City West. So if you own one, make sure it’s not blocked and get it inspected during a routine maintenance service call.
Prevent Heating Systems From Leaking Water.
No matter how you look at it, regular upkeep by a professional is the best way to avoid furnace water leaks. Even when paying for prevention is not ideal, it’s a lot easier and cheaper than repairing a leaky furnace. A quality HVAC company will know how to identify concerns before they have a chance to get out of hand.
A furnace that leaks water isn’t the only problem homeowners face. At Canyon State AC, Heating and Plumbing, we take pride in the way we treat our customers and their equipment. Our comfort plans are some of the best in the business and we care about hiring the right people.
No matter how bad your furnace is leaking, we’re more than eager to help you get the heat back on. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a home visit, feel free to give us a call or fill out the form below.