Prevent Water Damage in the Home With a Condensate Pump

Your home may produce more water than you realize. In the winter, condensing gas furnaces emit a massive amount of wastewater. Any home older than a few years old will produce excess water that can build up over time.

Where does the water go? In new homes, the extra water goes into a nearby floor drain. Older homes don’t have a floor drain right next to their high efficiency furnaces, so they have to install condensate drains to regulate the water and avoid floods.

Furnace installers will mount an automatic drain pump on the furnace and route that drain line to another floor drain or other location, often at the home’s exterior.

Condensate pumps can also be found in air conditioner systems or dehumidifiers. The condensate water in HVAC systems needs to be continuously drained to prevent overflow.

The condensation process occurs when the air passes through the evaporator coil during the cooling process. The moisture that builds on the coil drips down into the drain pan (as long as a drain pan is present!).

Although some systems can use a gravity drain to guide the water, there are many instances where this isn’t an option. That’s where a condensate pump comes into the picture.

What is a Condensate Pump

condensate pump is a specific type of pump used to pump the water from heating, cooling, refrigeration, or steam systems. These pumps have an automatic drain feature to catch the water produced by AC units and can move excess water up to 20 ft vertically when needed.

Condensate pumps used in residential settings are typically 120 volts and simple-functioning. Regular inspection of the pump is necessary to avoid potential water damage. By having a tool for the automatic removal of condensate from the HVAC in your home, controlling the home’s moisture level becomes possible. 

There are a couple of useful terms to know when it comes to owning a condensate pump:

  • float switch gives the pump energy by signaling the pump motor to turn on. As the water fills, it will trigger to drain mode when it reaches a certain water level. When it’s done draining, the pump will shut off automatically.
  • These units will also usually trigger an alarm or warning to signal that it has completed the cycle.
  • In the event of a pump overflow, there needs to be an auxiliary safety switch to shut it down.
  • The pump tank size ranges from half a gallon to a gallon, with smaller tanks holding less water.

If the condensate pump ever fails, the water will overflow. Sometimes this means the pump is old or there are algae stuck in the check valve.

How to Clean a Condensate Pump

Pumps can overflow due to a blocked discharge linepump malfunction, or faulty parts.

First, unplug the condenser pump and disconnect the drain line. The excess water will need to drain into a bucket or something similar. Then, remove the check valve and plug the pump back in. If it doesn’t work at that time, then you will need to buy a new condensate pump (about $60). If you remove the pump check valve and it does work, then you have a blocked valve.

To clean the valve yourself, try soaking and cleaning it in warm, soapy water. After soaking and cleaning the pump unit and check-valve out with compressed air, test it again. If it still doesn’t work, replace it with a new check-valve (about $10).

If you need to order new parts, be aware that the furnace or A/C will continue to leak. Jury-rig (or “jerry-rig”) a bucket drainage system to prevent any destructive flooding while you wait on the parts.

Next, clean any built-up algae from the condenser pump. Before installing the new valve, use soapy water and a brush to deep-clean the pump connections and interior. After a thorough cleaning, the new valve is ready to be installed and tested.

Algae reduction tablets are a product that prevents algae clogs. Routinely placing the tablets in the pump reservoir will ensure a good-working, functioning condensate pump for years to come.

Choosing the Right Condensate Pump for Your Home

Amateurs and beginners in the HVAC industry tend to struggle to choose the right condensate pump. The type of condensate pump you choose depends on the needs and location of the installation.

There are many different brands, features, prices, and a few particular things to consider when choosing the right condensate pump to help make the search easier.

How to Replace/ Install a Condensate Pump on Your Furnace

Identifying the type of cooling system needed can narrow down the search. Identify if you need a split, ducted, floor-mounted, or cassette type of pump model. Although there may be cheaper brands, they might not provide a warranty, durability, or energy-saving abilities like the more expensive brands. Some models come equipped with a safety switch, which shuts off the entire system if the pump fails to turn on when it’s needed.

The AC cooling capacity estimates the amount of condensation released per hour. This cooling capacity is expressed in kWh on the AC unit. This information is needed when determining the size of the pump necessary. 

An HVAC system with a much larger condensation emittance would need a specialized pump to catch all that extra water. 

Lastly, always consider the climate. A humid environment is going to add to the amount of condensation. Humid climate requires high-performance pumps to ease the buildup of condensation and avoid spills.

Always research before choosing a pump or company, and reach out to a professional if necessary. There’s no shame in just starting with Home Depot for questions about finding the right condensate pump.

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