If your HVAC system suddenly goes kaput in the middle of winter, it could be that your condensate line is freezing.
What’s a condensate line, you ask?
It’s a pipe that drains away excess moisture created by your HVAC system. Typically, a condensate line is a PVC (plastic) pipe that collects condensed humidity (er, water) and carries it outside.
This is important. You don’t want water to collect inside your HVAC system where it could corrode components or encourage mold and mildew.
But there’s one way that condensate lines can be, quite honestly, a bit of a pain. Because water is involved, the spot where the pipe exits the house can sometimes freeze over, especially on really cold days. If the end of the pipe freezes closed, your system can shut down, leaving you and yours, you know, colder.
Note: this issue affects furnaces with ratings of 90% efficiency or higher. How do you know if you have one of those? If the pipe exiting your home from your furnace 1) is plastic and 2) is two inches diameter or larger, your system is a 90% or higher efficiency furnace.
How can I make sure my condensate line is clear?
First, make sure you know where the condensate line is. Look for a ¾-inch PVC pipe that exits your home near the ground.
Once you’ve located it, make sure you check it out after:
A hard freeze,
Several days of below-freezing weather, or
An ice storm or a good bit of snowfall.
Keep the pipe and the area around it free of ice and snow, especially beneath the pipe where snow drifts and dripping water can combine to make an icy mound.
Check and clear it as often as you need to until the cold or extreme weather has passed.
If it’s really cold, snowy, or icy out and your furnace suddenly stops, check this first—sometimes, a pipe clogged with ice and snow is the lone culprit.
What else might mess with my HVAC system in the winter?
Clogged filters. Clean filters are crucial to HVAC efficiency so you’ve gotta keep ‘em clean. If you’re not sure how often to replace or clean the filters for your particular HVAC system, get the details here.
Missed maintenance. Getting your system serviced when it’s not freezing outside (say, in the fall) is a great way to keep your system from pooping out when you need it most.
If it’s been more than a year or if you’re not on a regular maintenance schedule, reach out to schedule a maintenance appointment.