What to do when your portable air conditioner leaks water

Written by David Lewis
6 Min read
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Table of contents

You might have been fooled into thinking that air conditioning is a modern-day invention when it is in fact over one hundred years old!

The first modern air conditioner was created in 1902 by an American engineer when trying to resolve an issue with humidity at a printing plant in Brooklyn.

Today’s air conditioning units are based on the same technology that was used all those years ago, but now incorporate more advanced features making them quieter, smaller, and much more energy efficient.

What is portable air conditioning?

Air conditioners are designed to remove the hot and humid air from a room whilst simultaneously blasting out icy cold air. This provides much better relief than fans which just circulate stuffy air as opposed to helping to drop the temperature.

The problem with most air conditioning units though, is that they tend to be permanent fixtures in a house even if they’re only needed for a few weeks of the year. However, as the name suggests, portable air conditioning units can be moved around as and when required.

How does portable air conditioning work

Portable air conditioners work in pretty much the same way as regular air conditioning. The chemical refrigerant absorbs the heat via a series of coiled tubes before being released through an exhaust hose. The main difference is that portable units guide warm air outside through a hose, whereas with window air conditioning the heat is released via the section of the unit that is situated outside the window.

Advantages of a portable air conditioning unit

Being able to keep cool during warm, humid days and nights should not be underestimated. The thermal environment is one of the most important factors that can affect sleep, with heat affecting both sleep stages and sleep quality.

Investing in a good quality air conditioning unit means you will be able to regulate your temperature much better during awake and asleep hours, some other benefits of portable air conditioning include:

  • Lower energy costs – Portable units allow you to cool just the room you are in, as opposed to the entire house, and could save you as much as five times on your monthly electricity bill
  • Move around the house – Most portable air conditioners are on castors and can therefore be rolled around the house to whichever room you happen to be in. Ideal if you spend the majority of your day in a home office and bedroom at night. They’re also light enough to be able to carry up and down the stairs, if needed
  • Easy to set up – If you have a window and a power socket, then you can have portable air conditioning! It requires no heavy lifting or professional installation, simply plug it in, pop the exhaust hose out of the window, and you’re ready to get cool
  • Two-in-one – The majority of portable air conditioners can be operated as a dehumidifier in addition to a room cooler. High humidity can make hot weather feel so much more uncomfortable, and removing excess moisture from a room will help allergies by ridding the space of dust and mold

What to do first if your portable air conditioning leaks water

Most portable air conditioners have the dual functionality to work as dehumidifiers, which means there will usually be an accumulation of condensation within the appliance which self-evaporates whilst it cools the room. Sometimes this water cannot be evaporated fast enough which can cause an overflow of water.

If your portable air conditioning leaks, the first thing to do is try to establish where the leak is coming from - there are three possible places:

  1. Condensate tank – an internal tank that must be regularly emptied
  2. Air exhaust hose – evaporated condensation is ejected via the hose to the outside
  3. Drainage hose – evaporated condensation is ejected via a hose to the drain spout

As the huge majority of portable air conditioners have a condensate tank, this should be the first place you check if your system is leaking. Try emptying the tank by removing the drain spout to allow the water to drain out. If after emptying water continues to leak then the condensate tank may be cracked.

5 likely reasons your air conditioner is leaking water

Dirty air filter

The air filter on your portable air conditioning unit should be regularly cleaned and maintained as a dirty air filter could cause numerous internal faults, including leaks.

Faulty float switch

A float switch is an electronic sensor that is a fix for any overflow of water that the drainpipe cannot handle. This switch gives your air conditioner the ability to detect clogged drains and to shut itself off if this occurs.

Where is the float switch located?

If you have a horizontal unit, the switch is located in the secondary drain pan. If you have a vertical unit or one without a secondary drain pan then the switch will be on the drainpipe.

Hose drain is leaking

A clogged drain will stop the flow of water through the drainage pipes. The most common cause of a clog is sludge or slime build-up which will need cleaning out. Once cleaned you should regularly maintain the drain by removing the hose and pouring a small amount of bleach through it.

Extreme weather conditions

When the weather is much colder than usual, this can cause your air conditioning to leak as less water will evaporate which causes water to build up inside the unit. Conversely, if the weather is very hot or humid the leak may be caused by the unit having to work overtime.

Faulty plug

If you suspect the leak is coming from the plug/cap, then this is a pretty easy fix. Simply remove the plug or cap and then put it back on again properly to create a seal and prevent any further leaks – simple!

Do all air conditioners have a drain hole?

If you’ve spent the last half an hour searching for a drain hole to try to resolve a leaking unit, then it’s probably worth noting that not all models have one. This is especially true if you have a newer, more modern system that features a drain pan as water will drain directly here.

The drip pan is located at the bottom of the AC unit and if you notice it is broken then this is a most likely cause of a leaking system.

To conclude

Portable air conditioners offer a practical, affordable, and efficient way to bring down the temperature in a room during balmy summer days (and steamy nights).

They can be used alone, or as additional units to supplement bigger more comprehensive systems, and can be set up quickly and without any professional help.

However, as with all electrical appliances things can, and sometimes do go wrong and with portable air conditioners, the issue is most likely to be a leak from somewhere in the system. But, with just a little know-how you will be able to identify and rectify this problem so you can ‘chill’ again in no time.

FAQs

Why does my portable air conditioning keep leaking water?

Most portable air conditioners double up as dehumidifiers which means condensation will build up and may not be evaporated fast enough and will cause an overflow of water. If you suspect the leak is something else then you should check the following:
·       Is the air filter clean?
·       Is the float switch unclogged and working well?
·       Are the drainage pipes clean and unblocked?
·       Has the weather been particularly hot and humid?
·       Is the plug/cap positioned correctly?

How do you drain condensation from a portable air conditioner?

Depending on how hot and humid the conditions are in the space you are cooling, you may need to drain condensation from the tank every couple of hours. To manually drain the unit:
·       Unplug the unit to disconnect it from the power
·       Place a pan under the drain port
·       Remove the plug and allow the water to drain out
·       Once empty, replace the plug and connect to the power again

Is a portable air conditioner with 7000 BTUs good?

A unit with 7,000 BTUs will cool a small room of around 20 square meters. You should always check the size of the room you are planning to cool before investing in an air conditioning unit, as if the BTU is too low it simply won’t be powerful enough.

Appliances made simple. 

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