Water Damage due to Air Conditioner: What to Do When It Happens to You

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 18, 2024

You’re ready for another warm summer. As the temperature outside climbs, you turn the thermostat inside down. The AC circulates cool air through the house keeping everyone comfortable. Suddenly, you realize the walls are wet.

Why is the air conditioner leaking water? How do you fix the damage and keep it from happening again?

Leaky attic units soak everything from ceilings to baseboards. Ground-floor ACs ruin carpets and drywall. You have to address repairs, but you also need to take care of water damage from an air conditioner leak right away. You must address repairs, but you also need to take care of water damage from an air conditioner leak immediately.

water damage ac unit

Why Do Air Conditioners Leak?

Your AC cools air in the house by pulling warm air over evaporator coils. As the refrigerant inside the coils absorbs heat, the temperature exchange creates condensation. AC leaks are often caused by one of these equipment problems.

  • Dirty unit filter
  • Cracked drain pan
  • Clogged condensate line
  • Faulty condensate pump
  • Damaged evaporator coil
  • Condensation buildup in ductwork

If you’re comfortable with DIY projects, you can change out the main unit filter or fix a damaged drain pan. Leave bigger AC repairs to licensed technicians who handle electrical connections, refrigerants and replacement parts.

5 Steps to Clean up HVAC Water Damage

HVAC water damage

Air conditioners work like dehumidifiers:

They pull moisture out of the air in your home and provide whole-house cooling. The water they pull out of the air becomes condensation, which drips down an indoor coil into a drain pipe. In humid environments, air conditioners can produce 20-50 gallons of condensate water daily!

When the condensate system malfunctions, it can cause damaging floods or leaks in your home.

Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for someone to help you start the cleanup process. Follow these five steps to begin HVAC leak cleanup and prevent further damage to your home:

1. Contain and Assess

Keep the air conditioner turned off until the leak can be fixed. Turn off the electrical supply to your AC unit, mop up any standing water, and take a good look at the extent of the damage. You want to be sure that whatever you’re facing is a DIY job you can handle independently.

2. Start the Drying Process

Once you’ve contained the leak, use a dry mop or a pile of towels to sop up any standing water. Remove water from carpets and flooring with a wet vac. Set up fans to create cross-currents of fresh air throughout the affected area. You may also want to set up a dehumidifier, which can help speed up the drying process.

3. Inspect the Damage

Next, you’ll need to remove any materials that were damaged by the water, including personal belongings, flooring, and drywall. You may need to patch and repaint damaged drywall and baseboards and inspect surfaces and materials for mildew and mold growth. Stay on the lookout for future signs of mold hiding in the walls.

4. Contact a HVAC Water Damage Restoration Company

In some cases, the aftermath of a bad AC leak can be too much for even the best home handyman to repair.

If you face any of the following situations, contact a local restoration company like ServiceMaster by Zaba in Chicago that specializes in HVAC water damage repair:

  • Structural damage from air conditioner condensation leaks in ceilings
  • Extensive framing and drywall tear-out and replacement
  • Badly soaked carpets, hardwood floors, or subflooring
  • Mold growth that’s spread inside the attic, insulation, and walls

5. Call Your Home Insurance Company

Contact your home insurance company to report the damage and start a claim. Your insurance agent will be able to help you understand what kind of documents and information you need to submit and how to secure a payout for your damages.

Can You Prevent AC Leak Problems?

You usually don’t realize the AC unit is leaking water until you see the damage. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent AC leak problems before they start. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Invest in routine inspections to catch small problems before they spill over into expensive cleanup and repair. Remember that you don’t need to be a trained HVAC professional to work with simple components like unit filters and condensate lines.
  • Think outside the maintenance box with non-technical preventative strategies. Fresh caulking and weatherstripping around windows and doors take some of the workload off your air conditioner. 
  • Trim outdoor grass and shrubs to give the unit more room to run efficiently.
  • Change the HVAC filter regularly (at least once a month) to prevent the unit from overworking. 
  • Clean the condenser (the outdoor portion of your AC unit) in the fall and spring to remove debris that could impede its function.
  • Check and clean the condensation line once or twice a year to prevent clogs that could cause backup. 
  • Maintain your overflow drain pan to prevent leaks and excessive water collection.
  • Have your HVAC system inspected and serviced by a professional at least once a year – this includes your ductwork, grills, furnace flames, AC compressor, and other components. 

Small things add up to big strategies for preventing AC leaks.

Will Your Insurance Cover the Leak?

HVAC water damage cleanup

When we tackle HVAC water damage cleanup and restoration, we’re often asked, “Does homeowners insurance cover damage from air conditioner leaks?” 

The answer is, it depends. 

Check your policy today, and discuss the details with your agent. 

You’re probably covered for water damage due to air conditioner problems, but there are exceptions.

  • Obvious lack of routine maintenance
  • Old equipment or an expired warranty
  • Unit not sized properly for the home
  • Unlicensed or faulty installation

Should you file an insurance claim for water damage from the AC? It’s always best to file a claim, but doing so might increase future rates.

Dealing with AC Water Damage in Chicago? We Can Help!

We want you to stay cool and dry this summer, so bookmark our guide just in case. If a leaky AC at your home turns into a big cleanup project, you can trust our team to be here for you with a full line of services.

Our teams take care of everything from soaked carpets and soggy drywall to mold removal and remediation. When you need Chicago’s restoration water damage experts, give us a call here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba.

What happens if water from another leak gets into my HVAC system?

Over time, water from other sources (like leaky pipes) can cause your HVAC system to corrode, leading to decreased performance and large repair bills. Water-damaged HVAC systems will need to be repaired or replaced by a professional.

Should I file an insurance claim for water damage from my AC?

Yes. Homeowners’ insurance usually covers water damage from AC leaks, but your exact coverage will depend on your policy. Contact your insurance adjuster for more specific information.

What causes excessive condensation from AC units?

In most cases, this is due to improper drainage somewhere in the HVAC system. The best solution is to invest in routine, professional maintenance and inspection that keeps your drain lines and overflow pans clean, and prevents backups anywhere in the system.