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

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 13, 2019

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.

water damage ac unit

What Do You Do First?

The first thing to do is stop the leak by turning off the air conditioner. If you know your way around the unit, check it for obvious problems. You might be able to address small repairs like a cracked drain pan or clogged condensation line. Otherwise, put in a call to your HVAC company, and follow these four steps for AC leak cleanup.

1. Contain and Assess

Keep the air conditioner turned off until the leak can be fixed. Mop up any standing water, and take a good look at the extent of damages. You want to be sure it’s a DIY job you can handle.

2. Start the Drying Process

Remove water from carpets and flooring with a wet vac. Set up fans to create cross-currents of fresh air throughout the affected area. A dehumidifier helps speed up the drying process.

3. Patch and Inspect

You may need to patch and repaint damaged drywall and baseboards. Inspect surfaces and materials for mildew and mold growth. Stay on the lookout for future signs of mold hiding in the walls.

4. Know When to Call

The results of a bad AC leak can be too much for the best home handyman. If you face any of the following situations, call in professionals who specialize in home water damage restoration.

• 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

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.

Can You Prevent AC Leak Problems?

You usually don’t realize the AC unit is leaking water until you see the damage. Routine inspections catch small problems before they spill over into expensive cleanup and repair. 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. Trimmed grass and shrubs give the outside unit more room to run efficiently. Small things add up to big strategies for preventing AC leaks.

What About Insurance Coverage?

When we tackle this type of cleanup and restoration, we’re often asked, “Does homeowners insurance cover damage from air conditioner leaks?” 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.

We’re Standing By

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, we’re always here 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.