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Why is My Heat Pump Leaking Water?

Why is my heat pump leaking water?

Is your heat pump leaking water everywhere? First of all, that’s not good. You might want to grab some towels and a mop. Clean up the water. Secondly, why is your heat pump leaking water? What’s going on here? Are they supposed to leak water?


Great questions, and we’ve got some good answers for you.

Reasons for Heat Pump Water Leaks

When we talk about heat pump water leaks, we might actually be referring to two main components. It could be the indoor air handler or the outdoor condenser. Both of these components produce condensation water, which can accumulate, drip, or leak out. However, they shouldn’t be experiencing this at the same time throughout the year. Generally, the indoor air handler should produce condensation water during the summer when the system is cooling. Similarly, the condenser should produce condensation water during the winter when the system is heating.


How Heat Pumps Work

Let’s talk about what’s actually happening when using an air source heat pump.


One key factor to remember is that a heat pump doesn’t generate coldness. That’s not possible. It also doesn’t generate heat. The purpose of a heat pump is to transfer heat from one area to another. Without delving into the mechanical intricacies of this process, what you really need to know is that for cooling a building, a heat pump can take heat away and expel it outside. During heating, it takes heat from outside and releases it indoors.


A major side effect of this process is dehumidification. In fact, dehumidification used to be the primary focus of the entire process. The temperature control processes now used in air conditioning and heat pumps were originally invented to reduce humidity in a paper warehouse. Obviously, things have changed significantly since then.


The dehumidification process involves generating condensation water. This water collects on coils in the heat pump or air conditioner. This is the root cause of heat pump water leakage. In an air handler, the condensation water drips from the coils into a pan and then flows out through a drain. In a condenser, the condensation water drips onto the ground. No worries. The ground doesn’t mind.


Internal Heat Pump Leaks

Internal heat pump leaks can be a big issue since your belongings are inside. Modern systems are designed to direct generated condensation water outside, but this doesn’t always go as planned.


Clogged Condensation Drain Line

If you’re dealing with internal heat pump leaks, the condensation drain line is the prime suspect. If this line gets clogged, the condensation water that accumulates in the drain pan can overflow. So, when you find the drain pan overflowing, the first thing to check is that pesky drain line. Clear the blockage, ensure smooth water flow. This usually resolves the issue.


Uneven Air Handler

Ductless mini-split heat pumps might have a very different kind of leak. Unlike central air systems, the air handler of a ductless mini-split heat pump is often installed on the inside of an exterior wall. These rectangular units house fans and coils, along with a drain pan, of course. Just like traditional air handlers, the drain line of a ductless mini-split air handler can get clogged, but that’s not the only reason for leaks in these systems.


Ductless mini-split air handlers need to be installed as level as possible. The position of the coils in the air handler should allow any condensation water that collects on them to drain into the drain pan by gravity, and then out through the drain line. If a ductless mini-split air handler isn’t properly leveled or flush against the wall, this process can be disrupted. In such cases, properly leveling the air handler is necessary to address the issue.


heat pump installation
Why Is My Heat Pump Leaking Water?

External Heat Pump Leaks

While internal heat pump leaks might draw more attention, the same condensation water buildup can occur on the external condenser during heating in cold weather. This happens outside the walls, so you usually won’t notice it. Typically, this isn’t a major issue.


However, in extremely cold weather, this can become a problem because we all know what happens to water when the temperature drops below freezing. Yes, the condensation water on the external coils can freeze and ice up on the coils. This is one of the reasons traditional air source heat pumps aren’t considered ideal for low-temperature heating. But this problem is solvable.


Coil Freezing

Heat pumps address ice buildup on coils by running a defrost cycle. Essentially, the heat pump switches on the air conditioning, pulls some heat from indoors, and uses that heat to warm up the coils, melting the ice. If you’re thinking, “Won’t this blow cold air into my house?”


As you might expect, this method isn’t ideal for various reasons. That’s why most air source heat pumps come with electric heat strips. These are backup heating elements that can kick in during defrost cycles to continue heating or take over when the standard heat pump can’t keep up with very cold outdoor temperatures. Essentially, if you’re planning to rely on a heat pump in cold weather, having a heat strip is a good idea.


Stopping Heat Pump Water Leaks

Heat pump water leaks are a normal part of the system’s operation. You just need to make sure the water drains properly to avoid pooling.


While the issue of freezing condensation water on the condenser coils in winter can’t be entirely solved, the latest generation of heat pump units are getting better at providing heating in cold weather. For example, heat pumps can now provide continuous heating in temperatures as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit without relying on heat strips. That’s pretty impressive.


Getting More Help with Heat Pump Leaks

Is your heat pump leaking internally or externally and you’re not sure how to resolve it? Contact us for more solutions.

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