Solved

Window Air Conditioner Leak

Posted on 2016-08-15
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Last Modified: 2016-09-21
I have a window air conditioner unit that runs fine for a while and then it starts to leak on the bottom into the room -- so it looks like it is not draining properly.  
I raised it up with a 2x4,   so that the AC Unit is angled toward the outside of the window, which has helped a little bit.   When it starts to run rough or spit water out of the fan area, I shut it off for quite a while but it is still having an issue.    I read that you can drill holes in the bottom of the unit (outside area) to help drain it,  but some posts indicate not to do this.    The other option is to just run it in fan only mode to dry out the drip pan.   I wanted to see if there are any other ideas/options.    Please note, I would replace the unit but they do not make this style anymore - its a low profile for fitting in windows that only raise up 8-9 inches high.  I do not want to purchase a portable AC Unit as I have read too many negative reviews that they do not cool sufficiently enough.   Thanks for any info.
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Question by:fjkaykr11
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by:John Hurst
John Hurst earned 250 total points
ID: 41756620
Are you able to get to the drain pan?  It would appear to have plugged holes (dirt, whatever) or angled such that it is not draining.

I would not drill into the bottom without seeing what you are drilling into.

The should be a drain and a hose leading to outside where water can run out.

Drain pan angle, holes plugged, hose crimped or plugged.
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Tom Beck earned 250 total points
ID: 41756809
>>When it starts to run rough or spit water out of the fan area

Spitting water out of the fan area is a sure sign that the system refrigerant is low. When the refrigerant is low in any AC system, condensation forms and then ice begins to form on the fan coil. The more ice that builds up, the less air flow you have through the coil resulting in more ice build up until the air flow is cut off completely.

Depending on the unit it may be possible to have the refrigerant topped off. I see cans of refrigerant for sale in Home Depot and various automotive stores for do-it-yourselfers. What I don't know and cannot address is whether any window AC can be topped off nor whether your particular window Ac can be topped off. So please don't purchase a can of refrigerant until you are sure it can be done.
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by:fjkaykr11
ID: 41756918
thanks for the responses/info .  It does make sense the refrigerant is low as I have had this unit for YEARS.  It is a well made unit by Carrier, but unfortunately they stop making them a long time ago.   I don't have a manual and don't want to risk trying to top it off myself.   I might have to take my chance with getting a portable unit.
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by:fjkaykr11
ID: 41756921
Thanks again
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by:John Hurst
ID: 41756924
Thanks for the update and good luck with a portable unit.
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by:Tom Beck
ID: 41756935
Thanks for the points.

The rest of the story is that if the refrigerant is low then how did it escape? AC units use aluminum for the fan coils and refrigerant loop. Over time, the aluminum gets pitted and eventually porous allowing the refrigerant to leak out a few molecules at a time. It's not something that can be repaired. Topping it off could very well be just a temporary fix.
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by:fjkaykr11
ID: 41771079
I did contact a repair company regarding having this done,  as I am not sure if there is a valve so I can do it myself.   Anyway it is way too expensive, given it might not work. And the process to 'super seal it' would cost me another $200.  The refrigerant and adding a valve would cost even more than that.   Next summer,  I might have to purchase a portable unit, although I am reluctant as I have read they don't really work.
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LVL 84
ID: 41795868
I realize this is closed, but there's some misinformation here that could cause others to destroy their window unit.

Note I've put on my "HVAC Contractor for 25+ years" hat, and not my programmer's hat :)

If a window unit is low on refrigerant, throw it away and buy a new one. They hold very, very little refrigerant (1.5 lbs or less in most cases), so ANY loss will cause the unit to malfunction, and you're back to square one (with a few less dollars in your pocket). Very few modern window units are made to be repaired economically, especially in regard to refrigerant issues. Very, very few of them even have service ports where you can connect a hose to the system, and installing one of those tap-on valves is just another place for it to leak. Just throw it away ...

And while older units do tend to leak more than newer ones, age itself is no indicator of "leakiness". I've seen plenty of very old system that are as tight as the day they were put into service. More important is how the unit is constructed (and if it's a Carrier unit, it's probably pretty well constructed), the environment it's working in, and whether it was maintained.

Window units use both aluminum and copper coils. Copper coils can be field-repaired but it's not generally a good idea in a window a/c. Aluminum coils cannot be field-repaired. If you have a leaking coil, having a new coil installed almost always costs more than the cost of a new unit. Just throw it away ...

Some window units actually trap water and use a "slinger" type of system to throw it out to the compressor and coils, so water standing in the coil section is not a definite sign of low refrigerant. This helps the compressor to stay cool, and can lower the temperatures/pressures on the system, resulting in better cooling. Drilling a hole to relieve that water could be the worst thing you can do - but, again, that depends on the type of system you have. The only way to determine if you have a low refrigerant condition is to check the pressures - and as mentioned above you often cannot even do that.

You cannot use refrigerant from automotive stores to charge residential A/C equipment (that's R134A, and window units use either R22 for older ones, or R410A for newer ones). Mixing refrigerants is a sure-fire way to kill that little rotary compressor in just a few minutes, and overcharging is just as bad as undercharging. The "kits" you buy at Home Depot, Lowes, etc are NOT safe to use in window units, regardless of what the box says. They are NOT R22 (you cannot buy R22 unless you possess a valid EPA card) but instead are some sort of blend that is supposed to be safe to mix with R22. It may be "safe", meaning it won't destroy the system, but it won't work, especially in those very low capacity systems. All you'll do is waste a good bit of time, be several dollars poorer, and still hot :)

By the way, when I say "throw it away", I don't mean chunk it in the trash. Take it to a local junkyard that can handle the refrigerant removal (if needed), otherwise you could find yourself on the receiving end of a hefty fine.
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by:fjkaykr11
ID: 41807984
i appreciate the info, but as I stated in my question I can not replace the unit.  They do not make low profile units anymore (it's 9 inches high, at most) and a regular sized window unit will not fit.   I would never mess with this myself,  I was considering two options if I couldn't get it working myself:
1.     hire a licensed AC repair company to look at it and give me a quote;
2.   purchase a portable air conditioner (which I am very reluctant to do given the poor reviews I have read).

I am a renter so replacing the window is out of the question.

Thanks again.
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LVL 84
ID: 41808492
i appreciate the info, but as I stated in my question I can not replace the unit.
Then you're left with hiring a repair company to resolve the issue for you. Most of them, however, will tell you the same thing - throw it away.

Most of the portable units I've seen seem to work okay. Their biggest issue is the removal of heat from the condensing section, of course. There's just no way to get all of that heat out of the living space. Also, unless you can connect it to a drain system you're going to have to empty the condensate bucket regularly, which is a pain. All in all, the portables are good for "emergency" cooling while your main system is being repaired, but I wouldn't suggest them for permanent solutions.

I did find several units in the 12" range of height. Any chance those would work?
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by:fjkaykr11
ID: 41808580
The 12" will not fit I already tried that size before getting the low profile.
I am still unclear about the portable unit based on what you mentioned.  You indicate they seem to work ok, but then mention they are more for emergency cooling purposes - which is what i have read on other reviews and makes me reluctant to purchase.
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LVL 84
ID: 41808739
I consider a "permanent" A/C solution one that is "set and forget" - like a central unit, or a window a/c unit. Anything that requires you to manage or maintain it daily, like a portable unit, would not be considered a permanent solution, at least in my mind. If you can connect the portable unit to a drain, then it would perhaps be considered more permanent, but it's still not constructed in such a way that you will get years of reliable service from it. You're still stuck with the heat issue, however, and there's nothing you can really do about that.

Our industry does have very heavy duty portable units, but those are cost-prohibitive (and big, and noisy). I am not including those in my suggestions, of course. I'm referring to the ones you'd buy at any big-box retailer off the shelf.

At best, I'd think you would get 2 -4 years of continuous service from one of those units. Of course, this is based entirely on my very simplistic review of those models, and looking at a handful of them for friends and family members. We don't work on them, since they're not really serviceable. They are built to augment your central system, and not be your sole source of air conditioning.

I think you're back to square one for this one - get a service company to repair the unit. Or talk to your landlord about enlarging the window so you could add a more standards-compliant unit to the dwelling (or have them install it, which would be even better).
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