An air conditioner not only removes heat from the air, it actually does condition the air, removing moisture as well. Air conditioning accomplishes this through a process called phase conversion, wherein it converts liquid to a gas. This conversion takes place within the air conditioning evaporator coils, utilizing refrigerant compounds. As this process occurs heat absorption takes place which, in return, cools the air. In simplest terms, the air conditioning unit eliminates moisture through evaporation; the evaporated water collects as condensation before once again being returned to a gaseous state. This continuous cycle of evaporation and condensation leaves some moisture behind in the unit.
Why should an evaporator coil unit have a drain pan? Condensation exits the unit, and the building, via a drain line. If this drain line backs up, the drain pan can catch any excess fluid before it causes any serious issues. A drain pan is especially important for air conditioning units in attics, as any overflow would damage the ceiling, possibly causing microbial growth as well. Microbial growth can cause mold, which leads to potentially dangerous living conditions. A drain pan is the first line of defense as it holds a finite amount of liquid. Once it has reached capacity overflow can still occur.
A safety float switch ensures that such a situation does not occur. Air conditioning is designed to ensure that the excess moisture drains outside. However, debris and naturally occurring algae can clog the drain line causing improper discharge of this inherent condensation. Such a backup results in more liquid than the drip pan can accommodate. Again, this is a potentially hazardous situation as it can lead to water damage. A properly installed safety float switch prevents this from happening. If condensation starts to build up in the drainage line a small ball valve in the safety switch floats, signaling the compressor unit to turn off. When the compressor is deactivated condensation no longer occurs and no overflow occurs.
Emergency drain pans and safety float switches, properly installed by a professional, can provide peace of mind. These air conditioning features provide invaluable protection that no home, or business, should be without. A small initial investment has the potential to safeguard your property and help to ensure a healthy indoor environment.