what does a condensate pump do

What Does a Condensate Pump Do?

Maintaining a comfortable indoor climate all-year-round is dependent on the smooth running of your natural ventilation, air conditioning, and furnace systems. The condensate pump is one of the components supporting these systems. So, what does a condensate pump do?

This article explains how a condensate pump works, why you need it, and how to use a condensate pump. You will also find answers to common questions about condensate pumps. Enjoy!

What is a Condensate Pump?

condensate pumpA condensate pump is a device that collects and pumps out condensate water from heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems that gravity cannot achieve. The condensate water usually goes through a pipe to an outside drain.

The condensate pump has three major parts: the water tank or reservoir, the float, and the pump. The condensate level in the reservoir rises, forcing the float to rise. This sends a signal to the pump to start and move the water through the drain pipe.

How Does A Condensate Pump Work?

Put simply, the condensate pump collects condensed liquid from the HVAC system, then disperses it into a drainage system once the liquid level sets off a switch.

The pump typically has a tank or pan in which the condensate water gathers. The accumulating water raises a floating switch that activates the pump. It then pumps the condensate water through a flexible plastic drain pipe to an outside drain discharge point.

So, how often should a condensate pump run? Condensate pumps run intermittently. The pump stops running when the water level in the tank becomes considerably low and starts again when it is full enough to trigger the switch. Condensate pumps do not run nonstop unless there is a problem.

Some condensate pumps have a two-stage switch. The second stage switch is for when water continues to rise after the first stage is on. This might be because the pump is damaged or the discharge pipe is blocked. The second stage switch typically triggers an alarm and shuts down the HVAC equipment /system.

Is a condensate pump necessary?

air conditioning unitSuppose your air conditioning system has an indoor unit, or you are using a high-efficiency furnace where gravity drainage is impossible (e.g., basement). In that case, you need a condensate removal pump to prevent water from overflowing the drain pan. Without the pump, you will have wet floors or water leaking from the roof or walls.

What Size Condensate Pump Do I Need?

Condensate pumps are available in a variety of styles and sizes. The size of the condensate pump you need depends on the following factors:

Distance between condensate pump and the discharge point

Select a pump with a lift suitable to the distance between installing it and the discharge point. The condensate flow decreases according to the height it travels until it reacis the maximum lift. Most pumps are rated fifteen or twenty feet of lift.

Condensate output of your HVAC system

Generally, the rate your pump discharges condensate water should at least double the condensate output of your appliance. The gallons of water the pump can remove in a minute (GPM)is usually two to three times the rate of condensation of most systems. So, examine your appliance manual to find the condensate output and choose a pump with adequate capacity.

Voltage requirements

Generally, pumps are presented in 115V, 230V, or 460V (for commercial grade pumps). Thus, choose the pump that suits the voltage requirement of your residential applications 

Local condensate disposal regulations

Select a pump that operates according to regulations guiding the handling and disposal of condensate liquid. 

Risk of injury or damage to property from leaking pump

Some condensate pumps have an alarm or switch backup system to protect against pump failure. You may consider this if the risk of injury or property damage from condensate water is high in your residence. Alternatively, you can install a two-stage switch with your pump.

Next to consider, how much does a condensate pump cost? The cost depends on the brand, model, and cost of installation. Nevertheless, the cost of condensate pumps varies from $50-$300.How much does it cost to install a condensate pump? Averagely, it costs about $200. However, you may reduce the cost by installing your pump by yourself.

FAQs About Condensate Pumps 

How long does a condensate pump last?

Condensate pumps are durable and can last for more than five years. However, they NEED regular maintenance to prevent premature failure.

How do I know if my condensate pump is working?

You can check if your condensate removal pump is working by pouring water into the pump tank. The float will rise and activate the float switch, which will turn the pump on. Then confirm that water is pumping out properly. The water should drain out within a minute.

To check the discharge strength of the pump, remove the discharge hose from the check valve. The check valve is about 5” long and protects the direction of the flow. WHILE the pump is plugged in, pour water into the tank. If the water gushes out, then the condensate pump is working. 

What happens if the condensate pump fails?

If the condensate pump fails, water overflows the pump when the heat or air conditioning unit is on. The water spills and floods your floor, basement, or attic. It could cause significant water damage to your home.

The pump failure does not always mean the pump is bad. If the pump runs but water overflows the tank, then algae build-up is clogging the check valve or drain pipe. Clogging can be prevented by regularly cleaning the condensate pump and putting algae reduction tablets in the reservoir. 

How can I troubleshoot a broken condensate pump?

If your condensate pump is broken, unplug both the pump and the air conditioner from the socket. Then disconnect the drain pipe and empty the water in the pump reservoir. Next, check the float. If it is stuck, tap on it until it moves freely. But if it is worn out, you should replace it. Furthermore, check the drain line; if there is a blockage, flush it with a cup of vinegar or bleach. If all these steps do not work, then your pump is due for replacement.

Finally, what does a condensate pump do? It lets you enjoy your HVAC system without the fear of water damaging your home.

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