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PODCAST: Three simple AC maintenance items

Today, Reuben talks about simple air conditioning maintenance items for indoor air quality and air comfort. 

Reuben shares three maintenance tips. He first discusses the importance of changing furnace filters and how it can lead to restricted or reduced airflow. He and Tessa then talk about how an oversized AC system and unchanged filters can also negatively affect the health of the house.

The second tip is to keep the condensing coil clean. Reuben mentions that the condenser machine is commonly impacted by cottonwood seeds, grass clippings, dirt, dust, and debris. Bill clarifies that rotting of the surface area can impact the cooling capacity of units. Tessa asks for tips on how homeowners can clean condensers. 

The last one is about the condensate line where moisture drains down as condensate. He talks about the approved materials for the line and then highlights paying attention to where it is and where it’s going. They also talk about condensation problems from AC being installed in the attic. Rueben ends by sharing a tip on how to fix a clogged condensate drain line.

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The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.


Bill: Welcome everyone, you’re listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman, as always your three-legged stool coming to you from the Northland, talking all things houses, home inspections and anything else that’s rattling around in our brain. Well, we’re in the middle of the summer here in Minnesota, which means that we have two seasons, cold and hot.


Reuben: Yes.


Bill: Humid as well. On today’s episode, we thought we’d talk a little bit about just some simple air conditioning maintenance items that should be done by home owners every year. If you’re having issues with indoor air comfort or indoor… Tessa, help me out here. It’s not indoor air quality, it’s just indoor comfort levels.


Reuben: Comfort.


Tessa: Yeah, it’s comfort. Yeah, comfort.


Reuben: Yeah, that’s right. You got the right terms down Bill.


Tessa: We will talk about some things that impact air quality too today.


Bill: No, no, no, no, no, no. Alright.


Tessa: They’re all interrelated Bill.


Bill: [laughter] Alright, so let’s do this. Reuben, Tessa, I should actually ask how you’re doing. It’s good to see your faces again.


Tessa: Good to see you too. Yeah, we’re…


Reuben: Fantastic.


Bill: You all had a good Fourth of July? 


Tessa: Yeah, we just came off of Fourth of July weekend, and I just spent time with my family and we saw some local fireworks, no one got hurt. I didn’t get eaten alive by mosquitoes, so I think it was pretty successful. We had a cook out. Just your traditional Fourth of July celebration.


Bill: What bubble do you live in that there were no mosquitoes inside it? 


Tessa: Well, it’s called lots of DEET, Bill. [laughter]


Bill: I’m a terrible pet owner. Did you know you’re not supposed to put mosquito spray with DEET on your dogs? 


Tessa: Don’t you use like a deer tick bug medication a few times a year, like Frontline or something like that to keep the bugs off? Does that treat for mosquitoes too? I don’t know.


Bill: Yeah. Well, we do, but there’s also a mosquito repellent you can put on your dogs and I actually didn’t know this and a couple of weeks ago, used it on my dog ’cause they just get… The mosquitoes are on them instantly, and when you go up north, there’s just swarms and swarms of them right now, and poor Bambino had welts, large welts on him because the mosquitoes were just chewing on them so bad, but anyway, go to the pet store and get the proper mosquito spray or mosquito repellent for your dogs. Anyway…


Tessa: What’s the… I’m just curious what the chemical is? If it’s not DEET, what did they put in it? 


Bill: That requires me reading the label and there’s a little chance that’s gonna happen, so let’s do my internet research and move on.




Reuben: Man, I’ve got a German Shepherd and I have never once considered doing anything for him in the way of mosquitoes.




Reuben: Hasn’t crossed my mind until just now.


Bill: Yeah, it would need a four inch nose just to get through all that fur, so…


Reuben: Yeah. Yeah, I don’t… I think they might be able to get his nose, that’s about it.


Tessa: How was your Fourth of July, Reuben? 


Bill: Should we come… Yeah.


Reuben: Oh man, I had a great time. We got a little rained out on the Fourth, but the day before, oh man, we discovered a new game to play on the ping pong table. You guys have both had some fun times…


Tessa: Yeah.


Reuben: We had some competitive ping pong at the Saltzman cabin. We got the ping pong table set up in the garage there, and oh we had fun, but we got a new game, this is called Polish ping pong. I think it’s called… I think that’s it, yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s Polish ping pong. And it’s basically… You take your two paddles, you set the paddle down on your side of the table and the person opposing you has to take the ping pong ball and throw it, and if it hits the ping pong paddle, then you get the ball back and you get to hit the ball as hard as you can at the other person with… And they’re supposed to have their shirt off [chuckle] and it’s like a free shot and I think that’s the hardest I have laughed in a long, long time.


Tessa: Is there drinking involved with this game? [laughter] It reminds me of beer pong.


Reuben: This is at the cabin over the Fourth of July.


Tessa: Yes. [laughter]


Reuben: I don’t know, maybe. But it was a blast. Yeah…


Bill: Hey, why are you picking on the Poles? It’s an incredibly resilient community of people. As a proud 25 percenter myself…


Reuben: I think they’re… Bill, I didn’t invent the game, I didn’t name the game, and I am praising how much fun this was. I’m not picking on anybody.




Bill: Alright. Alright.


Tessa: So who was the champ? 


Reuben: There were no clear winners, but you look at all the welts on chests and there were some clear losers, that was for sure. I think for the first 20 minutes, we couldn’t hit each other, but then it started to be every shot was a direct hit to the belly button or the chest, and it leaves welts, like getting hit with a paintball. You wouldn’t think a ping pong ball would do that, but it is pretty funny.


Tessa: No offense, but the next time we go up to the Saltzman cabin for something, I don’t think I’ll be playing Polish ping pong.


Reuben: Well, we’ll see… That’s right.


Bill: Yeah, I don’t think you have to worry about that. There were no ladies involved in this game, were there Reuben? 


Reuben: No, there were not. [laughter]


Bill: Little awkward family moments when your sisters and your mom are taking their shirts off so you can actually find skin to hit them with. So the boys only play this game.


Tessa: [laughter] Okay, let’s move along.


Bill: Alright. Yeah. Yeah. Moving along.


Reuben: I’ll say… I will say, my dad came out to watch and he lasted about 10 seconds and he shook his head in disgust and walked back out.


Tessa: Me. [laughter]


Bill: I can see that. I can see that.


Reuben: Yeah.


Bill: Alright, let’s get back to business here.


Reuben: Alright.


Bill: It’s hot out. If you’re feeling it inside, you might wanna look at a couple of these items that Reuben’s gonna talk about and just make sure this little maintenance tidbit is taken care of, it might help enormously. So Reuben, let’s start at the top. What do you do each year with your air conditioning system? 


Reuben: Probably numbers one, two, and three, I’m gonna go out of order the way I’ve got it written down in my blog, but probably the biggest one is simply changing your filter. Now, a lot of people think about the furnace filter and they think, “Well, you gotta change your filter during the winter time when your furnace is running.” But for most homes in Minnesota, they’ve got what’s called a split system, where it simply uses your furnace’s blower fan and it distributes all of the same air throughout the house, so you need to change your furnace filter, whether it’s AC or heat. And if you don’t have that changed, you’re gonna have a big reduction in air flow. And there was… Great case in point… Well, hold on, let me back up. When you have a big reduction in the air flow, it means that you’re not gonna be dissipating… Well, you’re not gonna be removing all of the heat from the air that you should, and so as the air passes over that evaporator coil…


Reuben: It’s gonna be going much more slowly and the air coming out is actually going to be colder because you don’t have as much warm air passing over that coil. And there was an inspection I went along, I went with Cory just recently, and we were doing our typical test, we always test the temperature of the air going into the furnace and the air coming out. Well, I shouldn’t really say the furnace, I should say the evaporator coil for the air conditioner, we always compare the temperature of the air in to out. And generally, we’re looking for something in the range of about 15 to 20 degrees. There’s a lot of variables, you can’t simply say it only dropped 14 degrees therefore it’s a problem, or it dropped 23 degrees and it’s malfunctioning. I mean, there’s a lot of variables. But generally, we’re looking for a difference of about 15 to 20 degrees.


Reuben: Now, if you don’t have the airflow going over there, and that’s what we had at this house, we checked the air coming out and it was way colder than it should have been, and we started thinking, “Hmm. Is this not working right? What’s going on?” And then we happen to get to the furnace filter, and it was one of those ones where it’s designed for a four-inch filter, but the homeowner had installed four one-inch super allergen filters.


Tessa: Wow.


Reuben: So each one is gonna be way more restrictive. It’s not… Four filters is gonna be four times the filtration and four times the reduction in airflow.


Tessa: Harder for that air to get through.


Reuben: Yes, yes. And so we fixed it, we took out three of the filters, and all of a sudden the temperature difference went back to normal, it went back to what it should be. And it was a perfect example of what you’re gonna have if you’ve got a really dirty air filter. It’s just not gonna be doing what it should. And if I were a little bit smarter, I could explain exactly what was happening to the refrigerant, I could probably stumble through it if I really thought through it. I’ve learned this many times, but just trust us to say it’s not good for it. And it can cause your air conditioner to malfunction. So extremely important to change your furnace filter even throughout the summer.


Bill: Air conditioning is like magic. It’s just magic. How it can remove warm air and then throw it to the outside which is even warmer.


Reuben: Yes, yes, exactly. I agree Bill.


Bill: It’s absolutely to explain.


Reuben: That’s pretty good. That’s pretty good.


Tessa: Yeah, the filter not only is an important part of the system operating properly, but Bill, this is how it ties in with air quality… To comfort in air quality. You gotta stay on top of changing that filter people.


Bill: Why? What’s the air quality part of this? 


Tessa: Well, filters are catching all the gunk and depending on number of rating you have it can catch smaller and smaller particles, but it’s important to change it regularly to make sure that you’re monitoring not only air quality in your house but just the functioning of your system to your furnace and your AC. The more clogged a filter gets the… Like Reuben said, the more it’s gonna restrict airflow. If you’ve got… If it’s winter time, you’re heating your house, it can put stress on the blower fan in the furnace, and in the summer time it can, like Reuben said, slow down the amount of air going over the evaporator coil which can cause problems with the system overall, and it can really chill the air down more than it should be. So it can create… Wreak havocs within the heating and cooling systems if it’s really dirty. But it’s counter-intuitive, the dirtier the filter is the more it’s gonna slow down the air, and actually the more gunk it’s going to catch, but it can harm your systems.


Reuben: And talking about just the health of your house, how it negatively impacts it, it means that the air coming out of the registers is gonna be colder than it should be. You’re not gonna have nearly as much air flow, but it will be colder. It’ll make some surfaces much colder than they should be. You can end up with a lot of sweating on the duct work because it’s so cold. Just like having a cold drink, it’s gonna collect condensation in a lot of areas where it shouldn’t. And you also don’t have as much humidity removal because you don’t have that air passing over the evaporator coil, so you end up with spot areas that are much colder and you have a more humid house than you should have. And those things can lead to mold growth.


Tessa: Yeah, we talked about too how oversizing the AC system can lead to issues with higher humidity too, with short cycling and the AC kicking on and cooling the house down real fast and shutting off before it has a chance to run and actually remove the humidity from the air, so that’s another problem, that’s separate from that. But that’s a good point, Reuben, about cooling off of surfaces and creating condensation issues too, which can obviously lead to mold growth and other problems.


Bill: A home inspector is never going to look at a unit to see if it’s sized properly, right? There’s math involved in that, that’s sort of beyond what home inspectors do.


Reuben: For the most part. I mean, we do look at ’em, and when you’ve got a unit that looks like it’s really small, every once in a while, I’ll take a peek and I’ll look at the model number and I’ll see what the tonnage is, and if you’ve got like a 5,000 square foot house and you’ve got a one-and-a-half-ton unit, I mean, I don’t need to be proficient with sizing systems to know that this is surely undersized, and vice versa. You got some tiny little house and you got a three-ton unit, it’s probably really oversized, and we’re not doing any calculations, but we’ve got a general idea of what it kinda should be. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a house where I said, “Hey look, this is severely oversized or undersized,” usually it’s close enough.


Bill: So we’ve replaced filters, life is clean on the inside of your deck work at this point, what else are you looking for? 


Tessa: Okay, so there’s another maintenance tip that we’re gonna give listeners here, and that would be to keep the condensing coil, that’s the part of the AC that’s sitting outside of your house, that big kind of box out in your yard, the condensing coil condenser, keep that clean, because if that gets really dirty and plugged too, that will reduce the efficiency of the unit as well.


Reuben: Yeah, the way it works is it’s bringing in outdoor air to actually dissipate that heat. It’s sucking in air on all the sides. And if you ever put your hand above that unit when it’s running, you’ll notice the air coming out is really warm and that’s heat that it is removing from your house, and if it can’t dissipate that heat, it’s not gonna work right, like Tessa said. And those things do get nasty, I mean, especially if you’ve got cottonwood trees in your neighborhood…


Tessa: Oh yeah.


Reuben: Man, it is a cottonwood magnet, and if you got a bunch of those, you’ll need to definitely clean it every year. But also grass clippings. We’ll see some of these where people have got the lawn mower shooting out grass on there, and they will just be impacted with grass clippings. So look for any dirt, dust, debris, cottonwood seeds, all that stuff.


Tessa: And this might be obvious too, but a lot of times we’ll see overgrowth of vegetation around AC units that choke it off too, so make sure you trim back any plants or bushes, keep the area surrounding it clear.


Reuben: Yeah. And I know there was something at my house where it was kind of unsightly, it was like you can see it from the road at my last house, and we had some discussion at my house about maybe putting up a trellis or maybe some type of decorative box to go around it, and of course, I had a firm, “No, we are not doing anything of the sort. I know it would look better. If anything, maybe we could put up a wall to kind of hide it from the street and make it a few feet away from the unit but that’s it.” And I’ve seen some people go way overboard to try to make their AC look a little bit better, but you really reduce the cooling capacity of the unit when you do that, so don’t put anything around it.


Bill: Have you ever seen the poor condensing unit that is the tree trunk for the family dog that…


Reuben: Oh, yes.


Bill: That’s accidentally rotted away? 


Reuben: Yeah, yeah. Urine is extremely corrosive and you always know it because it’s like one corner of the unit is completely disintegrated, going down from about doggy leg height down.




Bill: Do you think that there’s a major impact on the ability to cool your house if something like that’s going on, or is it just get Fido off because long term you don’t want all four corners of your unit rotting? 


Reuben: Yeah, I think it’s more like that. I mean, you’d probably just calculate the surface area that you’ve lost ’cause of your dog peeing on it, and it’s probably gonna be… I usually see it somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 20% of the fins are burned off or… I’m probably exaggerating when I say 20%, I would guess that’s about the reduction you’d have in cooling capacity, so it’s gonna be less, but it’s not the end of the world.


Tessa: Hey, one question I wanna ask you, Reuben, do you have any tips for homeowners that wanna try and clean that off themselves, ’cause I know you can hire an HVAC contractor to come out and they do tune-ups and stuff like that, and they can clean your condensing coil at the same time, but for a homeowner that wants to do it themselves, what would be some tips you’d have for them? 


Reuben: I’d say start by getting your pressure washer and not bringing it anywhere close to your unit ’cause you will destroy it. Just simply use your garden hose. Get the sprayer on your garden hose and spray it down. As long as you can see the little aluminum fins… Now, there are some of those where they’ve got these shrouds that go over and you can’t really get a jet of water to go in there, in that case, you gotta kinda take off the outside of it, that gets to be kind of a pain in the butt. And at that point, I think most people would probably say, “Maybe I wanna hire an HVAC contractor to come out and do this.” But if you can see the little aluminum fins, by all means, get a garden hose, get a sprayer on the end of it, and you can usually just spray everything right down.


Bill: Mine doesn’t have fins, it’s got these little, tiny little whisker-like thing. Have you seen that before? 


Reuben: Oh. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I have.


Tessa: Yeah. Like a pipe cleaner almost.


Reuben: Yes.


Bill: Yeah. If you go up to it, the fins normally look like your air conditioner, like you’d have in a wall unit, where… Rough ’em up, they lay down and they’re perfectly flat.


Tessa: Metal. Yeah.


Bill: Yeah, mine actually look like little pieces of grass are stuck in there, but it’s not. It’s the fin cooling system that it came… It came out of the box that way. Hey, can I ask an off the wall question here about condensing units? R22 and the new refrigerant… Is there anything, Reuben, that you can share with the audience for people who have systems with R22? Is there a replacement now for that coolant or…


Reuben: Not that I’m aware of, no.


Bill: We have to find that out.


Reuben: As far as I know, it’s just R22. Well, we did a podcast on that a while ago. We may have done more than one. And just to back-up for anybody who’s a little bit lost at your question, Bill, normally, you’re the one who backs us up… There’s an older type of refrigerant that they don’t use anymore called the R22. It says it right on the data plate, what type of refrigerant your system has. They phased out the R22 and all that’s being used today, all that I’ve ever seen that is, is something called R410A, it’s supposed to be a lot more environmentally friendly, and that’s all they’ve been using for a long time now. So if you’ve got a system that still uses the older refrigerant and you’ve got a refrigerant leak and you need to refill it, R22 is still available, it’s just not being made, and it costs you an arm and a leg to get it, so that’s the big concern. But as far as replacing it, the last I heard, it was basically cost prohibitive.


Bill: Okay, okay. But there’s no… That you’re aware of, no replacement for that, that will work in those systems, but it isn’t R22 and it isn’t 4… What did you say? R410A? 


Reuben: Yeah, yeah. Nothing that I’m aware of.


Bill: Okay. Well, that’s fine. What else are we looking at? Well, we’ve been outside, we’ve cleaned the condensing unit, we’ve removed the filter, replaced the filter. Where else are you going? What else are you doing? 


Reuben: The last one, this is one that sometimes people forget about and it can lead to a mess, is your condensate line. We talk about an air conditioner has two jobs, it removes heat from the air and it removes moisture from the air. And all that moisture drains down as condensate and then it’s gonna go down this little pipe and it’s gonna go to a safe place for disposal. In Minnesota homes, in the basement, it’s usually gonna be to a floor drain. And it’s just… Make sure that you’re paying attention to where it’s going, you don’t have family members like kicking that drainage hose loose and having it then leak behind the furnace and get into some carpet, in a fitter space of the basement or just go anywhere that it shouldn’t. The current requirement for an AC condensate line is that you need to use approved material. The Minnesota Mechanical Code has a list of materials that are approved, one of those that’s not approved is a garden hose. I know we’ve seen our share of those, but you need to have the right type of material, and it’s also supposed to be large enough to help reduce the potential for getting clogged, and that would mean a three-quarter inch line or larger.


Tessa: And for anyone that’s listening that isn’t familiar with the anatomy of an AC system, where would they find this condensate line typically? 


Reuben: Well, the evaporator coil, it’s half of the air conditioner is gonna sit right on top of your furnace, it’s usually gonna be a different colored box, you’re gonna see a couple of tubes going into it, one is gonna be an insulated tube, it’s gonna be fairly large, and the other is gonna be a really small tube, and they both come right into the front of the top of the furnace with the evaporator coil, they go right into it, and then you’re gonna have one more pipe coming out of that evaporator coil, which is the condensate drain, and if you follow it down, it’s typically gonna head right over to your floor drain.


Tessa: And usually it’s like a clear plastic tube typically, but not always.


Reuben: Yeah, it could be… I’ve seen a lot of clear plastic, more commonly they’d be using PVC white plastic, solid, rigid white plastic, or CPVC, which kind of has a yellowish tint to it. Most of what I see on new installations is gonna be one of those two materials.


Tessa: Something which seems to be beneficial because it seems like a lot of times those clear plastic lines get kinked or bent, and then that completely eliminates its effectiveness.


Reuben: Yeah, yeah, exactly.


Tessa: But there could be some units where it’s not above a furnace, where someone has added a AC system to their house and maybe they just have an air handler instead of having a furnace, right? And we see houses in Minnesota where people have added air conditioning to an older house, and that AC system is separate, they’ve got a boiler for the main heat source in the house, and then they’ve added central air later for cooling, and they’ve put an air handler up in the attic somewhere, so that might be something to be aware of, is you could have part of the system sitting in an attic, and so what we’ve talked about changing the filter and checking the condensate line, requires you to go into the attic space and access those things.


Reuben: Sometimes… And now that I talk about this, it’s gonna jog your memory, Tess. In a lot of those houses where they retrofit an AC unit and they put it in the attic, they end up putting the filter in the living space, so you’ve just got the return. You got a big return in the upper level hallway, and you can just loosen a couple of clips, as you can change your filter without actually having to go in the attic.


Tessa: Good point, yeah.


Reuben: We see lot of those. And if you have one of those and you’re not going in your attic regularly, I implore you, go in your attic regularly and check on that condensate situation. Because you get a leak up there and it is going to be a mess. We’ve seen so many ceilings destroyed because they had a condensate leak up there and it didn’t get caught. And there’s a bunch of rules in the mechanical code about dealing with condensate if it’s in an area where it can cause damage. Now, when you’ve got your furnace set up in the basement, you’ve just got a concrete floor, there’s no special rules, you do whatever you want, the idea is if it leaks on to the floor, it’s gonna go to the floor drain, there’s no damage to the structure, but if a condensate leak could cause damage to the structure, there’s a whole list of ways to help prevent that damage, and it might be…


Reuben: I don’t have ’em all memorized, but I have blogged about it, it might be a big emergency drain pan where you’ve got a pan that sticks out on all sides of the unit in your attic and it’s gonna catch any water that would go in there, and if that pan fills up with water, it’s gonna have a little float switch that’ll shut your system down, or it might have a secondary drain in the pan, and the secondary drain would have to drain to a conspicuous location, and it means it’s not gonna be the same place as your primary drain, it’s gonna be like… I don’t know, I’ve heard a good place would be above a sink, like a little pipe sticking out of your ceiling, and if you do have water coming out of there, it’s like, “Heads up, you got a problem now.” I’ve never seen somebody do that in a residential setting. I’ve heard it happens in commercial settings.


Tessa: Is it… I’ve seen the little pipe sticking out of the soffit on the exterior of a house before, where they’re draining it out the side and… Is that okay? Can you do that? 


Reuben: Well, you can, I would think that that’s probably the primary drain, the primary condensate drain. But for a secondary drain, to let you know that we got a problem and we shouldn’t have water coming out here, I guess that depends on somebody’s definition of a conspicuous location. I would argue it’s not.


Tessa: Right.


Reuben: I mean, who the heck is gonna notice that? 




Bill: Well, if you put it right above your door, when you walk out and it can drip on your head in the middle of summer where we have an overhang, “Okay, what’s that?”


Tessa: There you go. [chuckle]


Reuben: Yes, that would be a conspicuous location. Yeah, normally I don’t have water coming out, now I do, what’s up? 


Bill: Those mechanicals don’t belong in attic spaces. I know there’s no place to put ’em, there’s just nowhere else to go, but it doesn’t seem like a great idea.


Reuben: Well, but what are the options? You’re gonna retrofit a system in an existing house and run duct work in thinner spaces? It’s so much easier in an attic because you’ve got access to everything, you can just run your ducts right up there, it makes a lot of sense why they do it, but on the other hand, I am with you, Bill. They don’t belong up there.




Tessa: Agreed. Let’s just agree that mini splits maybe are a more building science friendly way to cool a house in a retrofit situation, yes? 


Reuben: Yeah, those things are really gaining in popularity. They have been for some time.


Tessa: Yeah.


Bill: Well, have you seen a new air handler in the last five years? Everything’s mini splits now, isn’t it? 


Reuben: I think so, yeah.


Tessa: Yeah.


Reuben: I can’t imagine why you’d do it…


Bill: Because with air handlers you have to run all that piping still and cut holes in the ceiling and… I mean, that’s your tell if you have an air handler in your attic, right? If you look up in the bedroom and there’s those… How big is that hole? Inch and a half? Two inches? Something like that. They’re small holes, but it’s like under high force…


Tessa: Oh, are you talking about supply registers for a high velocity system? 


Bill: Yeah, yeah.


Tessa: Okay. Yeah, the high velocity systems have a little circle round hole that the air shoots out of, and they’re pretty small, but I know what you’re talking about.


Reuben: Yeah. Yeah, I wasn’t thinking about that system.


Bill: If that’s installed, you gotta go look into your attic. Alright, is there anything else you need to be working on? 


Reuben: One other thing, just a little tip, and I got this from Allison Bailes, he’s got the Energy Vanguard blog. He had blogged about this many years ago about how he had a clogged condensate drain line and how he fixed it, and one of the inspectors on our team, Milind, ended up using the same trick and he said it worked like a charm. He did exactly what he suggested, totally unclogged his condensate line. And it was a matter of getting a shop-vac or I should say wet/dry vac and getting some finnings from the hardware store to reduce the size of his nozzle on his shop-vac down to the exact same size as the condensate drain line. He hooked up his shop-vac to the condensate drain line, making sure it was all airtight and just flipped it on and let it run for about 15 minutes, and he sucked out just a ridiculous amount of gunk and goop, and there’s all this black stuff that had accumulated inside the condensate line as well as the evaporator coil, those evaporator coils get nasty. So after running that for a long time, he sucked everything out and he didn’t have any more leaks in his condensate line, it wasn’t overflowing onto the furnace anymore. So I thought that was a super easy, super genius move, if you have a clogged condensate.


Bill: That’s a pretty awesome website. How do you spell Allison’s name? 


Reuben: Well, Allison is the traditional spelling, and Bailes is B-A-I-L-E-S. The website is… If you google “The Energy Vanguard Blog”, you could find that website. And Tessa and I were talking before the show, we’re gonna try to get him on as a guest, I don’t know if we’ve got that kind of pull to get him on, but never hurts to ask. We’ll certainly try.


Bill: Yeah. Alright.


Reuben: We had him out to Minnesota to teach at a conference once, so maybe I can try.


Bill: Let’s put a wrap on today’s episode. If you’re feeling a little bit uncomfortable, check these three areas, and maybe that’s as simple as it is, if not, call your local HVAC company and have them come out and get you squared away. There’s nothing worse than sweating in your house in the middle of summer. Alright, you’ve been listening to Structure Talk, A Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman. Thanks for listening. And Reuben, as always, tell people where to send questions, just in case they wanna…


Reuben: Email us at, send in your questions, we’re gonna be recording a Q&A episode in the very near future.


Bill: Alright, so we’ll get this figured out. Maybe year four we’ll remember to say that on a regular basis, but we wanna say thank you for everybody who listens, we appreciate it, and we will catch you next time.