Leaky Air Conditioners Can be a Fire Hazard

August 13, 2014

Well maintained, they’re built to keep us cool. But if your air conditioner springs a leak, things can get fiery hot. According to a 2012 report by the National Fire Protection Association, air conditioning, fans or related equipment were involved in upward of 7,400 reported US home structure fires, that caused 29 deaths, 249 injuries and $207 million in direct property damage in 2010. Between January 2011 and July 2012, 215 such fires happened in Florida alone.

These blazes often happen when leaking air handlers cause nearby electrical equipment to short circuit. Firefighters and air conditioning technicians will tell you that most homeowners fail to properly maintain AC drain lines. As a result, drain lines become clogged and drainage pans overflow. If electrical equipment is located beneath (as is the case in smaller apartment or condominium homes), condensation can drip on it, short circuiting it and causing sparks that can easily ignite nearby insulation, wood, etc. The result can be devastating.

Fortunately, there are multiple ways to help keep your home and family safe. If your AC unit is located in a utility closet, resist the temptation to use the same space for storage. Common items that get stored in these closets include combustibles like broomsticks, paper towels, toilet paper, holiday gift wrapping and out-of-season clothing. Store them elsewhere, and install and maintain a working smoke detector.

Pouring diluted bleach into the pipes can prevent algae from clogging them. Ask an AC professional to show you the proper way to do this.

When choosing a new air conditioning system, look for one outfitted with a floater switch that prevents drainage pans from overflowing by killing the power when the water level rises. Most importantly, schedule and keep annual AC maintenance appointments. Jacksonville Beach’s Charlie’s Tropic Heating & Air Conditioning offers annual planned service agreements that assure your AC unit is safely and properly maintained. Call 904-867-8480 to get started.

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