How to tell if Condensate Pumps are Working?

Condensate pumps are something you won’t find on every HVAC system, but a necessary component on units where natural draining from the condenser is challenging. That means when trouble arises, it’s something that needs to be addressed quickly or you could have larger problems to deal with. In this guide, we’re going to discuss a few quick ways to tell if a condensate pump is working whether it’s a pump from a company like Diversitech or a Little Giant.

Discuss how they work and what they do – diagram from owner’s manual?

Whether you just moved into a rental or purchased a home with a condensate pump installed, it’s important to understand what they do before you can address potential issues. Simply put, a condensate pump is designed to remove excess “condensation” created by air conditioners, boilers, heat pumps, and even refrigeration systems.

Similar to a sump pump, this small system’s sole purpose is to remove water. They have a similar design and purpose, although a condensate pump is installed in-line on an AC system, not in a basement hole. Unfortunately, because of how they work it can be challenging to tell if they are functioning until they don’t anymore.

Condensate pumps are something you won’t find on every HVAC system, but a necessary component on units where natural draining from the condenser is challenging. That means when trouble arises, it’s something that needs to be addressed quickly or you could have larger problems to deal with. In this guide, we’re going to discuss a few quick ways to tell if a condensate pump is working whether it’s a pump from a company like Diversitech or a Little Giant.

Testing a Condensate Pump

Unless you notice a puddle in the floor around a condensate pump attached to an AC unit or furnace, you may want to periodically check to see if it’s working. Whether out of sheer curiosity or to prevent an upcoming issue, the first way you should check a condensate pump is quite simple.

When water goes into the condensate pump’s reservoir, a float inside begins to rise which activates a switch. You can pour water into the reservoir when it’s empty to engage the float and ensure the pump works. This little step can give you peace of mind to homeowners headed out for the weekend or a short vacation. If the pump comes on, everything is good to go.

The Condensate Pump doesn’t turn on….

If the condensate pump worked during the water test, you can skip ahead to our FAQ which addresses some common questions about these pumps. If the pump did not come on, there are a few quick things you can try before deciding how to proceed before deciding if the pump needs to be repaired.

Checking the power should be the first thing to consider and not just the plug. While it is easy for things to become unplugged around a home, these types of pumps can also kick breakers. When properly plugged into an outlet, but not working, check the breaker box to ensure the switch to the outlet or room is in the “On” position.

If the condensate pump has power and no breakers are tripped, the next step is to inspect the unit itself. Does it have a clear water reservoir that you can see through? If so, look to see if the float is moving with water in the reservoir. Floats can become stuck for a variety of reasons, which won’t allow the condensate pump to kick when it should.

For condensate pumps with colored water reservoirs, you can refer to your owner’s manual and remove the small tank to inspect the float. If you no longer have the manual, you should be able to locate one online once you find the manufacturer of the pump and model number. Shut the power off to the unit before proceeding to remove the reservoir from the pump.

Once this inspection is complete, you can reattach the bottom to the pump, plug it back in, and test it using the water method we outlined above. If the pump still doesn’t function as it should, then it’s time to consider digging deeper into the condensate pump or bringing in a professional to take a closer look at things.

Conclusion

Condensate pumps are a vital part of AC systems and furnaces for many homeowners, and it’s important to keep them properly maintained as a small puddle can turn into a problem quickly. If you aren’t quite ready to call in a professional to assess the problem with your pump, check out our guide to repairing or replacing condensate pumps.

Related Article: 4 Common Furnace Condensate Pump Problems & How to Fix?

Condensate Pump FAQ

Q: Can you unplug a condensate pump?

A: Yes, but only for maintenance. If a condensate pump has been installed on your system it’s there for a reason and should be left on while your unit is running.

Q: Should my condensate pump be noisy when running?

A: All condensate pumps will put out a degree of noise, but some are louder than others. With that in mind, you should not hear the pump running if it’s located in a basement or attic, and not directly outside of a living space.

Q: How long should a condensate pump normally run?

A: That all depends on how bad the condensation is on your unit. It could run several times each day or a few times a week depending on the environment where it has been installed.

Q: Will a whole house humidifier cause problems with condensate pumps?

A: Regular humidifiers in a living area can keep moisture contained to those spaces while whole house humidifiers can raise levels throughout your home. When this happens, it can affect the condensate pump to a degree.

Q: How far can a condensate pump push water?

A: Lift is generally the measurement you’ll want to look for with condensation pumps although horsepower is important as well.

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