Portable air conditioners generate water during the cooling process. The is due to the fact that portable ACs operates on the same refrigeration cycle as all the compressor-based air conditioners i.e. vapor compression cycle.
The quantity of water produced depends on various factors, especially humidity. However a portable AC filling with water too quickly is a real problem. It is very uncomfortable to drain the condensate pan every few hours. Especially at night when you need a good consistent sleep after long day work.
The primary reason for your portable AC filling with water too quickly is humidity in the region you live. However excessive water deposit may also be due to dirty filter or clogged condensate line. Due to clogging flow over the evaporator coil is blocked leading to ice that continuously melts and fills the water container.
Many portable air conditioners have self-evaporation technology. This means that water produced is automatically exhausted through vent hose. However all portable ACs do not have this technology.
Even if your portable AC has the ability to automatically expel water, most of ACs are partially evaporative. Which means they still have a water tray. The purpose of the water tray is to hold water in case it is not expelled at the same rate as it is generated.
Why Is Your Portable AC Filling with Water Quickly
1. High Humidity in Your Area
Your portable air conditioner is generating water, whether less or more, by the condensation of humidity from the air.
The amount of water that it generates is in direct proportion to the humidity in air.
If you live in an area with high humidity more water will be accumulated in the condensate pan of your portable AC.
For example, in Louisiana or Texas the average relative humidity is about 75 percent. This is really high and they are among the top humid cities in America.
So if you are living in one of these regions of US or any other comparable regions in the world, you will have to empty water pan pretty many times.
In cities with low humidity, like Nevada or Arizona, that have very low average relative humidity (below 40 percent), the frequency of manual drainage is very low.
Most of the portable ACs are partially evaporative and in these cities you may never have to care about condensate. The reason is automatic exhaust of most of the moisture that is accumulated.
In case you are thinking of buying a portable AC, consider which type is best for you.
In a region with low humidity, you may use a portable AC without self-evaporative technology, as you will not face problems with recurring drainage.
However, in highly humid regions, it is best that you use a partially evaporative or fully evaporative portable AC to avoid continuous interruption and inconvenience.
2. Dirty Air Filter
The air that is cooled by your portable AC is delivered to the living space after it has gone through an air filter. Filter blocks dust and debris from the air.
Your portable AC filter has to be cleaned after specific hours of cooling operation. How much is that duration depends on the quality of air that passes through it.
One of the causes why your portable AC keeps filling up is a dirty filter.
A clogged filter by debris will result in blocking of air coming out of your portable air conditioner. The flow rate of air will be reduced and less air will pass over the evaporator coils.
As a result, evaporator coils will freeze up the moisture in air and it will keep dripping into the condensate pan.
Even if you have a partially evaporative portable air conditioner, water will not be exhausted at the same rate at which it is dripping and you will have to keep emptying your portable AC.
Most of the air conditioners have filter reset indicator. It turns on when the filter is dirty or specific number of hours have been passed in the operation.
The duration after which the filter reset light turns on is assigned by the company. Portable air conditioner will not turn ON until you take out the filter, clean it and then put it back on.
So give a check to air filter of your portable AC. Extract the filter out and clean it. The filters in air conditioners are almost always reusable, so you will not have to change it. Use lukewarm water to wash the air filter gently. Allow it to dry properly before inserting it back.
3. Just a Humid Season
Generally, relative humidity is variable in different cities and regions of the country. However, it also depends on the season in which you are operating your portable air conditioner.
Some days of the year, humidity becomes comparatively higher compared to others. So relatively higher amount of water generated on some days might be just seasonal.
The times of of the year when the humidity is maximum and minimum vary according to the state and city your are in.
For example, in New York, September is the most humid month and the least humid is April.
This means that around September your portable air conditioner will generate more water compared to April. While in Nome July is the most humid month.
If all of a sudden, your portable AC is accumulating a large amount of water, it is probably not due to seasonal change.
The reason is that the effect on humidity in the air by the weather is not impulsive. And the variation in increase and decrease is not massive.
So if you encounter large amount of water generated by your portable AC on a specific day, it is probably due to some other problem.
4. You Just Bought The Portable AC
If you have purchased a new portable AC and it is generating a lot of water then it is very rare that it has a technical fault.
The reason is air conditioner companies are very keen of their reputation when selling the unit. They cannot afford to hurt their reputation as there is so much competition.
Unless the damage or problem in the AC is during delivery and you can return the portable AC to get a new one.
The reason of course primarily may be high relative humidity in the area you live but it might just be due to the fact that you have bought a new unit.
When you air condition your living space after a while, AC removes the humidity from floor, walls, ceiling, furniture and other things including the air. This might result in high amount of water accumulation in the water pan.
So if your water pan keeps filling test your new portable AC, give it some time before simple returning it back.
If it keeps filling then either the air conditioner is faulty, or it is not suitable for the area you live in i.e. high average relative humidity. The latter means that you might want to consider another type of portable AC like partially evaporative or fully evaporative.
5. Faulty Condensate Pump
An easy way to get rid of condensate entirely is to set up a condensate pump.
Normally the water that is accumulating in the water pan is directed to your desirable location by using condensate pump. It is very easy to set it up.
If you are using a condensate pump and water is leaking, or water tank keeps filling up, it is very certain that there is problem with the condensate pump setup.
Either condensate pump is faulty or the drain hose entering or leaving the pump is blocked or bent. This is stopping the route of water.
It is a good idea to check the pipe running before and after the condensate pump.
If you have not used a condensate pump till now, give it a look, especially if you are bothered with draining your portable AC.
It is very easy to setup. All you have to do is attach the drain hose to your AC and connect it with the condensate pump.
The condensate pump is connected to an electricity source. The water keeps collecting into your condensate pump until it has reached a certain level. When that level is reached pump will start by itself and water will be directed to your desired location.
You may run the drain hose directly into another location and drain water without using a condensate pump. However keep in mind that it needs gravity to do so. So if the water has to travel against gravity (upward direction) this method will not work. In condensate pump, this problem is resolved and water may be pumped to another location against gravity.
The most convenient option thereby is using a condensate pump. If you want to go with it, I picked one for you. Click here to see specifications.
6. Water Not Draining Properly
Most basic way of draining water from your portable AC is to manually drain it. For that, you will have to remove the drain plug and allow the unit to drain into an empty container.
How often you will have to do it depends on your humidity and how long you run your AC. It may vary from 6-8 hours to several weeks.
If you are draining manually by this basic method, you will know in case there is a problem. For example, your AC indicating that its water tank is full but no water comes out after you remove the drain plug.
One of the reasons may be that the water is blocked from coming out of the water tank due to clogged drain. There is nothing that would clog it from inside so something has probably gone from outside when it was not covered.
If you are using a drain hose to automatically remove water from you portable AC by gravity method or condensate pump, your water tank should never fill up.
Most common cause could be blocking of water in the drain hose.
Check for the bends in the drain hose, especially 90 degree bends. Also check the pipe after the condensate pump, in case you are using one.
7. Defective Portable AC Blower Fan
A consistent flowrate of air by your portable AC fan is important for its proper functioning.
A faulty fan, that is either not running at the required RPM, or not running at all, will lead to frosting of evaporator coils.
Let me explain why…
Actually, reduced airflow due to improper functioning of fan does not allow enough air through the unit, to take enough cooling away from evaporator coils.
As a result, ice develops on coils and portable AC compressor may stop functioning for a while, until it melts. As this ice melts, condensate pan fills up with water quickly.
During this time, with a slow running fan, ice will melt comparatively slowly. After it melts and compressor operation is restarted, faulty fan will cause freezing of evaporator coils again.
This process will repeat preventing your AC to complete its cycle.
A slow RPM fan would especially be very ineffective for partially evaporative portable ACs. Most units in the market are of this kind.
The reason is that partially evaporative portable AC units expel most of condensation water in the form of vapors via exhaust vent. In normal conditions, you rarely need to empty them.
However, due to melting of ice, rate at which water is collected in the pan will be higher comparative to the rate at which water is expelled.
Thereby despite using a portable AC with self-evaporative technology, you will need to empty them multiples times in a day.
What Causes Inadequate Blower Fan Operation?
- Give a look at portable AC blower fan blades. If they are damaged, even with the adequate RPM, airflow rate will become low. If that’s the case, you will need to get fan replaced by the exact model.
- Fan Motor can be a culprit for incorrect fan RPM. Low RPM causes less air to flow through the unit. Motor will need to be checked for shortages, continuation and other faults. You can get it repaired, if fault is miniscule. Otherwise, I advise to get a new one, it will save you a lot of time and trouble.
- There is also a possibility of other electronic components causing incorrect fan operation like switch, relay, control board etc. After diagnosis, they will need to be replaced by exact same model and type.
Note: If you do not have experience with diagnosing electronic components like motor, circuit, circuit components etc., I highly recommend you get it checked by a certified technician.
If that is the case, only thing you should do is to look for faults that are prominent and noticeable. Your life is more important than anything.
8. Clogged Evaporator Coils
Your portable AC unit has heating as well as cooling coils.
Heating coils are also called condenser coils.
Cooling coils are also called evaporator coils.
Air is cooled when it passes through evaporator coils of the unit. Water is also condensed from the air by these coils as a secondary operation.
Both portable AC coils (condenser and evaporator) need to clean and clear for the air to travel through them. However, if your portable AC is filling too quickly, the source, if any among these coils, are evaporator coils.
Let me elaborate…
Clogged portable AC coils allow less air to pass through them. Consequently, airflow rate is reduced than required.
As I said earlier, required airflow needs to be maintained through evaporator coils. If airflow is less than required, ice will develop that will melt continuously and fill up water tray repeatedly.
Solution is simple, you need to keep your coils clean, just like you keep your filters clean.
Generally, the number of times you will need to clean portable AC coils will be much less than that of filters. But regardless of the interval of time, they will get dirty.
Clean debris and dirt carefully, with a suitable brush, in gentle upward and downward motion. Then you could either use a solution like warm water and detergent or dish washer liquid to clean your portable AC coils.
9. Less Condensate Pan Capacity
One of the reasons why your portable AC condensate pan or water tray fills very quickly may be its small capacity.
Obviously, a small sized condensate pan will fill up quicker than that of a larger size and you will need to empty it more often.
However, there is a possibility that smaller capacity condensate pan of your portable AC is coupled with other problems. Collectively, they may be causing you to empty your unit repeatedly to the extent of discomfort.
For example, let’s say, for some reason(s), whether they be dirty filter, clogged coils, faulty fan etc. your portable AC coils are icing up.
Ice will melt and quickly fill up condensate pan. You will have to empty it frequently.
On top of that, a small capacity condensate pan will add to the problem of already high rate of water moving into it, due to icing. It will fill even quicker and you will have to empty it even more often.
Thereby, I would advise you to firstly check for other problems discussed in this article, before coming to conclusion that the culprit is less water holding capacity of your portable AC.
You can always use drain hose to get rid of water automatically by bypassing condensate pan.
If you need to get rid of water against gravity i.e., at a height from your unit, a condensate pump would resolve this problem for you permanently. You will never have to empty your unit’s condensate pan again.
You can click here to view specifications of my preferred condensate pump.
10. Extreme Humidity in Room of Portable AC
Very high relative humidity in the room where your portable AC is running could cause it to fill frequently.
In this case, there are two scenarios after which your portable AC is accumulating water at a very high rate:
- You shifted your portable AC from one room to another and now it fills up too frequently.
- You are running your unit in the same spot but now number of times you have to drain water has increased.
In the first scenario, it is very obvious that relative humidity in the new location of your portable AC has increased a lot.
This increase can be due to its working in humid spots of your home like laundry, kitchen, basement, attic etc., or defects like poor insulation, cracked foundations or water pipe leakage.
In the second scenario, the reason is most likely within the unit like blocked filter, faulty components, clogged coils etc.
If there is no internal fault, then either relative humidity around portable AC is severely increased that can be due to defects mentioned above or seasonality or both.
Here’s a simplified version of the steps to diagnose and fix: (scenario 2)
- Check for reasons of very high water accumulation within your unit that are mentioned in the article.
- After going through that, check the room, in which you are running portable AC, for any faults like leaking pipes, inadequate ventilation, water leakage through structure.
- If first two are not the source, use either a gravity method for drainage by vent hose, or condensate pump in case you have to take water against the gravity, to completely get rid of manual draining.
11. Malfunctioning Water Level Indicator
There are several other components that are directly or indirectly involved in condensation process of your portable AC.
Wet switch or float switch or water level indicator are all names of one apparatus. It is responsible for identifying true water level in portable AC water container.
If you have a faulty, incorrectly positioned or displaced wet or float switch it will provide incorrect signal to portable AC regarding water level. Consequently, portable AC unit will turn Off much quicker and you will have to empty it even before it is entirely filled to maximum capacity.
Diagnosis for wrong water level indication is easy.
Check water level at the time unit indicates it needs to be emptied. Do this a couple of times. If maximum condensate storage capacity is not used up, it is highly likely that wet switch is the cause.
How Often Should You Drain Your Portable AC
The frequency of drainage of your portable AC in a day depends on various factors. It depends on humidity, numbers of hours of operation and the type of portable AC you have.
If you have an air conditioner that has self-evaporative technology then most of the humidity will automatically be removed through the vent during the exhaust of warm air.
Most of the portable AC in the market have self-evaporation technology. There are further two classification of the portable AC though: Partially Evaporative Portable AC and Fully Evaporative Portable AC.
Most of the portable AC are partially evaporative. So if you have just bought a portable AC and you don’t which one it is, most probably it is partially evaporative.
Partially Evaporative Portable AC
Most of the portable ACs available in the market are partially evaporative AC. They have self evaporation technology. However, they will not exhaust all the humidity that is collected during the cooling process. They have to be drained periodically, depending on the humidity in the air, unless there is one of the other problems stated above.
Fully Evaporative Portable AC
Fully Evaporative Portable AC is completely autonomous in removing the humidity from the air. If you want to completely get rid of the hassle go with this one.
So in short there are various factors why your portable AC is generating a lot water. Relative humidity is the primary reason for accumulation of of water. However there are several controllable factors like dirty filter, faulty condensate pump, clogged coils etc. Give them a check in case humidity is not the problem.
Also select the portable AC carefully depending on the climate of the region you live in. If humidity is very high, and your portable AC is not doing a very good job at exhausting, consider modifications like draining through hose using gravity or condensate pump.