Last Updated on March 30, 2021 by HVAC
How To Tell If Your Condensate Pump Is Working or Not?
Sometimes due to where your condensate pump is located, it may be hard to know how to tell if condensate pump is working?
Luckily, whether it’s a furnace or AC condensate pump, there are a few ways you can test to make sure it’s working correctly without a lot of effort or any special HVAC tools.
Why Is My Condensate Pump Not Pumping Water?
Just like any other part of your HVAC system, the condensate can go bad, junk up or just rust out over many years of use. Usually not noticed, it really is best if you can clean your pump every six months or whenever you do AC or furnace maintenance.
Since the condensate pump is there to remove water from your furnace or AC, everything must be cleaned every so often just like any other pump that would have water running through it. It’s job is simply to remove water that has condensated due to heat and cold on your HVAC unit safely and efficiently.
But because these pumps sometimes don’t even run for long periods of time (sometimes 3 months or more depending on the amount of condensation that is collected in your overflow pan or tank), junk can easily build up as each drying period begins leaving you with a stuck float or simply a clogged drainage hose.
Condensate Pump Troubleshooting
When you’re testing to see where the problem lies in a condensate pump not working, whether for an air conditioner pump not working or a furnace condensate pump not working, all of these steps are the same. As they are basically the same pump doing the same job, just for different parts of your HVAC equipment system.
Step 1 – Is Your Condensate Pump Receiving Power?
This may seem very obvious to some, but the very first thing to do is to make sure the condensate pump is actually plugged in.
If so, unplug it and look at the leads. Are they black, or are they a nice shiny copper color? If they aren’t clean, clean them off quick. For me, a piece of super fine grit sandpaper always works well, or a wire brush.
Make sure nothing is in the plug itself. Don’t forget, some condensate pumps are in damp and moldy areas like a basement, and over time everything can get moldy, even electrical connections.
If it’s on a power switch with a circuit breaker, make sure it hasn’t been switched off. In fact, whatever power source you’re using, plug something else into it like that space heater lying next to you on the floor just to be sure that the problem doesn’t lie with the socket or power source itself. The main circuit breaker to your house may be the problem.
Once you’re sure that the pump is indeed getting power, just look quick that it is actually switched “on”.
Step 2 – Check for Clogs
Your condensate pumps the water away from your AC unit or furnace through usually a thin plastic clear tube. It’s the same tubing that is found in aquarium pumps. Take a look at the tubing. Is it clogged? Is it green because algae was allowed to grow, or mold? Or is it totally clear as it should be?
If it’s easy enough to get to, unplug the tubing and just blow through it. If air passes with no problems, then that’s also not the problem.
To be safe, check that the drain the water is supposed to go into like a sink or sewer connection is also flowing freely.
This is an easy simple step to trouble shoot. If all looks good, proceed with the checklist.
Step 3 – Tap the Microswitch
Just lightly tap the microswitch (a type of HVAC relay) for the float. You just take the handle of a screwdriver and tap the top of the pump lightly a few times. If it starts to work, then it’s probably a bad switch. Funny enough, I had the same thing happen with my patio heater, a couple of taps and it worked again. You’d be surprised how many things start working with just a few taps to get it all straight again.
If the pump is wet, use a pair of gloves for safety as it is possible there is a short and the pump housing is metal, always veer on the side of caution, especially when mixing electric and water.
Step 4 – Inspect the float
The one problem with tapping the pump to see if the microswitch is bad, it can also mean the float may just be gummed up and needs to be cleaned. This can happen with any unit, even a window AC.
The float is a simple device usually made of plastic. If anything is allowed to junk it up and then dry, it’s quite easy for the float to stop working.
If you tap the condensate pump a few times and it does start working properly, then it can be either of these two issues.
This is when you’ll need to actually open the pump up and see what it looks like inside. If it looks all dirty then it’s probably an easy fix by just cleaning it out thoroughly as long as the float itself is still in good condition.
Step 5 – Open Up Your Condensate Pump
If nothing has worked up until this point, now it’s time to actually get your hands dirty. You’re going to need to open up your pump and inspect the insides of the pump.
You’ll only need a flathead screwdriver for this, but don’t worry, you don’t need to “unscrew” anything. Rather, look where there is something like a little tab to place the head of the screwdriver into and pry open the pump. It should come off freely.
Little Giant Condensate Pump Troubleshooting
Since opening the pump and the troubleshooting steps are a bit more involved, I have added a great video that will explain a lot about how to troubleshoot and open up a Little Giant condensate pump.
It also goes through everything you’ll need to know step by step so you can either fix your condensate pump, or know it’s a goner and have it replaced.
How Often Should a Condensate Pump Run?
A condensate pump should run whenever there is water in your HVAC systems condensate collection pan. This really depends on how often your system runs and how much condensation is created when it does. If there is no water collected to be pumped out, then the pump may not run for months at a time. There really is no simple answer to this question.
What Happens if Condensate Pump Fails?
If your condensate pump fails, the best case scenario is that it just stops working and perhaps leaves a puddle on the floor. Worse case it can cause problems with your HVAC system, making it turn off or adding extra drag and making it work harder.
Usually though it just leaks water onto your floor. And of course no longer removes water from your furnace or AC unit. So sometimes it’s hard to tell where the lea is coming from, but either way, it is all stemming from the same problem.
The easiest quick but temporary fix is to remove all the water from the HVAC unit so it can continue to work properly, and replace or do some maintenance on the pump itself. Just because it’s not working doesn’t mean it needs to be replaced. Just follow the steps above. But if it does need replacing, check out our guide on how to install a condensate pump here.