Clogged Appliance Advice

Clogged Appliance


Clogged Appliance Advice for Condo Buildings

Past articles have discussed the items that typically cause clogs in drain pipes; today we’ll be covering clogged plumbing in specific major appliances: air conditioners, water heaters and garbage disposals.


Air Conditioners

Air conditioning leaks can be frustrating. Not only are they messy, but they can cause significant water damage to your condo and adjacent units.


Common Causes:

-A clogged condensate drain pipe can be due to dirt, rust, algae and other debris.

-Improperly installed drain pipe fittings may not be secure. Over time, they can loosen, causing the drain pipe to disconnect from the AC unit allowing condensation to drain through the ceiling or onto the floor.

-A malfunctioning or dirty condensate pump can also cause water leakage from your AC system, resulting in the flooding of your attic or basement. Due to the continual presence of water, mold and mildew can grow inside the unit, causing it to clog.

-Less frequent causes of AC clogs are: dirty air filters, low refrigerant, cracked condensate drain pan, no p-trap and air vent in the drain line, condensate, buildup in un-insulated ductwork.


Water heaters

A blocked gas water heater vent can be a serious problem. Gas hot water heaters burn fossil fuels that generate, carbon monoxide, a dangerous and deadly gas.

Before you assume that your vent is blocked, make sure you check the vent draft. Any sign of a poor draft may mean an obstruction. There are a couple of things you can do to try and figure out if you have a blockage. Some or all of them may not work in every situation.

Before you can check the vent, you need to shut down the water heater.  Remove the screws that hold the flue pipe together. Remove enough of the pipe to see the full length and check for blockages. Remove the blockage using a piece of stiff wire. The vent pipe needs to be completely free of obstructions the full length of the pipe.

No blockage, then your problem is else where and it’s best to call a reliable plumber.

If your electric water heater won’t drain, it’s likely a clogged water heater drain valve. This is generally caused by excessive sediment build up inside the tank.


As water is heated, the minerals in the water separate and settle at the bottom of the water heater. If the tank is not drained routinely, the sediment will not only reduce the efficiency of the unit, but can also clog the drain valve to the point that you are no longer able to drain the water heater.

The severity of your clog can vary from a minor inconvenience to a major issue, and left unattended, will ultimately result in the need to purchase a new water heater. This is because the sediment will break down the inside of your tank and create an irreparable leak.


Garbage Disposals

Clogged drains are a major inconvenience and garbage disposal repair can be a costly proposition. The most important thing to remember is that a garbage disposal is not a trash can; it’s for food scraps only. Non food items, such as cigarette butts, paper products, glass, plastic and metal can damage both the blades and the motor.

There are some consumable products that should be avoided— Grease and oil, corn husks, celery stalks, onion skins, artichokes, potato peels, pasta and rice, animal bones and coffee grounds— they can clog the plumbing or tangle, stick and jam the blades.


Some additional tips:

-Don’t use hot water when grinding food waste, it will cause grease to liquefy and accumulate and drains to clog.

-Don’t turn off the motor or water until grinding is completed. When grinding is complete, turn off the garbage disposal first, then let water run for at least 15 seconds, flushing out any remaining particles.

-Feed food into the garbage disposal a little at a time with the cold water running; this will help the food scraps flow down freely through the drain pipes and plumbing.

– Don’t use harsh chemicals like bleach or drain cleaners. They can damage blades and pipes. Borax is a natural sink cleaner and sanitizer that effectively works on odor-causing mold and mildew that accumulates in garbage disposals.

In short, major appliances that clog in Condo buildings can have major financial consequence. Be sure to call in a professional as soon as problem begins.