Why a Portable Air Conditioner Fills with Water

If you ever wanted to know why a portable air conditioner fills with water, at times accumulating it more quickly than others, this explanation may be what you are looking for.

It is fairly well known that portable air conditioners are great at cooling a room and drying the air as it cools.

Yet their water catchment vessels also need to be emptied periodically.

This can become a chore, especially when the container fills with water quickly and you seem to be emptying it every few days.

portable air conditionerSo let's look at this and do some troubleshooting.

Is There a Problem with the Air Conditioning Unit?

This is not a problem with the unit itself, as part of its function is to remove moisture from the air as it cools.

That moisture has to go somewhere!

What happens is that as the moisture enters the unit, it condenses on the cooling coils, forming large droplets of water that drip down into the container at the base of the unit.

So there's no need to worry if your AC unit is filling up with water a lot and seems to need to be almost constantly emptied.

Is This Normal?

Yes it is, because water accumulates in the container due to a variety of causes. Some of these are rather simple in nature and they are easy to fix.

Below is a checklist to help you identify why your portable air conditioner is producing a lot of water and what to look out for in trying to avoid it happening quite so often.

Troubleshooting Guide

For the benefit of those not so knowledgeable about how air conditioning devices work, I will provide some background information first.

There are some specially designed, fully self evaporating portable air conditioners that are set to prevent the water catching tray from filling up automatically thanks to their built-in self-evaporation technology.

This clever feature effectively works by causing the unit to evaporate the condensate as it forms on the condenser coils and vent that moisture (after cooling) through the flexible exhaust hose. Some even recycle that moisture first to aid in the cooling process, thereby increasing cooling efficiency and giving better economy as well.

The upshot of this process is the elimination of the need for emptying the container manually under normal cooling conditions.

However, this is not always the case.

Container Full Warning

Most standard and older AC models do need their water containers to be emptied periodically, depending on how humid the air inside the room is. The frequency of the container becoming full of water can vary depending on how much water the unit is extracting from the air and the size of the tank.

When your portable AC unit emits an audible alarm to tell you the container is full, it is essential that you empty it to prevent an overflow and possible watery mess. Many cooling devices will automatically shut off before that happens and will not turn on again until the container has been emptied.

There are, however, instances where a portable air conditioner may suddenly start filling with water much more quickly.

Why does this happen and what can you do?

If you're wondering why your portable AC is producing so much water, there are a number of issues can cause this:

1. High Humidity Level

A natural part of the process cooling the air involves removing moisture (humidity) from the air, essentially drying the air. When the atmosphere in a room is particularly humid, it is normal for the container to fill up with water more quickly as it is working to cool down the room.

If this is the case, empty the container as often as is necessary.

What to do

There is not much else to do here but be patient. Once the indoor air has been cooled and dried enough, the unit will collect less water as humidity becomes reduced.

2. Newly Installed AC Unit

Some AC models tend to collect more water when they have just been installed for the first time. Some models also do this when they haven't been used for a long time.

The reason is often that the AC unit must dehumidify all the surroundings to begin with. This will include the floor, ceiling, walls as well as furnishings. As it cools for a while, the humidity in the environment will naturally be reduced and less water will be collected.

What to do

Once the AC unit has finished dehumidifying all of the room, the number of times the container will need to be emptied will be reduced.

Tip: Keeping the windows and doors closed in the space being cooled effectively reduces the square footage being covered and could be helpful.

An air conditioning device will have to cope with more moisture if the room being cooled gets a continuous flow of humid air from the outside.

3. The Weather

Another common cause of excess water filling an AC unit's container is the weather.

People that live in areas of extreme humidity during the hot season (for example, the Pacific Northwest) tend to get more water being collected in the internal container.

Why is this?

The AC is working hard to maintain a comfortably habitable space in hot and very humid conditions, dehumidifying excessively moist air in the process. All that water has to end up someplace!

What to do

One way to deal with this situation is to use a dehumidifier with such conditions with very high humidity levels. It is possible to install a dehumidifier in the same room as the portable air conditioner to assist in drying the air.

Tip: Avoid hanging laundry indoors as this will make the house excessively damp. Use a washing line if the weather is fine or a dryer that is vented to the outside if it is raining.

Be aware that any standing water indoor will increase a home's humidity level. This can create additional discomfort and cause the AC to work harder. If there is any standing water inside, it is a good idea to remove it.

4. The AC Unit is Faulty

Another possibility for excessive water collection could be that your machine is faulty. Some coolers tend to condense more water when their air filter gets dirty or blocked.

A clogged filter reduces the airflow across the evaporator coil. This can lead to the coil becoming very cold and even freezing up. A frozen coil will condense more water from the air which also freezes on the coil.

As the water then melts, the water begins to drip into the container. This will cause it to fill up faster than normal.

Another possibility is the condensate water pump is not be working properly. This will cause a continuous draining problem.

What to do

The solution is simple if the problem is caused by a dirty or blocked air filter. You should check and clean/replace it regularly. Most AC manufacturers recommend cleaning and/or replacement every 30-90 days.

Repairing a faulty pump could be tricky. It would be good advice to call a qualified technician to take look at your AC device. Call the manufacturer or dealer directly if the unit is still within its warranty period.

Summing Up

Portable air conditioners perform an important function, which is to reduce warm, muggy and often unbearable temperatures in the home or work space to make them comfortable, while making those hot summer days more bearable.

It's helpful to know some of the possible reasons why a portable air conditioner can fill with water and be ready with some workarounds.

It may be necessary to call in a professional AC technician for an accurate diagnosis if the suggested solutions above didn't work for you.

In some cases, it can be better and cost less to completely replace an older machine with a new air conditioner rather than incur huge repair bills, especially if it is out of warranty.