Ask Allegra: Stopping that drip in central air units

Allegra Bennett

Dear Allegra: I have central heating and air. The unit drips water when the air conditioning is running. I am assuming it is condensation, but how do I stop it? I have to have a bucket to catch the drips and empty it periodically. The lower I have the temperature, the less it leaks. I have the thermostat set at 79 degrees so the drip is slow. What do you think the problem is and what can I do about it other than calling the plumber? - All Wet

Dear All Wet: The drip pan, whose purpose is to catch condensation, is probably overflowing and/or the weep pipe or drain tube is clogged. Sometimes, the weight of the water that improperly builds up in the drip pan causes the pan to tilt away from the drain tube just enough to cause a buildup and backup. The drain tube leads to a device that pumps condensation away from the unit. If the pump is not working there will be a backup of water.

To troubleshoot and hopefully fix, shut off the power to the unit. Remove the filter, which I bet will be soaked. Remove the access panel on the front.

Ultimately, you want to look around the unit and find the drain tube, which would be made of white PVC plastic or a clear plastic. Its job is to divert water away from the unit. Check to see if it is clogged. With many days of high humidity and high heat central air systems have been working overtime. If you don’t have a service plan to cover all of your major systems in the house, you should get one. Regular maintenance prevents most of these operational problems.

Dear Allegra: I’m having plumbing problems in the kitchen and the bathroom. Water in the kitchen faucet does not come through as forcefully as it used to and in the bathroom the sink drains really slow. They can’t be related. Are they? And do I need a plumber or is there something I can fix? - Drained

Dear Drained: The problem in the kitchen and the bathroom are related, sort of. Both sinks need to be cleaned. Start in the kitchen by unscrewing the nut on the tip or mouth of the faucet. You will find a tiny mesh strainer known as an aerator that’s probably clogged with deposits from the water. Rinse it clean, replace and be surprised at the difference. In the bathroom, remove the stopper from the sink and look into the drain with a flashlight. You probably will see a gathering of hair and muck on the drain walls and the stem of the stopper. Bend a wire coat hanger to pull up as much of the hair as possible. A thin-bristled bottle brush works to clean the soaps, shampoo and oils that adhere to the walls of the drain. Pour a baking soda and vinegar cocktail slowly down the drain to clear the rest of the way. Use a plunger to activate things with suction.

Dear Allegra: When I run the dishwasher lately the water backs up in the kitchen sink and pours through the little vent. I have a single sink and a garbage disposal. I was told that the hose inside the dishwasher needs to be replaced. I need a second opinion. - Chocked Up

Dear Chocked: I actually had that problem once. What worked for me was troubleshooting the garbage disposal. Since the garbage disposal shares the same take-out drain as the dishwasher that is a logical place to start. In my case, the disposal unit was not working properly. Food remnants collected in the drain causing a backup. Once I unjammed the disposal using a broom handle (my favorite tool) the washer worked perfectly again.

How to unstick wooden drawers: You may find that your old wooden kitchen drawers are moving off track and sticking a lot this summer. Humid air causes wood to swell, especially in old, untreated wood. To get those drawers running smoothly again, remove the drawer and rub the rails and bottom of the drawer with wax paper or cooking oil. The coating will make for a quicker slide.

Allegra Bennett has covered cops, courts and politics as a journalist for national newspapers for 21 years. She is also the author of three books, publisher of Renovating Woman — “The Do-It-Herself magazine” — and is a home repair expert on “Home Made Easy” on the DIY cable network. Got questions? E-mail your question to

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