What To Do If Your AC Drip Pan Is Rusted? A Simple Guide

An air conditioner is a godsend in hot summers, but it requires upkeep, just like any other household appliance. You should check the state of each part of your air conditioning unit regularly, including the drip pan on the bottom of the evaporator coil.

If your AC has served you for years, chances are the drip pan is rusted, and you shouldn’t leave it unattended because it may cause leakage and other water damage to your entire AC system.

But what to do exactly? While you can repair it with rust converters or sealants, replacing it with a new unit could be your best bet in some cases.

There are more details you should be aware of surrounding a rusty AC drain pan. I am certain that, by the end of it, you will have a much clear understanding of this component.

Why is your AC drip pan rusty?

Before jumping into fixing the rusty drain pan, let’s look at the reasons behind it so that you can understand the ways to repair it much better.

When iron contacts with oxygen in the presence of water, oxidation will happen, making the iron starts to return to its natural, unrefined states and form Fe2O3. Fe2O3 is the so-called “rust.” This is also why you often see rust in places where there is water.

Most AC drip pans (also known as drain pans or condensate pans) are made with galvanized steel. That is to say, it contains iron.

In addition to that, the drip pan is in charge of catching the water dripping off the evaporator coil. It is normal to see water in it.

As a result, it is no surprise the AC drip pan will be rusted, especially after a few years of use.

As a side note, if your AC pan is full of water or even overflowing, it is more prone to rusting.

What will happen if your AC drip pan is rusted?

As I stated at the beginning, you shouldn’t leave a rusty drip pan unattended. This is because the corrosion can result in small holes in the drip pan. The water that gets into the drain pan will leak out from these holes and spread all over the places.

The other AC components will start to malfunction and rust because of the water. You will end up paying for prohibitively expensive repair costs.

Luckily, a rusted AC drip pan will not cause water damage immediately. You should take action as soon as possible whenever you see rust in the pan.

How to remove rust from an AC drain pan?

Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals of rust in an AC drip pan, let’s get cracking with fixing it.

First and foremost, cut off the power supply. You will never want to get an electrical shock. Next, use a dry soft cloth, mop, or anything similar to suck up the water left inside.

There are 3 common ways to remove rust, and you can pick one that works best for you.

1. Use rust converters. Rust converters work as a neutralizer to convert rust on the surface to a protective surface to reduce future recurrence.

2. Apply some vinegar. Acid can eat away the rust. That’s why adding a large amount of vinegar to the AC drip pan and allowing it to stay for a day can be effective in removing rust. Don’t forget to use a brush to take away the rust that is loosened by the vinegar.

3. Use baking soda and water to make a thick paste. Apply the paste on the rusty surface and let it set for a few hours before scrubbing the rust off.

If your AC condensate pan is leaking, you should also plug the holes. Fortunately, there are some acrylic, epoxy, and polyurethane sealants on the market.

Should you repair or replace a rusted AC drip pan?

Are you contemplating replacing a pan rather than repairing it? You are not alone. After all, an AC drip pan is not too expensive. You can get a solid one at anywhere between $20 to $150.

Aside from that, repairing a drain pan is a temporary solution. The rust will appear again because the pan continues to catch water droplets coming out of the evaporator coil. 

As a result, replacing it with a new unit is the ultimate way to go. However, you should pay attention when removing the old pan to prevent it from damaging the coils or pipes. There are some plastic drip pans in the market if you want to ward off the rust completely.

In conclusion

You should take care of each part of your air conditioning system, even though your life may be hectic these days. Because the AC drip pan can rust, it must be handled in certain ways.

Fortunately, removing rust from the AC drip pan is a simple task. To get the job done, you can use a rust converter or some vinegar or baking soda.

However, replacing it with a new pan is your best bet, and the cost will not be very high.

About The Author

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Liz Yang is the founder of Airsmartly. She has been working at home for a few years and realizes that the performance of the HVAC system plays such an important role in our life. She has tested dozens of products in person, like humidifiers, air purifiers, dehumidifiers, and ACs, and wants to share tips about using or troubleshooting these products with you. Her uncle is an HVAC expert with over 30 years of experience in the field, and often offers assistance when she is unsure how to handle a situation. He is also in charge of reviewing the articles on this site.

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