Compliance with New
HVAC Condensate Drain Line Regulatory Changes
International Residential and Mechanical Code and Uniform Mechanical Code Sections effective January 1, 2015.
The new International and Uniform Mechanical codes for 2015 require that HVAC drains be configured to enable cleaning and servicing without cutting the drain line.
January 1, 2015, is the effective date of long overdue building code changes in the International Code Council’s IRC and IMC and the Uniform Mechanical Code.
These sections, International Residential Code (IRC) section M1411.3.3 and International Mechanical Code (IMC) Section 307.2.5 have identical language, which states:
Condensate drain lines shall be configured to permit the clearing of blockages and performance of maintenance without requiring the drain line to be cut.
The language of the Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC) is slightly different, but the result is identical. Here is the language, from Section 312.3.1:
Condensate drain lines shall be configured or provided with a cleanout to permit the clearing of blockages and for maintenance without requiring the drain line to be cut.
Regardless of the HVAC contractor’s location, it is clear that, when locally adopted, HVAC condensate drain lines will no longer pass code inspections with a simple straight drain line to either the primary or secondary drain location.
Right now, the vast majority of HVAC evaporative coil drain pans drain through a straight drain line to either a bathroom drain line or, if the primary drain line is blocked, directly to the outside of the house.
Without an automatic overflow shut-off of the A/C system, then the first problem noticed is the unwanted presence of water, either on the floor or the ceiling.
Typically, a technician will carry an empty bucket up to the attic, cut the drain line, collect the water into the bucket, then clear the drain line in both directions. Then he reconnects the drain line with a sleeve. This takes time, risks water spillage, and does not permit for maintenance of the drain lines.
One of the most common and least favored problems was containing the flood of water after cutting the line then trying to glue the wet pipes back together.
So how do HVAC contractors comply with these regulations?
Configuring the Drain Line
New Installations. This can be achieved, without purchasing one of five available products, by using multiple tees and vent risers to allow access for a drain dawg device. This approach is limited by the height of tee risers, which need to be higher than the primary drain pan to prevent leaking. Time and labor are the primary costs during installation. Space is a problem.
Existing Systems. Re-configuring the drain line plumbing is not really practical on an existing system.
A number of products have shown up on the market that can make it easy to service and clean drain lines.
There are only about five products available that would arguably comply with the new regulations. These products are:
Jones Valve : 4.7 ounces. This is a ball valve style device. This device has only one 1/4 inch flare fitting with a Schrader valve. It is located on the side of the valve AT THE CENTER of the Ball allowing air to pass through the middle of the ball and exit through a hole in one side of the ball. By turning the valve handle the air flow is redirected from upstream to down stream with one easy twist.
The Jones Valve is smaller than the others and won't leak even if the Shrader valve falls out and is easier to operate than the Quick Blast. Its size makes it easily installable anywhere in the drain line.
Manufactured by A.S. Jones & Company, and exclusively distributed by SUPCO to its national network of wholesale distributors.
Quick Blast 7.3 ounces is another ball valve design but with two 1/4 inch flare fittings with Schrader valves, one on each side of the BALL valve. By closing the valve and pressurizing each side you can clear the Line in both directions. It is larger than the Jones valve, and it might not fit onto every system. It is also requires the technician to connect, disconnect, connect and disconnect the gas line. Also, if there is a blockage in the ball itself, it will not clear.
Manufactured by Searco and distributed at various HVAC wholesalers.
Easy Clear 3.9 ounces is a tee fitting with an inner sleeve that rotates to direct pressure in both directions. The problem with this device is it is not water tight. If it is installed lower than the drain pan and a down stream blockage occurs it will leak. This limits the flexibility of placement. It also lacks a convenient means to connect a pressure line to it. Wet vac is the suggested method of clearing the line.
It has several pieces, and it has to be opened and closed again.
Manufactured by Rectorseal and distributed at various HVAC wholesalers.
All Access 5.6 ounces is a box shaped device with an access lid that has to be opened to reconfigure the flow from down stream to up stream it also requires a special tool to apply pressure up stream. It boasts the ability to add drain clearing chemicals to the line. The down side is the amount of water that will leak out during reconfiguration, it should probably not be installed below the drain pan and there is some concern about the seal on the door leaking as the unit ages. Instructions say “If full, water may drip when cover or cap are opened, have small pan ready.
It is rather bulky and limited in places it can be installed.
It has several pieces, and it has to be opened and closed again.”.
Manufactured by MSD Research, Inc. and distributed at various HVAC wholesalers.
A/C Easy Tee. Is another tee shaped device with five pieces, plus additional parts.. It has a cap on one side that has to be removed to insert a special tool that diverts the air flow upstream and downstream. Removing the cap can allow water to drain out. This limits this device to installation at or above the coil level.
It has several pieces, and it has to be opened and closed again.
Manufactured by Easy Solution Technologies and distributed at various HVAC wholesalers.
The Jones Valve and Quick Blast are closed, single piece units, while the other three are multi-pieced, which require the technician to open up the accessory to access the drain line.
Installing any of these products requires the drain line to be cut once, but then the maintenance and clearing of HVAC drain line blockages will be much easier, less messy, a lot faster, and ultimately more profitable for the industry.
Absent a leak, there should be a lot less water damage to the homes or condos.