General Question

snowberry's avatar

What is an eco-friendly way to maintain my air conditioner?

Asked by snowberry (21289points) August 14th, 2014

Our air conditioner constantly drips water outside the house, which has caused a small eco-system to form in the puddle. Tiny little frogs live there which chirp all night long. We love it!

But our AC repair guy says we must pour a cup of bleach in the AC drain every few months to prevent scum build-up. If I do pour bleach down that hole, it will drain right outside the house into our new froggy paradise.

One idea I have is to go ahead and pour the bleach down there, but then pour a lot of water after it, and collect it all before it has a chance to kill our frogs, but how much water do I need to use to make it safe again, and how do I know when it’s running clean?

Is there a non-toxic alternative to the bleach?

It’s a combination furnace and AC unit by Goodman Manufacturing Company. Model # ARUF42C14AD I’m not sure if you need more information.

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17 Answers

trailsillustrated's avatar

That sounds like swamp cooler. You don’t generally bleach the till seasons end. What you do is you pull the matting out, bleach it scrub it and dry it, flush aircon, replace matting turn off system and put cover on, That way you can leave the frogs till end of summer.

snowberry's avatar

Nope. It’s an Air Conditioner. Air conditioners remove water from the air in the process of cooling it, and all this happens inside the house. The pipes that drain the water outside need to be cleaned with bleach according to the repair man. Thus my question.

snowberry's avatar

I’ll add that I’ve lived in many air conditioned houses, and I’ve never heard of doing such a thing.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Is there a way to pour the bleach through it and collect the condensate water-bleach mix in a 5 gallon bucket for a day?
To make up for the environment’s water loss you can spray your froggy friends with the hose for a day.

trailsillustrated's avatar

Sorry I’m Australian. Swamp coolers are a very common type of AIR CONDITIONER here . Anything involving bleach I just thought yeah. Sorry

trailsillustrated's avatar

And I have lived in the US and have never heard of bleaching an aircon there hence my confusion.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Water is a by product of the AC working properly. Your question is really about what to do with the water.

Rather than letting the water just pool (which may be good for frogs, but is also a wonderful breeding ground for mosquitos), I would try and dig a channel to let the water drain (and evaporate) more readily. That would be a more ecologically and epidemiologically responsible thing to do.

Then, on the occasions that you bleach, put a pail under the drainspout and catch it.

I agree with the others, however – I have had AC equipment for 40 years and have never heard of a requirement to bleach the hose.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

That is so amazing that you’re that considerate of the environment and other creatures. I love nature. Could you use Clean Shower in it. It’s a nontoxic shower spray. I don’t know if it would do it, just a random thought.

rojo's avatar

@elbanditoroso Shouldn’t the frogs take care of any mosquitoes and larvae in the pond?

I have never bleached any of mine. Once a year I put in a cattle ear tag to help keep the ants out of the unit however.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@rojo – don’t know – I’m not an amphibian expert at all. My gut feel is that I wouldn’t count on it.

snowberry's avatar

Yes, I’ve tried to find a way for the water to drain away. I’d have to dig a trench under the fence which would require my neighbor’s cooperation. He doesn’t want the water draining onto his property, and there’s no place else for it to go. I was concerned about mosquitoes breeding, but everywhere someone has an air conditioner there’s a similar puddle and the accompanying breeding ground (this means every house, almost every building). This particular puddle has what sounds like at least 2 “spring peepers” in it. If anything will keep down the mosquitoes they should. They usually only sing during/after a rain, but ours sing every night because of the puddle. In our opinion it’s one of the best things about the house.

Stinley's avatar

Could you use an eco-friendly cleaner instead of bleach? You might need to clean out the pipe with some kind of rodding device as well but that would save the wildlife. Or as others suggested, set up a bowl to catch the bleach, add the bleach, leave it to work, rinse well, then dispose of the bleachy water elsewhere.

snowberry's avatar

@Stinley Right. Question is how much water do I pour after the bleach (or whatever) and how do I know when all that chemical has cleared the lines? Frogs are fairly sensitive to chemicals, and I’d hate for a sudden change in pH or chemical residue to harm my little friends.

Stinley's avatar

Received wisdom (ie the interwebz) is rinse until you can’t smell the bleach. I clean my caravan water taps and pipes and I will rinse until I can’t smell the cleaning stuff which does have a bleachy smell

I really wouldn’t use bleach though. You need to clean the pipe of gunk build up, not sanitise it since within a day or two, the germs and whatnot will be back anyway. Just clean it with a bathroom cleaner or a baby bottle cleaner and make sure you catch all the cleaner and the rinse water. It’s not worth the risk to the froggies.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Frogs are incredibly sensitive. They’re considered bio-indicators because they’re so sensitive to pollution in the environment. I think if any of that water and bleach, even a tiny amount, gets to them or into their environment it will harm them. I tend to agree with Stinley. I’d try to find another method of cleaning the air conditioner. I’ve never used bleach to clean my air conditioner. What about calling your local zoo to see if they have any ideas? I’d also double check that you do need to clean the air conditioner in that way. Perhaps try calling the manufacturer?

snowberry's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit Excellent suggestion. I’ll try that and let you know.

I still think it extremely odd that in all the years I’ve lived in air conditioned homes, I’ve never been instructed to do this. Maybe the AC repairmen always did it as part of the maintenance and I never knew.

RocketGuy's avatar

Go with @LuckyGuy ‘s answer. It is simplest and easiest.

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