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johnnyboi1016 09-13-2007 01:01 PM

Freezing drain line
Hey all, wondering if any of you could help me with my issue.

I own a ground floor condo unit in a 3 story building. There is a drain line that runs from the 2 units above me, into my HVAC closet and dumps directly outside an adjacent wall. This past winter the drain line froze (icicle hanging from the pvc pipe outside) and apparently the water that was unable to drain properly seeped into the area, getting some carpet and walls wet. Mold is not of my concern right now as preventing this from happening again would be my solution to future mold.

The Condo Association recently sent out letters forcing owners to re-route the condensation lines that can freeze. Back in the winter going back and forth with the condo maintenance man he told me that unluckily my building is one of the first few that got built with this design flaw (it was fixed for the later buildings in my neighborhood) and that the only fix is to have it re-routed to the laundry drain line. This would require tearing out many walls and would be very costly. Personally I don't believe that the unit owners should be held responsible for getting this fixed as it is a design flaw due to the builders, back in 1992. I am trying to pursue this legally but it would certainly be nice if I could get this fixed fairly cheaply. (side note: any legal advice on this situation would be much appreciated)

I've been suggested using heat tape to fix the problem, but I don't know too much about it and neither did the condo maintenance guy. I'm actually going to google as much as I can about heat tape now, but if anyone's got suggestions for me I'd love to hear them. Thanks a bunch

Hube 09-14-2007 07:41 AM

What appliance is creating this "condensation"??
is this condensation from a hi-efficient heating unit?, or some other type of unit??

johnnyboi1016 09-14-2007 10:01 AM

Yes, I believe at least I have a high efficiency unit, or a 'hybrid' HVAC unit that has water heater, electric heat, A/C all in one.

I was told by my condo maintenance man that the drain line is needed for the HVAC units in the condos above me and for mine. However, last winter the few times it got backed up and flooded were right after heavy rainstorms. This led me to believe that the drain line was for the roof, or part of it.

Hube 09-15-2007 09:14 AM

The amount of condensation produced by this unit will be very minimum, especially in the winter months when no cooling operation is ever needed.
It would seem by your recent statement as if perhaps it is tied into the roofs' drainage.

Rustedbird 09-16-2007 07:59 AM

If it's the roof drain that's freezing, how can it be your problem? Seems it services the roof above your condo and the other condos above you. So seems to be a shared asset. Why are the condensation lines routed that way? Is that even legal or code? In my former condo, the lines went into the sanitary system, traps and all. Nothing inside drained into outside lines.

You might have to do the nuclear option and go legal.

glennjanie 09-16-2007 10:50 AM

Welcome Johnnyboi:
The condensation line can use a heat tape and a store near you, United Refrigeration, has the heat tape you need. It can be cut to desired length, have a terminus put on one end and a cord for plugging in on the other. It is safe for the drain line and will only use power at the point of low temperature. It would be well to check for a trap in the condensate line also because bugs are attracted to the water and will stop it up; a running trap will eleminate that problem.
It runs more when it rains because there is more moisture in the air to be removed. It can be re-routed to drain into any open receptacle; a floor drain, utility sink, before the trap under a sink, the washer drain. The only thing is, the discharge must be low enough to receive the drain with a fall incorporated. There are also condensate pumps that have a holding basin and a pump to push the water up-hill to any drain. It is connected by a simple clear plastic hose.
Your water heater has a temperature and pressure relief valve with a drain line on it. Where does that drain line go? (a possible point of drain for the condensate line)
Please post back and let us know how it works out for you.

johnnyboi1016 09-17-2007 06:56 AM

Everybody, thanks so much for your replies.

As far as I know, every unit in my condo building was built close to identical, so the HVAC closets for the 2 people living above me are directly above mine. As far as I've been told by my condo maintenance man, one drain line from the 3rd floor runs straight through slab to slab into each HVAC closet and terminates directly outside onto a little plastic runoff that disseminates the water into the soil. (right outside my patio)

From the incident the prior winter, I've already been suspicious of the Condo Association giving me excuses in order to not cough up $$$ and perhaps providing me with false information that I would not be able to verify (well, not easily). I am seriously considering a venture up on the roof to find out if this condensation drain line (supposedly ONLY for our 3 HVAC units) is connected to the roof drainage which would only make sense to me at this point. Also before assuming too much, am I correct in that roof drainage is a part of the Condo Association responsibility? The way I understood it was public/common areas and exterior (roof) is theirs and everything inside my walls is mine (which is how they're sticking it to me, arguing that the drain line runs inside and part of 'indoor plumbing' despite where it comes from).

First things first, and when I get a chance today I'll see if I can catch whoever lives on the 3rd floor directly above me and ask them if I can see where their drain line begins (slipped my mind this weekend). If it is run from above their ceiling then I feel that should be enough information to fire back at the Condo Association with. However, if that is not the case then heat tape should do it for me. I've found some kits for about $40 online that should work well. Either way, I'm greatly relieved to find a way out of the thousands of dollars the Condo Association was trying to stick me with.

You guys are great. Thanks for reading :D

johnnyboi1016 09-19-2007 02:10 PM

*** UPDATE ***

Talked to my condo maintenance man and he thinks heat tape should be a great solution... but he needs approval from the Association's mechanical engineer before giving me the final thumbs up.

Another piece of good news, he tells me that the owner above me on the 3rd floor is re-routing their drain line to the laundry. He's following up on the owner of the 2nd floor. With both of those re-routed, my drain line will no longer be loaded with 'triple its capacity' and he tells me I should be fine leaving it be, especially after throwing in another layer of protection with the heat tape. Whew! Thousands of dollars saved... almost there. I really appreciate all the information everyone on the forum gave me to help educate me on this. It helped me a lot once I actually figured things out black and white and not just take other people's words for things. That's how you get screwed out of a lot of money...

glennjanie 09-20-2007 07:48 AM

Hello Johnnyboi:
I'm happy it worked out for you; nothing compares to a happy ending.
Don't be a stranger now, let us hear from you now and then.

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