Multiple A/C issues arising at the same time

This refers to a central a/c unit. It’s been a hot week in NJ recently, but it’s not like the first time the a/c was running either. Here’s what has happened just in the past week.

Monday: whole system conked. HVAC repair guy came down, replaced capacitator, and the system went back on.

Tuesday: system went off at around the same time there was a blackout in the area. After power was restored, it did not go back on. Found the lower drain pan (on the floor, under the entire system) full of water. Apparently turned off via overflow sensor/shut-off switch. Sucked it out with a shop-vac and it went back on. By next morning (Wednesday), it was almost full again - apparently the condensate pump is not working. Replaced that pump.

The pump is clearly working, but there is still water leaking out somewhere. This morning (2 days from the last time it was emptied) the lower pan was full again, and needed another vacuuming. I can see water dripping out of the system, though some is also going into the pump and being pumped out. There’s a seam about chest high between an a/c panel and (what I believe to be) furnace components below. There’s a layer of silicone caulk sealing it at the bottom edge, but there’s one hole in this silicone layer, and water is bubbling out through this hole. Significance of which is not the water from that hole itself, but that it appears that there’s some leak somewhere behind that panel, possibly the upper drain pan.

I’m thinking of taking off the panel on Sunday and taking a look. But I’m also puzzled by what seem to be a bunch of unrelated issues arising at the same time. FWIW, this is a pretty old system as a/c systems go (24 YO), so it doesn’t surprise me if things go in the same season, but all at the exact same time seems unusual, and I wonder if there’s some underlying issue which could cause all of this.

I just had my condo’s 33 year old system pass beyond the rim–get your wallet ready, at 24 you are on borrowed time.

The replacement cost will be $6800, and I’ll get a 1K rebate.

If you plan on staying there get a home Warranty , First American is a good one.

I spoke to my HVAC guy and he suggested two possibilities. If it’s the interior drain pan then it’s big trouble because it’s too difficult to work with a system that old, and would involve replacing the coils etc. and basically sounded like thousands of dollars. But he suggested it could be a block in the drain line somewhere, and he suggested removing the pump and trying to flush the line somehow.

What I did was I managed to hook up a shop-vac to the end of the drain line and ran the system for about 15 minutes with the shop-vac on. The water than came out was cloudy and a couple of small pieces of gunk in it, and after all that the problem is almost all gone. There’s a little bit of a drip, but it ran overnight and the pan was damp in a couple of places but that’s it.

Question is what now. I have a feeling that right now there’s enough space for almost all the water to drain out, but the pipes are not all that clean and if there’s a little bit dripping out now that amount will only increase. So the question is if there’s a better way to do this.

Looking around online, I see a lot of recommendations to flush the drain line with vinegar (or possibly bleach). Problem is that all these recommendations involve accessing the drain line at a point close to the a/c via an access hole. But this system does not appear to have one. I’m wondering if there’s some other way of accessing it. Also, whether it makes sense for me to create my own access hole. That would involve cutting out a section of pipe and installing a T-shaped replacement section, with cap. The risks of this are 1) that I might mess this up, and 2) maybe there’s some reason this was done without an access hole to begin with.

If you can get at the drain pan, and it sounds like you can, if you were able to vacuum it out with a shop vac, just pour the vinegar into it and it will drain out, and hopefully clean out the slime or whatever’s been clogging the drain line. You say there’s a little bit of a drip - from what?

As for the capacitor, those things just like to die almost randomly, and I’ve been told by AC techs that there’s been a bunch of substandard or even counterfeit capacitors on the open market for a few years. They are a bit sensitive to heat, so they tend to fail on the really hot days when you’ve got the AC running.

I can’t pour vinegar into it. I can only access it from the bottom. It ends off with a vertical pipe open at the bottom and draining into the pump. When I took off the pump I could attach a shop-vac to that open pipe and add some suction to the water draining. But I can’t pour anything in from there.

[ETA: the little bit of a drip has entirely stopped, so right now I’m good. But I have a feeling that there’s just enough clean space in that pipe for things to work, but as soon as some more gunk gathers, there will be trouble again. So I’m motivated to make a more permanent fix.]