Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are complicated systems that rely on many different parts, which includes a compressor, evaporator coil, condenser coil and refrigerant to regulate your home’s temperature and humidity level. While these machines are typically strong and reliable, it’s not unusual for AC units to make strange sounds, which may indicate that something is awry. One such sound is dripping, gurgling, bubbling or running water. These distressing noises can be traced back to several causes.

1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise

This is an often reported air conditioner sound you could hear on hot, humid days and is no cause for alarm. Simple condensation buildup is most likely to blame. As your air conditioner functions, moisture from the interior air accumulates on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan beneath it. This pan is meant to collect and move the condensed water a safe distance away from your home via a drain line.

Although, if the drain becomes blocked or broken, water can accumulate in the pan, leading to a dripping or splashing noise as freshly collected condensate drips into the pool underneath. If the dripping noise becomes an annoyance, locate the drain pan under the indoor portion of your air conditioner and clear it.

Also, take AC dripping sounds as a signal that the condensate drain line is plugged and must be cleared. A float switch ought to automatically shut off your conditioner before the drain pan overflows and creates water damage, but the float switch could always break. Plus, if your AC keeps turning itself off because of a full drain pan, you’ll be forced to solve the problem before your unit will run normally again.

2. The AC Sounds Like Water Is Running

While air conditioners make condensate as a component of the cooling process, they do not run on or use water. What this means is your AC should never sound like running water. If you hear this noise, it might mean the evaporator coil has frozen over and is now thawing and dripping water onto the ground.

This can develop for a few reasons, including:

    • Dirty air filter: A filter clogged with dust, dirt and other crud restricts airflow. This may make the temperature inside the evaporator coil to fall below freezing, which then freezes the condensate accumulated on the coil.
    • Low refrigerant level: Chilled refrigerant absorbs heat from the indoor air as it moves through the evaporator coil. If the system is undercharged or seeping out and the refrigerant level is not high enough, it loses the capacity to absorb the heat. This can allow the temperature to fall below freezing and ice to form on the coil.
    • Dirty evaporator coil: Dust and dirt may build up on a neglected evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and preventing the refrigerant inside it from absorbing heat. When this takes place, the coil might freeze.
    • Broken thermostat: Poor temperature calibration could cause the air conditioner to run continually, even when the indoor temperature is already at the correct level. Constant running of an AC unit can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes completely.
    • Blower issues: The blower moves air across the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working correctly or performing at a low speed, the low level of airflow may freeze the evaporator coil.

3. The AC Makes a Gurgling or Bubbling Sound

Refrigerant is a crucial component of the cooling process. If a leak has formed or air gets stuck in the refrigerant line, you may hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Along those same lines, your system could possibly gurgle because of overcharged refrigerant. Always leave AC service work to a professional who can verify the right refrigerant charge.

4. The AC Makes a Hissing Noise

A hissing noise from your air conditioner could indicate one of these malfunctions:

    • Refrigerant leaks: Depending on the site and extent of a refrigerant leak, it may create more of a hissing noise than a gurgling or bubbling sound.
    • Problem with the compressor: The compressor located in the outdoor condensing unit pressurizes the refrigerant as it flows through the air conditioner. This element may make a hissing noise if it gets damaged.
    • Internal valve leak: The valve that regulates refrigerant movement throughout the compressor may also leak and hiss.

Schedule Air Conditioning Services

If you hear a sound similar to running water from your air conditioner, take steps to determine and address the cause to stop further damage. Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can detect and repair any issue causing your AC to sound like running water, whether that’s condensation buildup, a refrigerant leak, a plugged drain line or a frozen evaporator coil. Each and every AC repair comes with a one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee! To learn more or set up a repair estimate, please contact Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing.

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