Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are sophisticated 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 usually robust and reliable, it’s not unusual for AC units to make strange sounds, which may indicate that something is wrong. One example of a sound is dripping, gurgling, bubbling or running water. These worrisome noises can be attributed to several causes.

1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise

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

Then again, if the drain becomes plugged or broken, water can accumulate in the pan, resulting in a dripping or splashing noise as freshly collected condensate drips into the pool underneath. If the dripping noise becomes too irritating, find the drain pan under the indoor portion of your air conditioner and remove the water.

Also, take AC dripping sounds as a indication that the condensate drain line is plugged and needs to be cleared. A float switch should automatically shut off your conditioner before the drain pan overflows and causes water damage, but the float switch could always fail. Plus, if your AC keeps turning itself off because of a full drain pan, you’ll be forced to correct the problem before your unit will operate normally again.

2. The AC Sounds Like Water Is Running

While air conditioners make condensate during the cooling process, they do not run on or consume water. What this means is your AC should not ever sound like running water. If you hear this noise, it may be because the evaporator coil has frozen over and is now thawing and dripping water onto the ground.

This can happen for a few reasons, including:

  • Dirty air filter: A filter clogged with dust, dirt and other debris limits airflow. This may cause the temperature inside the evaporator coil to fall below freezing, which then freezes the condensate collected on the coil.
  • Low refrigerant level: Chilled refrigerant absorbs heat from the indoor air as it passes through the evaporator coil. If the air conditioner is undercharged or leaky and the refrigerant level is low, it loses the ability to absorb the heat. This can cause the temperature to fall below freezing and ice to develop on the coil.
  • Dirty evaporator coil: Dust and grease may build up on a neglected evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and blocking the refrigerant inside it from absorbing heat. When this takes place, the coil may freeze.
  • Malfunctioning thermostat: Poor temperature calibration might cause the air conditioner to run continuously, even when the indoor temperature is already at the ideal level. Continuously running an air conditioner can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes over.
  • Blower troubles: The blower circulates air through the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working correctly or running at a low speed, the lack of sufficient airflow could freeze the evaporator coil.

3. The AC Makes a Gurgling or Bubbling Sound

Refrigerant is a vital part of the cooling process. If a leak has developed or air comes to be stuck in the refrigerant line, you might hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Additionally, your system could very well gurgle due to overcharged refrigerant. Always leave AC repairs to a professional who can make sure the correct refrigerant charge.

4. The AC Makes a Hissing Noise

A hissing noise from your air conditioner could be the result of one of these issues:

  • Refrigerant leaks: Depending on the location and seriousness of a refrigerant leak, it may produce 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 passes through the air conditioner. This component may make a hissing noise if it becomes faulty.
  • 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 like running water from your air conditioner, take steps to identify and address the cause to stop further damage. Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can detect and fix any issue causing your AC to sound like running water, whether that’s condensation buildup, a refrigerant leak, a stopped up drain line or a frozen evaporator coil. Every single AC repair comes with a one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee! To learn more or schedule a repair estimate, please contact Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing.

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