Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are complex systems that rely on numerous parts, such as a compressor, evaporator coil, condenser coil and refrigerant to regulate your home’s temperature and humidity level. While these machines are usually sturdy and reliable, it’s not unheard of 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 worrying noises can be attributed to several origins.

1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise

This is an often reported 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 operates, moisture from the inside air gathers on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan beneath. This pan is designed to capture and move the condensed water away from your home via a drain line.

Although, if the drain becomes plugged or compromised, 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 too irritating, identify the drain pan under the indoor portion of your air conditioner and empty it.

Also, take AC dripping sounds as a warning sign that the condensate drain line is blocked and should 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 not work properly. Plus, if your AC keeps turning itself off because of a full drain pan, you’ll be forced to solve the drain pan issue before your unit will run normally again.

2. The AC Sounds Like Water Is Running

While air conditioners create condensate as a part of the cooling process, they do not run on or utilize water. This means your AC should never sound like running water. If you hear this noise, it may indicate the evaporator coil has frozen over and is now thawing and dripping water onto the ground.

This can take place for a few reasons, including:

    • Dirty air filter: A filter plugged with dust, dirt and other debris blocks airflow. This may cause the temperature inside the evaporator coil to get 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 system is undercharged or leaking and the refrigerant level is minimal, it loses the capacity to absorb the heat. This can make the temperature to drop below freezing and ice to form on the coil.
    • Dirty evaporator coil: Dust and grease may coat a neglected evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and blocking the refrigerant within it from absorbing heat. When this happens, the coil could freeze.
    • Broken thermostat: Poor temperature calibration might cause the air conditioner to run constantly, even when the indoor temperature is already at the ideal level. Constant running of an AC unit can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes over.
    • Blower problems: The blower circulates air over the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working right or running at a low speed, the low level of airflow could freeze the evaporator coil.

3. The AC Makes a Gurgling or Bubbling Sound

Refrigerant is a vital component of the cooling process. If a leak forms or air gets trapped in the refrigerant line, you may hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Along those same lines, your system may gurgle because of overcharged refrigerant. Always leave AC repairs to a professional who can ensure the correct refrigerant charge.

4. The AC Makes a Hissing Noise

A hissing noise from your air conditioner could signify one of these problems:

    • Refrigerant leaks: Depending on the location and severity of a refrigerant leak, it may create more of a hissing noise than a gurgling or bubbling sound.
    • An issue with with the compressor: The compressor located in the exterior condensing unit pressurizes the refrigerant as it flows through the air conditioner. This element may make a hissing noise if it becomes faulty.
    • Internal valve leak: The valve that regulates refrigerant movement through 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 more damage. Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can identify and fix 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 schedule a repair estimate, please contact Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing.

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