Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are sophisticated systems that rely on various elements, including a compressor, evaporator coil, condenser coil and refrigerant to regulate your home’s temperature and humidity level. While these machines are typically sturdy and reliable, it’s not uncommon for AC units to make strange sounds, which may indicate that something is awry. One example of a sound is dripping, gurgling, bubbling or running water. These distressing noises can be linked to several sources.

1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise

This is a common air conditioner sound you might hear on hot, humid days and is no reason for alarm. Simple condensation buildup is probably the cause of the sound. As your air conditioner operates, moisture from the interior air accumulates on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan underneath. This pan is meant to collect and funnel the condensed water clear of your home via a drain line.

However, if the drain becomes blocked or damaged, water can accumulate in the pan, producing a dripping or splashing noise as freshly collected condensate drips into the pool below. If the dripping noise becomes too irritating, find 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 clogged and must be cleared. A float switch is supposed to 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 fix the drain pan issue before your unit will function 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 utilize water. This simply means your AC should never sound like running water. If you hear this noise, it might 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 plugged with dust, dirt and other debris blocks airflow. This may lead 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 goes through the evaporator coil. If the network is undercharged or leaky and the refrigerant level is minimal, 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 grime may build up on a forgotten evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and stopping the refrigerant inside of 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 number. Continuously running an air conditioner can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes up.
  • Blower troubles: The blower moves air across the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working effectively or operating 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 ingredient in the cooling process. If a leak has developed or air has become stuck in the refrigerant line, you can hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Similarly, your system could possibly gurgle as a result of overcharged refrigerant. Always leave AC service work 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 indicate one of these problems:

  • 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.
  • An issue with with the compressor: The compressor located in the exterior condensing unit pressurizes the refrigerant as it moves through the air conditioner. This component may make a hissing noise if it becomes faulty.
  • Internal valve leak: The valve that regulates refrigerant movement within 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 avoid further damage. Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can identify and service any malfunction causing your AC to sound like running water, whether that’s condensation buildup, a refrigerant leak, a clogged drain line or a frozen evaporator coil. Every single 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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