Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are complex systems that rely on many different elements, which includes a compressor, evaporator coil, condenser coil and refrigerant to regulate your home’s temperature and humidity level. While these machines are generally sturdy 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 origins.

1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise

This is a frequent air conditioner sound you could hear on hot, humid days and is no cause for alarm. Simple condensation buildup is probably the cause of the sound. As your air conditioner operates, moisture from the inside air collects on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan beneath it. This pan was created to capture and move the condensed water a safe distance away from your home via a drain line.

Then again, if the drain becomes blocked or compromised, water can accumulate in the pan, leading to a dripping or splashing noise as freshly collected condensate drips into the pool below. If the dripping noise becomes a nuisance, identify the drain pan under the indoor portion of your air conditioner and remove the water.

Also, take AC dripping sounds as a signal that the condensate drain line is plugged and should be cleared. A float switch is supposed to automatically shut off your conditioner before the drain pan overflows and creates 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 have to correct the issue before your unit will function normally again.

2. The AC Sounds Like Water Is Running

While air conditioners produce condensate as a part of the cooling process, they do not run on or consume water. This simply means 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 take place for a few reasons, including:

  • Dirty air filter: A filter choked with dust, dirt and other particles blocks airflow. This may lead the temperature inside the evaporator coil to drop below freezing, which then freezes the condensate gathered on the coil.
  • Low refrigerant level: Chilled refrigerant absorbs heat from the indoor air as it goes through the evaporator coil. If the system is undercharged or leaking and the refrigerant level is not high enough, it loses the capacity to absorb the heat. This can allow the temperature to slide below freezing and ice to build up on the coil.
  • Dirty evaporator coil: Dust and grime may build up on a neglected evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and stopping the refrigerant inside of it from absorbing heat. When this takes place, the coil could freeze.
  • Malfunctioning thermostat: Poor temperature calibration might cause the air conditioner to run constantly, even when the indoor temperature is already at the correct degree. Constant operation can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes over.
  • Blower troubles: The blower circulates air over the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working effectively 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 crucial element of the cooling process. If a leak forms or air has become trapped in the refrigerant line, you can hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Along those same lines, your system could very well gurgle because of overcharged refrigerant. Always leave AC repair work to a professional who can verify the proper refrigerant charge.

4. The AC Makes a Hissing Noise

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

  • Refrigerant leaks: Depending on the location and extent of a refrigerant leak, it may generate more of a hissing noise than a gurgling or bubbling sound.
  • Issues with the compressor: The compressor located in the outdoor condensing unit pressurizes the refrigerant as it flows through the AC model. This component may make a hissing noise if it is defective.
  • Internal valve leak: The valve that regulates refrigerant circulation through the compressor may also leak and hiss.

Schedule Air Conditioning Services

If you hear a sound such as running water from your air conditioner, take steps to diagnose and address the cause to prevent 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 clogged drain line or a frozen evaporator coil. 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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