Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are complex systems that rely on several 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 uncommon 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 worrisome noises can be traced back to several causes.

1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise

This is a common air conditioner sound you may hear on hot, humid days and is no reason for alarm. Simple condensation buildup is likely to blame. As your air conditioner operates, moisture from the interior air gathers on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan beneath. This pan is meant to capture and move the condensed water clear of your home via a drain line.

However, if the drain becomes blocked or broken, 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 empty it.

Also, take AC dripping sounds as a warning sign that the condensate drain line is plugged and must 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 have to fix the problem before your unit will run normally again.

2. The AC Sounds Like Water Is Running

While air conditioners make condensate as a part 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 sound, it may be because 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 plugged with dust, dirt and other particles restricts airflow. This may lead the temperature inside the evaporator coil to drop 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 air conditioner is undercharged or seeping out and the refrigerant level is not high enough, it loses the capability to absorb the heat. This can make the temperature to fall below freezing and ice to form on the coil.
  • Dirty evaporator coil: Dust and grease may build up on a forgotten evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and preventing the refrigerant inside of it from absorbing heat. When this takes place, the coil could freeze.
  • Broken thermostat: Poor temperature calibration may cause the air conditioner to run continuously, even when the indoor temperature is already at the correct number. Constant running of an AC unit can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes completely.
  • Blower issues: The blower circulates air through the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working right or operating 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 has developed or air has become caught in the refrigerant line, you can hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Similarly, your system could very well gurgle because 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 signify one of these issues:

  • Refrigerant leaks: Depending on the place and severity 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 outside condensing unit pressurizes the refrigerant as it flows through the system. This part of the system may make a hissing noise if it gets defective.
  • 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 prevent further damage. Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can detect and repair any concern 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 request a repair estimate, please contact Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing.

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