Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are sophisticated systems that rely on various parts, including a compressor, evaporator coil, condenser coil and refrigerant to regulate your home’s temperature and humidity level. While these machines are typically robust 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 worrisome noises can be attributed to several origins.

1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise

This is a common air conditioner sound you may hear on hot, humid days and is no cause for alarm. Simple condensation buildup is probably the culprit. As your air conditioner functions, moisture from the inside air accumulates on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan beneath. This pan was created 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, resulting in a dripping or splashing noise as freshly collected condensate drips into the pool underneath. If the dripping noise becomes an annoyance, find 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 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 fail. Plus, if your AC keeps turning itself off because of a full drain pan, you’ll need to correct the issue 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 utilize water. This means your AC should not ever sound like running water. If you hear this water 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 plugged with dust, dirt and other debris restricts airflow. This may cause the temperature inside the evaporator coil to fall below freezing, which then freezes the condensate gathered 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 leaking and the refrigerant level is low, it loses the capacity to absorb the heat. This can allow 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 happens, the coil might freeze.
  • Malfunctioning thermostat: Poor temperature calibration could cause the air conditioner to run constantly, even when the indoor temperature is already at the correct number. Constant operation can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes completely.
  • Blower problems: The blower moves air through the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working correctly or performing at a low speed, the lack of airflow may freeze the evaporator coil.

3. The AC Makes a Gurgling or Bubbling Sound

Refrigerant is a critical ingredient in the cooling process. If a leak forms or air comes to be stuck in the refrigerant line, you may hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Additionally, your system may gurgle due to 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 indicate one of these problems:

  • Refrigerant leaks: Depending on the location and severity 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 exterior condensing unit pressurizes the refrigerant as it moves through the system. This part of the system may make a hissing noise if it gets defective.
  • Internal valve leak: The valve that controls refrigerant circulation through 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 diagnose and address the cause to avoid more damage. Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can detect and fix any concern 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. 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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