Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are complicated systems that rely on several parts, including a compressor, evaporator coil, condenser coil and refrigerant to regulate your home’s temperature and humidity level. While these machines are generally robust and reliable, it’s not unheard of for AC units to make strange sounds, which may indicate that something is amiss. One example of a sound is dripping, gurgling, bubbling or running water. These worrying noises can be attributed to several causes.

1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise

This is an often reported air conditioner sound you might 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 indoor air gathers on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan beneath it. This pan is meant to capture and direct the condensed water a safe distance away from 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 remove the water.

Also, take AC dripping sounds as a warning sign that the condensate drain line is blocked 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 correct the issue before your unit will run 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 consume water. This means your AC should not ever sound like running water. If you hear this sound, it could 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 choked with dust, dirt and other particles restricts airflow. This may make the temperature inside the evaporator coil to fall 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 system 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 form on the coil.
  • Dirty evaporator coil: Dust and dirt may build up on an ignored evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and stopping the refrigerant inside from absorbing heat. When this happens, the coil could freeze.
  • Malfunctioning thermostat: Poor temperature calibration may cause the air conditioner to run constantly, even when the indoor temperature is already at the ideal level. Constant operation can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes over.
  • Blower troubles: The blower circulates air across the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working right or operating at a low speed, the lack of airflow could freeze the evaporator coil.

3. The AC Makes a Gurgling or Bubbling Sound

Refrigerant is a critical component of the cooling process. If a leak has formed or air has become trapped in the refrigerant line, you may hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Additionally, your system could possibly gurgle because of overcharged refrigerant. Always leave AC repair work to a professional who can make sure the proper 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 place and seriousness 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 moves through the AC model. This element may make a hissing noise if it gets faulty.
  • 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 such as running water from your air conditioner, take steps to identify and address the cause to avoid additional damage. Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can identify and repair 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. 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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