Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are complicated 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 attributed to several causes.

1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise

This is an often reported air conditioner sound you could hear on hot, humid days and is no cause for alarm. Simple condensation buildup is likely the cause of the sound. As your air conditioner performs, moisture from the indoor air gathers on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan beneath. This pan is meant to capture and direct the condensed water away from your home via a drain line.

Although, if the drain becomes plugged 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 an annoyance, 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 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 break. Plus, if your AC keeps turning itself off because of a full drain pan, you’ll be forced to solve the problem before your unit will operate 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 shouldn’t sound like running water. If you hear this water noise, it may be because 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 blocks airflow. This may make the temperature inside the evaporator coil to fall below freezing, which then freezes the condensate accumulated on the coil.
  • Low refrigerant level: Chilled refrigerant absorbs heat from the indoor air as it passes through the evaporator coil. If the system is undercharged or seeping out and the refrigerant level is minimal, it loses the capability to absorb the heat. This can cause the temperature to drop below freezing and ice to form on the coil.
  • Dirty evaporator coil: Dust and dirt may coat a neglected evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and preventing the refrigerant inside of it from absorbing heat. When this takes place, the coil may freeze.
  • Broken thermostat: Poor temperature calibration might cause the air conditioner to run constantly, even when the indoor temperature is already at the desired level. Constant operation can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes completely.
  • Blower troubles: The blower forces air across 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 crucial part of the cooling process. If a leak has developed or air comes to be trapped in the refrigerant line, you may hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Similarly, your system may gurgle as a result 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 malfunctions:

  • Refrigerant leaks: Depending on the location and extent 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 flows through the air conditioner. This element may make a hissing noise if it becomes faulty.
  • Internal valve leak: The valve that manages refrigerant movement through 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 diagnose and address the cause to stop further damage. Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can diagnose and repair any malfunction 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. 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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