Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are sophisticated systems that rely on numerous parts, such as 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 amiss. One of these sounds is dripping, gurgling, bubbling or running water. These worrisome noises can be traced back to several origins.

1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise

This is a common air conditioner sound you might hear on hot, humid days and is no reason you should be alarmed. Simple condensation buildup is most likely to blame. As your air conditioner performs, moisture from the interior air accumulates on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan underneath. This pan was created to capture and direct the condensed water clear of your home via a drain line.

However, if the drain becomes plugged or broken, water can accumulate in the pan, resulting in a dripping or splashing noise as freshly collected condensate drips into the pool down 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 is supposed to automatically shut off your conditioner before the drain pan overflows and produces 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 problem before your unit will run normally again.

2. The AC Sounds Like Water Is Running

While air conditioners create condensate as a component of the cooling process, they do not run on or consume water. This means your AC should never sound like running water. If you hear this water noise, it could be because the evaporator coil has frozen over and is now thawing and dripping water onto the ground.

This can happen for a few reasons, including:

  • Dirty air filter: A filter choked with dust, dirt and other particles limits airflow. This may lead the temperature inside the evaporator coil to get below freezing, which then freezes the condensate accumulated 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 ability to absorb the heat. This can make the temperature to drop below freezing and ice to build up on the coil.
  • Dirty evaporator coil: Dust and grime may coat a neglected evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and preventing the refrigerant inside of it from absorbing heat. When this occurs, 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 level. Continuously running an air conditioner can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes completely.
  • Blower problems: The blower moves air across the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working right or operating 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 vital element of the cooling process. If a leak forms or air comes to be stuck in the refrigerant line, you might hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Similarly, your system could possibly gurgle due to overcharged refrigerant. Always leave AC repairs to a professional who can ensure the right refrigerant charge.

4. The AC Makes a Hissing Noise

A hissing noise from your air conditioner could indicate one of these malfunctions:

  • Refrigerant leaks: Depending on the place 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 outdoor 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 movement within 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 stop further damage. Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can diagnose and service 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. 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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