Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are complex systems that rely on many different components, including a compressor, evaporator coil, condenser coil and refrigerant to regulate your home’s temperature and humidity level. While these machines are generally strong and reliable, it’s not unheard of for AC units to make strange sounds, which may indicate that something is wrong. One of these sounds is dripping, gurgling, bubbling or running water. These worrisome noises can be attributed to several sources.

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 reason you should be alarmed. Simple condensation buildup is most likely the cause of the sound. As your air conditioner performs, moisture from the inside air accumulates on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan underneath. This pan was created 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 compromised, water can accumulate in the pan, producing a dripping or splashing noise as freshly collected condensate drips into the pool underneath. If the dripping noise becomes too irritating, identify the drain pan under the indoor portion of your air conditioner and clear it.

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 creates 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 fix the issue before your unit will function 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. 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 develop for a few reasons, including:

  • Dirty air filter: A filter clogged with dust, dirt and other crud limits airflow. This may make 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 goes through the evaporator coil. If the network is undercharged or leaking and the refrigerant level is minimal, it loses the capacity to absorb the heat. This can cause the temperature to fall below freezing and ice to develop on the coil.
  • Dirty evaporator coil: Dust and grease may coat an ignored evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and blocking the refrigerant inside from absorbing heat. When this happens, the coil might freeze.
  • Broken thermostat: Poor temperature calibration could 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 up.
  • Blower issues: The blower circulates air across the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working correctly 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 element of the cooling process. If a leak has developed or air comes to be caught in the refrigerant line, you can hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Along those same lines, your system may gurgle due to overcharged refrigerant. Always leave AC service 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 indicate one of these issues:

  • Refrigerant leaks: Depending on the place and extent of a refrigerant leak, it may create 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 passes through the AC model. This element may make a hissing noise if it becomes faulty.
  • 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 similar to running water from your air conditioner, take steps to diagnose and address the cause to prevent additional damage. Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can diagnose 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. Every single 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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