Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are sophisticated systems that rely on several elements, which includes 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 worrisome noises can be attributed to several origins.

1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise

This is a frequent air conditioner sound you could hear on hot, humid days and is no cause for alarm. Simple condensation buildup is most likely to blame. As your air conditioner operates, moisture from the interior air collects on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan beneath it. This pan is meant to catch and direct the condensed water a safe distance away from your home via a drain line.

Then again, if the drain becomes clogged 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, find the drain pan under the indoor portion of your air conditioner and empty it.

Also, take AC dripping sounds as a warning sign that the condensate drain line is blocked and should 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 not work properly. Plus, if your AC keeps turning itself off because of a full drain pan, you’ll be forced to solve the drain pan issue before your unit will function 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 use water. This means your AC should not ever sound like running water. If you hear this noise, it could indicate 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 crud restricts airflow. This may cause 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 moves through the evaporator coil. If the network is undercharged or leaky and the refrigerant level is minimal, it loses the ability to absorb the heat. This can cause the temperature to fall below freezing and ice to build up on the coil.
  • Dirty evaporator coil: Dust and grease may build up on a forgotten evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and preventing the refrigerant within it from absorbing heat. When this takes place, the coil could freeze.
  • Malfunctioning thermostat: Poor temperature calibration may cause the air conditioner to run continually, even when the indoor temperature is already at the ideal number. Constant operation can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes over.
  • Blower problems: The blower forces air over 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 ingredient in the cooling process. If a leak forms or air comes to be caught in the refrigerant line, you might hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Additionally, your system could very well gurgle due to overcharged refrigerant. Always leave AC repair work to a professional who can verify the right refrigerant charge.

4. The AC Makes a Hissing Noise

A hissing noise from your air conditioner could signify one of these issues:

  • Refrigerant leaks: Depending on the location and seriousness of a refrigerant leak, it may generate more of a hissing noise than a gurgling or bubbling sound.
  • Problem with the compressor: The compressor located in the outside condensing unit pressurizes the refrigerant as it passes through the system. This element may make a hissing noise if it becomes defective.
  • Internal valve leak: The valve that controls refrigerant circulation throughout 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 additional damage. Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can diagnose 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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