Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are complex systems that rely on various components, such as 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 uncommon for AC units to make strange sounds, which may indicate that something is amiss. One such sound is dripping, gurgling, bubbling or running water. These worrying 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 reason for alarm. Simple condensation buildup is probably the cause of the sound. As your air conditioner functions, moisture from the indoor air accumulates on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan beneath. This pan was created to capture and move the condensed water a safe distance away from your home via a drain line.

Then again, 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 an annoyance, identify the drain pan under the indoor portion of your air conditioner and clear it.

Also, take AC dripping sounds as a indication that the condensate drain line is plugged and needs to 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 need to correct the issue before your unit will function 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 should not ever 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 develop for a few reasons, including:

    • Dirty air filter: A filter choked with dust, dirt and other particles restricts airflow. This may lead the temperature inside the evaporator coil to drop below freezing, which then freezes the condensate gathered on the coil.
    • Low refrigerant level: Chilled refrigerant absorbs heat from the indoor air as it moves through the evaporator coil. If the system is undercharged or leaky and the refrigerant level is low, it loses the ability to absorb the heat. This can cause the temperature to drop below freezing and ice to build up on the coil.
    • Dirty evaporator coil: Dust and grime may coat an ignored evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and blocking the refrigerant within it from absorbing heat. When this happens, the coil may possibly freeze.
    • Broken thermostat: Poor temperature calibration may cause the air conditioner to run continually, even when the indoor temperature is already at the correct degree. Continuously running an air conditioner can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes over.
    • Blower issues: The blower forces air across the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working effectively or performing at a low speed, the low level of airflow could freeze the evaporator coil.

3. The AC Makes a Gurgling or Bubbling Sound

Refrigerant is a vital component of the cooling process. If a leak has developed or air gets stuck in the refrigerant line, you may hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Similarly, your system could possibly gurgle because of overcharged refrigerant. Always leave AC repairs 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 be the result of one of these problems:

    • Refrigerant leaks: Depending on the location and severity of a refrigerant leak, it may create more of a hissing noise than a gurgling or bubbling sound.
    • An issue with with the compressor: The compressor located in the outside condensing unit pressurizes the refrigerant as it moves through the air conditioner. This element may make a hissing noise if it becomes damaged.
    • Internal valve leak: The valve that controls refrigerant movement 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 identify and address the cause to stop additional damage. Mid-State Air Conditioning, Heating & 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 request a repair estimate, please contact Mid-State Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing.

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