Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are complex systems that rely on many different 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 robust 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 traced back to several causes.

1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise

This is a common air conditioner sound you may hear on hot, humid days and is no cause for alarm. Simple condensation buildup is most likely to blame. As your air conditioner functions, moisture from the inside air gathers on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan beneath it. This pan was created to collect and move the condensed water away from your home via a drain line.

Although, if the drain becomes blocked or compromised, water can accumulate in the pan, leading to a dripping or splashing noise as freshly collected condensate drips into the pool down below. If the dripping noise becomes a nuisance, find 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 should be cleared. A float switch should automatically shut off your conditioner before the drain pan overflows and causes water damage, but the float switch could always fail. Plus, if your AC keeps turning itself off because of a full drain pan, you’ll need 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 component of the cooling process, they do not run on or utilize water. This means your AC shouldn’t sound like running water. If you hear this water noise, it could mean 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 blocks airflow. This may lead 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 air conditioner is undercharged or leaky and the refrigerant level is not high enough, it loses the capability to absorb the heat. This can make the temperature to slide below freezing and ice to develop on the coil.
    • Dirty evaporator coil: Dust and grease may accumulate on a forgotten evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and blocking the refrigerant inside from absorbing heat. When this happens, the coil could 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. Continuously running an air conditioner can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes completely.
    • Blower troubles: The blower circulates air across the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working effectively 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 has formed or air has become caught in the refrigerant line, you might hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Along those same lines, 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 site and severity of a refrigerant leak, it may create 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 passes through the AC model. This part of the system may make a hissing noise if it becomes faulty.
    • Internal valve leak: The valve that controls refrigerant movement through 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 determine and address the cause to stop further 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. Every AC repair comes with a one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee! To learn more or request a repair estimate, please contact Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing.

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