Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are sophisticated systems that rely on many different components, 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 unusual for AC units to make strange sounds, which may indicate that something is awry. One of these sounds is dripping, gurgling, bubbling or running water. These distressing noises can be linked to several sources.

1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise

This is an often reported air conditioner sound you may hear on hot, humid days and is no reason you should be alarmed. Simple condensation buildup is probably the culprit. As your air conditioner functions, moisture from the indoor air collects on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan beneath it. This pan is designed to catch and move the condensed water clear of your home via a drain line.

Although, 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 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 signal 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 break. Plus, if your AC keeps turning itself off because of a full drain pan, you’ll have to solve the issue before your unit will function normally again.

2. The AC Sounds Like Water Is Running

While air conditioners create condensate as a part of the cooling process, they do not run on or utilize 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 choked with dust, dirt and other crud blocks airflow. This may lead the temperature inside the evaporator coil to drop below freezing, which then freezes the condensate accumulated on the coil.
  • Low refrigerant level: Chilled refrigerant absorbs heat from the indoor air as it passes through the evaporator coil. If the system is undercharged or leaky and the refrigerant level is low, it loses the capability to absorb the heat. This can cause 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 takes place, the coil may freeze.
  • Failing thermostat: Poor temperature calibration might cause the air conditioner to run continuously, even when the indoor temperature is already at the correct number. Constant operation can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes completely.
  • Blower problems: The blower forces air over the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working effectively or running at a low speed, the lack of sufficient airflow may freeze the evaporator coil.

3. The AC Makes a Gurgling or Bubbling Sound

Refrigerant is a crucial component of the cooling process. If a leak forms or air comes to be trapped in the refrigerant line, you can hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Similarly, your system may gurgle due to overcharged refrigerant. Always leave AC repair work to a professional who can make sure 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 location and extent 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 air conditioner. This component may make a hissing noise if it is defective.
  • Internal valve leak: The valve that manages refrigerant circulation 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 avoid more 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. 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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