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Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are complicated systems that rely on various parts, 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 amiss. One such sound is dripping, gurgling, bubbling or running water. These worrisome noises can be linked to several sources.

1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise

This is an often reported air conditioner sound you could hear on hot, humid days and is no reason you should be alarmed. Simple condensation buildup is most likely to blame. As your air conditioner operates, moisture from the interior air accumulates on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan beneath. This pan was created to collect and move the condensed water clear of your home via a drain line.

Then again, if the drain becomes clogged 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 a nuisance, 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 plugged and must be cleared. A float switch should automatically shut off your conditioner before the drain pan overflows and produces 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 have to correct the problem before your unit will run 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 use water. What this means is your AC shouldn’t sound like running water. If you hear this sound, it might be because the evaporator coil has frozen over and is now thawing and dripping water onto the ground.

This can happen for a few reasons, including:

  • Dirty air filter: A filter choked with dust, dirt and other particles limits airflow. This may make the temperature inside the evaporator coil to get below freezing, which then freezes the condensate collected on the coil.
  • Low refrigerant level: Chilled refrigerant absorbs heat from the indoor air as it passes through the evaporator coil. If the air conditioner is undercharged or leaky and the refrigerant level is low, it loses the capability 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 grime may build up on a neglected evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and preventing the refrigerant inside it from absorbing heat. When this happens, the coil may freeze.
  • Malfunctioning thermostat: Poor temperature calibration may cause the air conditioner to run continuously, even when the indoor temperature is already at the desired level. Constant running of an AC unit can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes up.
  • Blower troubles: The blower forces air across the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working correctly or running 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 crucial element of the cooling process. If a leak forms or air comes to be caught in the refrigerant line, you may hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Along those same lines, your system could very well gurgle as a result of overcharged refrigerant. Always leave AC repair 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 signify one of these issues:

  • Refrigerant leaks: Depending on the place and seriousness 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 passes through the AC model. This part of the system may make a hissing noise if it is defective.
  • Internal valve leak: The valve that regulates refrigerant flow through the compressor may also leak and hiss.

Schedule Air Conditioning Services

If you hear a sound like running water from your air conditioner, take steps to diagnose and address the cause to prevent more damage. Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can detect and fix any concern causing your AC to sound like running water, whether that’s condensation buildup, a refrigerant leak, a clogged drain line or a frozen evaporator coil. Every AC repair comes with a one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee! To learn more or set up a repair estimate, please contact Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing.

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