Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water?

Air conditioners are complex systems that rely on various parts, which includes a compressor, evaporator coil, condenser coil and refrigerant to regulate your home’s temperature and humidity level. While these machines are typically strong and reliable, it’s not unusual 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 worrying noises can be traced back to several causes.

1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise

This is an often reported air conditioner sound you might hear on hot, humid days and is no reason you should be alarmed. Simple condensation buildup is most likely the culprit. As your air conditioner performs, moisture from the inside 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.

Then again, if the drain becomes clogged or compromised, water can accumulate in the pan, leading to a dripping or splashing noise as freshly collected condensate drips into the pool underneath. If the dripping noise becomes too irritating, find the drain pan under the indoor portion of your air conditioner and remove the water.

Also, take AC dripping sounds as a signal 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 creates 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 fix the issue before your unit will run normally again.

2. The AC Sounds Like Water Is Running

While air conditioners produce condensate during 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 develop for a few reasons, including:

    • Dirty air filter: A filter clogged with dust, dirt and other debris 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 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 allow the temperature to drop below freezing and ice to form on the coil.
    • Dirty evaporator coil: Dust and dirt may accumulate on an ignored evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and preventing the refrigerant inside from absorbing heat. When this happens, the coil might freeze.
    • Failing thermostat: Poor temperature calibration might cause the air conditioner to run constantly, even when the indoor temperature is already at the desired number. Constant operation can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes completely.
    • Blower problems: The blower circulates air over the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working right or performing 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 vital ingredient in the cooling process. If a leak has developed or air gets caught in the refrigerant line, you might hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Similarly, your system may gurgle because of 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 signify one of these problems:

    • Refrigerant leaks: Depending on the location and seriousness of a refrigerant leak, it may produce more of a hissing noise than a gurgling or bubbling sound.
    • Issues with the compressor: The compressor located in the outdoor condensing unit pressurizes the refrigerant as it flows through the air conditioner. This part of the system may make a hissing noise if it gets faulty.
    • 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 such as running water from your air conditioner, take steps to diagnose and address the cause to prevent additional damage. Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can diagnose and service any issue 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.