Air conditioners are complex systems that rely on various components, including a compressor, evaporator coil, condenser coil and refrigerant to regulate your home’s temperature and humidity level. While these machines are usually sturdy and reliable, it’s not uncommon for AC units to make strange sounds, which may indicate that something is amiss. One example of a sound is dripping, gurgling, bubbling or running water. These distressing noises can be attributed to several origins.
1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise
This is a common air conditioner sound you might hear on hot, humid days and is no reason for alarm. Simple condensation buildup is likely the culprit. As your air conditioner performs, moisture from the inside air gathers on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan underneath. This pan was created to collect and move the condensed water away from your home via a drain line. Although, if the drain becomes clogged or damaged, 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 too irritating, 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 blocked and must 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 fail. Plus, if your AC keeps turning itself off because of a full drain pan, you’ll have to correct the issue before your unit will function normally again.
2. The AC Sounds Like Water Is Running
While air conditioners make condensate as a component of the cooling process, they do not run on or use water. This simply means your AC should not ever sound like running water. If you hear this sound, it could indicate 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 plugged with dust, dirt and other debris limits airflow. This may cause the temperature inside the evaporator coil to get 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 leaking and the refrigerant level is minimal, it loses the capability to absorb the heat. This can cause the temperature to fall below freezing and ice to form on the coil.
- Dirty evaporator coil: Dust and grease may accumulate on an ignored evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and preventing the refrigerant within it from absorbing heat. When this takes place, the coil might freeze.
- Malfunctioning thermostat: Poor temperature calibration might cause the air conditioner to run constantly, even when the indoor temperature is already at the correct number. Continuously running an air conditioner can make the evaporator coil so cold that it freezes over.
- Blower issues: The blower moves air through the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working effectively or performing 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 crucial element of the cooling process. If a leak has developed or air has become 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 service work 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 issues:
- Refrigerant leaks: Depending on the place 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 exterior condensing unit pressurizes the refrigerant as it moves through the system. This part of the system may make a hissing noise if it gets defective.
- Internal valve leak: The valve that regulates refrigerant movement through the compressor may also leak and hiss.
Schedule Air Conditioning Services
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