Air conditioners are sophisticated systems that rely on several components, which includes a compressor, evaporator coil, condenser coil and refrigerant to regulate your home’s temperature and humidity level. While these machines are usually strong and reliable, it’s not unheard of for AC units to make strange sounds, which may indicate that something is awry. One such sound is dripping, gurgling, bubbling or running water. These distressing noises can be traced back to several causes.
1. The AC Makes a Dripping Noise
This is a frequent air conditioner sound you may hear on hot, humid days and is no cause for alarm. Simple condensation buildup is probably the cause of the sound. As your air conditioner operates, moisture from the interior air gathers on the evaporator coil and drips into the drain pan underneath. This pan is meant to capture and direct the condensed water a safe distance away from your home via a drain line. Then again, if the drain becomes plugged or compromised, water can accumulate in the pan, producing a dripping or splashing noise as freshly collected condensate drips into the pool down below. If the dripping noise becomes an annoyance, find the drain pan under the indoor portion of your air conditioner and clear it.
Also, take AC dripping sounds as a warning sign that the condensate drain line is plugged and needs to 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 break. Plus, if your AC keeps turning itself off because of a full drain pan, you’ll have to fix the issue before your unit will operate 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 utilize water. What this means is your AC should not ever sound like running water. If you hear this noise, it could mean 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 cause 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 goes through the evaporator coil. If the system is undercharged or seeping out and the refrigerant level is minimal, it loses the capacity to absorb the heat. This can allow the temperature to slide below freezing and ice to form on the coil.
- Dirty evaporator coil: Dust and grease may build up on a neglected evaporator coil, effectively insulating it and preventing the refrigerant within it from absorbing heat. When this occurs, the coil could freeze.
- Malfunctioning thermostat: Poor temperature calibration might cause the air conditioner to run continually, 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 troubles: The blower forces air across the evaporator coil. If it isn’t working right 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 component of the cooling process. If a leak has formed or air has become caught in the refrigerant line, you can hear gurgling or bubbling as the refrigerant flows. Similarly, your system could possibly gurgle due to overcharged refrigerant. Always leave AC service work to a professional who can ensure the proper refrigerant charge.
4. The AC Makes a Hissing Noise
A hissing noise from your air conditioner could be the result of one of these problems:
- Refrigerant leaks: Depending on the site and extent of a refrigerant leak, it may produce more of a hissing noise than a gurgling or bubbling sound.
- An issue with with the compressor: The compressor located in the exterior condensing unit pressurizes the refrigerant as it passes through the AC model. This element may make a hissing noise if it is faulty.
- Internal valve leak: The valve that manages refrigerant movement throughout the compressor may also leak and hiss.
Schedule Air Conditioning Services
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