Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Water?

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Updated August 20, 2022

If your top-rated air conditioning unit makes running water noises, you must understand what causes this. You have a potentially severe air conditioner issue, whether you hear dripping sounds or flowing excess water. This can cause water damage to your home if not treated quickly. Even if it’s just the periodic drip sound from time to time, it’s wise to nip the dripping noise in the bud ASAP before this small problem turns into an extremely expensive one. So, if you’re wondering, “Why does my air conditioner sound like running water?” stick around.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • As the condensation hits the drain pan, a dripping water noise is expected during the year’s hottest days.
  • If you hear gurgling or bubbling water, you likely have a refrigerant leak or an overcharged coolant system.
  • A running water sound indicates a clogged drain line or condensate pan.

Also, if you see standing water in your drain pan, you likely have a clogged condensate drain. Read our guide to pouring vinegar into the AC drain tube to prevent future drainage issues.

Insider Tip

Unlicensed people cannot legally refill refrigerant levels, so you need a professional AC technician to fix a refrigerant leak in a window AC or central unit.

Why Is Water Running in My AC Unit?

An air conditioner pulls warm air from your home and blows it over an evaporator coil that contains refrigerant. Like water droplets on a glass of ice water, the evaporator coil develops condensation as it absorbs heat from the hot and humid air.

The moisture from evaporator condensation should exit your AC system through a condensate drain pipe. So, it is normal to hear a dripping water sound during the humid summer months. That said, if you hear bubbling noises or running water inside your AC unit, you should investigate as this could be a potentially serious AC issue.

Running Water Noises

You likely have an excess water issue if you hear running water noises coming from inside your air conditioner. Whether your AC removes excess water through an evaporator drain or evaporates condensation, a running water sound is a drainage issue.

Look at your drain pan, and see if it is full of water. Excess condensation shouldn’t gather before leaving the drain. If you see standing water in the drain pan, snake the drain or contact an AC repair professional.

Warning

If not quickly addressed, a clogged condensate drain line can cause extensive damage to your home and AC system.

Bubbling or Gurgling Noises

Whether you have a window air conditioner or central unit, these strange noises signify a pressure issue. A refrigerant overcharge or leak can lead to an imbalance of pressure inside the AC unit. Contact a repair professional to correct AC refrigerant imbalances and check your system for compressor valve leaks or other compressor issues.

STAT: According to a 2020 US EIA (Energy Information Agency) survey, 12% of Americans use an AC unit under two years old. (source)

Why Does My Air Conditioner Sound Like Running Water FAQs

How do AC units work?

Your air conditioner pulls hot and humid air from your home and passes it over the evaporator coil. The heat is extracted from the air, making it cold. Your AC system then distributes the air back into your home.

Is it normal for my air conditioner to run all day?

It is not normal for an air conditioner to run all day, and it is a sign of a ventilation problem or a refrigerant leak. You should schedule an AC maintenance visit if you've noticed higher-than-normal energy bills or warm air from your AC vents. The most common cause of a constantly-running AC is a dirty air filter, which is easy to replace for most users.

What do you do when your AC drip pan is full?

You should power off the air conditioning unit before inspecting the internals. Use a shop vac to remove the water from the drain and pan. Next, unclog the condensate drain line with a chemical solution, distilled vinegar, or a drain snake.
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