No air conditioner runs completely silently, but any irregular noises coming from your system are a cause for concern. Gurgling or bubbling sounds are not uncommon, but pinning down their precise origin is not always easy. Gurgling sounds typically indicate a blockage or foreign materials flowing through segments of the air conditioner, including hazardous fluids like refrigerant. These are four of the most common issues behind a gurgling air conditioner, as well as the repairs necessary to correct them.
Clearing the Condensation Drain
Before you begin tearing apart your air conditioner, first check the condensation drain to ensure that it is flowing correctly. Your drain is usually located somewhere near the outdoor AC unit and looks like a dripping pipe. This pipe is connected to the drain pan. If the drain pan has standing water in it, you are probably just dealing with a clog that can be cleaned as part of a routine maintenance check-up. A quick fix in this situation is to extract the clog manually using a shop vacuum, though you may unintentionally damage your system without proper care.
Checking for Restricted Lines
Other lines in your air conditioning system can also become clogged, though usually to a lesser degree. The liquid line, for example, carries refrigerant to your evaporators, and without an adequate flow rate, your air conditioner will struggle to generate enough cold air. If this line becomes damaged, or if air bubbles obstruct the flow of refrigerant, you may hear a gurgling sound as the refrigerant sloshes through the line inefficiently. Purging your system of excess air or replacing the line should resolve this issue.
Examining for Leaking Refrigerant
In most cases, gurgling sounds coming from an air conditioner are the result of low or leaking refrigerant. As your system gradually loses its supply of refrigerant, air bubbles enter the system and cause the same problems discussed earlier. This problem can be sped up significantly if you are dealing with a refrigerant leak, which can lead to serious safety hazards if allowed to continue unchecked. Your HVAC contractor should be able to help you find the leak and, once it is repaired, recharge your system.
Insulating and Adjusting the Air Conditioner to Reduce Noise
When your air conditioner first fires up, you may notice an initial gurgling sound that fades over time. This is normal, but if it is excessively loud, it may indicate inefficient fittings within your system or insufficient insulation. Refrigerant lines that are too small can push refrigerant along at a higher pressure than intended, causing it to vaporize and obstruct the liquid refrigerant around it. After you have exhausted a checklist of possible causes with your heating and air conditioning repair specialist such as Elite Heating, Cooling and Plumbing, it may be time to upgrade the system to more efficient parts and insulate the walls around it to minimize noise.