What Can You Do to About a Noisy Air Conditioner?

You don't have to choose between running the AC and being able to hear yourself think.

When the mercury really starts to climb like it has this summer, it’s nice to be able to retreat into your air conditioned house during the heat of the afternoon. But if your condenser is making a racket outside, you can’t relax while hiding out from high temperatures, especially if it sounds like the air conditioner is about to crash and burn.

Fortunately, repairing an air conditioner condenser that’s making a lot of noise can usually be done without having to call an HVAC pro, who’s probably going to be extremely busy this time of year anyway.

Here are a few solutions for a noisy condenser.

Check the Outside of the Condenser

If you hear a regular, rhythmic rattle from your air conditioner, the metal part covering the fan might a dent or bend in it. Examine the part. You may be able to smooth out the dent enough to prevent it from making noise. Another thing to check is whether or not any screws are loose (or even missing) on the condenser. Tighten up loose screws or replacing missing ones will help take care of some of the rattling noises the unit is making.

Inspecting the unit for damage and loose parts should be part of your regular maintenance routine. Doing so will help you prevent more serious problems and extend the life of your air conditioner.

Install a Sound Blanket

Newer models have been engineered to reduce the fan noise, but an older model that’s otherwise working just fine can still be rather loud. One way to deal with that is to add a sound blanket.

Usually made with acoustic insulation and a rubber layer, the blanket fits around the compressor to reduce the noice. To install it, unscrew and lift off the top panel. The heavy fan motor is mounted on the panel, so have a helper hold it while you install the air conditioner sound blanket.

The blankets are safe to use, and they can reduce noise coming from the unit by as much as 50 percent.

Remember to shut off all power to the unit before you start working on it. Turn off the thermostat inside the house, switch off the breakers at the main panel and pull out the fuse block at the outside disconnect box.

Air Conditioner Compressor Blanket

Build a Sound Fence

Fencing one or all sides of an air conditioner’s outside unit can deflect noise. But experiment first: Prop up plywood around the unit so you can judge how much good a fence will do. If you decide to build a fence, keep it at least 3 ft. from the unit to allow airflow.

For the best sound reduction, overlap fence boards instead of leaving gaps between them.

Other Air Conditioner Noises

The solutions laid out here will help with a condenser unit that runs loud. However, you may notice other, more specific noises coming from your air conditioner such as screeching, gurgling or clicking noises. If you’re hearing noises like that, it could indicate more significant problems, and you should call a professional to take a look at your unit. They’ll be able to tell you whether a specific part needs to be repaired or replaced or if the unit itself needs to be upgraded.

Remember to keep your air conditioner clean too. A condenser covered in dirt and debris won’t work as effectively and can lead to bigger problems.

Ryan Van Bibber
Ryan Van Bibber, the executive editor for Family Handyman, is a career journalist with more than two decades of experience in the industry. He's been DIY'ing since he was a kid, learning from his father who was a carpenter and general contractor. Ryan has a natural curiousity to learn how things work and how to make them work better. That spirit has guided his career his own DIY journey as a homeowner. He specializes in the areas of painting, sustainability, and basic home maintenance. Through his career, Ryan covered the NFL for more than a decade, edited award-winning features, worked as a senior editor at Outside magazine as well as writing and editing buying guides and product reviews for national publications.