The intricacies of a home’s plumbing infrastructure are often taken for granted—until something goes awry. One such essential component of a home is the water heater. As winter approaches, the demand for your water heater escalates, making it harder to supply warm water. You may notice certain sounds emanating from your water heater with increased usage. While some of these noises may be routine, others might signify a deeper issue that requires immediate attention. In this article, we at Drain Express, your trusted local plumbing service, aim to demystify five common water heater sounds to help you diagnose potential problems.

1. Banging and Rumbling Noises

Banging and rumbling are the most frequently reported sounds. These can be traced back to sediment build-up at the bottom of the water heater tank. The heating element interacting with this sediment often results in mini-explosions, causing the sounds you hear. This issue can typically be resolved by draining the tank. A maintenance activity is recommended once or twice a year. 

Alternatively, the unit could be experiencing a phenomenon known as a “water hammer,” triggered when the water supply is suddenly turned off and restored, causing a surge through the pipes. This can potentially lead to burst pipes, so adjusting the pressure in your system using a pressure-reducing valve may be necessary. Consulting a technician for an accurate diagnosis is advisable.

2. Crackling and Hissing Sounds

Crackling and hissing noises are often associated with electric water heaters. Occasional crackling sounds are generally not a cause for concern. Persistent noises, however, might indicate an obstruction in the heating element. Draining the tank or seeking professional assistance for an inspection is recommended in such cases. These sounds could signify moisture build-up for gas or oil water heaters, necessitating an inspection for water pooling around the unit. Given that all water heaters, irrespective of their primary fuel source, require electricity to operate, it’s crucial to ensure that water does not interfere with the electrical components.

3. Ticking Sounds

Although alarming, a ticking noise is usually less ominous than it sounds. This is often due to a sudden change in water pressure. To resolve this:

  1. Locate and adjust the pressure-reducing valve.
  2. Add more straps or insulation to stabilize your water heater further to prevent the unit from shifting due to pressure fluctuations.
  3. If the ticking persists, consult a technician for a more detailed evaluation.

4. Screeching or Whistling Noises

A high-pitched screech or whistle typically arises from loose valves, allowing air to escape. Check the pressure release, temperature, and inlet/outlet valves to ensure they are adjusted correctly. If you need help with how to proceed, consulting your manufacturer’s manual or a technician is advisable.

5. Popping Sounds

Like banging noises, popping sounds often indicate sediment build-up within the tank. Specifically, these noises can result from the interaction between the alkali in the water and the heating element. Alkali, rich in calcium and magnesium, can lead to rust—one of the significant contributors to sediment accumulation. Flushing your tank and replacing the anode rod—responsible for reducing sediment and bacterial build-up—can often solve this problem. 

Additionally, installing a water purification system can help minimize rust and sediment build-up if you reside in an area with hard water.

Understanding your water heater’s sounds can offer early clues to potential issues, allowing you to address them before they escalate into major problems. If you are faced with unfamiliar water heater noises, don’t hesitate to contact Drain Express, your go-to local plumbing service, for professional advice and timely solutions.

See also: A Guide to Getting Your Plumbing Summer-Ready

Contact us today either online or via a call.