Are you hearing weird sounds coming from your water heater? Do these sounds make you ask yourself, why is my water heater making noise? Although water heaters are never silent when running, the sound they produce should never cause alarm.
You can always consider any unusual sound as an indication of a water heater problem. Many factors can make your hot water heater noisy. Knowing the exact cause helps you manage the noise and addresses an underlying problem that can cause more headaches in the future.
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What Do Popping Sounds in a Water Heater Mean?
One of the most common reasons you have a noisy hot water heater is excessive sediment and mineral buildup in the water tank. Bursting steam bubbles can produce a characteristic popping sound.
Heating the water creates steam, producing miniature air pockets that can lift the sediment or debris. When the bubble bursts because it cannot hold its integrity with rising pressure and temperature, it drops the sediment or hard mineral back into the tank’s bottom surface.
This problem is common in households with hard water and high levels of sediment and dirt in their water supply. That is why it would be best to install a water softener and filtration system in the water distribution line before the water reaches the water heater.
If you dislike buying and installing these water treatment technologies in your home, you can observe a periodic hot water tank cleaning regimen.
I advise families with hard water in their homes to consider draining and flushing their water heaters at least every six months to rid the tank of sediment, dirt, silt, debris, mineral deposits, limescale, and other particles.
Failure to drain and flush the hot water tank will not only cause nuisance noise. It can also undermine the appliance’s water heating performance, requiring more gas or electricity to heat the water to the desired temperature.
Excessive sediment and limescale buildup can also shorten your water heater’s lifespan.
What Do Sizzling, Crackling, or Hissing Sounds in a Water Heater Indicate?
A hot water heater making noise similar to a hissing, sizzling, or crackling sound can indicate excessive sediment accumulation (for electric water heaters) or internal condensation (for gas-powered units).
Many homeowners overlook one issue with electric water heaters is sediment and limescale buildup burying the lower heating element. As the element heats up, it creates pressure trying to escape through cracks in the sediment cover. It is like the hissing sound from your pressure cooker.
Unfortunately, it is not only the annoying sound that causes concern. You will also see your electric bill going up because the heating element uses more energy to heat the water.
Gas water heaters can also produce a sizzling or hissing sound. Sadly, such a sign is not due to sediment buildup covering the heating element. The issue results from internal condensation dripping onto the gas burners.
Sadly, addressing internal condensation requires professional help. The most likely cause is an internal leak, allowing heated water to escape and drip down onto the gas burners.
How About a Rumbling Sound From a Water Heater?
Is your water heater making loud noise you can describe as a rumble? If you notice your water heater make noise when heating and produce a rumbling sound, it is almost always due to sediment buildup, similar to a popping sound.
Heating the water causes it to expand, lifting and pushing sediments from the tank’s bottom. With sufficient force, these sediments and particles hit the tank’s top surface and sides. They also fall to the bottom at great speeds.
This ever-shifting sedimentary and particulate movement inside the hot water tank causes the rumbling sound you hear. It is like having tiny pebbles in a container and shaking it like a maraca.
You might want to check your hard water levels to determine if you need to install a water softener. In most cases, installing a sediment pre-filter can prevent particles from reaching the hot water tank and save you from this annoying sound.
Draining your tank at least once every six months can remove any sediment buildup. You can follow it up with flushing to ensure complete cleaning of the tank’s interior surface. Flushing also helps replenish the tank with fresh, clean water. Hopefully, you would have already installed a pre-filter before flushing.
If you are unsure about draining and flushing the water heater, having a professional plumber perform, the task makes sense. The procedure should not hurt your budget.
What About a Ticking Sound?
Another common noise from water heater is a ticking sound. Unlike the other unusual water heater sounds, ticking can be due to various causes and are nothing more than minor irritations.
For example, ticking can result from sudden water pressure changes. There is no cause for alarm if the pressure changes are not dramatic and infrequent. However, frequent and significant water pressure fluctuations can damage your water heater and other parts of the plumbing system.
A normally-operating heat trap nipple can also produce a ticking sound. Heat trap nipples have a ball-style or flapper-like check valve to prevent heat loss from the water heater system. The valve remains closed until you open a hot water faucet. The device improves your water heater’s performance.
Hence, the ticking noise might be from this water heater component, which you might hear every time someone uses hot water. You can turn off this device if you cannot stand the irritating noise.
A ticking sound can also be due to loose pipe straps. Hot water expands the water pipes, making them move against their brackets. You can tighten the straps or reduce the water heater’s operating temperature. Some people also find replacing the pipe straps a better solution.
Or a Singing, Screaming, or Screeching Sound?
If you hear any of these unusual water heater sounds, it can only mean one thing. There is a restricted water flow somewhere in your water heater system, especially at the valves.
The most common culprit is the temperature and pressure (T&P) valve. This component opens when there is excessive heat and water in the hot water tank, safeguarding the system’s integrity. You can think of it as your pressure cooker’s steam release valve.
Unfortunately, if this is the cause of the high-frequency noise coming from the water heater, it would be best to have a professional check your system.
The T&P relief valve is not the only potential issue here. It can be almost any valve in the water heater system, including the cold water inlet valve, the hot water outlet valve, and other valves of adjacent water lines.
I suggest checking each valve and water fixture to determine what is causing the noise. You can also have a plumber assess your water lines.
The answers to the question, why is my water heater making noise, can include the following.
- The buildup of sediments, limescale, mineral deposits, dirt, silt, debris, and other particles
- Internal hot water tank leaks
- Restricted water flow at the valves
- Water pressure fluctuations
- Loose pipe straps
- Normal heat trap nipple operation
Of course, there might be other reasons. That is why I recommend calling a professional if you cannot isolate the problem. Hopefully, you can fix the issue soon, and feel free to share it with us in the comment section.