What to do when the water heater is making noise?

Imagine yourself in the middle of a relaxing hot water shower. All of sudden out of the blue, you listen to some strange noises. 

Before you conjure up the scenes of a thriller movie, you realize it’s your water heater that is playing spoilsport. 

Have you ever wondered if your water heater can produce a variety of noises and each type of noise has a specific reason behind it?

Let’s learn about the various types of noises, their causes, and ways to fix them.

Causes, types of noises and ways to fix the issue

  • Sediment Buildup inside the tank

The sediment buildup is a common occurrence in most of the water heaters. The sediments consist of sand, mineral deposits, or any other debris that settled at the floor of the tank. 

The sediments make their way into the geyser through the inflowing water or they are released from the water during its heating. The sediment buildup reduces the water heating efficiency of the geyser and results in clogging in the tank.

When water heating takes place in the tank with sediment buildup, it leads to the production of following sounds and requires specific remedial measures. 

Rumbling

As you switch on your geyser, the temperature inside the tank increases to heat the water. This leads to the expansion of sediment cakes. As water passes through these sediments, it produces a rumbling sound due to clashes.

As the sediment buildup increases in the tank, the sound gets more pronounced and louder.

What to do

For rumbling sounds, you should flush and drain your tank. Apply a deliming solution for cleaning the sludge. You can also use vinegar for cleaning the tank. 

Popping

In areas marred by hard water problems, the limescale formation takes place in tank buildups. The water bubbles get trapped behind the sediments layer. 

As the temperature inside the tank increases for heating water, the trapped water bubbles get heated up and burst out of the sediment layer. This results in popping sounds.  

What to do

For popping noise, you must do thorough draining and flushing of the tank for eradicating any mineral sediment.

Moreover, you may descale the tank interiors for preventing the formation of further mineral deposits.

Sizzling, Hissing, and Crackling

The sediment build ups at the base of the tank cover the lower heating element which interferes with the proper heating functionality and produces sizzling, hissing, or crackling sounds.

These noises are common in the case of an electric water heater.

 If you have a gas-powered water heater, you may listen to crackling sounds due to the condensation process on the burner. In such a case, you are not required to do anything as it does not indicate geyser malfunctioning.

What to do

For sizzling, hissing, and crackling sounds, you must drain the tank thoroughly.  Remove the lower heating element and treat it with a descaling solution.

Clean the heating element completely by removing the debris using a wire brush.

  • Fluctuations in Water Pressure

The fluctuations in water pressure also produce noises. However, these noises are more related to the pipes rather than the water heater.

Ticking or Tapping

The water heaters comprise heat traps or check valves for regulating the flow of water in the correct direction in the pipes. When water flows through these heat traps, it produces ticking or tapping sounds.

As water passes through the pipes and plumbing, it causes them to expand or contract when it gets hot or cool. This expansion and contraction of pipes with the fluctuating water temperature produce ticking sounds.

What to do

Check the linings of the pipes and plumbings and tighten any loose straps for fixing the noise issue. You may also use the spacers for keeping the pipes fixed in their place.

If heat traps are producing the ticking noises, you may simply replace them with non-heat traps. 

Reduce the water temperature for preventing excess expansion of pipes for removing the ticking noises.

Condensation Leaks

The gas-powered water heaters involve the process of condensation when the cold water gets heated and condensation droplets are formed. These droplets drip down on the burner and produce sounds. 

Sizzling Sounds

The condensation leaks in gas-powered water heaters produce sizzling sounds when condensation droplets drip on burners. It points towards the presence of leaks within the tank.

What to do

The water leaks indicate serious trouble and it leads to wastage of water and energy resources. To repair these leaks requires you to immediately fix an appointment with your plumber as there is nothing much you can do yourself.

  • Restricted Water Flow

The presence of valves on your water heater regulates the flow of water. If this water flow is restricted because of any reason, it leads to the production of noises.

Screeching, Screaming or Singing

As the water forcibly runs through a small opening, it produces screaming, screeching, or singing noises. It indicates the restrictions in the water flow.

The reasons for such noises may be found in the partially closed inlet and outlet valves on the water heater.

What to do

To fix these sounds, you can check the temperature and pressure relief valves and inlet valves to ensure they are wide open and do not restrict the normal flow of water.

Water Source

The water heaters comprise an anode rod for preventing the corrosion of the steel tank. 

When the water supply to the geyser is alkaline in nature, it may react with the anode rod and cause few issues in the tank resulting in popping sounds. 

Popping Sounds

The high levels of water alkalinity inside the tank react with the anode rod made up of aluminum. The metallic reaction with the pH level of water creates popping sounds. 

What to do 

You can fix this noise by replacing the aluminum anode rod with the magnesium anode rod that does not react much in high alkaline water.

  • Water Knocking or Hammering or Banging

When water flow is abruptly shut off, the water flows in a backward direction and exerts immense pressure on the pipes or water heater. This process results in loud noises called water hammering or banging or knocking.

This sound indicates a potentially risky situation as it may lead to bursting of water pipes or expansion of the tank shell, deforming of the tank, damage to the tubes, etc.

What to do

You must install a water hammer arrestor which acts as a pressure reducing valve. It absorbs the shock created by water hammering and effectively prevents the tank, pipes, and plumbing.

Humming 

In electric water heaters, the vertical placement of the water heating element produces vibrations when water flows around it. This results in the production of humming sounds.

What to do

You can easily fix this issue by tightening the element to keep it firmly in its place.

  • Tankless Water Heater Noise 

Most of the noises associated with the water heaters are produced by the tank models. However, tankless water heaters also create fewer but distinct noises.

Clicking 

This sound is produced when the flow switch turns on and off to regulate the flow of water. As this is a normal procedure, it does not need any special attention.

Apart from this, you may listen to various other sounds due to sediment build ups or hard water minerals deposition.

What to do

With regular maintenance, you can easily avoid most of these noises.

Common tips for various noises

  • Regular care and maintenance of the water heater prevent the occurrence of most of the noises. 
  • Install a water softener in your water supply to prevent sediments buildup and associated noises.
  • Once a year, flush your water heater tank with a deliming solution for restricting heavy tank buildup and cleaning the elements. 

Conclusion

Identifying the noises coming out of your water heater assists you in pin-point the underlying cause and fixes it in time to prevent any troubles later on.

Regular maintenance of your geyser reduces most of the noise. Moreover, it helps you in extending life expectancy and increasing the efficiency of your geyser. If you are not sure of the noises or the fixes, we highly recommend you to call a professional. 

Aniket More
 

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