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Normal vs. Abnormal Water Heater Noises

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Professional checking out water heater to understand where abnormal noise is coming from.

Your home’s water heater is likely something you aren’t thinking about every day. However, if you’re walking by it and hear some noises, what do you do? How do you know what noises are normal and which aren’t? 

Whether you have a standard water heater or you’ve got a tankless water heater, identifying these unknown noises early can save you money in the future and keep your water heater running efficiently. 

Normal Noises 

Not all noises are bad noises when it comes to water heaters. Some of these noises are caused by the regular functioning of the water heater. However, if they’re bothering you, they can often be fixed. 

Crackling 

The crackling sound normally occurs with gas-powered water heaters. This sound is a normal part of the water heater’s process. Normally, this is caused by condensation on the water heater’s burner. 

Humming 

Humming is also a normal sound to come from your water heater. The humming noise occurs when cold water enters the heater. Units with heating elements at the top and bottom will tend to experience some humming sounds. 

In addition to humming, your water heater also might shake a bit. This sound is not dangerous to your unit. However, if it’s bothering you, it can be fixed. To stop the humming, try tightening the heating element. This should stop the shaking and the humming. 

Ticking 

Ticking is the final normal sound you can expect from your water heater. This noise is caused by pressure fluctuations within your plumbing. To keep the water warm, water heaters have inlet and outlet nipples that create a heat trap. This heat trap can create pressure fluctuations. 

This ticking noise is also not a sign of larger problems. If this sound becomes annoying, it can be fixed. If the noise is bothering you, try either removing the nipples (they’re on top of the unit) or replace them with non-heat trap nipples. 

Plumber repairing water heater with abnormal noises

Abnormal Noises 

The issues below are now the noises you need to be cautious of. If you’re dealing with any of the following problems, it’s best to call a professional for help

Popping 

A popping sound is one of the most common sounds a water heater will make when there’s a problem. Normally, this is a sign that your water heater has excess mineral deposits and sediment at the bottom of its tank. This is a common issue in places with hard water (Calgary).

If you hear this noise, it should be dealt with immediately. If the deposits and sediment continue to build up at the bottom, they will begin to trap water. This trapped water will create extra pressure that your water heater cannot handle. If you have an older heater, this pressure could cause your unit to explode. 

To stop this issue before it becomes serious, it’s recommended to have a professional flush out your water heater. This process will help to remove any backup at the bottom of the heater. 

Sizzling 

If you’re hearing sizzling, you’re likely dealing with a leak in your water heater. The sizzling sound will often come from the temperature and pressure relief valve on your unit. 

This sound is a result of water dripping onto your unit’s burner. A water heater leak can also be identified if there’s water on the floor around your unit or if your home doesn’t have any hot water. 

If you hear this noise, switch off your water heater’s power and water supply. Once shut off, call a professional for help

Screeching 

If your water heater is making a screeching noise, it may seem like a worse problem than it probably is. The screeching sound is normally caused by a water flow restriction with the inlet control valve. If the valve is partially closed, it’ll prevent water from flowing through the pipes, creating this screeching noise.

To solve this problem, ensure your inlet control is fully opened. However, if the valve is fully opened and you’re still hearing this noise, it’s best to call a professional for help

Rumbling 

Similar to the popping sound, a rumbling noise could also be a result of sediment buildup. Rumbling in your water heater could be dangerous, as well as an indication your unit isn’t running efficiently. 

To prevent this issue from becoming worse, it’s recommended you have a professional come and flush out your water heater. If handled early, this process could save you from having to buy a new water heater early. 

Caring For Your Water Heater 

By taking time to check-in and listen to your water heater, you can potentially identify problems early. In these cases, you could be saving yourself from having to purchase a new water heater early. 

Interested in learning more about our water heaters and how we can help your current units? Give us a call to find out how you can sign up for our Hot Water Tank Membership that includes annual tune-ups, and 20% future repairs!

Written by Ryan Tutak

Ryan is considered one of Calgary's most knowledgeable residential HVAC specialists. Working in the industry for over 12 years, he's helped thousands of homeowners with their heating and cooling systems. Outside of running Calgary's most reputable HVAC business, you can find him on the Golf course practicing his short game or traveling with his family. His main goal is to create a positive collaborative culture, one in which his employees are excited to come in and are motivated to work hard. He spends the majority of his day working directly with Home Comfort Advisors, Service and Maintenance Technicians, and Customer Service Representatives ensuring they are fully prepared to lead the Home Service Industry in Customer Service.
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