8 Common Hot Water Heater Noises & What To Do

What ARE those noises coming from your water heater? Do hums, bangs, or screeches mean that your hot water tank is about to break down and you need emergency water heater repair? Or are they minor issues that are easy to fix?

The answers depend on what type of noises you’re hearing. Also, hot water tanks typically last 10-12 years, so if yours is getting close to that age, take any strange sounds very seriously.

1. Humming

When your electric water heater hums as it heats the household water supply, don’t panic. Electric water tanks are equipped with two heating elements, top and bottom. If the upper heater loosens, it may be jostled as cold water moves into the tank. The result? That humming sound you’re noticing.

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Is it an emergency? No. The heating element just has to be tightened.

2. Screeching

You may hear a strange screeching when the inward flow of cold water becomes restricted. Usually, this results from a partial closure of the water inlet valve.

Is it an emergency? No. To stop the racket, all you need to do is adjust the valve.

3. Banging

Banging is a common plumbing problem, referred to as a “water hammer.” It isn’t coming from the water heater but instead from your home’s piping system. For example, metal pipes can react dramatically (and noisily!) to a pressure surge when a faucet is suddenly turned off.

Is it an emergency? Yes. While you won’t need to call for plumbing repair at 3 AM, install a water hammer arrestor promptly. Otherwise, it could damage your water heater and even burst your pipes.

4. Ticking

Once again, the sound of ticking is not based on your water heater. Instead, the attached pipes are responding to changes in your home’s water pressure.

Is it an emergency? No. Reduce pressure by decreasing the water heater temperature; just keep it above 50° C. Ensure your pipes are tightly connected.

5. Rumbling

Like the majority of water heater noises, the rumbling is the result of sediment buildup. Another sign of mineral build-up is your hot water is lukewarm. This occurs when minerals and sand flow into your hot water heater together with the water. After a while, that sediment builds up into a crusty deposit on the bottom of your tank. Rumbling noises signal the buildup has reached a serious level and is interfering with efficient water heater operation.

Is it an emergency? Not yet. Have your hot water tank flushed ASAP to remove minerals before they lead to more severe problems.

6. Sizzling

Similar to rumbling, sizzling comes from a thick layer of mineral sediment, which has coated the tank bottom and possibly even buried the lower heating element.

Is it an emergency? It will be soon if you don’t act quickly to save your water heater. Cool and drain the tank. Then remove the heating element to soak in an anti-scale solution. Scrub, if necessary, before putting it back in place.

7. Popping

Popping from your water heater can sound like tiny explosions. And that’s exactly what’s going on. As mineral deposits develop into a thick layer, they trap bubbles of steam, which get so hot that sooner or later they explode.

Is it an emergency? Potentially. If the deposit is so bad that it’s causing your hot water tank to leak from the bottom, better replace your water heater in the very near future. Otherwise, having the tank flushed might solve the problem.

8. Gurgling

A gurgling sound is most often caused by sediment in the tank. You’ll usually hear it when you turn on the shower or tap. It’s due to hot water rising to the top of the tank as cold water moves in to take its place.

Is it an emergency? It is serious but not call-a-plumber-in-the-middle-of-the-night urgent. Instead, ask to schedule a service call. Your water heater needs to be flushed out and cleaned. If the tank contains a large quantity of sediment or it’s begun to rust, it’s time to buy a new water heater.

Husky Will Take Expert Care Of Your Water Heater

No matter what the issue, turn to Husky for reliable water heater service in the GTA. We professionally inspect, repair, and replace water heaters, both tank and tankless. If you prefer to rent a hot water heater, we also offer that option.