The water heater is one of the more expensive appliances in your San Jose, CA, home, so when you hear it making noises, it is cause for concern. Water heaters normally make noises after you use hot water in your home. When the interior tank fills with water, you may hear a quiet gurgling sound. Other sounds, though, are not normal and typically indicate that the water needs to be inspected by an expert at Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter. Here are some of the most common sounds that indicate problems with a water heater.

1. Humming

Humming is one of the most common noises that come from electric water heaters. Unlike gas heaters, these appliances have an element inside the unit that heats up to warm the water. When the tank fills with cold water, electricity is sent through the element to heat it up to the desired temperature. Heating elements in electric water heaters come loose over time, and this is the source of the humming sound that you hear. It is caused by the water inside the tank circulating around the loose element.

2. Crackling

Crackling from a water heater indicates that there is condensation inside the tank. The sound is created when tiny drops of condensation come into contact with the burner or electric heating element. A water heater that is used on a regular basis should not form condensation inside the tank, but it does happen. One of the most common situations is when the air inside the tank is colder than the water and the tank is not full. The interaction between the air and water forms condensation. Hearing a crackling sound once in a while is fine, but if it happens more often, a professional from Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter should inspect the water heater.

3. Tapping

Modern water heaters are designed to capture unused heat to boost energy efficiency. Your water heater may have a check valve or heat trap for this purpose. The valves work by only allowing hot water to flow out of the tank and keeping cold water inside the tank. Sometimes this creates a difference in the water pressure, and you may hear a tapping noise that is very normal. If the noise is bothersome, the professionals at Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter can change out the valve for a part that prevents tapping noises.

4. Knocking

Also known as “water hammering,” knocking coming from your water heater is a sign that the system needs expert attention. The sound is caused by pipes moving when water moves through them. It typically happens when there is a sudden change in water pressure, such as flushing the toilet or turning on your washing machine. The brackets that hold the pipes in place may be damaged. Knocking from your water heater may not need attention, but be mindful that it can eventually break the fittings and joints of the pipes. Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter can fix the problem is by adding insulation around the pipes. We can also install a water hammering arrestor that regulates water flow through the pipes.

5. Pops

Minerals in your water collect on the inside wall of your hot water heater. The buildup interferes with heating the water and damages the interior tank. Water heaters should be cleaned out at least once every 12 months. If you have especially hard water, we recommend that you drain and rinse your hot water heater every six months. Popping sounds from a hot water heater indicate that the minerals have built up around the functioning parts of the heater. Not only does it cause an annoying sound, but mineral buildup also causes the appliance to overheat. Eventually, you will need to replace the interior tank or the entire water heater. If you hear a popping sound from your water heater, call Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter to have an expert clean and inspect the heater.

6. Sizzling

When water comes in contact with any hot surface, it causes a sizzling sound. This is the case with water heaters, as well. The noise indicates that there’s a leak in your water heater, and water is dripping on the hot heating elements or gas burner. The leak may be around one of the valves or you may have a crack in your heater. We recommend that you schedule a time for a professional from Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter to take a look at the heater. We check the pipes, fittings, valves, and water heater to find the source of the leak.

7. Squealing

A squealing, bone-chilling noise from a hot water heater is enough to make you want to skip a warm shower or forego running the dishwasher. The sound indicates that the water is not flowing properly. This may be due to a valve that needs to be adjusted or replaced. If you know where the inlet valve is for your water heater, make sure that it is completely open. If the valve is already all the way open, it needs to be replaced by an expert at Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter.

8. Whistling

A valve that is damaged or set improperly allows air to escape from inside your water heater, and this creates a whistling sound. There are three valves to check when you hear this noise – the inlet/outlet valve, pressure release valve, and temperature valve. Adjust the valves one at a time until the whistling sound stops. If adjusting one valve doesn’t fix the noise, put it back to the original setting, and move on to the next valve. If you aren’t sure where to find these valves on your unit, give us a call, and we can walk you through the process. If you prefer, we can schedule a time for one of our professionals to come by and check your water heater.

Does an Unusual Noise Mean a Water Heater needs to Be Replaced?

An unusual noise from your water heater does not necessarily mean that it needs to be replaced. Most noises are caused by simple problems, such as loose or damaged parts. Routine maintenance helps reduce the likelihood of these types of problems. Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter offers repair and maintenance services for homeowners in San Jose, CA, and surrounding areas.

How Do You Repair a Noisy Water Heater?

Fortunately, not every noise coming from your water heater needs expert attention. You can take some troubleshooting steps on your own to see if that resolves the problem. The easiest way to do this is by checking all the valves for your water heater. Also, look for any parts that have come loose and tighten them. Draining the water heater can help, too. Look for the drain valve at the base of the unit. Connect a hose to the valve, and run it to a bucket, drain, or your backyard. After the tank drains, turn on the cold-water supply to flush out any remaining residue and sediment. If you can’t fix the problem on your own, the professionals at Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter are always here to help.

Expert Plumbing Services for Your Water Heater

Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter offers professional plumbing services for homeowners in the San Jose, CA, area. If your water heater is making noise or if you have other plumbing issues, give us a call to schedule an appointment. We can inspect, repair and install plumbing, hot water heaters and septic/sewer lines.

Josh Gibson

Hi, I’m Josh. I’ve been around plumbing my whole life. When I was 5-6 years old my family built a home where I did a lot of the sanding of copper pipe and definitely some playing in the mud. Plumbing is a major part of my family as I am a fourth-generation plumber. The skills I bring to the job are a good technical knowledge of plumbing and code requirements. I am often complimented on my hands-on problem-solving skills.
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