what does a bad water heater sound like?The water heater is one of the most important appliances in your home. Most of the time, it chugs along without any problems, producing hot water when you need it and refilling when you don’t. However, sometimes a water heater will start making a variety of odd sounds. Some of them are natural and nothing to worry about, while others can point to serious problems with your equipment.

Well, if you hear sounds coming from the water heater, chances are that it’s faulty or overwhelmed. It might mean that your water heater needs regular maintenance, or that a component has failed, or even that your water heater is at risk of explosion.

To help you remain safe, learning about those sounds and what they mean can make all the difference.

Popping Sounds

Popping sounds are the most common signs you’ll hear from your water heater. They’re caused by sediment and limescale buildup within the tank, especially at the bottom. If you live in areas with hard water and rarely maintain or flush your tank, chances are high that you’ll soon hear the popping sounds.

Hard water has minerals such as lime and calcium, sand, and soil that travel and settle in the bottom of the tank. Eventually, these sediments build up to the extent of forming insulation between the heating element and the water, raising internal temperatures even further. Consequently, the hot water trapped below the sediments boils at a higher temperature, resulting in popping sounds.

What to do: The solution to the popping sound problem is flushing your water heater to eliminate sediments.

Crackling, Hissing, or Sizzling Sounds

If you have an electric water heater, you’ll most likely hear crackling, hissing, or sizzling sounds. They result from sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank, and you can solve the problem by flushing the water heater.

Another challenge you’ll experience with your sediment-filled water heater is that electricity bills will go up. The heating element shall work harder to overcome the sediments, consuming more electrical power to heat the same amount of water as before.

You may also hear some sizzling sounds in a gas water heater. Here, the sounds result from cold and condensed vapors trickle down onto the burners.

What to do: Condensation in water heaters happens due to leaks. If your appliance makes a sizzling sound, your best option would be to call a professional plumber.

Banging or Hammering Sound

Hammering refers to the sound water makes when it’s stopped or forced to change direction abruptly. Consequently, water slams into itself, producing a banging sound. Water hammers can be dangerous because they can burst pipes under high pressure.

However, as much as it isn’t a concerning issue, you need to address it, as hammering may also signify sediment buildup.

What to do: Install a water hammer arrestor to absorb water shocks resulting from fast closing shutoff valves.

Screaming or Screeching Sound

If you hear a high-pitched noise from your water heater, there’s a restricted water flow through a valve. When the valves cannot open fully, water is forced through narrower passages, making a noise similar to a whistling stovetop kettle.

What to do: Check the temperature and pressure relief valve for damages. If it’s faulty, it causes significant pressure buildup within the tank. Also, other sources are partially closed inlet and outlet valves. Here, the best solution is to switch off the appliance and call a professional plumber for your water heater.