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My Water Heater is Making Popping Noises

You realize your water heater is making noises such as cracking, popping and banging sounds. You may think it’s unnerving, to say the least or it may sound so extreme you worry that it might explode. While such a severe outcome is not likely, a noisy water heater isn’t something you should ignore.

Why your water heater is making noises like cracking or popping sounds

Learn all about why water heaters sometimes get noisy and what you can do about it:

Sediment Is a Likely Cause

You don’t think of water as containing lots of different elements, but it does. Just because you can’t see tiny particles and sediment doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Many water sources are actually heavily laden with minerals. When water has lots of mineral content, it’s called “hard” water. Water with lower mineral content is often called “soft” water.

In any case, over time, minerals settle out of your water when sitting in your water heater’s tank. The sediment either sinks to the bottom or sticks to the sides of the tank. Sometimes called scale, it can form a thick coating in and around your water heater’s tank and even on the heating element.

Why Is Sediment Noisy?

Sediments are having a party in your water heater.

Ok, so sediment is sitting in your water tank. Why is it making those cracking and popping noises? The sides and bottom of your water heater tank are hot. The sediment heats up and then explodes, causing the loud noises.

Sediment from water isn’t fine, like sand. Instead, it often sticks together in large pieces. So, the pieces heat up and explode away from the edges of the tank, floating to the bottom where they sit.

Solving the Sediment Problem

To make your water heater quiet again, you need to get rid of the sediment. Sometimes, draining and cleaning the tank can offer a solution. This is a task that most homeowners can do on their own. Here are the basic steps to draining your tank:

  • Turn off the gas valve (or electrical power if you have an electric heater)
  • Turn off the water valve that allows water into the tank
  • Attach a hose to the drain valve which is at the bottom of the tank. You’ll need to put the other end of the hose in a bucket, outdoors or at a drain outlet that’s lower than the level of the drain valve. Remember, the water will be hot when you let it out.
  • Relieve pressure in your tank by opening a hot water faucet somewhere in your house.
  • Open the drain valve with caution; the water will be hot! To flush out sediment, you only need to let about 3 or 4 gallons out.
  • Close the drain valve, turn the water supply back on and turn the gas valve back to the “on” position. Relight the pilot if necessary.

If there are large chunks of sediment, they probably won’t fit through the drain valve. Sediment may also clog your drain valve, making this procedure impossible. If this is the case, you can try gently stepping on the hose a few feet away from the drain valve after connecting the hose and opening it. This can force air or water back into the valve, pushing out the blockage. If you still have trouble, contact a professional plumber to help you with your sediment issue.

In some cases, extremely hard water can mean you’ll have to drain or flush out your water heater very often. This can be frustrating. Hard water can also harm or wear away at other plumbing fixtures and appliances in your home. Your plumber may recommend doing a water test and installing a water softener to help reduce the mineral content in your water, thus lessening your sediment problem.

Keep Calm and Call a Professional

So, don’t be spooked if you hear cracking and popping noises coming from your water heater. It’s not possessed, and it’s not about to explode. Simply drain off your sediment every few months, and you’ll solve the problem. If you’re not sure how to do this or the issue is recurring, contact your local Orange County plumber to help with the maintenance of your water heater to come to check out the issue. With a trusted professional on your side, you’re sure to find a solution.