Is It a Ghost - Or Just a Water Heater In Need of Repairs?

How To Decipher the Spooky Sounds of a Broken Water Heater

As fall settles in and the nights grow longer and chillier, things can get a little creepy around the house - especially during the Halloween season, when the imagery of ghoulish creatures and spooky specters is almost impossible to avoid. The imagination can’t help but run wild with frightening possibilities at the slightest sound. 

So the last thing any homeowner wants is to hear a whole symphony of creepy noises coming from the basement or garage. But it may not be necessary to call the Ghostbusters after all - the culprit may be a water heater on the fritz! Read on to uncover the mystery behind a few of the most common (and creepy) water heater sounds.

Hissing or Screeching 

The occasional hissing sound coming from a water heater may not be anything to worry too much about. It may simply be condensation on the tank dripping down onto a burner or other hot surface after the tank has just been filled with cold water. But it can also indicate a leak, as water escapes and sizzles as it drips onto that same hot surface. Overly high temperature or overpressurization may also cause a hissing sound as the T&P (temperature and pressure) relief valve continually opens to vent pressure.

A screeching sound (not to be mistaken for ghostly singing) usually indicates that water is being forced through a small opening. This most often occurs when a valve won’t open all the way or has been accidentally closed partway. It may also occur when mineral deposits have accumulated inside the pipes, making the waterways more narrow.

Rumbling, Crackling, and Popping Soundswater heater

If the water heater rumbles, crackles, or pops, it’s a clear sign that there’s sediment in the water tank. The sediment will gradually accumulate and settle at the bottom of the tank, trapping pockets of water beneath each new layer of sediment. The popping and crackling sounds are caused by the trapped water forcing its way up through the sediment as it gets heated. 

The rumbling noise results from larger chunks of sediment breaking off and getting jostled around the tank. Sediment can lead to erosion or even cracks in the tank, which will cause it to leak. When a water heater tank springs a leak, one cannot repair it, and the entire unit will need to be replaced - so it’s best to get the tank flushed as soon as possible if these sounds are occurring.

Ticking or Hummingvalves

A ticking sound coming from the water heater typically comes from either the heat traps or check valves. These devices are installed at the inlet and outlet pipes to prevent hot or cold water from flowing incorrectly. Inside most heat traps and check valves is a small metal ball, piston, or plunger that stops the flow of water in one direction. This little apparatus can move back and forth as pressure and temperature fluctuate, producing a ticking sound - but if it occurs incessantly, it may indicate that these devices are malfunctioning.

Humming is usually the result of a loose heating element. As water flows around the loose element, it causes a steady vibration, creating a humming sound. While this is less serious than some of the above issues, it’s still best to have the element tightened before the issue becomes worse.

Fortunately, catching these issues as early as possible and having the water heater repaired by a professional will help homeowners avoid a premature replacement or breakdown. But the best way to avoid these problems - and the haunting sounds they create - is to schedule regular water heater maintenance with their trusted plumber!

About A&A Plumbing

A&A Plumbing has been serving the San Antonio, TX community with pride since 2007. As a family-owned and operated local business, they prioritize safety, clear communication, unbeatable workmanship, and customer satisfaction above all else. They offer financing, tailored solutions, and a rewarding membership plan. Call them for water heater service!