Noises coming from a water heater can be caused by expanding and contracting metal parts; drips; or, more likely, minerals and hard water scale accumulations inside the tank or on an electric water heater’s heating elements. When heated, dissolved hard water minerals recrystallize and form scale that cakes onto interior surfaces, making the water heater less efficient and more likely to fail.
To minimize corrosive minerals through ionization, water heaters have a magnesium or aluminum anode rod, inserted through the top of the tank. To avoid scale in the first place, every few months flush out the tank. See Not Enough Hot Water for complete instructions on how to do this.
Here are some common water heater sounds you might hear:
Water heater pops, bangs, or gurgles
These sounds are caused by the buildup of hard water sediment heating up and exploding inside the tank. You can flush out the tank yourself, although by the time you’re hearing this sound the sediment chunks may be too large to pass through the drain valve. For more, please see How to Flush or Drain a Water Heater.
If you have an electric water heater, these sounds could indicate a buildup of scale on your heating elements; it may be time to replace these.
Water heater makes a boiling sound
If water sounds like it is boiling inside the tank, this could indicate overheating and a dangerous pressure buildup. Call a service professional immediately.
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