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How to Fix a Popping Noise in a Water Heater

July 18, 2023

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If you're hearing strange popping or cracking noises coming from your water heater, it's usually a sign of a problem. That annoying popping sound means your water heater needs some troubleshooting and maintenance.

How to fix popping noise in water heater? Well, first of all, you need to identify where the noise is originating. The popping can be caused by sediment buildup, loose parts, high temperatures, and more. Fortunately, a popping water heater often indicates minor issues you can repair yourself without calling a plumber.

With some simple DIY repairs, you can stop the noise and keep your water heater running efficiently.

What Causes the Popping Sound?

How do I stop my water heater from making noise? Before fixing the problem, it helps to understand what's causing the popping or cracking noise in the first place. There are three common causes:

Sediment Buildup

The most likely culprit is sediment accumulation inside the water heater's tank. Over time, tiny mineral deposits and sediment from your home's water supply can collect in the tank.

As the sediment builds up, it eventually hardens on the bottom of the tank. When the water heater runs and the water gets hot, the hardened sediment expands and contracts, making a popping or cracking noise.

Loose Parts

There are various internal parts and fittings inside a water heater, such as valves, pipes, anode rods, and thermal expansion tanks. If any of these components come loose or develop a leak, the expanding and contracting metal as the tank heats up and cools down can cause popping.

High Temperature

If your water heater is set at a very high temperature (usually above 140°F), the water inside the tank can boil rapidly and turn to steam. This creates air bubbles and pockets of steam that collapse suddenly, resulting in loud popping or knocking noises.

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How to Fix Popping Noise In Water Heater

Luckily, that annoying popping or cracking coming from the water heater is often an easy DIY fix. Try these tips to stop the noise and get your hot water heater running quietly again:

Drain the Tank

Draining the tank is the first step toward getting rid of sediment buildup. Start by shutting off the power to the water heater at the breaker box to be safe when working with water.

Locate the drain valve at the bottom of the tank, and attach a garden hose that extends to a drain or outside area. Place a bucket under the hose to catch the initial water. Open the drain valve and allow the tank to completely drain. This will flush out loose sediment that has settled on the bottom.

Flush the Tank

After draining the tank, your next step is flushing it to rinse out any remaining debris. Close the drain valve and detach the garden hose from it. Reattach the hose to the flush valve near the top of the tank.

Make sure the hose extends to a drain or bucket. Open the flush valve and allow fresh water to run through the tank for several minutes. This will help dislodge sediment and rinse it away down the drain.

Check Fittings and Valves

With the tank drained and flushed, inspect the plumbing lines, fittings, pipes, and valves connected to the water heater for any signs of leaks or loose parts. Tighten any loose fittings with a wrench. Replace any leaky or corroded valves.

Check connections to the hot and cold water lines, relief valve, shutoff valve, and other fittings. Tightening fittings will stop the metal parts from creaking as they expand and contract.

Lower the Temperature

Use a thermometer to check the temperature setting on your water heater's thermostat. Lower it to 120°F if it's set higher than that. Excessively high temperatures accelerate sediment buildup in the tank.

Keep the thermostat at 120°F or below for optimal efficiency and less expansion and contraction of water. Consult your manual for how to adjust the thermostat.

Install a Water Softener

If you have hard water, consider installing a whole-house water softener. Hard water with high mineral content contributes to sediment buildup in the water heater. A water softener will filter out minerals and deposits.

You can also install plastic tubing on the cold water inlet line to prevent corrosion of the pipes that lead into the tank. The plastic is less prone to sediment buildup.

Replace the Anode Rod

Inside your water heater is an anode rod, which attracts sediment so it doesn't clog up the tank. The anode rod needs to be replaced every 3-5 years. Over time, the rod becomes caked with sediment and becomes less effective at doing its job.

Replacing the anode rod will help reduce sediment accumulation. Turn off the water and power to the heater when replacing it. Make sure the replacement rod matches the original.

Consider A Tankless Water Heater

If your water heater is several years old, it may be time to replace the entire unit if you've tried the above steps and the popping persists. Consider upgrading to a tankless water heater, which heats water on demand rather than storing it.

Tankless models have no tank for sediment to build up in, eliminating popping issues. They are more energy efficient and provide a continuous supply of hot water.

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When to Call a Professional

While many popping noises and other small issues can be addressed with DIY maintenance, there are times to call in a professional residential plumber:

  • When the popping is accompanied by other problems like rust-colored water, leaking, or no hot water, the heater may need repairs beyond DIY skills.
  • Why is my hot water heater still popping after flush? If draining and flushing the tank had no impact on the noise, excess sediment may require tank replacement.
  • If the popping started suddenly or is extremely loud, it could signify urgent issues.
  • If you smell gas or the heater has other signs of combustion failure, shut it off and call for service immediately.

A trained water heater technician has the skills, tools, and parts to fully inspect the unit and fix any underlying problems. They can determine if certain components need repair or replacement.

Routine professional water heater maintenance checks can also help prevent minor issues from becoming serious, avoiding breakdowns and expensive repairs.

While DIY repairs and maintenance can solve many minor water heater problems, it's important to know when to call reinforcements. Catching problems early reduces the risk of catastrophic failure that can damage your home and belongings.

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Take Control of Your Water Heater's Health

Identifying and resolving small problems before they escalate into costly repairs is the key to getting the longest life from your water heater.

Stay alert for any unusual noises, leaks, or performance changes. Conduct preventive maintenance steps like flushing and anode rod replacement. And don't hesitate to call a professional when needed.

With periodic care and attention, your water heater can safely deliver hot water to your home for years before replacement is needed. Stopping that annoying popping noise can be the first step toward getting your heater running in tip-top shape.

About Princeton Plumbing Pros

As a dedicated, reputable company, Princeton Plumbing Pros offer top-tier services for residential and commercial customers. Drain cleaning, leak detection, and water filtration are just a few examples of what they have to offer. Please call the office at (609) 917-7196 to schedule an appointment.

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