Why Your Water Heater Is Making Noises

You may have that moment when you wake up in the middle of the night wondering, “What do the noises my water heater is making mean?” And then you may have trouble falling asleep again as you worry about how much it will cost to fix whatever problem your water heater has—or to pay for replacement. Let’s go through each type of sound and what it might mean.

Is it okay for my water heater to be making noises?

Some problems aren’t an issue, while others could be signs of trouble ahead. The reality is that all water heaters make some noise during normal operation. It really depends on the type of noise as to whether you’ll have to bring in the pros for assistance.

Rumbling, crackling and popping

As the water heats in the tank, sediment is boiled out of the water, which then collects on the element tubes and the water heater’s anode. These layers of sediment build up over time and trap water. When the water heats up and bursts through the sediment, this can make a popping or crackling noise. A rumbling noise may follow as the chunks of sediment float around.

If you have a water heater that’s under 10 years old, you may able to add a deliming mixture to reduce the sediment buildup and flush the water out of the tank and drain the water heater. In general, it’s recommended to drain and flush the water heater annually. A well-maintained water heater can last for 15 years, so it’s worth keeping up with this maintenance.


This sound results from the pipes hitting the wall. This may happen because pipes are not securely anchored and may make contact with the studs or wall interior. This is generally not an urgent issue, though there may be some damage if it’s left unaddressed for too long. This problem doesn’t have anything to do with the water heater itself. A plumber can install a water hammer arrestor to address this issue.


When a water heater makes a humming sound, this likely means the water heater’s element has become loose. This causes water to flow around the element and result in vibrations. This sound is nothing to worry about. If it’s bothering you, request that your plumber tighten the element.


If you hear a hissing sound, this is often the result of a leak. Check out your water heater and see if you see steam or water leaking from it or a pipe near it. This is a case where you want to bring in a professional plumber to fix the issue. For older water heaters or those that haven’t been well maintained, you may need to spring for replacement rather than repair.

At Big City Plumbing, LLC, we’ll handle all your water heater problems, no matter how big or how small. We have plenty of years of experience we put to use to get the job done right the first time, every time. Contact us right away to learn more and schedule your first appointment.

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