You probably hear a lot of noises in your home every day, whether it’s the washing machine on spin cycle or the sound of your HVAC kicking on to keep you warm. However, if strange sounds are coming from your water heater, that’s a sign of trouble, and you likely need to replace it immediately. Here are five reasons why.
The water that flows into your water heater is typically relatively clean, but it may carry fine particulates - and most commonly sand - into the tank with it. What’s more, as the appliance heats the water inside the tank, sediment tends to separate from the water and land all throughout the tank. If your tank has started making strange noises and it’s been a while since it’s been flushed, this is a sign that the buildup is severe and a replacement may be inevitable.
If you notice a hissing sound coming from your water heater, much like the sound of letting the air out of a balloon very slowly, then this is a sign that the pressure release valve built into the tank is starting to fail. These valves exist to prevent explosions by giving steam somewhere to go in the event that too much of it builds up inside, but if that valve is whining or making other noises regularly, this is a sign of something bigger and you should call for a plumber quickly.
A sizzling noise coming from your water heater is also indicative of a serious issue that likely requires a replacement. If you have a gas-fired water heater and you’re hearing sizzling relatively frequently, this means that condensation is building up and hitting the burners. Your water heater is designed in such a way that the area housing the burners should always be dry, so if condensation is getting inside, this means there’s a leak somewhere that shouldn’t exist. This issue almost always calls for a water heater replacement.
Over many years of use, the same stuff you clean off your faucets and shower walls - the dreaded limescale - has also built up inside your water heater. Once again, cleaning and flushing it regularly is the best way to prevent serious buildup, but once it’s gotten bad, there’s virtually no way to restore the tank back to its pristine condition. If you’re hearing popping noises coming from your tank, that’s almost always a sign of significant limescale buildup. Only a professional can determine whether it can be cleaned or if it needs to be replaced.
Finally, constant changes in pressure can lead to a very loud and pronounced ticking sound. In this case, it may be that the nipples connecting your water heater to the water lines have a built-in feature that is designed to trap heat and make your water heater work more efficiently. Unfortunately, in some cases, this feature causes more problems than it solves and results in constant pressure changes. The only way to resolve this issue is to switch to a water heater that does not have a heat trap built in.
As you can see, water heaters are capable of making all kinds of different noises, but it’s important to never simply ignore them. Sometimes these noises indicate a serious problem that requires a water heater replacement and failing to replace the appliance in a timely manner can result in injury or significant damage.