Woman on phone with a plumber diagnosing issues with her water heater

Sounds Your Water Heater Makes That Say “Call the Plumber!”

Out of all the plumbing equipment in your home, the water heater is probably the most overworked. Centralized water heaters, in particular, are put through a lot of stress, especially since they provide heated water to different parts of the house all day, every day. As resilient as they are, just like any electric mechanism, they can get worn out when overused.

There are signs when it’s time for a water heater repair, and your heater has some indicators to signal when this is due. It typically makes some kind of noise when it’s starting to malfunction, so when you check up on your heater one day and find that it’s screeching uncharacteristically, you might want to consider calling the plumber right away.

In this list are seven noises your heater makes to signal that the end of its lifespan is near. To avoid a plumbing catastrophe, here are some things to look out for when you hear your heater go bump in the night:

1. Squealing or Screeching

There are valves in your water heater that can close and open, and the screeching noises result from a partially closed valve. The sound you hear is the water trying to flow through the pipes with difficulty as the valve restricts it. To fix this problem, ensure that the valve is fully open.

2. Popping

One of the most common issues for a water heater to have is an excess buildup of sediment and mineral deposits at the bottom of the tank. This buildup comes from areas with abundant mineral deposits in the water flow, such as calcium.

There may be bits of sand and other debris in the water supply that gets trapped in your heater and settles at the bottom of the tank. The resulting sound when you have this issue is a lot of popping.

To get rid of those popping noises and fix the problem, a professional plumber can help you flush out the water heater to get rid of all the built-up mineral deposits and sediments.

3. Rumbling

Another sign of too much dirt in the heater is a rumbling sound. When heated water passes through the debris, rumbling occurs as water moves through the tank’s dirt. Though not particularly dangerous, it will cause your heater’s performance to drop. Like popping noises, this can be resolved by removing all the excess debris from the tank.

4. Humming

Another noise that water heaters sometimes make is a loud humming. This happens when cold water flows into the tank and moves around, causing the top to shake and make a humming noise.

While the humming sound won’t render your heater unusable, it can be resolved by making the heating elements tighter.

5. Crackling

Crackling sounds are indicative of condensation on the burners of gas-powered heaters. There’s no damage to be expected in this case, but the noise can persist. Leave crackling sounds be or raise them with your plumber for a more thorough checkup.

6. Sizzling

A sizzling sound probably means a leak in your water heater and is caused by the leak dripping into the burner. If you hear this sound in your utility room, have no hot water in the house, and see a puddle around your heater, then it’s most likely a leak and should be repaired right away.

If there’s enough damage from the leak, a water heater replacement will be needed.

7. Ticking

Ticking noises in your heater and pipes will indicate changes in pressure. The ticking may come from the nipples that connect your heater to the pipes. These store heat and allow your heater to work more efficiently.

Getting rid of the ticking noise is as simple as swapping the nipples out for a variation with no heat trap.


Identifying your water heater’s issues through the sounds you’re hearing is crucial for the residential plumber you’ll call. They will be better prepared with the information you provide and fix the problem more quickly, saving you time and money. Use this as a guide to make sure your water heater is in proper working condition. And if it isn’t, you’ll be more confident in identifying these noises as safe or in need of immediate attention!

If your water heater is making all sorts of frightening noises, then calling an emergency plumber is your best option. Here at Bromac Mechanical in Abbotsford, BC, we offer plumbing and heating solutions in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley areas. To learn more about our other services, visit our website today!

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