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6 Common Hot Water System Noises & What They Mean

Hot water splashing out of spout

Strange noises coming from any appliance or piece of equipment are never a welcomed occurrence. When the sounds are coming from your hot water heater, it can be easy to jump to the worst conclusion.

You may be instantly filled with thoughts of high maintenance bills or the cost of replacement, praying that the hot water lasts long enough for the weekend loads of washing or the bedtime routine. Although some noises may call for a professional and licensed plumber to ensure nothing sinister is lurking beneath the surface, some system noises are normal. 

So, before you start picking out your next hot water system, read on to learn more about hot water system noises and what they mean for your household.

6 Common hot water system noises

A noisy hot water heater or even the entire system doesn’t always mean that your hot water system needs to be replaced. A noisy water heater is quite common during cold months, as the system works harder to heat your water. It is entirely possible that the sounds require no attention at all.

Read through these common hot water system noises to determine whether you can leave the noise as it is or if your hot water heater requires a fix.

1. Banging or rumbling

Wrench banging on pipe

A banging or rumbling sound in your hot water system can certainly take you by surprise. Yet, the cause of this noise is rarely a reason for alarm. This type of sound can range from a low rumble to a large bang that may take a moment to realise it’s not the house falling apart or an intruder at your door.

What causes it: With enough sediment build-up, the heating element can react, resulting in the sound that sent your heart racing and the dog barking.

How to fix it: These tiny explosion-like noises have a simple solution with a good drain and clean clearing the sediment build-up and quieting your system. This should be done twice annually to prevent build-up, particularly if you live in a region with hard water. 


2. Hammering sounds

Hand hammering nail against wood

Another infamous hot water system sound is water hammering away at your pipes.

What causes it: This occurs when water suddenly rushes through your pipes at a rate that is a little too much for them to handle. This can happen when the system has been turned back on after a period of shutting down or during a classic heavy Australian rainstorm when the pipes are under pressure.

How to fix it: It’s important not to ignore the water hammer, as if it gets bad or consistent enough, it can cause a burst pipe. Ensuring your pressure relief valve is functional and properly set is an excellent preventative measure. 


3. Ticking noises

Clock ticking

Fortunately, ticking sounds coming from your hot water heater are completely normal and do not indicate the need to run for cover.

What causes it: The ticking sound is more likely from a sudden change in your water pressure and it simply indicates that your system is trying to adjust.

How to fix it: You can help your system by adjusting the pressure relief valve or installing more insulation around the system, which will prevent ticking from becoming an ongoing issue. 


4. Popping sounds

Red present box exploding

A popping sound is another way that your system indicates a sediment build-up.

What causes it: You may be hearing the alkali in your system reacting with the heating element, which is a risk factor for rust build-up.

How to fix it: If you hear a popping noise, it could indicate that your system needs not only a wash-out but a replacement anode rod to ensure the sediment and bacteria are being adequately reduced. In this case, you’ll need to call a professional and licensed plumber.


5. Screeching and whistling 

Organ pipe whistles

This can be one of the most alarming sounds to hear, as you may wonder if your cat has snuck into your system, or the tank is suddenly possessed.

What causes it: A likely cause of high-pitched screeching is that you have loose valves slowly releasing air/pressure from the tank/valves.

How to fix it: Check every valve – the pressure reducing valve, the temperature valve, and the inlet/outlet valves – to ensure they are well adjusted and functioning how they should. If you need a replacement valve or the screeching continues, a call to a technician is required. 


6. Hissing and crackling

Train whistle screeching

These are most common in an electric water heater and usually aren’t any cause for concern.

What causes it: If these noises continue and are persistent, there may be an issue with your system’s heating element that requires a closer look.

How to fix it: This potentially serious issue requires a professional plumber to inspect and will often require tank drainage. If your tank operates on gas or solar and you have a hissing sound, the root cause may be moisture build-up. If there is water pooling around your unit, paired with the hissing sound, call a technician immediately. Even if your system isn’t electric powered, it will have electric components that definitely aren’t waterproof. 


When to call a hot water service professional 

While some sounds are normal and not cause for concern, most hot water system issues require a professional inspection at the very least.

Even the most experienced DIYer or Bunnings expert should not attempt to fix their leaking gas line or damaged electrical components. When it comes to hot water systems, attempting to repair your hot water system without proper training can cause more issues and put you and your home at risk. It’s best to call licensed plumber who can talk you through the next steps or fix the problem for you. 

Same Day Hot Water provides expert service and hot water installations in most major Australian cities along with sales Australia-wide. We offer fast delivery, a comprehensive range of hot water systems, and a 24/7 emergency plumbing hotline. 

Give us a call on 1300 721 996 or click here to send an enquiry to our team. If it’s time to upgrade your system for a faster, more efficient and electricity bill-friendly option, we offer solar, electric, gas and instantaneous flow systems to suit any home, budget, family, and hot water habits. Browse our range of hot water systems types today. 

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