Is Your Water Heater Making Noise?

Water heaters may make a wide variety of noises, sometimes indicating a problem, and sometimes nothing to worry about at all. On the other hand, identifying the noises being made can give you early warning of components that need maintenance or replacement.

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Although there are exceptions to every rule, here are the basic sounds you may hear and the most common water heater problems associated with them.

Crackling, Popping and Rumbling

Sediments collect around the element tubes of a water heater. When the element is off, the caked sediments trap water beneath them, and the water heats until it makes a cracking or popping sound as it is forced through the deposits. This is more common on older units, and the noise increases as the deposit layer thickens. Clean or replace the element.

noisy-water-heaterAnother indication the heater needs maintenance is a rumbling sound, produced by sediments being stirred by the water flow inside the tank. Use a deliming mixture to clean the tank and drain the water heater.

If maintenance does not cure the problem, the noises may be something as simple as the expansion and contraction of the main steel tank or expansion tank during normal operation. Metal pipes can make similar noises in situations where the water is heated beyond about 125 degrees.


The element in an electric water heater is commonly placed vertical in relation to the tank. Water flowing around the element can cause vibrations in this situation, creating a humming noise. Tighten the element slightly to correct the problem.

Knocking or Hammering

A knocking sound in your walls is related to pipes heating internally, and is literally known as “water hammering.” When water entering or leaving the tank is abruptly turned off, it can cause the pipes to move, banging against studs or the interior of walls. This can be caused by a dishwasher or toilet bowl, or by a water pump without a holding tank.

The noise is not dangerous to your water heater, but could lead to eventual wall damage if it is not corrected. Install a water hammer arrestor between the offending device and the water heater.

Singing, Screaming or Screeching

Screaming sounds are created by water being forced through a small opening. This is usually caused by a valve that is not fully opened, either at the water heater or at a particular outlet such as a sink. Check the valves in you water lines.

Ticking or Tapping

Many water heaters have heat traps or check valves installed in the pipes on top of the heater. These traps are designed to prevent water from flowing in the wrong direction in the pipes, and may make ticking or light tapping sounds.

This is normal, but you can replace the heat trap with an ordinary dielectric nipple if it disturbs you. You should also be aware that your plumbing may make similar noises as the hot water in them cools down.

Other Noises?

Sorry, can’t help you there.

Tankless Water Heater Noise

Tankless water heaters have their own distinct noises. If you hear a clicking noise, this is typically just the flow switch turning on and off to start and stop the flow of water and is completely normal. If it’s making a lot of noise when turned on, it may be because calcium deposits are being left behind due to hard water in your area.

Installing a water softener system may be necessary. Others reasons for a noisy tankless water heater model may be an issue with the burner, the fan may be dirty, or possibly a leak in the sealed combustion resulting in irregular gas combustion. Generally speaking, there is a lower chance of hearing strange noises with a tankless water heater vs tank model.

Water Heater Maintenance

The cure for most sounds associated with your water heater is found in regular care and maintenance. Since minerals in your water lead to sediments in your water heater, installing a water softener in your primary water line will reduce buildup and associated noises.

Similarly, flushing the tank with a deliming solution annually will prevent heavy build up in the tank and serve to keep the elements cleaner as well. Anyone can become a responsible water heater owner with a bit of easy maintenance.

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20 thoughts on “Is Your Water Heater Making Noise?”

  1. We recently had a new electric water heater installed a few months ago. For the last couple of weeks, in the late evening/very early morning, it’s been making a loud donkey “hee haw” type noise. Why & what can I do to stop it?

    • Unfortunately, it’s fairly common for electric water heaters to makes various noises. This is usually because of the internal heating elements and how they react to minerals, water pressure, and other things.

      Because you’re saying you mainly hear the noises in the evening or early morning, it’s most likely related to outside temperature in your case and may actually be the piping leading to or coming out of the tank. The noise is probably nothing to worry about but if you are concerned, come have a plumber take a look at it.

  2. I have an electric water heater that makes a small dripping sound between 11.30pm and 1am approximately, during heating. In the lst couple of days the dripping has been replaced by intermittent soft hissing. Any ideas why?

  3. Moved into my first house last week. My girlfriend has had baths in the house before last night. But when she ran the bath last night after about 5 mins there was a screaming coming from the airing cupboard and I presume the water tank. When we turned the tap off on the bath the noise continues for another 10 minutes gradually becoming quieter. I had a shower after it had stopped and there was no noise at all. Anyone have any ideas?

  4. Hi , we are currently getting creeching noises coming from the the bathroom where ur hot was cylinder is , when it screeches I also hear water dripping in to the toilet water , you say t could be the valve so do you think it could be the valve at the toilet , if so what do I need to do ?

  5. My geyser is making sounds like a plane about to take off everytime we open the taps. There is barely any water pressure and doing washing in a top loader takes forever because the water takes ages to fill the machine.
    Showering is a not an option due to lack of water pressure.
    Please advise.

  6. Our immersion heater is rumbling and is literally making the entire house shake. Even if we have the hot water off and the central heating on. Our heating is set to come on at 6am but the other day we were awoken at 4am. The rumbling was so loud and intense the walls of the house were shaking as was our bed and the heating was on full whack despite the heating not meant to be on at that time.
    There is no gauge at the tank so I can’t see what the water pressure is and the rumbling is so loud and constant we’ve had to turn the hot water and central heating off for fear it could explode.
    We’ve lived in our rented property for 3 years and the boiler and tank have not been serviced in that time.
    Our landlord is currently away on holiday and we can’t contact him and are at a loss for what to do…

  7. My hot water heater is electric it’s making a noise and I have no water coming out the hot water side on all my sinks and showers. I’ve checked my breaker and it’s fine. Not sure exactly what’s going on

  8. Gas water heater is making loud noise like a running water inside when you open the line.
    Also, when you go to the bathroom, you here the same sound like running water enveloping the room. When you turn off the line of the gas heater, the noise of running water, minimize and so in the bathroom. And also, the flow of water coming out from the hot water faucet in the kitchen, bathroom, and shower are weak.

    Lastly, if you turn-off the main water line, all noises stop. What could be the problem? I have called 3 plumbers and said, there could be a leak on
    the pipe-line somewhere connecting the gas water heater. The flow of the cold water is normal flow.

    • Unfortunately, I’d have to agree it’s either a leak somewhere in the line after the water heater, a blockage in the line, restriction in an elbow, or kink in PEX tubing/piping (newer homes). All of these things would reduce water pressure and make an unnatural noise.

      You can try to better pinpoint the location of the issue by how far from the water heater the hot water faucet is. Start with the closest location. If you get low pressure and noise there, the issue is between there and the water heater.

  9. We have a water heater on our garage. We dont usually use it but there is also a bathroom and sink in there.
    We have been hearing loud noise like simuted dog barking sound.
    Can u let me know if this is not a problem that requires attention?

    • Could be sediment in the tank so flushing might help. Alternatively, it could be a water pressure issue. Adding an expansion tank (if you don’t have one) or a water hammer arrestor (if you do have an expansion tank) are also worth looking into.

  10. Lost power due to a storm about ahour or two later heard the electric hot water tank gurgling a few different times what should I do power still out

    • Typically gurgling noises are due to sediment at the bottom of the water heater. This develops if you don’t regularly flush the water heater. Here’s a link on how to do that. If it’s an old unit (12+ years), you might be better off biting the bullet and consider replacing it.

  11. Just had my brand new hot water heater (from PSE&G) and experienced something strange. We had a loss of hot water for probably a good 30+ minutes… when I looked at the hot water heater in the basement, the output pipe was luke warm and instead of seeing a light blue pilot light, I saw a bright flickering orange/yellow light and heard the sound of something like water dripping onto a very hot pan. I took a look inside where the flame was and actually saw water drops falling on the flame in the hot water heater. About 20+ minutes after I encountered the issue, it returned to the normal silence and blue light. I did read that this might be an indicator of a pressure build up and wanted to get someone’s take on this since it appears like an odd issue.

  12. Got a tankless gas what’re heater that roars when I turn on washer. I have had the unit about a year and it just started the noise. Checked exhaust and it was clear. Any ideas?

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