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Water Heater Making Popping Sound? Causes And Troubleshooting Tips

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, we may receive a small commission for made purchases.

A water heater is a vital part of any home and can be one of the most expensive appliances to replace.

If you’re having problems with your hot water, your water heater may be failing and it may be time for an upgrade.

If you’ve been hearing popping sounds coming from your water heater, then there is likely to be sediment building up in this appliance. 

This sediment is a build-up of minerals from the water that end up settling at the bottom of the tank.

If action is not taken early enough, then this build-up could lead to an array of issues, such as water leakage, reduced efficiency, and less water being heated. 

This popping sound resembles the sound of popcorn cooking.

If this is a sound you are hearing from your water heater, then continue reading as we will discuss the issue. 

This article will be discussing why you are hearing this noise, what you can do to fix it, and how you can prevent this from happening in the future. 

Why Is My Water Heater Making This Strange Noise? 

A water heater has many parts that are made out of metal.

These include the tank itself, the heating elements, the valves, and the pipes that connect all these components together.

When sediment builds up inside the tank or in the pipes, it causes corrosion which eventually leads to leaks.

This is why you hear the knocking noise when the water heater is running.

What Is Sediment? 

Water Heater Making Popping Sound? Causes And Troubleshooting Tips

Sediment is anything that comes into contact with water like sand, dirt, rust, or other particles.

It accumulates over time as minerals build up on the bottom of the tank. The more sediment that builds up, the worse the problem becomes. 

The sediment that builds up in your water heater is caused by the water itself.

This will depend on the kind of water you have in your area, but if it is ‘hard’ water, it contains more minerals that will build up over time.

It will end up settling at the bottom of the tank. 

How Do I Know If There’s Too Much Sediment In My Tank?

If you are hearing a consistent popping sound, then you know there is sediment building up at the bottom of your tank.

To figure out if the problem is an issue, you should have a professional plumber come and take a look. 

They will be able to confirm that the popping noise is a result of sediment build-up, and they will be able to determine the best cause of action moving forward. 

If they have caught it early, then they may be able to solve the problem by simply flushing and cleaning the tank.

However, if there is a substantial amount of build-up, then they may suggest you replace the tank altogether. 

Can This Cause Damage? 

If you hear a popping noise but find there’s only a small amount of sediment in your water heater, then there’s no issue for concern. 

However, if you find that there is an accumulation of sediment that has been building up in the water heater for quite some time, this can lead to some serious issues.  

Some of these include overheating, and this could cause damage to the steel tank.

You could also experience leaks from your water heater (see also ‘ What To Do If You Notice Your Water Heater Leaking ‘). 

There could also be some water displacement, meaning that there will be less hot water being released from the water heater.

You could also see some higher water bills.

This is because the water heater could be struggling to heat the water efficiently, leading to it having to run for longer. 

Having your tank flushed is one solution to the problem, and if you have never done this and you are hearing that popping sound, then there could be a large accumulation of sediment in your water heater.

Why Does The Popping Noise Happen? 

A popping noise is usually heard when there is too much sediment in your tank.

When the sediment gets heated, it expands and creates a loud pop.

If you’re hearing this sound, then it means that there is a lot of sediment inside your tank.

As water is heated in your water tank, steam is created.

When there’s an accumulation of sediment at the bottom of the tank, the steam tries to escape, and that is what leads to a bubbling or popping noise.

This is also because the heating element of the water heater (see also ‘What To Do When Water Heater Element Stuck‘) is located at the bottom of the tank, which is where the sediment lies also. 

As steam tries to escape through all this build-up, it leads to the popping and knocking noise.  

How To Solve The Problem

If you find that your water heater is making the popping noise, it is most likely being caused by an accumulation of sediment.

While this can cause damage if left to its devices, sorting out the problem is not too difficult.

The best way to get rid of the sediment is to flush it out of the tank.

To do this, you need to call a professional who knows how to deal with this type of situation.

They will remove the sediment and if needed, replace the tank. 

However, if you have caught the problem early, replacing the tank may not be needed.

The good news is, that if you are up for the challenge, you can also flush your tank yourself!

What you’ll need to do is drain the water heater from the water in the tank.

To do this, you should begin by turning off the water at the circuit breaker or switching the control knob to the ‘pilot’ option. 

Then, switch off the water supply to allow the water to cool.

Let this happen for around half an hour, and then attach a hose to the drain valve of the tank. This is located at the bottom. 

Then, depending on where your water heater is located, place the other end of the hose in a location that is appropriate for the water to drain.

This could be a nearby bathtub or sink. 

Once you have done this, you can fill up the pressure relief valve which should be at the top of the water heater (see also ‘How To Remove Sediments From Water Heaters Easy | Troubleshooting Tips‘).

Open the drain valve, and then let the water flush out fully. 

Switch on the cold water valve, as this will flush out any of the remaining sediment.

Keep an eye on the water as it drains, and once it goes clear, the sediment has been fully flushed out.

You can then close the drain valve and allow the tank to fill up completely. 

Once it has been filled up, switch the appliances back on, and allow the water to heat up again. 

As mentioned earlier, the best way to solve this problem is to get your tank cleaned by a professional.

They will flush the sediment away and replace the filters. 

How Can I Prevent Sediment Buildup?

The build-up of sediment and limescale in water heaters is something every home faces, and it affects both electric and gas-powered water heaters. 

The best way to fix the issue is to incorporate some preventative measures. Installing a water softener is one measure you can implement.

A water softener system will reduce the hard minerals and replace them with softer ones, resulting in less build-up inside your water heater. 

This could lead to less damage being done in the long run. 

You could also install a filtration system. There are options for whole house water filtration systems.

These will filter the water, catching onto any of these minerals and resulting in purer, healthier water in your home. 

This means that your water heater will have less of these hard minerals accumulating at the bottom of the tank, and you will also have cleaner tap water.

Installing this system will elongate the lifespan of your household plumbing and water systems. 

Maintaining the temperature of your water heater is also key to maintaining its life.

When you order one, it is likely to arrive at a temperature of around 125 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is important that you leave it at this temperature, as hotter temperatures can cause damage, and can cause more deposits and sediment build-up. 

Final Thoughts 

To conclude, a popping noise in your water heater is likely to be due to a build-up of sediment from the minerals in the water.

To fix this issue, you should try flushing out your tank. 

As mentioned in this article, this can be done yourself, but you should call a professional as they will have all the appropriate tools and are trained in this area, and they will know how to proceed with caution. 

In order to prevent the problem, it may be worth installing a home filtration system.

This will not only be good for your water heater, but also for your tap water and plumbing systems. 

We hope our article has given you some guidance on how to troubleshoot this issue, and how you can prevent this issue from continuing to happen.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Knocking Sound In Your Walls?

The sound of knocking coming from your walls is usually a result of your pipes.

This is common when water faucets are being switched on or off.

When this happens, there is a pressure build-up in the pipes, causing them to vibrate.

These vibrations then cause some noise, resembling knocking on your walls. 

What Are The Signs Of A Water Heater Maintenance Problem?

Other signs of issues in your water heater that aren’t noise-related, could be cloudy or dirty water being produced.

Another indication could be water temperature varying uncontrollably.

Leaking is also another sign that there could be an issue with your water heater. 

Why Am I Still Hearing Noises? 

If you’ve had a plumber come and sort out your water heater, then the noises you are hearing could just be the water heater expanding or contracting as it gets to its normal work. 

What Is A Humming Noise In An Electric Water Heater?

Humming noise in a water heater could simply just be the water flowing around in the tank.

This can sometimes cause vibrations, leading to a humming noise. 

What Causes Screaming Sounds?

Screaming sounds are created by water being forced through a small opening.

author avatar
Anthony Barnes
Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age


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