What Causes a Water Heater to Make Popping Noises?

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Water heaters can make strange noises while they're in operation. In particular, some water heaters make a popping noise that sounds similar to popcorn. Knowing what causes this noise and what you can do about it can help you take care of your water heater.

What causes a water heater to make popping noises?

Sediment is a common problem that can cause a water heater to make popping noises. These noises occur when sediment in the bottom of the water heater forms a barrier between the heating elements and the water in the top of the tank. When the heating elements are activated, the water in the bottom of the tank boils, and the sediment bounces around inside. Sediment builds up in the bottom of the water heater over time, especially in homes with hard water. If you live in a home with hard water and your water heater is making popping noises, sediment is a very likely cause.

Is it bad to have sediment in the bottom of a water heater?

Water heaters can function for many years with deposits of sediment in the bottom of the tank. However, this sediment can bury the heating elements in the tank, making it more difficult for the water heater to warm the water inside the appliance. Over time, this can cause your water heater to become inefficient, thus forcing your water heater to work harder than necessary to do its job. If this is allowed to continue, it can cause the premature demise of the appliance.

What can you do to get rid of the sediment in the bottom of the water heater?

The best way to get rid of the sediment in the bottom of your water heater is to drain the tank until the sediment is gone. Follow this procedure:

  1. Turn off the cold water supply to the tank.
  2. Turn off the power to the water tank.
  3. Open up a hot water faucet in the house. 
  4. Hook up a hose to the spigot in the bottom of the tank.
  5. Open the spigot and drain the water in the bottom of the tank into a bucket. Be careful with this water; it will be very hot! If the water is dirty, this shows you that there is sediment in the bottom of the tank.
  6. Drain the sediment in the bottom of the tank until the water runs clear.
  7. Close the spigot, then return the hot water tank to its original state. To do this, turn off the hot water faucet, turn on the cold water supply to the tank, and turn on the power to the water heater.

What can you do to prevent the popping noises from returning?

You can prevent the popping noises from returning by draining the sediment in the bottom of the tank on a regular basis. You can also prevent minerals from building up in the tank by having a plumber install a water softener in your home. To find out more about getting a water softener, contact a skilled and experienced plumbing professional in your area. He or she can answer your questions and give you a quote.


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