How to Fix a Noisy Water Heater
LESLIE: Michael in North Carolina is on the line with a water heater that’s making some curious sounds. Tell us what’s going on.
MICHAEL: Recently, the last four to six weeks, I’ve been noticing – it sounds like a bubbling and a popping noise inside of the water heater. I’ve read several things on the internet but I can’t quite put my finger on it and I’m worried that either the vessel is getting ready to go or – I’m not sure, at this point.
TOM: How old is the water heater?
MICHAEL: It looks to be of considerable age. I’m guessing between six and eight years.
TOM: Well, I mean water heaters generally go about 10 to 12 years, so that’s not – that’s kind of middle-aged; it’s not too terrible. By the way, if you look at the data plate on that water heater, usually there’s a date stamp sort of buried into the serial number. Sometimes, it’ll actually say what the date of the manufacture is or at the least, it’s going to have a gas standard in terms of which code it was built to and it’ll give you a year there. So you can get an actual sense of what the actual age of the water heater is.
The noise is usually caused by a sediment buildup on the bottom of the tank. So, if you drain the tank occasionally, that will usually stop that. Have you ever drained your tank?
MICHAEL: In the eight months I’ve been there, no. But I’d read something somewhere along the lines that you have to be very careful with – it’s got a plastic drain valve on it. And when you have a water heater that’s a little bit older, I guess they get – become brittle. And I’m worried about breaking that and making things much worse immediately.
TOM: Well, you could very carefully try to drain the water heater. You simply hook up a garden hose to that spout; it’s designed to be drained. And let some of the water out of it and try to spill off some sediment with that. You get sediment on the bottom of the tank and that does tend to make it pretty noisy sometimes.
MICHAEL: OK. Is there any chance that I have the temperature turned up too high and it’s causing – well, I guess not at 125 degrees. It wouldn’t cause a boiling, would it?
TOM: No, it wouldn’t. And 125 degrees, though, is pretty hot. You really want it to be more like 110.
TOM: Just for safety’s sake, if nothing else.
LESLIE: Yeah, because you could easily get scalded.
MICHAEL: OK. Alright. I’ll give that a shot.
TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.