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Why Is My Water Heater Making a Popping Noise?

May 20, 2021

It’s fairly common to hear a popping noise coming from a water heater. However, it can be a confusing experience for a homeowner to try to interpret.

This popping sound occurs when mineral sediment has built up in your water heater and it can typically be easily resolved. However, this issue should be taken seriously to prevent potential damage.

Let’s dive deeper into the causes for a popping noise and their various solutions:

  • Sediment buildup
  • Flush your water heater
  • What happens if you don’t address the issue?
  • Consider installing a whole-home water softener

Phoenix’s water has some of the worst mineral buildups in the nation and Patrick Riley’s professionals know how to provide solutions. We repair both tank water heaters and tankless water heaters and offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Sediment Buildup

The potable water that’s piped to your home naturally contains minerals like calcium and magnesium carbonate. Over time, the minerals will sink to the bottom of your water tank, creating hard buildup.

After buildup occurs, small amounts of water can get trapped underneath the sediment, near the tank’s burner. Eventually, tiny air bubbles burst out from the hardened buildup, making a popping sound as they jostle the sediment around.

The key to avoiding the popping is to prevent sediment from building up in the first place.

Flush Your Water Heater

We recommend flushing your water heater at least once a year to prevent sediment buildup. A professional plumber can flush your water heater and also do a general inspection to assess your unit’s overall performance.

However, if you’re feeling handy, you can flush your appliance yourself:

  1. Put on heavy-duty gloves to prevent burns.
  2. Disable your water heater’s power. For an electric heater, switch OFF the breaker on your electrical panel. For a gas heater, turn the gas valve powering the heater to OFF.
  3. Turn OFF the cold water valve feeding your heater. You’ll find the valve/water pipe right above your water heater. Wait for the water to cool, which may take an hour.
  4. Attach a garden hose to your drain valve which you can find at the bottom of the unit. Make sure the other end of the hose is feeding into a drain or other safe place for hot water to drain.
  5. Open a hot water faucet on a sink or bathtub to alleviate pipe pressure.
  6. Open the drain valve on your water heater by turning the valve’s small slot with a flathead screwdriver.
  7. Find the pressure relief valve and pull the tab out. The hot water and sediment will begin to flow out. This may take around 30 minutes to complete.
  8. Turn the cold water valve ON to flush the remaining sediment. Inspect the water as it flows to get a visual cue as to how much sediment remains in the water. Keep the water running until the hose’s water begins running clear.
  9. Refill your tank. When the water runs clear, you can close the drain valve, remove the hose and open the cold water inlet to fill the water heater back up. Once the tank is nearly full, close your pressure relief valve.
  10. Turn back on the water heater’s power. Lastly, watch the water flow out of a sink or tub faucet in your house to ensure that the air gets bled out of the system.

What Happens if You Don’t Address the Issue?

If you don’t address the popping issue, your water tank may suffer damage. Sediment can build up over your heating element causing the element to burn out. It can also result in inner lining damage which can lead to a leak. If the damage is severe enough, you may need to replace your water heater entirely.

The other concern is that your energy bills may increase. Sediment buildup leads to system strain, meaning your appliance will have to use more energy to function.

The simplest way to extend your water heater’s life is to regularly schedule an annual tank flush.

Consider Installing a Whole-Home Water Softener

In addition to scheduling an annual flush, another great idea is to install a whole-home water softener system.

Arizona has some of the hardest water in the United States. A whole-home water softener system draws out and removes minerals from your water. After the minerals are removed, sediment buildup is prevented, extending the life of your water heater and drains.

Is it time to flush your water heater? Contact Patrick Riley Services.

Regular maintenance of your tank water heater or your tankless water heater is no sweat with the help of Patrick Riley’s polite professionals. We’re known to be a company with integrity, as evidenced by being a finalist for BBB’s Torch Award for Ethics.

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By Ty Lindsay

Ty Lindsay is the Director of Field Operations at Patrick Riley | Isley’s and a 15-year veteran of the plumbing and HVAC trades. In 2010, Ty earned his Journeyman’s plumbing license. He became a Master Plumber five years later and earned his Journeyman HVAC technician’s license that same year. Ty’s breadth of knowledge in plumbing and HVAC includes both residential and commercial work. He’s been a loyal member of the Patrick Riley | Isley’s team since 2016.